Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!


I was supposed to be all better yesterday, and instead I took  a step back.


That photo above is from the last scene in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” after all of the comedians and Spencer Tracy have ended up in the hospital with horrible injuries following  their self-created disaster on an out-of-control fire truck ladder at the supposedly hilarious climax of the Sixties epic chase comedy. The film-makers were very creative in their uses of bandages, casts and traction, but even as a kid, I was struck by how it just isn’t possible to make injuries seem very funny.

1. Since everyone is watching as much TV now as I usually watch routinely, I’ll mention this: have you noticed that several commercials show parents playing pirates with their kids? Did you ever play pirates with your parents? Have you ever seen anyone play at being pirates?

The reason this is being forced on the culture as a thing is that political correctness has robbed kids of almost all fantasy outlets, so someone decided that pirates were safe and inoffensive–especially since Disney had to remove the rapey stuff from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. (Pirates are actually murderous thieves, today as always; what a weird safe haven to choose!)

In “Parasite,” Oscar’s Best Picture last year, the little South Korean son of the wealthy family was obsessed with playing “Indians,” complete with feathered headdress and arrows. I wonder if this feature would have disqualified an American film for cultural insensitivity. American kids can’t be cowboys anymore, since they were genocidal; soldiers are taboo, as are cops and robbers; even space invaders are verboten, since they involve guns. As my friends and I discovered long ago, you can try to play superheroes but they don’t leave you much to work with. Sword and sorcery games, like acting out fairy tales, trip on too many anti-feminist stereotypes.

I wonder what the next generation will turn out to be like, absent any symbolic fantasy villains and conflict to instruct their play. Pirates are not the answer, and again, I doubt any kids are playing pirates like the imaginary families in Bounty commercials. The iconic pirate novel “Treasure Island,” once a standard assignment in grade school, has been purged from the canon—too male, or something.  (It’s still a terrific book.) The other classic with pirates is “Peter Pan,” and that one is in the process of being scrubbed and gender-twisted beyond recognition. There still are Johnny Depp’s weird pirate movies, I guess, though his drunken, bumbling pirate slob anti-hero seems unlikely to inspire normal kids into flights of fantasy.

Our culture just is not in competent hands, and what the end result will be, nobody knows.

2. I’m not sure if this is unethical, exactly, but something’s definitely wrong…

Once, not too long ago, there was an attraction called “Presidents Park” in York County, Virginia, near Williamsburg. The 10-acre park featured a museum and a sculpture garden, and  visitors could walk among 43 huge concrete busts, each about 20 feet high and weighing as much as 22,000 pounds, of  the U.S. Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush.

Nice promotional job, there: I’ll go anywhere there’s an interesting Presidents-related attraction, and I never heard of the place, though I don’t live that far away.

The park was only open from 2004 to 2010, then closed for want of visitors and funds.  The First Heads sat around for several years until developers bought the property and hired Howard Hankins, who owned a local waste management company, to haul the busts away and destroy them. Howard couldn’t bear to do it. “Instead of going into the crusher, I brought them up to the farm and there they are in their new home,” Hankins now says.

He’s hoping to raise a million dollars or so to repair the heads that were damaged in transit and create a new Presidents Park.

Good luck with that.  I will be visiting his farm, however, if and when I’m healthy again.

3. It’s reassuring  to see that the defenders of Joe Biden’ s comment that you can’t be black and not vote for him are exactly the people you’d guess. Disgraced former ESPN host Jemele Hill, now a full-time race-baiter,  tweeted, “The issue wasn’t what Joe Biden said, because it was accurate. The issue was that it came from Biden. It also was clearly a joke that didn’t land. But I’m wondering where all this outrage was yesterday when y’all president declared his public devotion to a Nazi sympathizer.”

That’s bad even for Hill. Isn’t it amazing that there are public media figures who display such complete intellectual vacuousness and warped perception and yet continue to somehow  earn six and seven-figure paychecks to inject their stupidity into public discourse? How wrong can a single statement be? No, Biden’s idiocy is not “accurate,” and plenty of African-Americans responded to her tweet to let Hill know it. Biden’s remark also wasn’t “clearly a joke” by definition, since almost nobody took it to be a joke, it wasn’t funny, and it’s hard to imagine how anyone would think it was funny.

And what “Nazi sympathizer?”

Not to leave Hill hanging, that Pulitzer Prize winner responsible for the New York Times’ factually fanciful “1619 Project,”  Nikole Hannah-Hones, tweeted that  “There is a difference between being politically black and being racially black. I am not defending anyone, but we all know this and should stop pretending that we don’t.”

That’s funny: I don’t know that; in fact, I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about. Do you? (She deleted the tweet, by the way.) I assume Americans were not required to hold particular political views based on their genetic make-up. What do I know, though? I used to assume that Pulitzer Prize-winners could think clearer than that.

4. Trump Tweets into Cloud Cuckoo Land. Are his tweets suggesting that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered an intern the all-time low? I don’t see how you can get much lower. Twitter said yesterday it will not remove the tweets that promote a conspiracy theory involving a woman who died working at  Joe Scarborough‘s former congressional office in Florida, writing in part, “We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family. We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”

Twitter would assist the Trump re-election effort immeasurably by taking down his Twitter account.

31 thoughts on “Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!

  1. 4. President Trump needs to reconsider his tweeting behavior and perhaps seek anger management. (Neither will happen.) This episode does make me worry about how fit he is to make rational decisions in circumstances when he feels repeatedly personally challenged or is just sick and tired of certain individuals. I’m sick and tired of the phony and former conservative Joe Scarborough too and think he is among the most corrupt type of people, but I would not imply he is somehow connected to a murder. To say this episode in unpresidential is way too kind.

    For the TDS out there, yes, I’m still voting for this loathsome person because your alternative(s) are so much worse and are supported by people whose sole mission is to destroy the country and its institutions.

    • On the other hand, I’d rather have him unleash his anger on Twitter as an escape valve than some foreign diplomat.

  2. 1. As someone who lives in a very liberal city and has primarily very liberal neighbors whose kids play with my kids, I have not seen what you are describing at all. Are there some kooks that restrict imaginative play for their kids? Sure there are, but like many things I think they are the exception rather than the rule. I have another ultra-conservative neighbor that threatened to call the cops when a 3 year old boy from our neighborhood pointed what was clearly a toy gun at him and said “I’m gonna kill you”. We parents put a temporary moratorium on gun-related play to give the guy a chance to chill out. I have ultraconservative in-laws that worry that Harry Potter is related to the occult and straight up told my son not to play Dungeons & Dragons because of satanic connotations. All sorts of people have dumb thoughts on all sorts of things and can overreact to perceived negative impact of certain types of imaginative play, but I don’t see a dramatic trend towards it becoming controlled and sanitized – at least not outside of commercials.

    • JoeyStigz writes: “I have ultraconservative in-laws that worry that Harry Potter is related to the occult and straight up told my son not to play Dungeons & Dragons because of satanic connotations. All sorts of people have dumb thoughts on all sorts of things and can overreact to perceived negative impact of certain types of imaginative play, but I don’t see a dramatic trend towards it becoming controlled and sanitized – at least not outside of commercials.”

      I see what you are trying to say. I would modify it slightly. First, one would have to clarify what one meant/means by ‘Satan’. If you are genuinely going to consider and think about ‘the diabolical’ — how it was conceived in history and the history of ideas, and how it is thought of and conceived today — you would open up the conversation to a difficult, but meaning-laden territory. I suggest that *here* (among ultra-moderns) the central notion, the core meaning, cannot even be approached because to believe in the demonic is just about as unreal as believing in the divine. ThinK: How could one have a realistic and philosophically balanced conversation about the nature of the demonic and demonic influence in our life, in the life of the nation, and in the world. Not at all easy!

      Yet some have that conversation, and some think in those terms. The issue then because how articulate and perhaps *responsible* one can be in regard to the theme. One could jettison the topic from all consideration by saying “all sorts of people have dumb thoughts on all sorts of things” and include a consideration of the nature of demonic influence as a mad endeavor, but yet remember that Macbeth in one of the most dramatic and meaning-laden interpretations of demonic influence painted a frighteningly *real* picture of what the ramifications of surrender to evil influence is — that cannot be erased. Because it is a play that has to do with the soul’s relationship to surrounding forces as well as inner forces.

      The Conservative Family Member did speak *truthfully* but he (or she) spoke incompletely. And I would not — not for one second — dismiss the entanglements of imagination, or those doors that open through our imagining faculty.

      The more that I research things, and the more that I meditate on *the present*, the better I feel I begin to understand the nature of the predicament we are all in. This is not a game.

      Some pretty ‘dumb people’ arrive at a shiningly clear understanding because they get it properly sorted out inside them self.

      Then, some very sharp and articulate people — some clever and very capable intellects — get it completely and utterly wrong because they did not grasp certain *fundamentals*.

      It is a frightening paradox.

      • Not sure I grasped what you’re trying to say, but my point was simply that there are many people that are going to draw overly simplistic lines from point a to point b. Pretending to play with toy guns opens the door to gun violence. Playing dungeons & dragons opens the door to satanic worship. Is it possible that either of those things could contribute to a negative outcome? Sure I guess so, but not without a whole host of other contributing factors at play. We can recognize, point out, and be critical of reasoning that lacks necessary nuance without assuming that politically or even culturally like-minded people share the exact same view on the exact same subject. I know plenty of Christian conservatives that are huge Harry Potter fans, and plenty of liberals that have no problem with toy guns.

        • My purpose is to try to identify and speak to the larger issues. My assertion is that we have fallen away from a proper (and true) understanding of metaphysical realities. Continuing on that road leads to ruin. We proceed into ruin now because we have fallen away. That is my basic understanding. So by my definitions, without them (proper understanding) we cannot make our way successfully through the problems we confront. Proper understanding is also reflected in the *worlds* we imagine. In play but also in life itself. I know, that is a *strict* assessment but it is what I believe to be true.

    • Glad to hear the kids are playing with other kids.

      Parents are being infantilized in television commercials. Not sure why. Of course, every couple in television commercials is mixed-race, or gay or lesbian, or single mothers. An occasional solo dad shows up, but he’s usually been required to cross dress by his daughter or play with jewelry.

      • Yep, lots of toy guns (of the nerf variety) – we have an arsenal in our garage that gets regular use. Though the newest thing is self-crafted cardboard/duct tape armor & weapons – spears & swords & shields & helmets. I would be surprised if this kind of stuff is not still the norm in most neighborhoods in most cities.

  3. 1. Pirates

    Jack said: Did you ever play pirates with your parents? Have you ever seen anyone play at being pirates?

    Yes, but only when we were playing at Peter Pan. Then, the selected bad guy played Hook and his fellows were pirates. Otherwise, never.

    3. Jemelle Hill and Biden

    I’m reminded of Turley’s piece about special dispensation having been given Biden by the Left to be a serial sexual abuser. Once you have that, of course your sycophants are going to come to your defense.

    Plus, Hill could care less if her claims are true or make any sense. If you’re willing to selectively abandon #MeToo to suit your political situation, how much easier is it to abandon the truth, or any semblance of logic?

    4. Trump/Scarborough

    Ben Shapiro writing for Real Clear Politics great take on this:

    The world of social media has not made us any more responsible, any kinder or any more decent. It has made us far worse. That’s because Twitter isn’t about signaling virtue. It’s about signaling commitment. It’s insufficient to merely analyze events and give an honest take. You must be for or against something. And you demonstrate full commitment to that position. Your entire online identity rests on others retweeting or liking your purity of heart. There is no risk — only reward — in dunking on Amy Cooper, tweeting at her employer, encouraging her destruction.

    This logic holds across the board. If President Donald Trump sends out a series of bizarre and morally reprehensible tweets accusing Joe Scarborough of murdering a congressional intern — and if you point out that this is both bizarre and morally reprehensible — then you will be labeled insufficiently loyal to the cause. It’s not about truth; it’s not about decency; it’s about signaling your commitment.

    Exactly. This brave, new world is all about signaling how closely you hold your beliefs, whether they are insane or not. The virtue is in the dogged determination — reason has no place in the calculation.

    Getting “likes” and “follows” is the reward, and so many people crave it that they are willing to risk the opprobrium of every rational person in the world as long as the like-minded deliver the drug of digital approval.

  4. #3: Just curious about a small point: “…you ain’t black.”.

    How often does SloJo use the word “ain’t”? Is it just reserved for when he does Blackspeak?

  5. Glen wrote: “This brave, new world is all about signaling how closely you hold your beliefs, whether they are insane or not. The virtue is in the dogged determination — reason has no place in the calculation.”

    I suggest that people are fighting shadow-wars because the actual nature of the wars that are on-going cannot be expressed in clear, direct terms. To state *what is going on* in clear and direct terms is to step into crimethink. (Proper interpretation, according to my view (interpretation!) is a crime.)

    Trump, being very skilled at mass persuasion and manipulation, likely sent out those tweets strictly to communicate with his base of support. But whether what he insinuated is true or false is not really the issue and his base likely does not care much. His base might and might not actually believe the man was involved in murdering an intern. But his base — and I further suggest this is certainly mirrored here on this blog — have no clear and articulated sense of what is actually going on in the larger picture.

    Here (on this blog) the surface is seen with some clarity, but not one person seems to be able to interpret what is going on in a holistic sense. There is no larger, sweeping interpretation offered.

    But Trump’s base — the non-university educated working-class as the Times always points out — are that much more incapable of discerning with clarity what really is going on in their world. But this is, of course, very much the nature of the situation in America. It is very peculiar, very strange, but very noteworthy.

    So, they [his base] are susceptible to ‘the culture of conspiracy’ and can be induced to entertain as possible all manner of different scenarios. Among them, among this ‘fringe’, religious and mythic elements combine with a sense of their lack of political control and with ressentiment as well as violent anger against those who have manipulated them so brutally over the decades. The *Republicans* have certainly been utterly complicit in these processes and ‘America sold America out’ long ago. What we see now is the effect and the result.

    Yet *they* cannot clearly discern their enemies! They exist in a state of mystification:

    The obfuscatory dimension of human reason has been a subject of Western philosophical investigation since Aristotle, and the term mystification has been deployed in various ways to explain how deception, disguise, and dissimulation play a role in driving human behavior. It has relevance throughout the social sciences—for example, in experimental psychology, with game theory in political science and economics, and in sociological analyses of propaganda and mass action—as both a methodological approach for testing behavioral subjects and as an explanatory paradigm for rationalizing human action.

    Mystification is vital to maintain. So it is contributed to. That is one *function* of all the swirling narratives. These actually do serve a function it seems to me.

    Since ‘deception, disguise, and dissimulation’ are at the core of our *condition*, but since the *system* itself fights tooth and nail against any interpretation that might reveal the depth of deception, disguise, and dissimulation, the average person is kept in an epistemological zone of nescience. Non-knowing, non-seeing, non-comprehension. They are unable to distinguish even *the surface* of their situation and the degree to which they are being duped/dupe them self.

    Here, the *surface* is generally speaking well discerned but no one seems to be able to *interpret* the meta-political circumstance with much clarity.

    So, in such a situation if one does battle, if one picks up one’s mighty arms and jumps into battle, one grabs what one has available to one. Phantom weapons to battle phantom enemy. Everything is mixed and confused. A chaos of interpretation.

    The object of those who have *real power* (if such exist, and I assume they do) would be to have a cold and highly rational understanding of just what, really, is at stake and a willingness, a skill and ability, to use any of the *phantom weapons* as need be to protect and advance their own positions. I would assume that such interested people do in fact examine the present from this angle.

    • Aliza said: Here (on this blog) the surface is seen with some clarity, but not one person seems to be able to interpret what is going on in a holistic sense. There is no larger, sweeping interpretation offered.

      That’s where you come in, to tell us the larger, sweeping interpretations of mundane facts — preferably in 1,000 words or more. 🙂

      The object of those who have *real power* (if such exist, and I assume they do) would be to have a cold and highly rational understanding of just what, really, is at stake and a willingness, a skill and ability, to use any of the *phantom weapons* as need be to protect and advance their own positions. I would assume that such interested people do in fact examine the present from this angle.

      Doubtless this is true — the lust for power in human society knows no bounds. That’s why the Lennonesque “Imagine” ideal of humanity is so inherently ludicrous. It is also inarguable that some of the people making these absurd arguments know full well how intellectually and rationally bankrupt they are, but they know too that they reach the emotions of the intellectually vulnerable and vapidly indifferent.

      But this all has little to do with the instant case. It is related, to be sure, as the agent provocateurs are present in all cases. But the point is that most of the “mob” are unable to discern this, and simply yearn for the approving feedback of “likes” and “follows.”

      • Where I come in is really more to indicate that, in my opinion, you-plural offer no larger interpretation, and therefore do not understand the present. And if you do not understand the present, how then can you be of service to the future? If you accept this assertion, then with that we open the conversation into a new direction.

        It may take many more words than just 1,000 to arrive at useful definitions — it may take years of work — so prepare yourself!

  6. Permit me a midnight rant about pirates.

    Kids did not play pirates at any time before this Gen-Xer was born. Kids played sailors or soldiers, and the PIRATES WERE THE BAD GUYS. That is because pirates were (and are) indeed very bad guys.

    Treasure Island is a realistic story about stuffy British Christian men (and a boy) defeating a gang of vile, godless pirates. Once the story gets going there are exactly zero female characters. I can see why the destroyers of culture who lord it over modern schools would find this “problematic.” But it just might be my all-time favorite book. Pirates are interesting, fascinating, and make for good stories. BUT THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THE HEROES.

    Even the least-murderous of real-life pirates still tricked innocent merchant vessels and robbed them by force. They still were known for spending their free time raping, drinking themselves to death, and spreading venereal disease. Within just the last few years, pirates off the coast of Somalia have been murdering entire ships’ crews, so it’s not as if there’s no modern frame of reference for understanding why they generally shouldn’t be cast as heroes, as you mentioned.

    There was a funny but sad incident not too long ago told by a mom who had been to Disneyland. She took her son into a boutique in the park that styles up girls into princesses. They offered to do their equivalent service for the young man by making him into a pirate. The small child, who had more common sense and moral awareness than the entire Disney corporation, pointed out that pirates are bad guys, and insisted that he wanted to be a prince instead. There were no prince costumes.

    There are now SEVERAL kids’ cartoons in which kids “play pirate,” mostly thanks to the Disney movie. One of them is “Jake and the Neverland pirates” which doesn’t even make any sense in the context of Peter Pan. A character on this show said to his tiny audience, at one point, and I quote, verbatim, “A good pirate never takes anyone else’s property.” And they were serious.

    The elephant is there in the room from that very first film. Jack Sparrow proves himself to be “a good man” and the moral (such as it is) is that even a pirate can be good. And so, at the end of the film, “good man” Jack gets his ship and crew back and sails off into the sunset too…do what, exactly? Sail the world looking for beached whales to rescue? Hunt for lost treasure to return it to its rightful owner? The next several movies twist themselves into knots to avoid having to give the obvious answer to this question: the only way to be a pirate is to, you know, commit piracy. It’s right there in the name.

    I wonder if 50 years or so would be sufficient time for Disney to train kids to “play terrorist.” Just make a wacky movie about an eccentric jihadist who turns out to have a heart of gold.

    • Don’t forget those next several movies had to make the law/legit corporations ridiculously evil to make the pirates sympathetic (then, as you touched on, had so many backstabbings and double crossings it became impossible to track what anyone’s motivation actually was). One of many reasons the series would have worked better as one-off light toned adventures in the vein of the first movie, rather than building a BIG SERIOUS EPIC PIRATE MYTHOS.

      Also, for all the removing rapey undertones in the POC rides, Keira Knightley being sexually threatened in the movies got really old really fast. Especially when it was treated as humor.

      Another related soapbox – many people do know Muppet Treasure Island. This is a cute movie that should be an intro to the story, not the only version adults (and kids) engage with. See also Christmas Carol. And Wishbone.

      • Special bonus points for the “Wishbone” reference. A brilliant show in every respect, and, of course, a favorite of Jack Russell owners everywhere. Our first Jack, Dickens, had similar markings to Wishbone, and the kids in our neighborhood thought he was the PBS star. The show ran out of funding after just two episodes in season #2.

        • That’s adorable, and yes, a great show. But if I had a dollar for everyone who’s said, “Oh, I never read that. But I saw the Wishbone!” I wouldn’t need a day job right now.

  7. Okay, it’s a freaky coincidence that you bring up kids playing pirates, Jack, because just the other day I thought of writing to you about something the neighbor kid was playing with in his front yard. He had on a costume pirate’s hat and was looking at a piece of paper that looked like an old-timey newspaper. I asked to see what he was reading, and it’s something that came with the pirate costume/toy set, and it’s titled “Pirate Code of Ethics”. Talk about whitewashing history – pirates are not exactly known to be deeply ethical people, right? I’ll have to see if I can borrow it from him and scan it to send you a copy. Perhaps you can add the “Pirate Code of Ethics” to your list of codes and credos.

    It’s endlessly amusing to me to watch the neighborhood boys in the 5-10 year old range desperately want to play gun-based scenarios with each other, like we used to play “army” or “cops and robbers”, but they aren’t allowed to. But that urge is so deeply hardwired, the boys find other games that circumvent the letter, but not the spirit, of their anti-gun parents’ rules. I laughed out loud once when I saw two of them chasing each other around with sticks that happened to be shaped roughly like pistols, playing a game they call “point”, in which they point these sticks at each other. They’re not guns, you see, because the boys never say the forbidden G-word. They’re just pointing! They’ll carry the sticks in makeshift holsters crafted out of ropes and belts, but they’re definitely not guns.

    They don’t let them have toy guns, of course, but some of the Lego sets come with guns for policemen or soldier characters. I’ve noticed that hese tiny pistols sometimes get used for games of “point” when supervision is lax.

    These kids are going to grow up to be inordinately fascinated with guns because of this idiotic taboo being imposed on them. The fastest way to make your kid obsess about something is to forbid it. Do people who are raising children today not have any memories of their own childhoods?

    I often wonder what these folks would think if they knew that my wife and I have a whole safe full of guns in our home, and that we frequently shoot them for recreation and fun.

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