Mid-Friday Ethics, 6/12/2020: The Fame Edition

Good afternoon!

1. On Fame. One of my pet peeves is the pursuit of fame as a life objective. It is inherently unethical, because fame itself is unrelated to good or evil; it is a neutral value, and its pursuit is pure self-interest mixed with ignorance.

First, as too many celebrities to count have informed us, fame is at least as much of a burden as a boon, and second, there is no such thing as “immortality” through fame. As Shelley wrote,

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

The lyrics of the theme song from the movie and TV series “Fame” so annoyed me that I refused to view either:

Remember my name, fame
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly, high

I feel it comin’ together
People will see me and cry, fame
I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name!

Yeah, good luck with that life plan. Who remembers Irene Cara, the star of the film who sang the song? If you enter the field of performing, or any field, to become famous rather than to contribute something of value to society, you’re an asshole.

Chasing it is a fool’s pursuit, but sometimes fame finds you. I just read that former MLB baseball player Claudell Washington died. I remember him, but few do: he arrived heralded as a future superstar, but never reached that status. He is famous, however, because a foul ball he hit in a game of no importance is “immortalized” in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a cult classic, as the ball Ferris (Matthew Broderick) catches in the stands while playing hookie.

It’s more immortality than most of us get.

2. Fame and the  military bases. In yet another show of grandstanding during the George Floyd Freakout, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee followed the lead of Elizabeth Warren  by passing a bill requiring the Pentagon to rename military bases and other “assets and properties” currently honoring Confederate generals and officers. Fine. My unyielding objection to statue-toppling and censoring history does not extend to this.

Once upon a time the Civil War was regarded as a deadly family quarrel in which all participants were men of good will, but all still Americans. One side was just tragically wrong. The developing view that the soldiers who fought against the Union were enemies of the United States is defensible, if simplistic. If there is any setting where the argument that combatants on the side of the Confederacy should not be honored has validity, it is in connection with the U.S. military.

Predictably, the President issued a contrarian tweet, saying,

“It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.” 

This is typical Trump logic, which is to say, it makes no sense. If we had lost the wars where those soldier were trained, would that mean we should change the names of the posts?

On the other hand, as Ethics Alarms commenter Chris Marschner points out, it is odd that Democrats are not demanding that long time Democratic Senator and party leader Robert Byrd’s name be removed from the more than 50 structures, including Federal buildings, named after him. Byrd didn’t just join the Klu Klux Klan, as Southern politicians of his era almost had to do (like Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, one of the greatest liberal justices in SCOTUS history.) He organized a chapter of the KKK, and eventually served as its Grand Cyclops.

3. Not the way to be famous…A simple ethics rule: If your parent is a public official, don’t get arrested, and don’t get a mug shot taken that looks like this:

I noticed that that photo of Bill De Blasio’s daughter Chiara, which I used in an earlier post,  was getting an unusual number of views. I wonder why? I know the children of elected officials have it tough, as Sarah Palin’s children have vividly illustrated. But once one is over the age of, say,15, it shouldn’t be that hard to comprehend that you have an obligation not to be an embarrassment to your public figure father or mother.

4. Impediments to fame. Freedom of speech, opinion and expression? What freedom of speech, opinion and expression? Syracuse University student Adrianna San Marco was removed as a columnist from the school’s largest paper, The Daily Orange, because she wrote an opinion  column, published at LifeZette , that was “particularly harmful to our Black community members” and included “racist undertones,”  a characterization De Marco denies. Titled “Why institutional racism is a myth,” San Marco cited a study published in scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) that found “no overall evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities in fatal shootings.” In fact, those findings are indisputable; it’s just that activists choose to ignore them, and to tar anyone trying to contextualize the facts as racist.

“College campuses are havens of liberal ideology and any opinion that diverges from the progressive left is attacked viciously,” San Marco said in a statement.

5. Being famous sometimes isn’t enough. This is what George Will calls “condign justice.” As discussed here, singing group Lady Antebellum decided to make its mandatory nod to the George Floyd Freakout by removing “Antebellum” from its name, and henceforth going by “Lady A.” Oops! The God Of Stupid was watching, and now the group has a big problem. As reported in Rolling Stone, the name “Lady A” is taken. A 61-year-old black woman whose real name is Anita White  has been singing the blues under that name for more than 20 years. (Her “A” stands for Anita.) She’s released multiple albums with the name, and on top of her day job working with Seattle Public Utilities, she’s relasing another album, “Lady A: Live in New Orleans,” on her birthday, July 18th.

“This is my life,” she says, referring to the announcement from Lady Antebellum. “They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time.” A moment in time meaning “an opportunity to get cheap publicity.” It will be interesting to see if the real Lady A will agree to sell her rights to the name at a premium, which I’m sure she can, or refuses to be bought.

50 thoughts on “Mid-Friday Ethics, 6/12/2020: The Fame Edition

  1. I know this is juvenile, but regarding the lazy, inexcusable mistake by Lady Antebellum…

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Had to get that out of my system. As Jimmy Durante used to say, “On my last X-ray, it showed up as a safety pin!”

    • Yeah. Like the Dixie Chicks, the former Lady Antebellum are dead to me. Watch, they’ll leave country and go to pop just like the Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift. Since pop is rife with stupid people, it looks like a good fit to me.

      I remember Irene Cara’s name, but I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup.

    • I still think “Lady Reconstruction” fills the bill. One of the darkest episodes in American history but it’s right after the slaves were freed, so it’s got that going for it and it’s effectively Antebellum turned on its head! Fearful symmetry. (I’ll see your Shelly and raise you a Blake.)

  2. I so hope she refuses to be bought. Having to watch Lady Antebellum go back to the drawing board would be infinitely more satisfying.

  3. As far as renaming military bases named after dead confederate generals I’m opposed. More caving into the BLM crowd and leftist lemmings. After all, during WW2 we built General Stuart light tanks which were very effective against the Japanese on Bataan and in the Pacific Theater.

    • I can accept changing names to Medal of Honor winners. Far too often we name things based on relative fame. Why would you name a ship after McCain except that he was a Senator and did what he should be expected – not playing into the hand of the enemy’s propaganda machine. I would bet that there are more deserving Navy men or women than McCain and probably plenty of vets are more worthy than Braxton Bragg.

      I will not accept that Confederate soldiers and officers were initially enemies of the U.S. Our Constitution was established only 70 years earlier and the nation was still forming. Keep in mind we added the two stars to the flag about the same amount of time ago.

      The Conferated states did not want to fight and simply stated they were out of the Union. Lincoln pushed supplies and troops toward Sumpter which to southerners triggered the South’s attack on Sumpter.

      I made the statement on another post that if the more populous states elected a leader that packed the courts to allow a decree to eliminate private capital through tax policy would we treat a confederation of states that wanted to preserve our economic system as an enemy of the state if they choose to try to peacefully secede from the union?

      • The USS McCain is named for all three naval officers. John McCain Sr and John McCain Jr were both senior officers in WWII.
        Only John McCain III (the late senator) was a piece of shit.

        • Matthew

          I was unaware that the one I referenced was a Third. I knew his father and grandfather were naval officers of distinction but I thought they were not named John.

          However, it was also my understanding the ship was named after the grandson who dumped his ill wife to marry money .

    • See? You are on to something that the Left doesn’t understand about Trump. He may not be a scholar and he may not be the most dynamic/eloquent of Presidents, but he has a very good, gut understanding of the American psyche and can read the pulse of the culture, which drives his enemies completely batshit crazy. He compared himself to other Presidents and declared that he may be the most important in the country’s history. The response has been typical of the idiots on CNN, MSNBC, etc. Where they would be better off just ignoring what he says when he says patently indefensible stuff like this, they have to fact-check him. They can’t seem to understand that he baits them by making outrages claims like that and the media will spend days eviscerating him, usually with self-righteous moral indignation and they make themselves look like fools. Most people hear him say that stuff and they snicker because they know it’s crazy or they ignore it because it’s just not worth worrying about it because it’s just Trump being Trump.

      The media would be better off asking if Biden has the mental faculties necessary for the job of President, especially after his most recent visit to the idiots on The View. It was painful. Even Joy Behar was struggling to make him look good. Here is video link:

      jvb

  4. #2: Did they include a section to require renaming some of the ships Obama-era Navy Secretary Ray Mabus designated to be named after SJW favorites (“John Lewis class” ships, no kidding) rather than actual Navy heroes or others of significant importance to the service? Imagine how proud some lucky sailors will be to serve on an “oiler” (insert joke here) named after predatory pedophile Harvey Milk.

    #3: Awwwwww, she has her father’s crazy….

  5. I am such a “Southern partisan” that I have sometimes been falsely accused of being a “neo-Confederate,” but really the only reason I can think of for not renaming the military bases is tradition. Soldiers take pride in and have emotional attachments to the bases where they train and serve, and each base, no matter whose namesake, has proud traditions and history that transcend a mere surname. I doubt that the average “leg” trooper starting jump school has any idea who Henry Benning was, no more than an 82nd Airborne trooper would know the identity of Braxton Bragg , or that an MP would know the biography of Leonard Wood, as far as that goes. Personally, I would like to see all military bases named after Medal of Honor winners from The World Wars and later.

    • The latter was my Dad’s position, and thanks for the observation about how few know what then names signify. I was reading Time story about how African American vets said they were traumatized by having to train at places named after Confederate generals. I am dubious.

      • If they were traumatized by training at a fort named after some long dead general they should get out of the service because when they see a brother whose intestines are spilling out on the ground from a Taliban IED they will lose it completely.

      • Plenty trained there before today and it didn’t seem to bother them. Frankly, I would keep the names Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, and Fort Hood, since they are almost as much brands as base names. You say Fort Bragg and everyone recognizes that it’s the home of the airborne. You say Fort Benning, and everyone knows it’s about the Infantry, while Fort Hood is all about the armor. The other places’ names are up for grabs, although I do not want to see some woke civilian committee combing the history to name these bases after exclusively BIPOC folks. (That stands for black, indigenous, and people of color, as a politically correct friend from Australia explained to me).

  6. #2. I think it would be smart politics of the Republicans to attack democrat icons.
    Imagine if Trump announced he’s going to take FDR off the dime because of Japanese internment? What are the Democrats going to do? Neither supporting it nor obstruction helps them. Ditto for Byrd. What would the democrats do if Trump announces every single thing named for Robert Byrd gets renamed?

    • That’s somehow hilarious, awesome, and realistic all at the same time. We should actually suggest they do that. Inversely, we could also trick someone into pushing for demolishing Mount Rushmore. They’d make many enemies, if only because it’s a waste of money and would hurt tourism for no real benefit.

    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I would pay good money and provide popcorn for anyone who wants to join me watch the show if Trump would nominate Garland for the Supreme Court.

      • The only way I see a Garland nomination is if Trump wins reelection but loses the Senate. I consider the odds low.

        Then again, if that comes to pass, I expect Trump to recess the Senate and recess apoint somebody like Mark Levin.

  7. Claudell Washington was an Atlanta Brave for a handful of years, back when I first started watching the game seriously and became a Braves fan. That’s really sad.

  8. Re: Fame

    We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills
    But the thrill we’ve never known
    Is the thrill that’ll gitcha when you get your picture
    On the cover of the Rollin’ Stone
    (Rollin’ Stone) Want to see my picture on the cover
    (Rollin’ Stone) Wanna buy five copies for my mother
    (Rollin’ Stone) Wanna see my smilin’ face
    On the cover of the Rollin’ Stone

  9. P.S. kudos to the Miami Police department and also to British prime minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel for finally putting their collective foot down on this Maoist assault on art that involves targeting statuary.

  10. 1. My personal favorites on fame: Woody Allen playing himself (who else?) in one (any?) of his movies, but I think it was “Love and Death,” his Tolstoy send up, “I want to become immortal by living forever.” And Glen Campbell, like a rhinestone cowboy, “gettin’ cards and letters from people I don’t even know, and offers comin’ over the phone.”

    2. I don’t think the middle of a freakout is the time to change historic base names that have long ago acquire import unrelated to their namesakes.

  11. I’m generally opposed to renaming places AT ALL. We need continuity over time so that people can identify and communicate the identity of a place across time. Changing a place’s name creates unnecessary confusion and all too often that down-side is completely ignored.

    It’s ESPECIALLY true when things are routinely renamed.
    https://ethicsalarms.com/2014/03/26/fundraising-ethics-controversy-in-michigan-naming-buildings-after-big-university-donors-ethical-or-not/#comment-181898

    –Dwayne

  12. Maybe (tongue planted firmly in cheek) the military should take a cue from big-time sports venues and just sell the naming rights to bases, ships, planes and other military equipment. Imagine Fort JP Morgan/Chase, Lockheed/Martin Air Force Base, Fort Raytheon, General Dynamics Naval Base, Berkshire Hathaway Marine Corps Base, etc. . Imagine serving on the USS Home Depot or the USS Walmart! The F40 Costco bomber or F50 Microsoft fighter would be big hits! Soldiers could go into battle carrying the M22 Apple rifle and lobbing M44 Amazon fragmentation grenades. Exxon/Mobil could bid to become “The official fuel of the United States military.” The possibilities are virtually endless.

    • We sort of already have your second example. The (currently designated) Dobbins ARB shares a history runways, and general location, with a Lockheed Martin plant (the original built w/ gov’t funds in WWII) that produces C-130’s, F-22’s, & etc. The place is often locally referred to as “Lockheed-Dobbins”, and is where POTUS flies in and out of the Atlanta area.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dobbins_Air_Reserve_Base

  13. It seems somebody is offended by something every day. In the interest of appeasement, solidarity, inclusiveness, and unity, we should rename everything that is associated with any person’s name. Since this would probably be quite challenging, Congress could appoint a multicultural multi-partisan blue-ribbon panel to ferret out all military bases, monuments, structures, streets, bridges, highways, airports, waterways, cities, towns, counties, states, parks, universities, and colleges and assign new inoffensive names for them. I’m sure I missed a few categories, but the blue-ribbon panel can add the ones I missed.

    Since the outrage, this week is about military bases they should start with their renaming. In the spirit of not offending others, I suggest they select colors. Benning could become Fort Turquoise. Hood could become Fort Puce and so on. They should stay away from letters and numbers because if you are not from Fort A or Fort 1, you might be offended. Other high priority renamings should be the United States of America and Washington DC. I would suggest the new names should be something descriptive and easily identifiable with them. To preserve the initials in the USA, America could be replaced with Absurdity. The United States of Absurdity is quite descriptive. On a similar vein, Washington could become Egocentricville.

    With regard to the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, they of course must be torn down and perhaps replaced with a wind farm given all the hot air emanating from all those government buildings. Or maybe a composting facility might be more appropriate. No point in not capitalizing on all the BS in government. Regarding the Wahington Monument, since it does not depict Washington himself it could probably stay. And simply rename it the Obelisk. The Whitehouse of course while not named after a person nevertheless has white in its name. It should be repainted a neutral color and named after that color. Gray would most likely be optimal. Given a little thought, I’m sure others could suggest other names for these ‘offensive’ objects.

    • Maybe my memory has totally deserted me, but wasn’t Jefferson Davis’s residence in Richmond called the Gray House? I bet he’d have loved to swap names with Lincoln’s house.

      • You are mostly correct. Davis’s residence in Richmond was a gray-colored house whose official name in the national registry of historic places is “White House of the Confederacy” Ref. No. 66000924.

  14. “It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

    One of my longtime Usenet allies came up with this statement regarding the issue.

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/a-few-suggestions-for-renaming-americas-military-bases-currently-named-for-confederates/#comment-4538946

    All of the bases should be renamed after Pokemon, Super Mario and Spongebob characters. At least that way the whole thing would be treated with the seriousness that it merits.

    – Christopher Charles Morton

    Imagine Fort Mario or Camp Pikachu.

    Chris definitely should be an adviser to President Trump on issues like these.

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