Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat’”

This is the second Comment of the Day within a week from Ethics Alarms prodigal son Curmie, a college prof, who makes the case that college education is being excessively maligned. You should probably re-read the post he’s responding , another Comment of the Day, to appreciate his argument.

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat”:

This is a cogent analysis up to a point, but I must say I’m more than a little sick and tired of having people tell me what goes on in my classroom. I teach at a non-flagship state university. And the description of what happens in college classrooms simply does not match my experience of them.

(Side note to Ryan: I really do like a lot of what you’ve said here. I apologize if the succeeding sounds like a personal attack. It is not intended in that spirit. Just one too many sweeping generalizations about my profession, and the last straw happened to be yours.)

Ryan cites Thomas Aquinas. I prefer the great late-20th century philosophers known as Monty Python: “I’m not dead yet.”

I do expect students to know some objective facts: if you can’t tell me the basic tenets of neoclassical theory or who David Garrick was, you’re not going to fare well in my theatre history class. If Ryan wants to say that in this sense I insist on regurgitation, he has my permission to do so.

But to get an A on the research paper, you’d better be able to interpolate from incomplete data, and to articulate a point of view based on the facts as they are available to us. That means finding out what the facts are, but also finding context: okay, so it cost a penny to see a play at the Globe Theatre. But that’s a meaningless statistic if you don’t know what that Elizabethan spectator could have bought for a penny if he didn’t spend it on standing room in an outdoor theatre. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/21/17

1. No, there is nothing “ironic” about Rep. Steve Scalise being shot. I finally lost my restraint and pointed out to a gaggle of left-wing Facebook friends that their writing that Scalise’s shooting was “ironic” because he opposes gun control, or because one of his rescuers was gay (because he opposes gay marriage) was as much a of a hateful comment as saying that it was “karma” (another popular sentiment from progressive friends) or that he “reaped what he sowed” (yet another). They protested loudly and angrily that this was an unfair rebuke on my part, that they were not cheering the crime, just observing that the shooting was “ironic” which, they insisted, it was.

Disingenuous and evasive.

The seriousness,  criminal, hateful and absolutely inexcusable nature of Scalise’s shooting had absolutely nothing to do with his political beliefs unless you agree with the shooter, who used those beliefs as his motive. Karma, “reaped what he sowed” and irony (which implies an amusing or humorous nature) all signal and are intended to signal the same sentiment in the Facebook echo chamber—“It’s a shame that he got shot, but in a way he asked for it.” Oh, how those who sought to signal their virtue and their dislike of Scalise just hated to be called on the ugly impulses behind their words, and how they wriggled and spun to deny it.

What made the shooting ironic? Why, Scalise opposes gay marriage, I was informed. That’s neither a logical nor a justified answer. Although gays find it satisfying and expedient to automatically attach the label of  homophobia to those who haven’t yet adapted to one of the fastest cultural paradigm shifts in U.S. history, there is no evidence that Rep. Scalise believes that LGBT individuals cannot or should not be medical or law enforcement professionals. Scalise’s position on gay marriage is irrelevant to his shooting, unless that position—the same position Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held for a very long time—makes you think his shooting and the subsequent assistance of gay citizens is somehow deserved and funny. Similarly, the fact that Scalise was shot does not undermine the justification for his support of the Second Amendment, except in the closed minds of Second Amendment opponents. Nor does that make his shooting “ironic,” except to those whose gut reaction was “He was shot? Serves him right. Let’s see how he likes it.”

So many progressives have become so instinctively hateful and bitterly partisan that they are incapable of realizing it.

2. Are there any ethics takeaways from last night’s Republican victory in Georgia’s 6th District? Pundit Charles Glasser wrote that “Ossoff raised $23.6 million to make a symbolic run against President Trump, most of it from Marin County, California and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Running the numbers, Democrats might have been better off considering that same amount would have bought 855,072 school lunches (at $2.76 each); 236,000 elementary school textbooks (at $100 each) or even 956 Priuses (at $24,685 each). Max Weber said that the purpose of a bureaucracy is to maintain or expand its own power. Who cares about children, education or the environment when there’s power to be grabbed?”

As a rule I object to the “spending money on A is unethical because you could have spent it on B” line of reasoning, since it can be applied to almost any purchase. Nonetheless, that’s a lot of money to be used by outsiders to influence a local election, particularly when the donors also decry the effect of money in politics. And as with Hillary Clinton’s defeat, this result suggest that money isn’t nearly as decisive as those who want to constrain political speech think it is. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/20/17

1. It isn’t just the President’s boorish role modelling and the misbehavior and incivility of his opposition that makes me fear for the ethics alarms of our rising generation. The long-term results of people being able to isolate themselves from social contact—and the social skills and sensitivities that direct, face to face contact nurture—by constant attention to electronic devices is a matter for concern. Yesterday, I became aware of another danger.

I heard, on the new Sirius-XM Beatles channel, a recording of Paul McCartney singing my favorite song from “Guys and Dolls,” a sweet ballad sung in the musical by an elderly father to his grown daughter during her romantic crisis.

McCartney has a foot in two cultures and always has. As much as a rock and pop innovator as he was, Paul was also steeped in the traditional love songs of his parent’s generation, including Broadway. Today both of McCartney’s feet are planted where nobody under the age of 30 is likely to tread, and that is natural. Yet it seems that popular music is increasingly devoid of tenderness, empathy and compassion. Hip-Hop, particularly, seems immune from being able to express a sentiment like that in Frank Loesser’s nearly  70-year-old song that Paul McCartney obviously understands. I wonder, and worry. how many of today’s young Americans understand it, or will grow up with the capacity to do so.

Here’s Bing crooning the same song…

You know I love ya, Bing, but the Moptop wins this round.

2. There was some discussion on a thread here yesterday about the ethics of interests outside the state putting so much money into Georgia’s 6th congressional district’s special election. The House was designed to give communities a say in the national government, so to the extent that a local election is warped by interests outside the community—the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, is a carpetbagger who doesn’t live in the district—it’s a violation of the spirit of the Constitution and the ideal of American democracy. Some have even made an analogy to foreign governments interfering in U.S. elections. On the other hand, all this outside “interference” consists of are words, ads, and marketing. The district’s residents still are the ones who vote. If they are so easily swayed by slick ads and robocalls, that’s their responsibility. (There may even be a backlash.) Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich

“On Friday, June 16, 2017, Laura Loomer, a patriot activist and journalist, took the stage at Shakespeare in the Park’s performance of “Julius Caesar”, a performance where liberals applaud as President Trump’s assassination is shown in full bloody detail. Laura was arrested for speaking out against this performance.”

Lucian Wintrich on the right wing blog Gateway Pundit, describing the disruption of the Shakespeare in the Park “Julius Caesar “production

What makes a blog post especially unethical? Oh, many things: misstatement of facts, ignorant analysis, sensationalism, incompetence, not being able to distinguish right from wrong and good from bad, appeal to bias and stupidity. Wintrich’s post, absurdly called “Proud Conservative Woman Was Arrested Friday at Trump Assassination Play – Help Pay Her Legal Fees *HERE*!” has all of this and more.

The conservative woman, along with her conservative male partner in attempted censorship, has nothing to be proud of. She’s proud of emulating the leftist crypto-fascist students who have been using intimidation and riots to prevent conservatives from speaking? She’s not a patriot, since patriots don’t intentionally ignore core American principles like freedom of expression and speech whenever they feel like it. The word Wintrich is looking for in his limited vocabulary is “hypocrite.”

She was also not arrested for “speaking out” against this performance. This can only be a lie, or Wintrich is too stupid to be allowed to put his shoes on by himself. You cannot be arrested in the U.S. for “speaking out,” and nobody ever is. He is trying to inflame the stupid and ignorant, or he is stupid and ignorant. Laura, the jerk, was arrested for interrupting a theatrical performance that she had absolutely no right or justification to disrupt. Just so there is no mistaking his dishonest, inflammatory and ignorant description as entirely deliberate, Wintrich, the hack, repeats it, writing,

“The left keeps calling President Trump a fascist dictator, but speaking out against assassinating a Democratically elected President apparently gets you arrested in New York City.”

Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat

“A few hysterically censorious kids screaming for a professor’s termination for crimethink do not threaten the foundations of free speech, but Yale lauding them does. Relatively few thugs disrupting a speech and even physically assaulting a professor don’t call into question the culture’s support for free speech, but Middlebury offering weak slaps on the wrist and shrugs for that violent behavior does. A violent mob in Berkeley does not undermine the legitimacy of free speech doctrine — a mob is a mob — but Berkeley’s timorousness or indifference in the face of violent censorship does. Students furious at a professor disagreeing with them don’t call into question the nation’s commitment to freedom, but state officials refusing to guarantee a professor’s safety do. In short: the regrettable behavior of officials who have failed to stand up to disruption of speech are the people most responsible for legitimizing further disruptions of speech, whoever commits them.”

——Lawyer/blogger/ free speech champion Ken White, writing about efforts on both the Left and the Right to interfere with or punish speech and opinions they don’t approve of.

Well and truly said, Ken.

Ken continues,

“But we can, and should, do better. Commitment to free speech as an American value — as an element of American exceptionalism — has always required tolerating evil and injustice and idiocy. We don’t refrain from disrupting speech because the speakers deserve it, or because we’ve been treated fairly by the speakers or their allies. We refrain from disruption — and ought to punish those who disrupt — because free speech is the necessary prerequisite of a society based on individual rights and freedoms. It’s the right that’s the gateway to all other rights. Shrugging and abandoning it as a value is an abandonment of our commitment to all rights.”

Why is this so hard to teach in colleges? Perhaps because the faculties and administrators prefer that their students never learn it.

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ Trump As Julius Caesar Production”

It was a pleasure to see eloquent and thoughtful teacher/blogger Curmie back commenting after a hiatus, and his timing could not have been better, as the controversy over the nightly assassination of a Julius Caesar who appears to be President Trump’s twin has become even more relevant since an anti-Trump zealots started picking off Republican Congressmen with his rifle.

Curmie is a theater professional with keen perspective on artistic freedom and a proven facility with ethical analysis. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The “Shakespeare in the Park” Trump As “Julius Caesar” Production:

Not surprisingly, I suppose, I’ve been thinking a lot about this story lately—enough to post about it twice on my own blog. Not having seen the production, I can’t say for certain that it does or doesn’t do X or Y. But I wonder if what we’re dealing with here is a variation on the theme of the Second Niggardly Principle.

[Ethics Alarms note: “When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”]

A couple of points first. Drama, especially in the West, has always been political. I would argue (although I suspect the majority of my fellow theatre historians would disagree) that the Dionysian Festival, generally regarded as the birthplace of formal theatre (although there was almost certainly theatrical activity of some kind before that) was created less to honor Dionysus—a rather obscure demi-god worshipped primarily in Asia Minor—than to consolidate the political power of the tyrant Peisistratus.

Whether or not this is the case, it is unquestionably true that the Dionysia was used as a site for political speeches (e.g., Pericles’ funeral oration), and that the plays themselves commented on contemporary events (e.g., the Oresteia on the reforms of Ephialtes three years earlier, or Oedipus Tyrannos on the plague). Old Comedy—the plays that would have been contemporaneous with the work of the great Athenian tragedians—was explicitly political, often vulgar, and uniformly iconoclastic. These comic critiques of the powerful were seen by the state as an important part of the cultural life, much as the Feast of Fools became a staple of the medieval calendar. Similarly, Americans knew we were going to be all right after 9/11 when David Letterman started telling Bush jokes again. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: Right-wing activists Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, Plus The Instapundit And Anyone Who Applauds Them.

Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, adopting the censorious and antispeech tactics of those they despise,  disrupted yesterday’s evening showing of the  Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” that features a graphic assassination of  a President Donald Trump version of Caesar.

Loomer rushed the stage shouting that the scene was an “act of political violence against the right,” and said the play was “unacceptable.” The play was briefly halted, and the crowd appropriately jeered as Loomer was taken away by security. Then Posobiec stood up and shouted, “You are all Goebbels! Goebbels would be proud!” He also also shouted that the blood of wounded Republican Congressman Steve Scalise was on the audience’s hands.

A play is free speech and performance art, in this case, political performance art. The actors have a right to present the play, and the audience has a right to watch it. Nobody has a right to disrupt the performance, no matter what the subject matter is, and no matter what the motives of the disrupters may be.

Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer are hypocrites. Glenn Reynolds, law professor and USA Today columnist, disgraced himself by writing,

“Is this dumb? Yeah, but that never stopped lefties and now they’re getting to see what it feels like to have your hair pulled.”

…thus endorsing a pure tit for tat, mob ethics, “you do it to us so we’ll do it to you” ethics death-spiral. A law professor. He should be ashamed of himself, especially as the Instapundit, an icon of the Right, a status I have seen him abuse too often already. Continue reading

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