The Eastman Kodak Affair’s Lesson: Corporations Only Signal Their Imaginary Virtue When It Doesn’t Cost Anything

Wack

Eastman Kodak issued an Instagram post featuring images of Xinjiang, a western Chinese region where the government of China has committed horrific human rights violations

The post promoted the work of French photographer Patrick Wack, who made several trips to Xinjiang in recent years and has collected his damning images—all shot on Kodak film— into a book. Kodak shared 10 of his images with its 839,000 Instagram followers. In the Kodak post and on his own Instagram account, Wack described his images as a visual narrative of Xinjiang’s “abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia” over the past five years.

Oh-oh! As the disgraceful U.S. complicity in China’s Wuhan virus cover-up (also Orwellian) has shown, you don’t dare call China’s brutal regime what it is or demand accountability. Chinese social media users attacked Kodak, but Kodak, staying true to American principles of freedom of expression and refusing to bend a knee to tyranny, held its ground as it continued to support Wack and his work.

KIDDING!

I was just messing with you…of course Kodak deleted the post and grovelled an apology for “any misunderstanding or offense” that it might have caused. China, you see, is a big market.

So while our corporate giants have no hesitation in bombarding the gullible with nostrums during “these difficult times,” and announce their fealty to #MeToo, “antiracism,” and Black Lives Matter to pander to various consumers, never think that they really care about anything but their global profits.

Capitalism confers many benefits on society, but courage, integrity, and ethical values are not among them, and never have been.

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Rose Valland (1898-1980)

Rose-Valland

The remarkable 2008 documentary “The Rape of Europa” tells the story of the Nazi plundering of fine art across Europe. It is full of many accounts of heroism, none more impressive than that of Rose Villand, a meek-looking librarian out of central casting, who is as perfect and example of how ordinary people can rise to extraordinary levels of courage and innovation in times of crisis.

Rose Valland was born in Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, France on November 1, 1898. She earned two degrees in the arts from the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and also studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, then added degrees in art history from both the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne. Her academic credentials, however, did not immediately advance her career, as Valland began work at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris as an unpaid volunteer.

In October 1940, during the Occupation of Paris, the Nazis commandeered the Jeu de Paume Museum and converted it into the headquarters of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, the Nazi art looting organization created by frustrated artist Adolf Hitler. There The Nazis stored paintings and other works of art stolen from private French collectors and dealers, including thousands of works taken from Jewish-owned galleries. The museum’s collaborating curator, Andre Dézarrois, fell ill in the summer of 1941, and in a stroke of fate for civilization, Valland became the de facto director of the museum. Jacques Jaujard, Director of the French National Museums including the Louvre, gave Valland a daunting assignment: she was to use her post in the museum to spy on the Nazi art theft operation.

The Germans, as explained in “The Rape of Europa,” took scant notice of the “little mouse” of a woman who kept her head down, seldom spoke, and appeared to follow orders. They didn’t even realize that she spoke German, but under their noses she was acquiring crucial information from the conversations of drivers, guards, and packers relating to the looted art treasures…60,000 of them. Villand witnessed the frequent shopping trips of Nazi Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering as he made more than twenty separate visits to the Jeu de Paume to select works of art for Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria, and his own personal collection. Possessing a remarkable memory for details, she recorded her discoveries regarding the movements, names of the victims, number of pieces and where they were going, names of the agents responsible for transfers, names of the carriers, brands of the boxes, numbers and dates of convoys,as well as the names of the artists and the dimensions of the pieces that passed before her. She relayed the information to Jaujard and the French Resistance while keeping her own meticulous records. She warned the Resistance of convoys containing important artworks so that they would be spared, all while knowing that she would be executed as a spy if her activities were discovered by the Nazis—and at least twice, they nearly caught her.

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Noon Ethics Munchies, 7/14/2021: On Cuba, Big Lies, Roy Moore, and More [Corrected]

Munchies

1. The President gets a cheap shot...Commenting on Joe Biden’s generally hysterical speech about “voter suppression,” “Bonchie” writes on the conservative blog Red State,

“Of note here is that Biden is channeling Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels by using the phrase “big lie” to disparage Republicans who have concerns about the 2020 election. Yet, despite the phrase’s murderous, anti-Semitic past, the president seems to have no problem saying it repeatedly. In doing so, he echoed CNN’s Jake Tapper and others who have also been fond of the phrase.”

There is nothing wrong with using the phrase or the description. The device was championed by both Goebbels and Hitler, and is an accurate description of a propaganda tactic, an unethical but powerful one, used by both the Right and the Left. Whether the description is used fairly in any particular case is a separate issue. “Big Lies” is a very accurate description of the assault by the “resistance”/Democratic Party/mainstream media against Donald Trump—can you think of a better one?—which is why Ethics Alarms used it here and elsewhere.

What would be fair to note is that Biden has often been an eager employer of Goebbels’ favorite trick himself…as noted in this post.

2. Does anyone understand why Democrats are trying to downplay the current Cuban protests against the Communist government? This makes no sense to me. Thousands of anti-regime protesters took to the streets across the island over the weekend, waving American flags and chanting “Freedom!” and anti-government slogans. Cuba has been a repressive Communist regime since Fidel Castro pulled his bait and switch with the U.S. in 1959, but the most extreme elements in the Democratic Party, the proto-Marxists, have always thrown Cuba metaphorical kisses, like Michael Moore. Barack Obama reversed decades of U.S. policy by opening relations with Cuba without requiring any human rights concessions in return. One would think an outbreak of democracy on the island would be viewed as a good thing, but Biden’s paid liar, Jen Psaki, absurdly explained that the reason for the protests was “concern about rising COVID cases, deaths, and medicine shortages” rather than political oppression.

While Republicans have immediately announced their support for the Cuban people, Reps. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Gwen Moore (D., Wis.) and the more 70 members of Congress, including “The Squad,” of course, signed a letter asking Biden to lift Trump sanctions Cuba in March. They have not had any comment on the demonstrations so far.

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Sunday Ethics Shots, 7/11/2021: A Rescue, Larry Vaughn In Tokyo, Joe Trippi Trips, And “La Bamba” Meets Calvinball

Alexander Hamilton died on this date in 1804, in a bizarre episode in U.S. history with profound ethical and political implications. There Aaron Burr fatally shot dead the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and essential political thinker in an illegal duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. It was, of course, unethical to break the law, especially for these two men, who qualified as national leaders. Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801 at the exact same spot (What was Alexander thinking?)

According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr, a gentlemanly gesture and also a profoundly stupid one, if Hamilton believed half the things he had said and written about Burr’s character for years. This was why they were dueling, after all. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed, and the more I’ve thought abut this, the more I’ve come to believe that this is the more likely scenario. Hamilton was anything but naive, reckless or stupid. Yes, he was a crack shot, but anyone can miss. Even if the gesture of “throwing away his shot” as “Hamilton” puts it, would have impressed some adversaries and been seen as a display of mercy and an offer of reconciliation, it made no sense at all with this adversary. Moreover, Hamilton considered Burr a threat to the nation—he was right about that—why wouldn’t he shoot him? Whatever really happened, Burr, who had the second shot, killed Hamilton with a ball that went through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.

This ended Burr’s political career: Would killing Burr have ended Hamilton’s? Probably, but Burr was the one who had issued the challenge. Maybe Hamilton would have been excused by the public. Maybe he would have ultimately become President; all the Founders of his magnitude except Ben Franklin did. For good or ill, Alexander Hamilton would have been a strong and probably transformative leader. But if he hadn’t died at Weehawken, it’s unlikely that we would have “Hamilton” the musical….

1. Baseball, hotdogs, and a bystander hero. Dr. Willie Ross, the father of Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, saved the life of a choking fan midway through yesterday 10-4 Giants win over Washington at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Ross saw that a female spectator was choking, and when Ross came over to her seat to check on her, she couldn’t talk. Ross helped dislodge two pieces of a hot dog by using the Heimlich maneuver, then reached into her throat to take out the third and final piece. The woman, who is a nurse, could breath and speak at last. Ross received a standing ovation from nearby fans.

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Verdict: Feminists And Lesbians Need To Find Better Role Models And Heroes

Violette Morris

“On This Day She” is a book published this year dedicated to “the women whom [sic] time has forgotten; those who didn’t make it into the history books and those whom [sic] society failed to uphold as significant figures in their own right.” There is also a website following through on the premise of the book (and promoting it), from whence the misleading tweet above emanated. Though the book does admit to including women who engaged in “the bad” and who it deems unjustly ignored by history, the tweet above undercuts that admission. The hint is in the last sentence. Why was Morris killed by the French Resistance in 1944?

She was a Nazi, that’s why, and a traitor as well. Morris, a French citizen, sourced black-market petrol for the Nazis, ran a garage for the Luftwaffe, and drove for the Nazi and Vichy hierarchy. After Germany took over France, she worked to foil the operations of the Special Operations Executive, an English organization that aided the Resistance. Claims that she also engaged in spying activities and Nazi torture are disputed, but never mind: what she did do was sufficient to have her known as “The Hyena of the Gestapo” and sentenced to death in absentia. She was ultimately shot and killed—assassinated, to be technical— when her car was ambushed by the Resistance.

Good.

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And The July 5 Comment Of The Day Trifecta Concludes With Arthur In Maine’s Delicious Analysis of “Your 4th Of July Ethics Quiz: Food Racism?”

鮟肝

Finally, in the last of today’s opening trio of outstanding and varied Comments of the Day, Arthur in Maine, whom I did not know until this comment was a former chef, whips up a filling and pleasurable examination of of the issues raised in “Your 4th Of July Ethics Quiz: Food Racism?”...

There’s no longer any doubt in my mind: people are actively looking for ways to be offended. In the case of BLM, for example, the belief is clearly simple-minded rage at the rank-and-file level, but among those further up the chain it’s obviously about power and the grift. Calibrate your outrage correctly, and one can lead quite a handsome life.

Racism (and its first cousins misogyny and homophobia) is the perfect charge to level to achieve this (lucky souls like Lori Lightfoot can, and do, score the trifecta by claiming all three).

As a recovering professional chef (I haven’t lifted a pan for a paycheck in more than 30 years, and still miss it almost every day) I can tell you that serious pro cooks may be able to wow you with the complexity of their offerings. But the foods most of them prefer to eat generally trace back to poverty foods – those developed in poor cultures, where most people ate what the rich folk wouldn’t.

Most Americans, regardless of when or how their ancestors first showed up, simply don’t understand that in most other parts of the world NOTHING goes to waste. We give our scraps to cats and dogs. But very few other places do that. Thus, it’s little wonder that someone figured out a way to make duck feet in a way that actually tastes good. For the record, I would order those in a heartbeat, with full knowledge, just to try them! But in a place like China centuries ago, wasting protein like that was unthinkable, so you did what you could to make them tasty and that’s what’s for supper.

This doesn’t mean I like everything – not by a long shot. I find tripe revolting, and it’s extremely popular in first-world France. As a true afficionado of sushi, I’ll try anything – and just about the only thing I’ve ever been horribly disappointed in at a great sushi bar was ankimo – which is steamed monkfish liver. [Above] It was described to me as the “foie gras of Japan,” and I can see why. But it was still vile. I like foie gras, but not when it’s overlayed with the aroma of a cod-liver-oil-based ointment my mother used to use on us when we were small.

Some cultures happily eat grubs – no thank you. Others eat various insects; again, I’ll pass, but you’re welcome to my helping. The fact is that every culture has its culinary oddities and we’ve all got different tastes. This doesn’t mean our distaste for something is racist. It merely means that it’s so far outside of our culinary comfort zones that we just can’t get our heads around the idea. Many cultures find the American fondness for huge slabs of meat served up with starch baffling, for a variety of reasons.

This, by the way, extends beyond ingredients. There are those only too happy to make accusations of “cultural appropriation” when it comes to food. It is not. When I cook Chinese or Thai or Indian or Mexican food, I do so as a student, not as an appropriator. I do it because I’ve had the good fortune to taste these wonderful cuisines done properly. I want to understand how they’re done, partly because cooking professionally makes you fascinated by differing techniques and ingredients, and partly because I love to eat them and access to these foods locally, prepared by those from that region, is sharply limited. In the case of Chinese, especially, Chinese-American food has been so heavily adapted to North American tastes that it bears little resemblance to the real thing – and almost all of the adaptation has been done by Chinese cooks and restaurant owners. I really want to try the real thing.

Far as I’m concerned, when I make up a dinner of low-country shrimp and grits, the last thing on my mind is contempt for the poor Blacks for whom this was subsistence food. Rather, I’m thinking “this is absolutely ingenious. They took cheap stuff (grits) and free stuff (shrimp) and whatever else they had lying around and made it transcendent!” For me to cook it is not appropriation – it is the deepest possible respect.

I could make a similar argument with music, but I think you folks get my drift. This is “The Great Stupid” and “A Nation of Assholes,” to use Jack’s terms, colliding head-on to form a Great Nation of Stupid Assholes. We’d better come up with a way to pull out of this dive, and quickly.

Your 4th Of July Ethics Quiz: Food Racism?

duck_leg_wrap

Let’s play the ever more popular quiz show, ” Is It Racist?”!

Today’s topic: Late-night television host James Corden has long featured on his show a food-centered “Truth or Dare” variation called “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts.” Celebrities choose to either answer personal questions or take a bite of a food that most viewers would deem nauseating or not properly food at all. Recently the cherubic British comic employed a table in the bit filled with Asian delicacies like chicken feet, pig’s blood and thousand-year eggs.

That was too much for the online outrage squad, apparently. An online petition condemning Corden’s use of Asian foods as disgusting has attracted than 46,000 signatories. The premise is that making fun of Asian food is racist.

Kim Saira, 24, a Los Angeles activist who organized the petition, told an interviewer, “James Corden is a white person and is actively using ingredients from Asian cultures and profiting from it and showing it in such a negative light. There’s a way to not like foods and still be respectful about it.”

The New York Times interviewed Lok Siu, an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley who agreed that Corden’s joke is indeed racist because it disrespects people’s cultures. The choice of Asian foods to highlight as disgusting to typical Americans makes Asian Americans feel more vulnerable or marginalized.

Really, Professor?

Oh yes indeed! “You use food as a metaphor to describe that distance, the kind of strangeness between a group of people that you don’t understand and their habits, the way they’re eating, the smell that comes with the spices,” she said. “There’s something around the way we discuss food, the way we think about food in our acceptance or rejection of it, it’s a rejection of a culture and the people that’s associated with it.” Siu regards the food as a metaphor for Asians not qualifying as “normal.”

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America Last: Good News And Bad News At The Same Time

Reuters-Survey-Trust-In-Media-June-2021

As you can see in the chart above, a report released by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford and the University of Oxford found that out of 46 nations surveyed the US public ranks last in its trust of the news media at 29%. The study surveyed 92,000 news consumers in those countries. Finland finished first with a trust rate of 65%.

I doubt that Finland’s journalists deserve that much more trust, which is one reason the report is good news for the United States. I think it is highly likely that the journalists everywhere else suffer from the same arrogance, relative lack of intellectual depth, and hive-mind leanings as U.S. journalists. I think that the U.S. public’s lack of trust shows growing and essential understanding of the true nature of what has become a corrupt and dangerous false profession that does not serve the interests of the people as it is pledged to according to journalistic ethics, but its own. Nor do I believe the U.S. has the worst and most unethical journalists in the world—far from it, I suspect. The U.S. has the journalists with the most freedom, making it especially easy to do their job as dishonestly as they do; yet unlike in many of those nations, their government isn’t forcing American journalists to substitute spin, distortion and propaganda for the truth.

The U.S. public has, finally, had its blinders ripped off, and is no longer under the delusion that they are being informed by altruistic and dedicated pros who only seek to reveal the facts necessary for us to live our lives as we choose to. Knowledge is power, and while our news media is wielding their control over knowledge to transfer power to their political allies, the public, at least most of it, has acquired crucial knowledge to neutralize it: the knowledge that that are not trustworthy.

Unfortunately, the bad news aspect of the study’s finding is arguably worse than the good news is encouraging. Democracy cannot function without a trustworthy news media, or as the Founders called it, “press.” Journalism rot is an existential threat.

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Satire Ethics: Carrying A Joke Too Far

Unethical!

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Australian wing applied to be formally recognized as anon-profit charitable entity, but was rejected on the grounds that the purported religion is nothing more than a “hoax.” Ya think? This is the deliberately ridiculous parody religion devised to mock all organized religions and those who believe in them. Pastafarians, as “believers” call themselves, have extended a gag web post ridiculing the logic of every other religion to the point of diminishing returns. Its “heaven” has a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano; its argument for the existence of the deity with noodely appendages involves the world distribution of pirates. Very funny. Now stop wasting everyone’s time. Ethics Alarms discussed two abuses of process by Pastafarians here and here, but as with the career of Jimmy Kimmel and the persistence of tofu, I assumed that this joke would have run its course by now. Sadly, no.

Adelaide, Australia’s Tanya Watkins is a self-described “captain” of the church (like on a pirate ship, see) , has made repeated attempts to have the “church” be granted incorporated association status. After her latest attempt was scoffed at by the Corporate Affairs Commission, Watkins sought a review by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT), claiming the movement was formed for a “religious, educational, charitable or benevolent purpose”, thereby meeting the criteria of South Australia’s Associations Incorporation Act.

Hilarious! She should be fined.

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Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 6/12/21: Cruel World Edition [Corrected]

John-Travolta-Saturday-Night-Fever

1. Cruel reality. You know, I’m starting to feel less and less sorry for Merrick Garland. The man who should have been confirmed as a member of the Supreme Court has revealed himself as an ultra-political and partisan Attorney General. His latest is to darkly hint of scrutinizing “post-election audits to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters.” He wrote in part,

“As part of its mission to protect the right to vote, the Justice Department will, of course, do everything in its power to prevent election fraud and, if found, to vigorously prosecute it. But many of the justifications proffered in support of these post-election audits and restrictions on voting have relied on assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies of both this Administration and the previous one, as well as by every court — federal and state — that has considered them.”

That’s simply a lie. The claims have not been “refuted,” nor has the Federal government shown sufficient curiosity about “election fraud” to investige any of the many suspicious events related to mail-in ballots counted in Democratic strongholds in closely contested states.

Republicans take this as a veiled threat to interfere with the limited audits taking place in Arizona and Georgia. Arizona state Senator Wendy Rogers (R) minced no words in her response to the almost-SCOTUS justice, saying in part,

“You will not touch Arizona ballots or machines unless you want to spend time in an Arizona prison….The free state of Arizona will not tolerate this federal meddling. If Attorney General Merrick Garland thinks he has a right to our ballots and machines he should go to court. If he uses force when multiple courts have already authorized this audit he will be in violation of the law.”

Translation: “Bite me.”

I approve.

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