Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Comment Of The Day: “The Barefoot Contessa and the Compassion Bullies: An Ethics Drama”

Angry-Blogger

I haven’t made one of the spammed Ethics Alarms hate comments a Comment of the Day for a while, but this one really asked for it. The commenter, who calls herself Sarah Bradley but isn’t, was spitting vitriol over a five-year old Ethics Alarms post that I remember well, the story about a mother’s attempt to shame and bully a cooking show star, Ina Garten, who politely turned down her sick son’s “Make A Wish Foundation” request that she hold a special live cooking exhibition just for him.  The mother  used her blog to call down the web Furies on the chef’s head, and I, as you may notice that I often do, pointed out that the conventional wisdom that the chef deserved the abuse was ethically obtuse, writing in part…

Garten’s refusal was not wrong, and it was not justification for criticism. There are many legitimate reasons for her choosing not to give Enzo an audience, including just not wanting to do it. Do all of us have an obligation to do a favor for a stranger simply because they asked for it? No. Do we have an obligation to do the favor if the stranger is sick? Young? Old? Dying? No, no, no and no. Accept any other answer, and we are declaring that whenever the Make-a-Wish Foundation delivers a request, it is really a demand, backed by the threat of public humiliation….dictatorship of the desperate, attack of the compassion bullies.

Would I make Enzo’s wish come true, under almost any circumstances? Yes. Ina Garten doesn’t have to. Would most celebrities? Yes…and Ina Garten still doesn’t have to. Being kind and generous is ethical, but saying no when there is no ethical duty to say yes is not unethical. If Enzo is making a request, then the request can be refused. If its isn’t really a request, but an order, Enzo has no right to issue it. There is a duty to rescue. There is a duty to confront and report wrongdoing. But a duty to comply with the random desires of sick children? Absolutely not.

I wish all of my posts were as clear and well-argued as that one. Yet “Sarah” thought it was deserving of an abusive, ethics- and logic- free attack, because she reasons like about 85% of the commenters on most blogs and news aggregating sites. There no objective logic, no balancing of interests, no understanding of values, no ability to distinguish rationalizations from ethical analysis, no ability to see a complex situation from multiple perspectives, no objectivity. All there is to support “Sarah’s” indignation and fury is knee-jerk emotion and pre-digested platitudes. She is typical of the average member of the public who has never been trained in logic or ethics, doesn’t understand why that’s a handicap, and who allows their lizard brain to guide them through life, making society and the culture a mine field for the rest of us.

I didn’t get into the ethics field to help people like Sarah, because people like Sarah are too far gone to help. I’m an ethicist to try to help people, and their kids, and anyone they may have an influence upon, to avoid becoming like her. When you can’t think any clearer than Sarah, you are incompetent at life, and others will suffer.

Here is Sarah Bradley’s Comment of the Day, on the post, The Barefoot Contessa and the Compassion Bullies: An Ethics Drama: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

About That Obviously Dishonest Disclaimer On Movies And TV Shows

“The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.”

The character of Jake LaMotta is fictional, and any similarity to Jake LaMotta is purely coincidental...

The character of Jake LaMotta is fictional, and any similarity to Jake LaMotta is purely coincidental…

This and disclaimers like it on movies and TV shows have driven me crazy for a long time. So often the text is an obvious lie. I first began obsessing about it during the early days of “Law and Order,” when Dick Wolf’s show would herald the fact that its episodes were “ripped from the headlines,” then end with a disclaimer that said it was completely fiction. Sometimes, an episode was obviously based on a specific crime and specific individuals, and the actors were made up to look like the actual criminals. The disclaimer was and is a lie, and since it was obvious, why did they bother? Legally, it does no good to publish a boilerplate disclaimer that says, “We’re not really doing what any fool can see we are doing, ” except to discourage potential lawsuits by stupid people. I am of the (minority, unfortunately) position that it’s unethical for lawyers to author legally meaningless language like this for the sole purpose of misleading the ignorant.

The background of the disclaimer is interesting; Slate just published the story, which I realized I once knew but had forgotten.

The 1932 MGM film “Rasputin and the Empress”, was based on the events leading up to the fall of the Romanovs, and starred John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore. Its most famous sequence was a version of the antic assassination of Rasputin, an event largely known because of the book written by one of the assassins, Prince Felix Yusupov, portrayed as “Prince Paul Chegodieff” in the film. The film also suggested that the Prince’s wife, “Princess Natasha,” was raped by Rasputin—suggested but not shown, since Rasputin was played by John Barrymore (Drew’s grandfather) and the princess was played by his sister, Ethel.  Princess Natasha was the avatar for Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia, who, like her husband Prince Felix, had escaped Russia before all the royals were killed.

Yusupov, living in Paris, heard about the film and decided that since audiences would recognize him as  the fictional killer of Rasputin, they would also assume that his wife was raped by Rasputin. She wasn’t, or if she was, only she and the Mad Monk knew about it. Officially, Irina and Rasputin had never met. An MGM researcher had pointed out this factual discrepancy to the studio during production and warned that the Yusupovs could sue, but was pooh-poohed off the lot. She was correct, however, for Irina Yusupov sued the studio, and after watching the movie twice, the British jury awarded her £25,000, or about $125,000. MGM took the film out of circulation for decades, and when it turned up on Turner Classic Movies, the pseudo-rape scene was gone. Continue reading

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Ann Coulter’s “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” : Unethical Book Title Of The Millennium?

Ann Coulter: Take seriously at your own risk. Just like Donald Trump...

Ann Coulter: Take seriously at your own risk. Just like Donald Trump…

I have long been waffling over whether to bother mentioning Ann Coulter’s cheerleading for Donald Trump, which began almost a year ago. Coulter is freakishly unethical and proud of it, a rare professional fick, whose shtick (I guess one shouldn’t use fick and shtick in the same sentence: sorry) is to pander to The Angry Right in such obnoxious and inflammatory terms that the Angry Left goes bananas with hate, thus selling books and providing her with media appearances to promote them. I have  assigned her to the dark corner reserved for performance artists who posture and lie for a living, for that’s Ann. I have no idea what she really believes, just as I have no idea what James Carville, Milo Yiannopoulos or Rush Limbaugh really believe—and anyone who really thinks that they know what Donald Trump really believes is beyond redemption, since it is quite evident that he doesn’t know himself.

Thus when I heard that Ann’s latest book, doubtlessly written in about five hours of dictation and containing some measure of her trademark snark, which she is very skilled at, was called “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!,” I was sorely tempted to express my disgust, especially since Coulter, an educated woman and a lawyer, actually stooped to using that mark of an illiterate, “awesome,’ like the book was authored by a modern day Gidget. But why play into Ann’s hands? This is why she writes this crap: to cause buzz on the net and cable so she can sell the books to right wing idiots who will be soothed by her calculated pose.

The title is an absurd, almost Orwellian (“War is Peace”) lie. Trump, as much as anyone alive,  cannot be trusted regarding anything, especially to hold great power. The reasons for this are evident and undeniable, and have been so long before running for President, wrecking the Republican Party, threatening the United States’ public’s faith in democracy and handing the White House to the most corrupt candidate a Presidential race has ever featured was a twinkle in the Donald’s eye.

However, listening to Trump blather about immigration last week, and seeming to renege on his signature promise to depart each and every illegal immigrant, almost compelled one to direct massive schadenfreude Ann Coulter’s way. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Novelist Ann Rice

Can you see your hypocrisy when you look in the mirror, Ann?

Can you see your hypocrisy when you look in the mirror, Ann?

“The sex scandal at Fox matters; it’s at the heart of the GOP contempt for women as citizens and human beings.”

—-“Interview With The Vampire” author Ann Rice, on Twitter.

This is signature significance in so many ways. To write this in a public forum, one has to be completely corrupted by partyism, tunnel-vision, bias and the certainty that you are operating in an environment populated with millions of similarly disabled individuals. It also helps to be either dishonest or ignorant, or both.

Let’s try to count all the ways Rice’s tweet is unethical:

1. Sexual harassment scandals occur in all kinds of organizations, including otherwise virtuous non-profits and models of progressive thinking. The University of California at Berkley–the infamously right wing institution— has one going on right now. Yale has been covering up a sexual harassment scandal involving a world-famous ethicist.  These are just  examples of sexual harassment that make it to the headlines. I work in the field: believe me, there is no monopoly by Republicans or conservatives in this area. For Rice to insinuate otherwise is nothing more than disinformation born of her own biases.

In the alternative, she knows this is absurd, and is lying.

2. The statement embodies guilt by association at its worst. How about this: “The Brian Williams scandal at NBC matters; it’s at the heart of the Democratic Party’s contempt for the public as citizens and human beings” ? There’s no ethical difference: both statements are unfair and dishonest. I’ll wager that the percentage of Democrats who work for NBC is significantly greater than the proportion of Republicans who work at Fox. The political parties have nothing whatsoever to do with either situation.

3. Ailes’ engagement in harassing conduct is difficult to deny, especially after so many past employees have surfaced to bolster the accusations made in the recent lawsuit. Whether there is a wider problem beyond Ailes is completely unproven. Personally, I don’t doubt it: when leaders of organizations model such conduct, it typically corrupts the entire culture. However, it is far too soon to make the kind of leap Rice is making, which not only assumes company-wide harassment but somehow attributes it to another organization, the Republican Party.

4. Most of all, and to save the  best and funniest for last, has Rice never heard of Bill Clinton? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Social Media, Unethical Tweet

Ethics Mega Dunce And Ethics Corrupter: “Dancing With The Stars”

Ryan Lochte, role model

Ryan Lochte…liar, boor, jerk, TV star, role model.

This announcement would warrant a KABOOM! if ABC’s popular reality show/ dance competition hadn’t already demonstrated its lack of responsibility and decency so many times before. I guess my still unexploded head should be grateful for that, at least.

Dancing With The Stars is going to include Ryan Lochte in its line-up of competing celebrity dancers in the upcoming season. Why? Because he urinated on the wall of an establishment belonging to someone else, lied about the immediate consequences, insulted the hosts of the Olympic Games he competed in, and thoroughly embarrassed the United States, of course.  He’s infamous! He’s cute! He’s a moron! Naturally, this makes him attractive to “Dancing With The Stars.”

The undeniable message such casting sends to younger citizens whose sense of ethics and appropriate social conduct are still being formed is that wrongful conduct pays. DWTS is proving that as long as what you do makes you famous, it doesn’t matter if it is reckless, stupid, harmful or illegal. Then you can cash in.

This is the message that the show has often broadcast. Kim Kardashian was a contestant because she made a sex video, was the daughter of one of O.J.’s lawyers, had a freakishly large butt and epitomized hedonism, venality, and style over substance. Perfect! Tom DeLay was on the show because he was a famously vicious and corrupt—and successful— politician. Bristol Palin’s sole qualification for the show was that she managed to be an unwed mother-to-be, engaged to a jackass, while her mother was trying to convince the nation that she was qualified to be a heartbeat away from the White House. Reality shows and the ranks of washed-up actors have  supplied the show with a steady stream of drug addicts and low-lifes  whose sole distinctions have been that they were primarily famous for doing things that would get normal people fired or imprisoned. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society

Nipplegate Ethics: No, We Don’t Owe Janet Jackson Any Apology At All

nipplegate

A wonderful, if infuriating, example of race- and gender-baiting was delivered earlier this year by pop culture pundit Emmanuel Hapsis, and a more ridiculous analysis you will seldom see. I missed it, but the post was no more valid then than it is now.

Returning, for some reason, to the infamous episode during the 2004’s Super Bowl halftime show, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake conspired to turn the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl into a strip tease, Hapsis’s piece is called “Nipplegate Revisited: Why America Owes Janet Jackson a Huge Apology.” During a choreographed duet with Jackson  and while singing “Better have you naked by the end of this song,” (talk about rape culture!) Timberlake ripped a pre-rigged portion of Jackson’s bustier to reveal her naked breast. Jackson was severely criticized, as she should have been: after all, it was her breast, and she obviously agreed to allow it to make a surprise appearance, however brief.

Never mind. Hapsis sees the episode as exemplifying America’s “patriarchy,” “racism” and “sexism,” because obviously no white singers flashing ten-year-olds in TV land would be criticized, and no male singer who decided to let Mr. Wiggly make a guest appearance would be similarly pilloried. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, History, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race

A Plague Of Misleading Headlines

Fake headline

The mad quest for clicks appears to be leading websites that should know better to sink to misleading or outright dishonest headlines on the web. For someone like me, who has to scan these looking for possible ethics issues, it is an increasingly annoying phenomenon. Readers need to speak up. The practice is unethical, and moreover, suggests that the source itself isn’t trustworthy.

Here are three current examples;

1. The Daily Beast: “Idiocracy’ Director Mike Judge: Fox Killed Our Anti-Trump Camacho Ads”

Boy, isn’t it just like that conservative, Trump-promoting Faux News to help The Donald by using its power, influence, lawyers, something to stop the makers of “Idiocracy,” that comic classic, from being used to save the country from American Hitler?

That’s sure how the Daily Beast wanted its largely Democratic readership to react to its headline over the story about a fizzled effort to use the the film’s character  of ex-porn star future U.S. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Drew Herbert Camacho, played by Terry Crews, in a series of comic spots ridiculing Trump’s candidacy. The story, however, never quotes Judge as saying Fox—that would be the movie side of Twentieth Century Fox, not Fox News, which had no say in the matter: the company produced the film and owns the right to it and all of its characters—killed the project.  All Judge says is that the idea of doing a series of such ads didn’t come to fruition, for a whole list of reasons which might have included Fox’s distaste for the project.. Of  Fox, he says this..

“I think also Fox… yeah, they… even though they’ve probably forgotten they still own it…”

The writer then suggests that company owner Rupert Murdoch might not like the idea, and thus prompted, Judge replies,

“Yeah. That’s the other thing. I think there was a roadblock there, too…I just heard that [the proposed ads] were put on the shelf, so it looks like they’re not going to happen.”

Based on this, the author, typical Daily Beast hack Marlow Stern, writes, “It looks like Fox refused—and the ads are now dead.” Stern never says that Fox refused; it is the “reporter” who says it. Meanwhile, when the Daily Beast writes about “Fox,” it is referring to Fox News 99.9% of the time, and knows that’s what its readers will think when they read “Fox.”

The headline is intentionally misleading, and a lie.

(Incidentally, the movie is a great concept that under-delivers on its premise and potential, and should be a lot funnier than it is) Continue reading

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