Mid-Day Ethics Flashes, 10/16/2020: Casting Ethics, Celebrity Threats, Free Speech Suppression, And Conservative Clickbait


1. The good brother. It’s not worth a full post, but Ron Howard deserves a call-out for being a good brother. Last night I finally watched “Frost/Nixon,” and wondered if, since it was directed by Ron Howard, Opie’s hideous younger brother Clint Howard would be in the cast. Sure enough, he was. Clint, like Ron, was a child star, most prominently in the TV series “Gentle Ben.” Unlike Ron, Clint was not treated well by the puberty fairy, and once his goofy looks stopped being cute, he had a face that was usable, if at all, in cheap horror flicks and in bit parts playing various creeps and thugs. Clint’s not a bad actor, he’s just not very versatile, and relentlessly hard on the eyes. He would probably not have an A movie to his credit were it not for the fact that his brother, the rich and famous star director, puts him in the cast whenever he can.

Well, good for Ron. Sure, it’s nepotism, but Clint is serviceable, and certainly capable of playing the parts he’s cast in, like one of the NASA guys in the control room in “Apollo 13,” or a referee in one of the less important Jim Braddock fights in “ Cinderella Man.” Getting such roles in Ron’s prestige films make Clint more attractive for the parts he’s up for in his usual vehicles, like the upcoming “Hell of the Screaming Undead.”

2. On a related casting issue, I watched the Netflix production “Enola Holmes.” It was fun, but the “anti-racism” casting was already in evidence: African Americans were scattered through Victorian London in odd and ahistorical places. It didn’t undermine the quality of the productions: all of the black actors and actresses were pros, but it did make the piece seem set in some fantasy land that never existed. If you know history, it is jarring; if you don’t, then it has no impact at all. I did find the non-traditional casting half-hearted: in virtually all cases, the actors “of color” were relegated to extremely minor roles a step above the extras. You know—like the parts Clint Howard plays in his brother’s movies.

3. They’re doing it again! Once again, celebrities are threatening to leave the country if a candidate they don’t support—apparently only Democrats engage in these bluffs— is elected President. (The latest is Bruce Springsteen.) If any celebrity has ever made good on such a pledge, I missed it, but the threat itself is unethical. First, if it’s not sincere, it’s dishonest and grandstanding. Second, it’s un-American. If one is committed to democracy, then you accept losses in elections with grace and respect. Finally, it demonstrates a pathological lack of humility. The electorate is supposed to decide who leads the nation based on your threat to leave?

4. Another example of what 2020 Democratic voters are endorsing: Prof. Turley reports on the disturbing case of Loyola Marymount University student Stephanie Martinez , who was impeached in her elected position as student government senator for diversity and inclusion after a three-hour proceeding, because she expressed her opposition to illegal immigration on social media. Turley writes,

Free speech is under attack across the country and polling shows a falling level of support for free speech among students. The actions taken against openly conservative or libertarian students is having its impact on both students and faculty who are attacks. In this case, the student government is acting to counter Martinez’s views on immigration. In one of the offending postings, Martinez wrote “The same people advocating for rights, equality, and better conditions for illegal aliens are the same one censoring freedom of speech (a right), defaming and initiating hostility for those Americans with divergent views! Sad!”  It proved a prophetic and ironic posting for Martinez. Fellow Diversity and Inclusion student Senator Camille Orozco cited such statements as the basis for impeachment under Article 8 in the student body bylaws as “conduct that severely damages the integrity or authority of ASLMU or the office held by the individual in question.”

5. Not Drudge, and also not trustworthy. The Citizen Free Press is the new fad news aggregator, stripping many conservatives away from the suddenly anti-Trump Drudge Report. Unfortunately, despite an excellent opportunity to exploit a lucrative niche, the CFP has no more reliable ethics than the mainstream it likes to tweak. Here, for example, is a headline currently up on the home page: AP admits the truth about mail-in voting…. The link goes to a conservative pundit’s attack on the opportunities for voter fraud, and that article links to this AP piece—which has nothing to say about voter fraud at all.

9 thoughts on “Mid-Day Ethics Flashes, 10/16/2020: Casting Ethics, Celebrity Threats, Free Speech Suppression, And Conservative Clickbait

  1. Regarding #2: I am always amused at this kind of casting, especially when it’s egregiously ahistorical or biologically nonsensical, like when alien species on shows like Star Trek who just so happen to have the exact same racial variations that humans evolved. It’s also amusing to see black actors cast in Marvel’s “Thor” movies as Norse gods. I’m pretty sure the Vikings didn’t worship a whole lot of deities of African descent… This is like casting an Inuit actor to play Shiva or a Swedish blonde to play an African rain goddess. Or Clint Howard being cast as a handsome Lothario…

    It’s not all that distracting to me, but it does kind of shake me out of the movie’s world for a minute.

  2. (5) It is such a shame for such an easy topic. Most developed countries ban mail-in voting. In Italy, for instance, only people living abroad may vote by mail and only then if the country the citizen resides in meets with Italian standards. If the country does not meet Italian electoral standards, the government will pay 75% of your travel expenses to vote in person. People in the hospital, with disabilities, etc still must vote in person, but are allowed to vote at the nearest location, not their designated location. In other words, Absentee voting is so prone to fraud that Italians found it unacceptable.


    Mexico banned absentee ballots in 1991 and only began allowing them for voters living abroad in 2006. This was because the level of fraud was too high for Mexico.


    So, the fraud of absentee and mail-in ballots is much for Italy and Mexico to accept. Why do we have it?

  3. 1. I met Clint Howard a couple of years ago at a convention. He was a friendly, down-to-earth guy whose autograph was probably the least expensive of the entire show and included a photo with him. Nepotism is part of Hollywood; it always has been. It’s a concept that no one who benefits from it is going to complain about and everyone who loses a part because of it will grouse briefly and move on.

    It’s one of the many reasons Hollywood is ethically estopped from lecturing anyone about anything.

    2. Historical accuracy is important to me. We are such an historically-ignorant culture that passing on the wrong impressions about what the past looked like is dangerous. I haven’t seen “Enola Holmes”. How are black characters portrayed? Are they doctors or constables or MPs? Are they maids or coachmen? From the perspective of the Left, making them equals to whites challenges the careful narrative that white supremacy is and always has been the rule of the day and making them of lower station in life pigeon-holes black performers into the stereotypical roles they worked so hard to break out of.

    (As a side-note, we watched the 1962 cult classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” and marveled at performances by not two, but three, strong actresses. The performances are the only reason to watch the movie which is probably eclipsed in our minds by “Sunset Boulevard” when it comes to aging actresses desperate to revitalize their careers. However, one of the best performances was Maidie Norman who played the housekeeper Elvira. Besides being the smartest character in the film, Norman was an acting coach who made sure Elvira didn’t speak in black-maid-talk)

    But I digress…

    3. These are empty threats. Move to another country and pay those tax rates, sure they will. I will never vote for anyone based on what anyone from Hollywood thinks.

    4. So someone named Martinez isn’t even allowed to opine on illegal immigration?

    5. Ditto. I’ve got nothing else to contribute for this one. I hate deceptive headlines.

    • 1: Media conventions are weird to me–even though I’ve been to a couple smaller ones–since at literary conventions you just walk up with a book or two in hand and they’re cheerfully signed while the author makes small talk with you or graciously accepts your squee–I’m looking at you Sarah Monette.

      • Science fiction conventions around here it is not uncommon for people to come up to the guest of honor with a bag of books they’d like to get signed — and the authors cheerfully do so. Sometimes, events for the most popular authors will impose limits of a couple books at a time, but people can generally go through the line a second time.

        Bookstores also sometimes (since they hold book signings to (gasp!) make money) ask you to buy a copy of the book the author is launching in order to get into the signing line. I’ve never seen anyone have a problem with that.

        Additionally, almost every author at a convention is happy to come by our bookstore at the end of the con and sign any of his or her books we still have on hand — which obviously lets us up the price on the afterwards. George R.R. Martin was a notable exception to that a few years ago.

    • 3. These are empty threats. Move to another country and pay those tax rates, sure they will. I will never vote for anyone based on what anyone from Hollywood thinks.

      I think the republicans need to try harder to give progressives the taxes they seek. Take the places that are overwhelmingly dominated by progressives and figure out ways to target them specifically. One way would be to go after copyright residuals. Talk about how they didn’t really earn them, using their words against them. While you’re at it, earmark it for progressive causes like green energy. Respond to complaints about how they must hate the earth by objecting.

      Once that’s done, target Berkshire Hathaway. University professors. Give me time and I’m sure I could come up with more.

      It won’t cost the republicans anything, as Hollywood hates them already.

  4. 3. I am not a celebrity (thank God!), but I will admit that this year’s events provoked me to speak to my wife (we are empty nesters) in all seriousness about possibly emigrating and becoming citizens and residents in some other country. Which country? That would be for my wife and me to work out.

    We have decided not to move, out of consideration for our beloved family primarily, and for our selfish motives to sustain as much access to them as possible. But we will be staying put also because of our (1) age and health status, (2) accessibility of quality health care (with hope that will continue, simultaneously dreading that it might not continue), and (3) what I am calling “promises not yet fully kept” – specifically, government benefits (and of course, there is no assurance that those promises will ever be fully kept). Thus, “they” have “got me.” I am pinned-down, painted into a corner, checkmated. Uprooting to another country at this point, in my (our) case, would be foolhardy.

    As for Jack’s statement on why celebrities’ threats to emigrate are unethical:

    1. “First, if it’s not sincere, it’s dishonest and grandstanding.” I dunno about that. Sincerity can be quite dynamic from day to day. It can depend on the dynamics of circumstances. Since sincerity about taking a certain action depending on circumstances can flip and flop as dynamically as the circumstances themselves, dishonesty in the mind of the “flip-flopper” is not a fair presumption. “Grandstanding” is perhaps somewhat more easily discernible, especially when the “stander” is a celebrity. I agree that threats that are never carried out earn suspicion of cheap bluffing and “crying WOLF!” dishonesty, or at least, insincerity. But, that reminds me of the classic question: “Why have nuclear weapons at all, if they are never going to be used?” So we can never be completely sure about celebrities who seem to bluff about leaving the U.S. every time it looks like certain political conditions might not trend to their liking.

    2. “Second, it’s un-American. If one is committed to democracy, then you accept losses in elections with grace and respect.” I might have swallowed that assertion whole, back in, oh, 2000 or 2008. If anything, we who are (and have been) paying due attention since at least around 2000 have learned, at sometimes heavy costs, that “elections have consequences.” According to my own perceptions, I cannot honestly say that this country is a “democracy” any longer. It is a largely authoritarian socialist state of vast and mostly unaccountable, concentrated political powers – with some democratic principles and processes that benefit The People still swimming, desperately, above a drowning riptide that has been ripping for decades. It’s a case of “America has become un-American.” Mao did his “strategic retreat” before realizing his victory. Sun Tzu schools us still about the art of war in ways that surely Mao took to heart. There is no point in accepting this year’s election results with grace and respect. There are only the cold, hard consequences to consider, where neither grace nor respect are relevant. I could pledge as graciously and respectfully as anyone to “honor” the winners of this year’s elections. But none of my grace and respect will matter worth a damn; they’ll still be coming for my speech, church, guns, and any other liberty and property that I might dare to claim as my rightful own. Of course the Bible says to resist the devil, and [consequently] the devil will flee. The Bible promises an escape from oppression, too. Well, I’ll take an escape on a path that my powers of perception tell me has a better chance of preserving my life and liberty, before I choose “a hill not worth dying on” that guarantees my torture and death.

    3. “Finally, it demonstrates a pathological lack of humility.” Not relevant in my (non-celebrity) case. That’s a celebrity’s burden to bear. Would a celebrity who defects (not sure, but maybe I chose the wrong verb there – or maybe an “irony demon” possessed me) truly be sacrificing anything by actually carrying out their hissy-fit? Is the celebrity an authentic “thought leader” – even if their thought is in fact gibberish – and yet still, thousands of people worship them, and that gibberish, to the point of following blindly? The answers to those questions do not concern me. I don’t know of a celebrity who has ever held that kind of sway over me. Sometimes, ironically, it actually helps to be one whose childhood was rich in dysfunctional family relationships.

    I just cannot go along unquestioningly with regarding a threat to defect as unethical. Not this year.

  5. Re: Actors moving countries:
    Pretty sure the countries they would want to move to, Springsteen suggests Australia, have controlled borders. What makes them think we’d want them here anyway?

    I’m pretty sure Johnny Depp won’t choose Australia; thankfully! He made a bit of a Boo Pistol here!

    AMG is spot on, everyone who pays tax here pays twenty five percent, except for those who earn the average wage and pay thirty three percent, or those who earn somewhat above that and pay fifty percent. Of course, it would be hard to work out how much Springsteen EARNS in Australia, and what business deductions he might have!

    Mind you, it’s obvious that Australia is the best place on Earth to live.

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