Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/13/2020: The Muppets And The Sausage King, Covidiots In A Drive-By, And Trump Still Isn’t Hitler

Good morning!

The nice thing about a miserable rainy day like the one we’re getting in Alexandria is that it makes one glad to be stuck at home…

1. Book reviews I didn’t finish reading…In fact, I never got past the first sentence of the review of “Hitler’s First 100 Days” by Peter Fritzke. The title of the review is “How Hitler Transformed a Democracy Into a Tyranny,” so I suspected this would be in the metaphorical wind” the review begins, “How does the rise of Hitler look since the rise of Donald Trump?”

The Times book reviewer is an Oxford professor of history.  This is a particularly asinine opening for a book review now, when the President is being regularly criticized for not being autocratic enough. One would think that of all the Big Lies the news media has been broadcasting since November 2016, “Trump is Hitler” would have  revealed itself as the most contrived. The “resistance,” however, is at war with reality as well as democracy.

I’ve got the online version of the review right here—let me skim it quickly to see if the actual book contains any discussion of the Trump administration at all. Let’s see…apparently not, which isn’t surprising since this is a book entirely about Germany. Nonetheless, the reviewer—what happened to the British?—makes this observation toward the end:

“This use of theatrical choruses was innovative 90 years ago, but making such agitprop sound snappy to a contemporary ear is tricky. As Fritzsche describes a rally where the speaker railed against the Weimar system and its politicians, he translates the audience’s chorus as “Hang them up! Bust their ass!” The pre-echo of “Lock her up!” is audible.”

Audible to you, perhaps, you jackass. First, the use of crowd chants in political rallies and during speeches was ancient and a standard device when the Nazis employed it. Second, there is no similarity at all between the ominous Nazi chant and “Lock her up!” The Nazis were advocating executing and beating up those who opposed them, and they did just that.  “Lock her up!,” while still ugly, was a direct reference to that fact that Hillary Clinton had deliberately broken national security policies for her own benefit, and was counting on, as usual, skating clear of punishment—which, in fact, is exactly what happened.

2. At least it wasn’t the police doing the shooting...At least, I don’t think so. In California, where there is a social distancing order banning nonessential gatherings of any number of poeple, a  defiant party in Bakersfield estimated at 400 guests “came to a bad end” in the words of local law enforcement when six people were shot. It is believed to have been a drive-by shooting.

3. “Where have you gone, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean?” On a late night rerun of a “Murder She Wrote” episode yesterday, the murder victim was  played by Jimmy Dean, the country music star and sausage impresario. (Dean’s autobiography was called, “Thirty Years of Sausage, Thirty Years of Ham.”)  I was intrigued; Dean has become a zombie pitch man, as Jimmy Dean Sausages (which the performer sold to Sara Lee long before his death in 2010) has recently been using his image and voice in its TV ads. He didn’t act that often, and sure enough, the guest spot in the Angela Lansbury mystery show was his final screen appearance.

I learned some interesting facts about Jimmy, who was, it seems, a generous and well-loved man. He was a Virginian, and had radio and TV shows locally (including in D.C.) that introduced many country music performers to the public. Dean launched the careers of both Patsy Cline, from Winchester, Virginia, and his band’s lead guitarist, Roy Clark on those shows. When he hosted  his  ABC variety series from 1963 to1966, he continued  introducing country talent to mainstream audiences, vastly increasing the exposure and popularity of Carl Smith, Buck Owens, Hank Snow, Charlie Rich, Hank Thompson, Roger Miller, and George Jones among others.

However, Dean’s biggest impact on pop culture may have come from his show’s using a puppeteer previously associated with children’s television, Jim Henson, and his piano-playing Muppet dog, Rowlf.  Henson was so grateful to Dean for the boost the national exposure gave to  the Muppets that he offered him a 40% interest in his infant production company. Jimmy Dean turned the gift down. “I couldn’t have done that to save my life,” Dean told an interviewer who asked him about the episode in 2004. “I didn’t do anything to earn that. If I had done something to earn it I would have said, ‘Alright, fine.’ But I didn’t. A lot of people have said, ‘Well, I’ll bet you’re sorry now.’ No, I am not. Because I couldn’t have lived with me. I’ve got to do things that let me live with me and shave my face in the morning.”

Jimmy did all right, even without owning almost half of the Muppets. When he died. his estate was estimated at about $50 million.

13 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/13/2020: The Muppets And The Sausage King, Covidiots In A Drive-By, And Trump Still Isn’t Hitler

  1. I saw Jimmy Dean as a guest star on an ancient Daniel Boone episode the other day. His “aw, shucks” personality shone right through, as sincere as can be.

    Thanks for that brief retrospective on his career. It’s funny, I mostly don’t mind zombie Jimmy’s voice on sausage commercials, even though more blatant techno-puppetry like Peter Cushing and Carrie Fischer in Star Wars movies grates terribly on my nerves. For me at least, Dean’s entire public image had a soothing, playful quality that clearly endeared him to millions when he was active in the entertainment arena. Somehow, that quality remains in his sausage-peddling voice, even after he shuffled off this mortal coil.

  2. 1. Perhaps a review of reviewers is in order.

    How can anyone rely on a book or movie reviewer to help them determine the quality of the tome if they have no real understanding of the ideas presented or history in general.

    When reviewers can no longer attract sufficient eyeballs this kind of tripe will diminish

  3. “When he hosted his ABC variety series from 1963 to1966, he continued introducing country talent to mainstream audiences….”

    Nothing to do with Jimmy Dean, but this is a nice moment where Waylon Jennings stops a show and thanks Glen Campbell for booking Nashville people on Campbell’s network show:

  4. Regarding the rise of Hitler, I looked this up recently, and was struck how an obstinate NAZI minority in the parliament made it impossible for a chancellor of another party govern for the nearly the entirety of the Wiemar Republic. For 20 years, no chancellor served more than a few months or so.

    So Hitler rose to power in the vacuum left by decades of leaders forced out prematurely.

  5. #1. With the reviewer using some subtle and some not so subtle references to current political events and politicians to imply some kind of correlation to Hitler and the Nazi’s I wonder why he didn’t bother to correlate the following to modern progressives…

    “Violence, spectacle, intimidation and terror were not just aimed at bludgeoning opponents, silencing critics and empowering activists. They were also aimed at turning economic and political crisis into antipolitics and antipolitics into the basis for a fundamentally different, but still broadly popular, legitimacy.”

    …that sounds a bit like what progressives have been doing in the 21st century, especially over the last 3½ years.

  6. Stargardt poses a reasonable question: “ … many scholars of interwar Europe were embracing a more hands-on role, creating online courses on fascism to assess the similarities with the present. Were these overblown or apt?
    But he makes himself appear stupid by saying “since the election of Donald Trump” and “By min-November 2016.” Concerns about a revival of fascism and a decline of democracy pre-dated the rise of Trump by decades.
    From The Baltimore Sun in 1998: “A recent spate of books about Nazi Germany argues forcefully that the vote is not enough, and that democracy is a system at risk.”
    From Slate, a few years ago: “But the end of fascism was opened to doubt in the 1990s by a series of sobering developments”.
    Further, Stargardt, if he wished to insert 21st century concerns into a review of a book that is about something else entirely, he would do well to look at the authoritarianism and anti-Semitism of the left.
    But, as has been noted more than once, bias makes you stupid.
    Interestingly, there is a review (a straightforward review, by the way) of the same book in the same NYT by Jennifer Szalai published three days before Stargardt’s review. Why the Times chose to give Stargardt a platform, only they can answer, but to me it looks like a part of their ongoing campaign.

  7. Thank you Jack for the reminder that there are people who choose to do the right thing because they have an internal ethics compass, not because of societal pressure. Thanks also to LoSonnambulo for that recognition of Glen Campbell.

    Both men chose to use their positions to help others succeed. A powerful lesson today and for all days.

    P.S. Everyone stay safe out there as community authorities encourage people to become active in “crimestop”.

    • Opal. Crimestop poses some intetesting problems. Maryland State Police hev responded to 16, 000 thats right sixteen thousand compliance calls. Twenty eight Maryland residents have been arrested so far because our state government (Blue state with a rare republican governor) has promoted the idea of calling the police on their neighbors.

      Governor Hogan always conducts his pressers in police oriented regalia surrounded by masked military looking persons. Some have stated on social media that all he needs is a tin pot, epulletes with gold braid and a chest full of campaign ribbons to completethe look.

      He is the governor that partnered with Gretchen Whitmer the Dictator of Michigan to write that op ed piece criticizing Trump’s response.

      • Yikes. The police in a neighboring city actually encouraged people to call them with social distancing violation reports. I had thought better of our area of the state. Fortunately my local police chief said, “No, we’re not doing that.”

  8. On the Rise of Hitler…

    I have long thought that the average person needs knowledge of a much larger number of dictators and tyrants and strong men (women?). How to begin this project is not clear. It’s a rather ghoulish hobby to indulge, also.

    The basic approach needs to be Aristotelian rather than Platonistic. Entire books have been written on this, and many are engaging to read. For example, Daniel Chirot’s _Modern Tyrants_. or Jackson and Rosberg’s _Personal Rule in Black Africa_. I am informed that Aristotle’s _Politics_ has some information along those lines, such as outright criminals who came to power in certain city states.

    Orwell has an essay somewhere about the promiscuous use of the term “fascism,” giving attestations to show how the word has been largely emptied of meaning by many people who use the term.

    Often I am reminded of the notion that Thomas Jefferson asserted that the education for citizens of a country such as the USA needed to be “chiefly historical.” We’re not paying attention.

    For speakers who know little history, or who address a public that knows little history, Hitler and Nazi Germany seem to be only real comparison that gets traction.

    Why not Mussolini? Why not Stalin or Mao or Franco, all of whom died in bed rather than in a bunker? Why not the Assads, or the Borgia popes, or the Burmese generals, or Franco or Napoleon or Bloody Mary or Louis the XIV?

    “Hitler–when you need an ad hominem attack in a hurry.”

    • Excellent thoughts. I have said many times that people who compare the President to Adolf Hitler have no idea who the President is…and no idea who Hitler was. Jack has said many times that “‘bias makes one stupid.” Our lack of legitimate historical knowledge and context also makes us stupid.

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