Ethics Alarms Officially Designates Trangender Activism An Ethics Train Wreck [Updated And Expanded]


An ethics train wreck is an ethics-fraught situation or event that manages to make virtually everyone involved, on all sides of the issues, behave unethically or express unethical positions. I should have identified the Transgender Activism Ethics Train Wreck much earlier, of course: I was asleep at the switch.

The tipping point that prompted this is the Dave Chappelle Netflix special, “The Closer,” the latest in a series of stand-up concerts by the talented, often perceptive and intentionally politically incorrect comedian. (I haven’t watched it yet, but I will, possibly tonight.) The show is under attack by LGTBQ activists because Chappelle jokes at the expense of transgender individuals, and this is, they say, hate speech. As I said, I haven’t seen this concert, but I have seen others, and Chappelle has targeted trans people before. I can’t say his anti-trans material isn’t sometimes funny: a lot of his jokes provoke the dual “I can’t believe he said that!”/ “Ha! Oh, no, I hate myself for laughing!” response. This is because he is good at what he does. Nevertheless, I regard such jokes as punching down. Chappelle should be better than that.

I also have two transsexual friends, one a former neighbor, the other a young man I have known since he was a child. I find nothing funny or ridiculous about either of them.

Jaclyn Moore, a transgender writer who worked on the Netflix original “Dear White People,” Terra Field, a transgender software engineer at Netflix, LBGTQ advocacy groups, and GLAAD have condemned “The Closer” and asked Netflix to take it down. The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group, said in a statement to CNN that “Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community.” (I’m sure that’s what MIT would do. And Bright Shang.)

Well, welcome to the ethics train wreck, folks: trying to censor and silence those you disagree with based on the content of their speech is unethical, supports totalitarianism (which is creeping up on us like “injun underwear,” to evoke a non-PC joke from my childhood), and is indefensible. I found “Dear White People” to be offensive and insulting, but I would never demand that Netflix pull the damn thing.

However, ethics train wrecks being what they are, Netflix managed to soil itself ethically in refusing to pull the special. Netflix’s co-chief executive, Ted Sarandos, sent an internal memo explaining why the streaming platform will not remove “The Closer.” He cited “creative freedom” as one reason (Good…) the company intends to keep the show online. He wrote that, although some people may find stand-up comedy to be “mean-spirited,” “our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering” (Okay, whatever “important” is supposed to mean…)

“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him,” Sarandos added. “His last special ‘Sticks & Stones,’ also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.” So, if the special wasn’t so popular, Netflix would be more amenable to censorship? I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s saying. I am also certain that’s how Netflix aligns its values and priorities. It’s making money, so by God, Netflix will defend free expression!

This is why our freedoms and liberty hang by a thread.


UPDATE: I watched “The Closer.” Chappelle is worth watching for many reasons; he’s smart, gutsy, and a skilled performer. I did not know that the punching down” criticism, which I echoed above before watching the special, had been prominent after his other Netflix shows, or that it apparently bothered the comic so much. Most of “The Closer” is a brief denying that he is “punching down.” He’s punching down. Chappelle’s defense is not persuasive, consisting of several fallacies and rationalizations, to wit…

  • He isn’t punching down, because nobody is lower on the status scale than a black man or a comedian. Sure, Dave. Early in Chappelle’s act he describes himself as rich and famous. There’s the rebuttal of his own argument right there.
  • One of his close friends was trans. You know, like “some of my closest friend are Jewish.” I expect Chappelle to be better than that. Desperate.
  • That close friend, who was trans, insisted that he didn’t punch down. This is an appeal to authority by Chappelle, and an especially unconvincing one. She liked him She was biased. Her opinion doesn’t prove anything.
  • Worst of all, Chappelle tells a long story culminating in his revelation that he started a trust fund for the young daughter of his trans friend who committed suicide. Presumably we’re supposed to conclude that Chappelle’s mockery of transexuals isn’t mean-spirited because he used his substantial wealth to help out this child. In truth, it’s a non-sequitur, but employed as a bit of cognitive dissonance scale sleight of hand, and pretty transparent one, at least to me. “Gee, how could Dave be punching down at transexuals when he gives money to a dead transexual’s child he never even met?” Maybe some people will fall for that kind of non-logic. Not me.

22 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms Officially Designates Trangender Activism An Ethics Train Wreck [Updated And Expanded]

  1. “His last special ‘Sticks & Stones,’ also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date.”

    How do you think he might word it differently if he meant “You may not like it but a vast number of other people do” as opposed to “Shut up, it’s making us money”?

    • Find something else to watch?

      I’m not being snarky with you, mardybum, but I don’t understand why the answer to any one of these temper tantrums isn’t a simple “no likey, no clickey” or some version thereof. I don’t care for Chappelle; therefore, I don’t watch him. There are a million other things I can find to watch, and I do.

      • I agree, watch what you want. There are enough streaming choices, it should be easy to find something appealing. The problem we have is that a very vocal group wants to decide what the rest of us get to watch too. That’s why, even though I think Sarandos was probably saying it’s staying available because it makes money, I was hoping that he also meant it as a rebuke to the complainers.

  2. It’s worth a watch if you like his comedy. He does have a bit specifically about “punching down” which I thought was a pretty decent argument.

  3. Wish we could have just left it here, Kinks 1970
    Lola, L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola. I pushed her away, I walked to the door. I fell to the floor, I got down on my knees. Then I looked at her and she at me. That’s the way that I want it to stay. I always want it to be that way for my Lola, L-L-Lola. Girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up muddled up, shook up world.

  4. Don’t worry: Netflix has fired their Trans employee who dared to contradict Chapelle’s claim that he is being silenced. So Freedom of Speech is preserved.

    ” The next day, Terra Field, a trans senior software engineer at Netflix took to Twitter to hit out at the special, in a thread that went viral with almost 14,000 retweets to date.

    She said: “I work at Netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalised groups. You’re going to hear a lot of talk about ‘offence’.

    “We are not offended.”

    She continued: “What we object to is the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of colour) and very specifically Black trans women… Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act.

    “This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”

    She added: “So who does this harm? Why don’t we go over the list of some people from the US who aren’t offended by Dave Chappelle’s special.”

    In 38 further tweets, Field listed trans people murdered in the US this year who were “not offended” by the special”

    • Netflix claims the firing was for other reasons, but don’t you think attacking your own employer is per se a firing offense, justified or not, regardless of the context? That clearly is NOT free expression.

      • Of course it is. Attacking an employer in a tweet is a fireable offence, no question. But it wasn’t Netflix that was attacked, it was a big name multi millionaire they employed, someone rich and famous.

        It’s arguable that it wasn’t a personal attack, just a critique of his words, but I think it went beyond that.

        Attacking an obscure employee though, lower on the hierarchy, in a video stream, is apparently perfectly acceptable. Again, it’s arguable it wasn’t a personal attack, but one on a group.

        And “accidentally” inviting three people to a zoom meeting they shouldn’t have been invited to, one about this issue, is one way of giving them a demerit causing suspension…till it gets found out.

        Apparently all cleared up now, and not something Netflix did, but an individual within Netflix did. At least firing them was better than shooting them, as happens.

  5. I am interested in understanding why the suffix phobic is added to any group of people
    who disagree with or wish to limit the inclusion of another group. I believe it is misused specifically to marginalize one’s opposition. Men are regularly excluded in places where women feel the need to have private spaces. We don’t call them male-phobic. Phobias deal with irrational fears not disagreements.

    I am waiting for the discussion on the coverup of the alleged rape of a 9 grader in Loudoun County by a gender fluid boy wearing a skirt in the girls restroom. The boy in the skirt repeated the crime at another school after he was transferred from the school where the first victim was attacked. Loudoun County school officials used the Sheriffs office to silence the father who wanted to speak out at a board meeting by wrestling him to the ground, bloodying his lip and charging him disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. This particular meeting was one in which Trans activists were bussed in to prevent parents from having a chance to give their comments. The activists confronted the father of the raped girl and an argument ensued. The Deputies grabbed the father’s arm and when he pulled away from the Deputy they took him down to the ground. This father actions at the meeting was cited as one of the examples of violence requiring the DOJ to treat parents as domestic terrorists. I don’t consider the father having an irrational fear of the Loudoun County school’s Trans policy; he just has serious problems with it.

    I have no problem with the sexuality of anyone but I also believe that one’s sexuality is a private matter so it need not be paraded before me.

  6. I completely agree that transgender activism is an ethics train wreck.

    I’m not a fan of Dave Chappelle, I once watched about 10 minutes of one of his videos and I was done and I’ll never watch another one of his shows; I don’t enjoy his style of humor.

  7. Punching down requires the group you are punching down at to have less power, status, rank and position than the person who is engaging with them. The LGBTQ+ political lobby is currently one of the most powerful lobbies in the US. They have far more power than the average person, and far more power than many other marginalized groups. No one wins when you play the game of intersectionality. It is a power structure that is designed to put the marginalized at the top of the power structure, and to pit one marginalized group against all the others.

    Victimhood is power in our modern society. The rules of intersectionality say that it doesn’t matter that Dave Chappelle is rich and famous, that just means he took advantage of white supremacy, and lost his black card. He doesn’t count as black anymore, he counts as a white supremacist, This is just a great example of why intersectionality is divisive. Trans card beats black card, and all roads lead to white supremacy.

    Intersectionality makes it impossible to debate any policy issues rationally. Take the issue with women’s restrooms. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that a blanket policy that says that any biological male who claims to be trans is federally mandated access to the women’s restrooms will lead to sexual predators being allowed to take advantage of that policy. This can, has, and will lead to the sexual assault of women. The intersectionality matrix says that trans card beats woman card, so it is okay that some women will get sexually assaulted. That is just the price you have to pay to make things “fair”. The intersectionality matrix also says that the women who do in fact get sexually assaulted by sexual predators are not allowed to say anything, or even acknowledge that it happened. Everyone has to pretend that sexual predators are going to magically stop being predators so that trans people can get the policies they desire. Intersectionality cards trump reality.

    Does a group that can silence sexual assault victims really have no power? They seem to have quite a bit of power. They can eliminate women’s sports. They can call down mobs on people they don’t like. They can make pronouns appear in twitter bios. They can get doctor’s to pretend that biological sex is not a real thing. They have turned women into “people with vaginas” and mom’s into people who give birth.

    Who exactly was Dave Chappelle making fun of? Particular trans individuals? Or the transgender lobby? There is a difference. If he was aiming his jokes at particular people, then that is punching down. If he was aiming his jokes at the transgender lobby then he wasn’t punching down. He was punching up.

    • A “powerful lobby” doesn’t protect individuals. Trans citizens can still be legally discriminated against in the workplace: the civil rights act doesn’t include them yet. That’ DOWN.

      • Is Dave Chapelle accused of discriminatory employment practices? Is the definition of power and social rank somehow predicated on inclusion in the Civil Rights act?

        The transgender lobby and activist groups are not individual citizens, they are groups. Groups with significant power and social rank.

        As I said, if he was mocking individual citizens, who don’t have power or rank equivalent to his, then yes, it is punching down.

        If he was mocking trans activist groups, who have massive power and social rank, and who often use that power and rank against individual citizens to inflict harm, then it is punching up.

        Conflating the trans lobby with trans individuals is erroneous. The trans lobby does not represent all trans individuals. It represents a subset of trans people who agree with a particular agenda. I suspect many, or possibly even most, trans individuals do not agree with that agenda. Are you saying it is unethical to mock a group or the agenda of a group when it claims to represent individuals of a marginalized population?

      • Please explain why we create special classes to be included when discrimination based on any immutable characteristic is proscribed by law. By establishing special protected classes we implicitly state that non-included classes can be discriminated against. If discrimination based on gender is illegal why the need for a special carve out for those claiming to be one gender or another despite the biological contradiction?

  8. He shouldn’t have bothered apologizing or rationalizing it at all. Comedians routinely insult Christians (they aren’t allowed to insult you back! Or behead you!) homeless people, rednecks, etc. They don’t actually believe that “punching down” is bad, or else they wouldn’t selectively invoke it.

  9. Isn’t it still an open question whether being transgender is a mental disorder? Our society has moved without actually considering whether it is or not. There are all kinds of disorders where people cannot accurately see themselves as they are, such as people who are anorexic, people who want to chop off their own limbs, or even people who want to blind themselves. We have no issue at all saying someone in any of these categories is mentally ill, but if someone says they are the opposite gender, somehow, that’s not a mental illness, but there’s no clear reasoning as to why. Many trans people still commit suicide after they have transitioned, and some of them actually regret transitioning. I don’t have the numbers on all of this, but at minimum, our society should not be rushing to see being transgender as just a normal part of human experience without more investigation. Affirming someone’s delusions when they are mentally ill is the opposite of love.

    If you have people still experiencing significant distress after transitioning and you have people who regret the change, then someone claiming to be trans cannot automatically be believed. We need more counseling and safeguards to ensure the person actually is so.

    Additionally, transgender people are completely at odds with liberal feminism because liberal feminism says there are no real distinctions between the genders. You can’t make any “gendered” arguments, yet, trans people claim to be a specific gender, and many of them will act in stereotypical ways after transitioning, more stereotypical than many women. You can’t have it both ways, which is what the TERFS are concerned about. There is really a lack of honest debate about this topic

    Ironically, the conservative side is the one that believes there are distinctions between the genders, so they should theoretically have an easier time accepting transgender people because transgender people are actively saying there is such a thing as “man” and “woman.”.

  10. I’m going to defer to Trans people on whether they are or aren’t personally offended because they’ll know better than me how they feel. But I would be very wary, due to my experience with the LGBTLMNOP+!%f lobby, of taking seriously the claims that what Chappelle said is generally offensive to all trans people.

    Don’t get me wrong… I don’t know if I actually believe they’re offended, there’s just too much incentive for people to pretend they’re offended, and real offense gets lost in all the performative theatre…. I just don’t care. Regardless on whether or not someone is offended, why should that change anything? Kindness? I mean, I get the argument, but it’s quite novel coming from that crowd. All sorts of people are offended by all sorts of things, and while some offense is unavoidable, if kindness was actually a goal, perhaps trans activists might receive just a little bit of in-house criticism for going out of their way to be offensive to people uncomfortable with them?

    No, they don’t actually care about offense, they’re personally invested in their own feelings… And don’t get me wrong, they have that right, no one should be more concerned about your own well being than you… But I’m not going to pretend that they’re special. Offense towards them isn’t more serious than offense towards anyone else, and I’m going to put about as much effort into being kind to them as I am to anyone else… There’s a baseline, and then you tend to get back what you dish out.

  11. I gave up on Netflix after Cuties, but I was able to find a transcript;

    There’s more on trans people in the bit, and maybe it looses something at the stenography level, but these are the paragraphs most of the clips come out of, and while I get how they might cause offense, I can’t imagine being so bothered by it to go past a Netflix cancellation and maybe some passing comments. If someone says this offends them deeply… Sure. I don’t get it, but again… I don’t particularly care. We’ll talk about civility once they demonstrate that they care about it when the target is someone they disagree with.

    “If you listen to what I’m saying, I’m not even talking about them, I’m talking about us and “they don’t listen.” It’s very annoying. And they have canceled people, more powerful than me. They canceled J.K. Rowling, my God. J.K. Rowling wrote all the Harry Potter books by herself. She sold so many books, the Bible worries about her.

    And they canceled it because, she said in an interview and this is not exactly what she said, but effectually she said that gender was a fact. And then the trans community got mad as shit, they started calling her a TERF. I didn’t even know, what the fuck that was. But I know that trans people make up words to win arguments. [laughter] So I looked it up. TERF is an acronym. It stands for Trans-exclusionary radical feminist. This is a real thing, this is a group of women… that hate transgender. They don’t hate transgender women but they look at trans women the way we Blacks might look at Black face. It offends them like, “Oh, this bitch is doing an impression of me.” [laughter] Now I shouldn’t speak on this because I’m not a woman nor am I a trans. But as we’ve established… I am a feminist. [laughter] That’s right.

    I’m team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact. You have to look at it from a woman’s perspective. Look at it like this, Caitlyn Jenner whom I have met, wonderful person. Caitlyn Jenner… was voted, woman of the year. Her first year as a woman. Ain’t that something? Beat every bitch in Detroit. She’s better than all of you. [laughter] Never even had a period, ain’t that something? [laughter] I’d be mad as shit if I was a woman. I’d be mad if I was me. If I was in the BET awards, sitting there and they’re like “And the winner for n*gger of the year… Eminem.” My man. [audience laughs] Gender is a fact, this is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact.”

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