I think I’m going to feature “Jingle Bells” here every day until New Years. Here’s a version by that infamous slavery fan, Nat King Cole:
December 29 is one of the bad ethics dates: the U.S. Cavalry massacred 146 Sioux men, women and children at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on this date in 1890. Seven Hundred and twenty years earlier, four knights murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket as he knelt in prayer in Canterbury Cathedral in England. According to legend, King Henry II of England never directly ordered the assassination, but expressed his desire to see someone ‘”rid” him of the “troublesome priest” to no one in particular, in an infamous outburst that was interpreted by the knights as an expression of royal will. In ethics, that episode is often used to demonstrate how leaders do not have to expressly order misconduct by subordinates to be responsible for it.
1. I promise: my last “I told you so” of the year. I’m sorry, but I occasionally have to yield to the urge to myself on the back for Ethics Alarms being ahead of the pack, as it often is. “West Side Story” is officially a bomb, despite progressive film reviewers calling it brilliant and the Oscars lining up to give it awards. What a surprise—Hispanic audiences didn’t want to watch self-conscious woke pandering in self-consciously sensitive new screenplay by Tony Kushner, English-speaking audiences didn’t want to sit through long, un-subtitled Spanish language dialogue Spielberg put in because, he said, he wanted to treat the two languages as “equal”—which they are not, in this country, and nobody needed to see a new version of a musical that wasn’t especially popular even back when normal people liked musicals. The New Yorker has an excellent review that covers most of the problem. Two years ago, I wrote,
There is going to be a new film version of “West Side Story,” apparently to have one that doesn’t involve casting Russian-Americans (Natalie Wood) and Greek-Americans (George Chakiris) as Puerto Ricans. Of course, it’s OK for a white character to undergo a gender and nationality change because shut-up. This is, I believe, a doomed project, much as the remakes of “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” were doomed. Remaking a film that won ten Oscars is a fool’s errand. So is making any movie musical in an era when the genre is seen as silly and nerdy by a large proportion of the movie-going audience, especially one that requires watching ballet-dancing street gangs without giggling. Steven Spielberg, who accepted this challenge, must have lost his mind. Ah, but apparently wokeness, not art or profit, is the main goal.
Not for the first time, people could have saved a lot of money and embarrassment if they just read Ethics Alarms….
2. SkyNet slips up and telegraphs its plan too soon…In Great Britain, a mother and her 10-year-old daughter were trying to amuse themselves as bad weather kept them housebound. As Mom left the room, the girl asked Alexa for a “challenge to do.” “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs!” the virtual assistant said.“No, Alexa, NO!” screamed the mother from the next room. (The daughter didn’t do it.) It seems that the device picked up that “challenge” from a viral TikTok game. Amazon says it has fixed the problem. Sure it has.
I guess a lawsuit if the girl had electrocuted herself would have been thrown out as “assumption of the risk”? It is irresponsible for tech companies to place artificial intelligence into the homes of unsuspecting and trusting human beings until the bugs are worked out, and I doubt that the bugs can ever be worked out. Instead of taking up limited school time by trying to teach children that the United States is racist, the schools should be having them read and discuss more Heinlein and other relevant science fiction.
3. I am increasingly disgusted with the people I encounter on my walks with Spuds and elsewhere who are completely absorbed in either watching their smartphone, having a remote conversation or listening to music. Human beings are meant to interact; strangers need to become less strange. The technological isolation of the individual is one of the factors causing people to close their minds and treat others as abstractions. (Then there is the physical danger: I was rammed while grocery shopping by a woman pushing her cart while staring at her phone.). If one is walking a dog, its a rotten way to treat a pet: they want and need attention and companionship, not a silent zombie engaged in a separate activity. (I have always talked to our dogs constantly during their walks.) When the rare stranger is able to interact with me, I have had some wonderful experiences. Foe example, I was walking Spuds around the local tennis court when an African American fitness trainer called out a comment about Red Sox fans (I was wearing my Boston warm-up jacket). I answered, and we were soon in a discussion about ethics and leadership in sports, race, bias and other matters. My sudden friend was energetic, original, funny, and wise. We both had to go eventually: he fist-bumped me through the chainlink fence, and was gone, and I at least, was better for the chance encounter. If either of us had been self-isolated in an electronic bubble, it never would have happened.
4. Reminder: Why I will not stop calling it the Wuhan Virus (other than the fact that that’s what it is.) Frank Schell, in a sharp essay in The American Spectator, discusses how the world let China get away with “businesses and industries destroyed or damaged; massive recession and unemployment; medical systems strained to the point of collapse; countries rent asunder by populism; transport systems in disarray; interruption of children’s education and development; loss of confidence in governments; rising mental illness, anger, and civil disobedience; vulnerability of the elderly and those with underlying conditions; and nearly twice as many American dead than in World War II.” He explains the two reasons China has escaped accountability: money and fear.
5. But…but…why do they distrust the experts? And the science! This tweet by Glenn Greenwald re-opened this scandal, which the mainstream media has an obligation to cover but has not:
It was certainly the tipping point for me; I expected politicians to be manipulating the pandemic for ideological and partisan gain, but once “health experts” argued that mass gatherings to protest a police-involved death in Minnesota were fine and dandy while church services and other events were not, I realized we were in the grip of corrupt hypocrites. Ace of Spades, pulling no punches as usual, neatly summarizes the rest of why only the gullible and the partisan trust the experts or the government:
There are accusations that Fauci and the CDC have reduced quarantine periods from 10 days to 5 to accommodate industry and to keep entire companies from shutting down.
Almost as if what is claimed to be “The Science” is in fact a hodge-podge of political decisions being made by bureaucrats and their political counterparts, like Ron Klain.
But then, this has been going on since the start of the covid panic. Fauci lied about mask being ineffectual, because he didn’t want lowly civilians buying them up and shorting them for medical professionals…
Surprise! He had it right the first time — they are almost entirely ineffectual, but he didn’t know that when he claimed it. Fauci wrote and email to Sylvia Burwell, Obama’s former head of HHS, in February 2020 and told her that store bought masks were basically useless against a coronavirus. He’s been on every side of every issue depending on the day and the political need.
He then played game with what would constitute “herd immunity” — 70%? 75%? 85% 90% — and admitted he just made up numbers according to what he believed the public was “ready to hear” or what they would tolerate. When he felt they were “ready to hear” higher numbers, an would tolerate higher numbers, he shifted his target for herd immunity upward.
He admitted this — he admitted that what he claimed to be “The Science” was in fact just a grab-bag of psychological gambits and tactical deceptions intended for maximum manipulative impact on the public. And yet when you pointed this out, he contacted his palz at the social media companies to censor you.
“Experts” wonder why people don’t believe a ***-damn word coming from their lying mouths, and want to know why.
Why? Why won’t they believe us any longer?
Why do they believe that when we talk about “The Science,” we’re really just hustling them to get them to comply with our policy and political preferences by labeling it “The Science”?
Why do they not trust us about “The Science” any longer?
Well, maybe they should look at the huge repulsive mass of lies they’ve vomited at us for two years for a clue.
Don’t blame the unvaccinated for the persistence of the virus and the resulting hospitalizations, disruptions, panic and death. Blame the health experts the public trusted, and who proved unworthy of that trust because of their incompetence, biases, cowardice, lack of respect for the public, and personal agendas. They betrayed us all.