Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2021: Fake News, Fake Religion, Fake Competence…And Maybe Fake Accusations, Not That It Seems To Matter

Tonight, starting at 6 pm, EST, I’ll be facilitating a three hours CLE seminar via (yecchh) Zoom for the D.C. Bar. You can use the credits for other bars’ mandatory ethics requirements, so if you need them, I’d love to have you in the group. It’s all interactive, of course. I’ve been doing a year end legal ethics wrap-up, usually a re-boot of a seminar I present earlier in the year, for, oh, almost 20 years now. It’s not too late to register. The information is here, along with a promotional video I made a few months ago. They say video takes away 15 pounds of hair…

On the Christmas movie front: one Christmas movie that needs no ethics critique is 1947’s “The Bishop’s Wife,” an inexplicably under-seen classic film starring Cary Grant (as a very un-Clarence-like angel), Loretta Young and David Niven. It is as good as any of the Christmas classics and better than most, with a religious undertone that is missing from most of the others. In its time, “The Bishop’s Wife” was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture. Grant’s performance is especially deft, as he walks an extremely thin line, both in the plot and in his interpretation of the character. I was wondering last night why it hasn’t been remade, but it was: there is a 1996 musicalized version directed by Penny Marshall with Denzel Washington replacing Grant, Courtney Vance taking over for Niven, and Whitney Houston as a singing version of Loretta Young’s character. Justifiable remakes of classic films have to have a “why,” and this one’s justification was apparently that every classic with white stars has to be remade with black ones, or something. The reason I had never heard of it is that the film was generally regarded as inferior to the original, but I am going to have to track it down now and see for myself.

1. Believe all women/accusers/”survivors”… And if a career and a life is ruined unjustly, well, you gotta break some eggs to make an omelette, right? Chris Noth of “Law and Order,” “Sex in the City” and “The Good Wife” fame is now out of a job, having been fired from his supporting role on the CBS/Universal series “The Equalizer.” The reason: a Hollywood Reporter story revealed allegations of sexual assault against Noth by two as yet un-named women, one who says Noth sexually assaulted her in 2004 in Los Angeles, and another who alleges he assaulted her in his New York apartment in 2015.

Jeez, you’d think he had been nominated for the Supreme Court or something. Noth has denied the accusations, but never mind: they are enough, before any investigation, any trial, even any identification of the accusers, to get him “cancelled.”

Seems unfair, somehow….

2. Accountability! Former Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann was falsely labelled a racist in the mainstream media based on a selectively edited video of his encounter with a Native American activist in front of the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2019, and the fact that he was wearing a MAGA cap. Now he has reached a third settlement with an MSM organization over the maliciously false reporting: he previously settled with the Washington Post and CNN, and has now settled his $275 million defamation lawsuit against NBC. Good.

MSNBC had been particularly outrageous and irresponsible, at one point comparing him to George Zimmerman, but more lawsuits, and presumably settlements are coming. Next up: a similar reckoning for the outlets that slimed Kyle Rittenhouse.

3. This doesn’t help at all…a black mother from Kentucky complained on social media that the local Walmart priced otherwise identical baby dolls with the black version costing $39.97 and the white version $25. Walmart issued an official statement that “the price difference in the two items was the result of price changes made systemically. We lowered the price on a select group of toys, including only one of these dolls, to help drive sales. Unfortunately, we overlooked the impact these changes would have on similar items whose price did not change. This was an unintentional error on our part and we sincerely apologize to anyone it may have offended.”Walmart is a firm believer of diversity and inclusion. As a company, we are investing resources and developing strategies to advance equity for all within our walls and society.”

Translation: “We hire really careless, incompetent people. Sorry.” It’s impossible to tell what is going on here. This was probably stupidity, but racists are all stupid, and incredibly so. Who knows? [Pointer: Paul Schlecht]

4. And speaking of incompetence…Some goof at Fox News made anchor Harris Faulkner sound like she was having a stroke on the air. Faulkner looked into the camera and, confidently reading the teleprompter, told viewers that “Las liberal da scraping jail times for juveniles convicted of felony crimes!” I did not know that, Harris!

The problem was that a public school-educated teleprompter operator had left out vital capitals and punctuation marks. The text was supposed to read, “L.A.’s liberal D.A….”

5. This kind of thing is why religious exemptions cannot be or in Japan. Some clever wag in Japan invented a fake satirical religion solely for the purpose of providing followers ammunition to refuse things they don’t want to be forced into doing, like working overtime.

MtoP, short for “Motohiro to People,” is an alleged religion created in 2018 by Motohiro Hisano, who is its self-anointed deity and prophet. He’s more candid than most prophets, though, admitting that he can’t perform miracles and has no special powers other than bestowing “religious reasons” onto his followers. Hisano does not want to be worshiped, nor does he seek or accept any financial contributions. His religion doesn’t require believers to abide by any principles or commandments either; all they have to do in order to be considered members of the flock is to follow MtoP’s official Twitter account.

It sounds at least as valid as Scientology.

16 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2021: Fake News, Fake Religion, Fake Competence…And Maybe Fake Accusations, Not That It Seems To Matter

  1. 3–You opined this could be attributed to either “stupidity, or malice.”

    Would malice include (but not be limited to) a coldly calculated marketing ploy?

    Say you have WOKE White Guilt inundated Lefties making a choice on the…um…hue of a prospective doll purchase, which way would you guess they’d go:

    1) The I’m Dialed In/Gosh I’m Nice endorphin goosed siphoning off of some of that there crushing Original Sin, or
    2) Perpetuating institutionalized intersectional systemic fragility?

    Hoping no one would notice? DefCon III level stupidity.

    • That is a cool take. I had a similar, if not more demented way for Walmart to spin it. Here is my take, were I Walmart’s PR firm:

      “Oh, you don’t like the price disparity in doll prices? Neither do we. But, remember that old Adam Smith and his silly economic laws of supply and demand? He said that when supply is high and demand is low, prices tend to decrease; when demand is high and supply is low, prices tend to increase. Right? Well, we bought ton of those dolls and marked them the same price. It seems that no one – and I mean no one – wanted the white dolls so we have a ton of those stupid things in our warehouse.. We even tried to discount the price to get rid of them. You know what? Nobody wants them. We can’t even give them away! Sheesh! The other dolls, though, are selling like hotcakes. We can’t keep up with the demand. Our suppliers are freaking out, working double, triple, quadruple time just trying to keep up the demand (we only hope their workers don’t listen to that Japanese prophet guy or our profits will go right out the window!).”

      Now, that would be fun to watch.


  2. 3. Would they have preferred the black one to be cheaper?

    5. At least it promotes honesty, beating Scientology as a good religion by a wide margin.

  3. RE #2: Recognizing that terms of settlements like these are generally kept confidential (and often for very good reasons), I hope at least one of Sandman’s cases goes to trial (I nominate the one v. Elizabeth Warren) so that the public can see how much the libel and slander actually cost them. Hopefully, the settlements are considerably more than the cost of defending the cases; settlements are often not much more than that and a bit of “make me happy” money as a hedge against an unsympathetic jury.

    One presumes that word is circulating in the C-suites of the major MSM outlets… but apparently, Sandman’s settlements to date don’t seem to have done much to curb their outrageous character assassinations. Maybe Kyle Rittenhouse will have a different strategy – though his case may be tougher to advance in the first place.

  4. 5. I agree that religious exemptions on serious issues are not ethically justifiable. (Religious exemptions for dress codes and similar issues of style are understandable, but a complete religious exemption would give people license to use a completely separate concept of ethics from everyone else, even if few dare to use them that way.)

    People should be on the same page ethically regarding what is a matter of ethics and what is a matter of personal choice. Discovering what people can and cannot bring themselves to do is another process entirely.

    That said, I think there’s a bigger issue in this situation. This “Motohiro to People” movement (which sounds like a good idea to me) is only taking advantage of the religious exemption laws because they don’t see another way to stand up against a collectivists culture that’s overclocking people with obligations which benefit no one except perhaps the people who own the companies whose employees are overworking themselves, and/or maybe some of the customers.

    There’s a cultural stigma around deciding to just relax and not work so hard, so Motohiro Hisano decided to hack the culture by creating a religion around a basic principle of self-care: setting boundaries for one’s time and effort. Ideally, nobody should need religious exemptions in order to take care of their own mental health. Until corporate culture is ethical, though, I’m glad they’re able to take advantage of this ill-conceived law to get what they need.

  5. Offtopic, but I’m curious if you have any input on the stupid whitehouse statement about unvaccinated and omicron. The second half is pure unwarranted fear mongering. Even with standard Covid 19, the risks wouldn’t justify implying that all unvaccinated are likely to have a severe illness and death, and so far Omicoron is much less of a risk. It’s not quite head explosion inducing, since my expectations of the Biden WH are extremely low.

    “We are intent on not letting Omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this.

    For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”

  6. 1)Personally, it’s interesting to see Chris Noth’s name come up. I just finished re-watching Rough Riders , and he did a pretty good job there (I always enjoyed him on Law and Order).

    And speaking of that movie — I don’t know just how accurate it was, but my goodness TR was a regular force of nature! Watching that movie, reading some snippets of his biography — amazing man.

    I always used to think they’d chosen a lightweight when they put him on Mt. Rushmore, but my mind has been changed. Hmmm, think the Statue People will be able to pull those down?

  7. 5) I’ve told my beloved Mrs. Zechman a number of times that if I’m ever required to show a vax card in order to get a job, I’ll be claiming a religious exemption.

    If they ask me what my religion is, I’ll tell them I’m a Jedi.

    This will all be so that I can then slowly wave my hand in front of them and say You don’t need to see my proof of vaccination. This isn’t the card you’re looking for. Move along.


    P.S. I *am* vaccinated, but my private medical records are private and I have a zero-tolerance policy for “Papers, Please.”

  8. #3, a company with a million line items, looking at exception reports by the numbers, sees “doll, sku#1234, # sold, 0” and it gets priced to move.

    To be aware that it was a sister toy to a black doll would’ve required Walmart to change it’s practices and hire more people to determine the social justice impact OF A TOY that isn’t selling.

    That cost would then be passed on to the consumer, and then Walmart is no longer the low price leader.

    People are morons for thinking it’s a racial issue.

    The woman should be glad the black doll is worth more than the white one, because now we can see that black lives matter! If it had been the other way around, she’d have been offended that, what, black dolls aren’t worth as much as white ones?

    The Great Stupid indeed.

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