Snow Day Ethics Warm-Up, 2/18/21: Dissing Shakespeare, Limbaugh, And Merit

statue-of-william-shakespeare-central-park-new-york-city

I like snow. I like looking at it and driving in it. My dog likes eating it (so did my sister). In Washington, D.C., they think it’s radioactive, or something. Poor, deluded fools!

1. Well, you just lost THAT subscription, Craig. As the baseball season approaches, I’ve been considering subscribing to the baseball newsletter of former NBC Sports baseball writer (and recovering lawyer) Craig Calcaterra, who is approximately 4X smarter and funnier than the average sportswriter, and more astute than all but the very best. Craig quit, or was fired or something from his job at NBC and is now with the rest of the exiles at substack. My willingness to forgive and forget baseball’s revolting pandering to Black Lives Matter last season is still in doubt, so Craig’s newsletter, which he sends out free now and then to those who have expressed an interest in subscribing, was a luxury whose viability was hanging by a thread already. Then today I got one of his free editions, and Craig indulged his worst instincts (he is social justice warrior of the smuggest sort) were given free reign. In a missive that is supposed to be about baseball, I had to read a screed like this (I’ll spare you most of it):

For the past couple of days I’ve written about how right wing media has poisoned political discourse, mainstreamed fringe beliefs, laundered lies, and radicalized a large swath of Americans. The man who is arguably most responsible for that died yesterday. Good fucking riddance to Rush fucking Limbaugh.Limbaugh was a berserker of hate, spinning off vile, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic attacks faster than could be chronicled… He reveled in spreading lies, punching down, directing cruelty at the most vulnerable targets, and voicing support for criminals and conspiracy theorists. He elevated and normalized bigotry and ignorance and gave others license to do the same….To the extent you have parents, grandparents, neighbors, college buddies, or coworkers hopelessly lost in that malignant vortex of idiocy, to the extent you know people who believe in harmful and violence-inspiring conspiracy theories and who remain beyond the reach of fact or reason, and to the extent anyone you know takes pride in offensive and obnoxious behavior because, to them, it’s all about triggering the libs, Limbaugh and everything he stood for is very much to blame….

And so on. I don’t really care about the political views of sports writers and pundits who stick to their areas of expertise: one of the best and most enjoyable baseball analysts was Keith Olbermann. But Craig here displays poor judgment and out-of-control bias: that’s essentially 100% Left-wing anti-Rush propaganda by someone who obviously didn’t listen to him enough to make those kinds of pronouncements. Nor does it have anything to do with baseball.

I’ll defend to the death his right to write junk like that, but I’m sure not going to pay for it.

2. The Great Stupid wants us to be stupider still. Frequent commenter Chris Marschner reminded me that an increasing number of teachers and professors (you know, “experts”) want to “cancel” William Shakespeare’s works. I had seen that, and as I sometimes do when my inner 12-year-old takes over (which is more often than you might think), I had been ignoring it in the hope that it would go away. (Gee, thanks, Chris…) From Fox News:

A slew of English literature teachers told the School Library Journal (SLJ) how they were ditching the likes of “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet” to instead “make room for modern, diverse, and inclusive voices.” “Shakespeare was a tool used to ‘civilize’ Black and brown people in England’s empire,” insisted Shakespeare scholar Ayanna Thompson, a professor of English at Arizona State University. Teachers also need to “challenge the whiteness” of the assumption that Shakespeare’s works are “universal,” insisted Jeffrey Austin, who is head of a Michigan high school’s English literature department.

Of course they are universal, because the man/woman/ thing, whoever or whatever wrote these amazing plays—I would not rule out space alien— was wise, smart, creative and prescient beyond explaining. This is no more (and no less) than Mao-style cultural self-lobotomy, and again, like so much in education private and public, high and low, shows what a dangerous number of ideological fanatics and numbskulls we have allowed to influence our children and corrupt our values.

I’m a professional stage director (once I have the opportunity to get back to it), but I’ve never especially enjoyed watching Shakespeare, especially since most productions are pompous or terrible. Reading the plays is also hard, but it is amazing how much wit, insight, perception and wisdom is in those works. I only directed one, “King Lear,” which required me to study the text deeply, and I finished convinced that no human being was smart and experienced enough to be that brilliant. I still don’t understand it; “Shakespeare was a Martian” makes as much sense as an explanation—more!— as “Shakespeare was a lightly educated Elizabethan actor.” Trying to remove Shakespeare from the culture using race as an excuse—heck, using anything as an excuse–is as irresponsible as directing that all citizens get bonked on the head with a bowling ball twice a day.

3. More reasons, as if you needed more, to ignore the Oscars. The Academy Awards will be broadcast on March 15, coincidentally during my long-scheduled sock drawer inventory. If there was any chance that I might make a special effort to watch (there wasn’t), this article in the Times headlined “The Most Diverse Oscars Ever?” would have killed it. A quote: “[W]hen history is made during awards season, I do believe it’s worth celebrating. This particular year could produce the most diverse lineup of Oscar nominees ever, as women and people of color are projected to make up the majority in several top races.” To which I reply, “Oh, so the hell what? In a merit based awards system, what is worth celebrating is the most deserving artists receiving the top awards, regardless of color, creed, gender or political orientation. Designating anything other than objective merit and quality of art as a criteria creates an artificial bias, which, as we all know, makes people stupid, particularly Hollywood people, who tend to be stupid anyway.

Of course, this particular stupidity is all the rage right now. President-elect Joe Biden announced this week that he will nominate Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s top health official, as his assistant secretary of health. Levine, a pediatrician, would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Here’s Rachel:

Rachel Levine

Maybe she’s fully qualified and will be terrific. I hope she is. But if you believe that she would have gotten the nomination if, with the exact same credentials, she were still a heterosexual white man, you’ll believe anything. What a coincidence: an administration obsessed with “historic” elections and appointments that happens to cater to trans activists found the best qualified candidate for assistant secretary of health, and she just happened to be trans!

Her sexual identification issues should have no bearing on her appointment at all. This is elevating discrimination and bias to a the level of virtue.

22 thoughts on “Snow Day Ethics Warm-Up, 2/18/21: Dissing Shakespeare, Limbaugh, And Merit

  1. Sigh…I tried to point out to the foaming-at-the-mouth celebrators of Rush’s death – based on what they say was his decades of “hate speech, put-downs and bigotry” (i.e. disagreeing with their ideology) – that they probably needed to listen to their own voices as they tapped those virtue-signaling “Kindness” signs into their front yards. And, as you can suspect, I was met with label-filled diatribes almost word-for-word like that of Craig Calcaterra. They don’t see that such responses are proving my point.
    BTW, wasn’t Rachel Levine the one who after ordering long-term care facilities in PA to continue to accept coronavirus patients who had been discharged from hospitals, pulled her own mom out?

    • Rachel now says it was her mother’s insistence that she be moved. Hah! Let’s throw Mom under the bus, shall we?

      Throw me in woke jail for life, but if Dr. Rachel Levine is the poster child for trans-genderism, I’m going long on gender dysphoria having a huge future.

  2. RE 2 When I read that part about Shakespeare being used to “civilize black and brown people” I asked myself why does this professor believe that black and brown people are not civilized. It stands to reason that you can only believe that X is used for Y if you believe Y is/was a problem or you can prove others were applying solution X to problem Y improperly. So unless someone told Ayanna Thompson that the works were created or used for that purpose or she can point to other writers of the 16th to 19th centuries who make similar claims she can only be imposing her own beliefs in her thesis.

    As for the statement that “Teachers also need to “challenge the whiteness” of the assumption that Shakespeare’s works are “universal,” perhaps we should challenge Professor Austin to prove his assertion his claim that some human behaviors are not universal. I would suggest that every race has powerful people who have their own Goneril or Regan and fail to recognize the Cordelia in their lives. This failure leads to their ultimate ruination.

    • I was assume that she doesn’t mean black/brown people were uncivilized but that “civilized” here is a short hand way of saying “imposing western man’s notion of civilization on others”.

      • In Shakespeare’s day, any English mission civilisatrice was directed at the Irish, not at black or brown people (cue reference to “Blazing Saddles”). The thing is, ports like London would occasionally expose the English to black or brown people, and returning travellers would occasionally bring back accounts of them, but they weren’t yet under English rule. Even slave traders mostly took them to other countries’ colonies, because there were the only colonies around that could use slaves until England got Bermuda and Barbados and there wasn’t much of a market for them in the British Isles. Bermuda (“the vexed Bermoothes”) just barely overlapped with Shakespeare, and so got a reference in the Tempest.

  3. 2. I’ve always considered Shakespeare plays massive, massive poems. They are great, incredible, to read if you have the time required and a good, annotated text to help translate the vocabulary. Watching them performed is hard work. And yes, the staging can be pompous. As a pup, I saw the Diana Rigg/Anthony Hopkins “Macbeth” production at the Old Vic in January 1973, and, unless I’m confusing it with some other production I saw, the staging was so clunky as to be literally laughable when not one but ten (or was it twelve?) of Banquo’s ghosts appeared on stage in full, identical regalia, and shuffled around to find space before exiting in a clump.

    Query: What are they going to use to replace Shakespeare? Maya Angelou? Toni Morrison? Who’s going to replace Joseph Conrad and “Heart of Darkness?”

    • Respectfully disagree.

      Lots of Shakespeare’s language is difficult, especially to read, but, properly performed, easy to understand.

      I have seen several productions of Richard III and my appreciation of the opening lines (“the Winter of our discontent”) was greatly enhanced by the performance. The doorman scene in MacBeth was positively dull to read, but hilarious to watch.

      As for universality, I have yet to find a group of people lacking in venality, conflict, jealousy, impulsiveness, anger, spite and ambition.

      They are probably Ben Johnson fans.

      -Jut

      • This is something I’ve noticed weirdly. It’s hard to follow Shakespeare reading it. But when I hear it performed… when I try to parse the individual words and sentences I’m often left confused by the Early Modern English. But if I stop trying to understand it word for word and just listen to it, I can fully comprehend what they’re meaning to get across and it becomes immediately fun and witty banter or the deep somber musings or the dramatic and epic speeches of leaders.

        It’s a neat phenomenon.

  4. On 3,

    Biden tapped Levine almost a month ago, and I was as disgusted by the nomination then as I am now.

    Levine is the person who wheeled their mother out of a PCH while preventing other people from leaving nursing homes *and* requiring that residents treated for Covid in hospitals be released to the nursing homes they came from.

    So not only is she directly responsible for the Covid deaths of elderly people she locked in a cage with covid, but she’s a hypocrite.

    Her story is that she wasn’t breaking her own rules because the PCHs were administered by a different part of PA’s government. And that’s true. But functionally, she was doing herself what she was actively preventing other people from doing. Had she been in charge of the PCHs as well as the NHs, she would have fallen afoul of her own rules.

    There is no doubt, zero, in my mind that she would not be even close to consideration had she not been trans. There are plenty of health professionals out there that don’t come with a track record of killing old people and self-dealing.

  5. Regarding Rush Limbaugh:

    Watching his reaction to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom completely changed my perception of him. I held no active malice towards him, because I openly new nothing first hand about him, but watching that one moment was signature significance for a man of great humility. A blow-harded, conspiracy-minded, un-intelligent person could not react that way, not even once. I pity those whose bias and hatred are so thick that they could interpret that moment as anything else.

  6. Re: Cancellation of Sir Billy and his Silly Poems.

    I follow a guy on Youtube by the name of Adam Neely, who apparently teaches music and is a multi-instrumentalist. He put out a video declaring Western music racist and we should abandon teaching and learning about Mozart, Beethoven, and every other composer from about tge 16th Century onward, composers described as “dead white European men.” Good to know, Adam. Here is his video.

    jvb

    • The thrust of current racial grievance orthodoxy seems to be that anything requiring intelligence or talent, never mind genius, is racist. If black people can’t become composers of classical music with no effort or talent whatsoever, classical music must be racist. If black people can’t get into Yale or Harvard or Stanford with no effort or talent, elite universities and the concept of education upon which they exist must be racist. If black people can’t become owners of their own hedge fund or a managing partner at Goldman Sachs with no effort or talent, finance must be racist. If black people can’t become mathematicians or physicists with no effort or talent, mathematics and physics must be racist. If black people can’t be considered smart with no effort or talent, the notion of being smart must be racist.

      In the alternative, if Michael Jackson is not considered to have been on a par with and as important as J.S. Bach (Fats Waller’s favorite composer), the study of classical music is racist. If Charles Blow is not considered to be on a par with Samuel Johnson, the study of English literature is racist.

      This sort of thinking is pernicious and self-defeating.

  7. “Her sexual identification issues should have no bearing on her appointment at all.

    Gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation (or preference). Gays and trans are two separate groups with two very different sets of issues.

    I don’t know what a “sexual identity” is but I expect it to become the latest hip new identity grievance movement in short order.

  8. Not to mention RAN, also by Kurosawa. I came across it on Youtube by chance, having never heard of it, picked the source material, and became a Kurosawa fan as a result of watching it.

    If you need anything other than these two movies to prove the universality of Shakespeare’s work you simply aren’t paying attention. I also remember seeing an episode of JAG where ‘Bud’ got introduced to the bard’s works and suddenly realised they formed the basis of many of his favourite Sci-Fi movies!

    Universal indeed.

    What is it some blogger I follow says repeatedly: ‘Bias makes you stupid’?

    • Actually, the Japanese relate to Macbeth because of precisely the things that are not universal in it but in which the clan-feudal-centralising tensions it finds in ancient Scotland resonate with their own particular history. But those can leave those from other cultures cold.

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