High Noon Ethics Showdown, 7/14/2020

“High Noon” is an ethics movie to be sure, but a very strange one. I put it on a list of ethics movies in 2016, but as I wrote then,

“High Noon” is a Western that shows the American people at their worst, refusing to help a single law man threatened on his wedding day, and cringing in fear and denial when their values need to be fought for.

I have long felt that the movie is like a “Twilight Zone” episode, or a Western version of “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” What’s wrong with those people? However, it feels less like a Rod Serling parable now, when I find myself thinking “What’s wrong with those people?” several times a day as I surf the news feeds.

It is reported that John Wayne was offered the role of the desperate law man, eventually played by the Duke’s friend, Gary Cooper. Wayne, who was always protective of the heroic character he had created over the course of his career, hated the script, and turned it down. I cannot imagine John Wayne running around a town begging for help as four gunfighters are on the way to seek revenge, and apparently neither could he. In response to “High Noon,” Wayne and Howard Hawks made “Rio Bravo,” about a sheriff who keeps refusing assistance as a rancher hires gunfighters to free the sheriff’s prisoner, his brother.  At every turn, people keep saving the sheriff anyway.

I think one reason Wayne wanted to star in “True Grit” so much is that Rooster Cogburn, old and fat, takes on four villains by himself, charging them on horseback with the reins in his teeth and guns blazing.

1. It’s amazing that everyone isn’t sick of this yet. The latest Times “fact check” of President Trump, like so many others, relies on an interpretations of the notoriously sloppy-speaking POTUS that nobody fair and attentive could possible  think was his intended meaning. The statement at issue was that “99% of which are totally harmless.”

By “totally harmless,” the hyperbole addicted President meant “aren’t fatal.” The game, however, is to pretend the Presidents words, whatever they are, are lies. (The Washington Post just updated its hilarious Trump lie database. I challenge anyone to pick ten entries at random that even include a majority of “lies.”)

The Times even writes, “Studies that have calculated the death rate based on broader antibody testing that takes these silent cases into consideration suggest an infection death rate of less than 1 percent, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.”

Trump’s lying! He said 99% harmless, and the death rate is LESS than 1%!

The Times also says, labeling the President’s statement as “FALSE,” “No matter how you define harmless, most public health experts and respected coronavirus disease models would flatly contradict Mr. Trump’s assessment.”

Since “most” doesn’t mean “all,” the President’s assertion  cannot be called “false.”

Then the Times goes on to define “harm” as broadly as possible, anything from losing income to losing one’s sense of small.

2. More movie ethics: In honor of the late Carl Reiner, I watched “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” again, the mild Cold War comedy showing once again that people are people, and that even godless Communists can be moved when a cute little boy is hanging by his belt from a high tower. The climax of the film is its saving grace, when the small seaside town faces off against the grounded Russian sub and both have guns trained on each other. The one sane man in the town, the Brian Keith-liek sheriff played by Brian Keith, desperately trying to avoid violence, orders the sub commander to stand down. When that fails, he tells the Russian that he is under arrest, and when that fails, he writes the submarine a parking ticket.

I realized that this might be the best example yet of the maxim, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”  It also shows us that if you don’t have the tools you need, all you can do is use the tools you have, and hope for the best. In this case, the sheriff’s ticket gambit stalled long enough for the little boy to get himself into mortal peril, changing everyone’s focus and priorities, and defusing the stand-off.

Sure, it was moral luck. But so was the success of Joshua Chamberlain’s desperate bayonet charge on Little Round Top. In both cases, a problem solver used the only tools he had. You have to try.

3. “Privileged” again. I am increasingly tempted to suggest that the only appropriate response when someone calls you “privileged” is an expletive.

For some reason, the New York times published a feature yesterday that it previously published on June 19. Is this self-plagiarism? Isn’t a publication obligated to tell readers that what they are reading is old news and recycled content? The article by Jenifer Vinyard was extolling the Showtime series  “Shameless,” whose anti-hero is a hopeless addict and drunk inflicting his life on his family. (I detest the show.) She writes, “If you didn’t grow up this way, you’ll learn just how privileged you really are.”

Up yours, Jennifer. Don’t try to make me feel guilty because my parents didn’t abuse their children and force us to endure selfish and pathological conduct, nor suggest that anyone who treats a family that way, and a family that continues to tolerate it, should be able to play the “you just can’t understand” card.

Yup, its sucks to be them. Now it’s their job, not mine, to fix it.

4. This is worth worrying about, I think. Dan Snyder finally capitulated to activists and agreed to change the Washington Redskins’ name, not because he was trying to play nicey-nicey with the George Floyd mob, but because he was essentially extorted into doing so by lot of big companies, because THEY were trying to signal their virtue to that mob. From the Times story today:

[W]hat finally triggered the name change was not an acknowledgment of Native people’s concerns or a rumination on the name’s offense. Instead, Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington N.F.L. team for more than 20 years, was seemingly driven by a simpler motivation: money. In a letter sent to the Washington team dated July 2, FedEx, which pays about $8 million a year for the naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Md., said if the name wasn’t changed, it would back out of the deal…. FedEx was among several corporate heavyweights to take action to convince Snyder to act on the name. Bank of America, Pepsi, Nike and other N.F.L. sponsors issued statements asking the team for a name change, and retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target stopped selling the team’s merchandise on their websites and in their stores.

Irony: for decades, the Left has been warning that corporations had too much power, and were eventually going to use the power to dictate to the public. Remember Ralph Nader?

Now that craven corporations are using their power to advance the woke mob’s agenda, it’s fine with them.

11 thoughts on “High Noon Ethics Showdown, 7/14/2020

  1. Bari Weiss has resigned from the Times while throwing grenades all over her former workplace;


    An excerpt;

    “But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.

    Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative”

    Mmm… yes. More of this. Exactly this.

  2. How about the stars of “The Help” trashing their movie because it wasn’t woke enough or black enough or…I don’t know what their complaint is.


    I guess they didn’t like a white woman in the 50s learning about the reality of the world in which the black women in her town lived?

    There wasn’t a dry eye in my house when we screened that film. No one who watches it can deny that blacks were denied equal opportunity in the South long after the Civil War and that the end of slavery did not solve all their problems.

  3. Jack said:

    3. “Privileged” again. I am increasingly tempted to suggest that the only appropriate response when someone calls you “privileged” is an expletive.

    Nah. The appropriate response is, “Sod off, swampy.”

    Expletive is optional before “Sod.”

    4. Redskins

    Now that craven corporations are using their power to advance the woke mob’s agenda, it’s fine with them.

    Free speech, right? It’s free speech to discriminate against someone’s beliefs, not bias. Well, as long as their beliefs are wrong, of course.

  4. 2. “the Brian Keith-like sheriff played by Brian Keith.” Serious phrase turning that. Perfect description. I wonder if Woody Harrelson modeled his excellent sheriff rendition in “Three Signs Outside Ebbing, Missouri” on Brian Keith. (“Three Billboards” lost too much when Woody’s character died and Woody exited the screen.)

    4. Corporations? What about the Left’s new-found affection for … the long-despised FBI!? Hilarious. G-Men are now the saviors of the government and life as we know it? Cracks me up.

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