“Tiger King” Ethics…If You Can Control Your Gagging

You should watch the current hit Netflix documentary “Tiger King” as an ethics exercise, if you can keep focused. It’s difficult. The seven episode horror show/freak show/ “Well, it’s time for another shower!” thing is rife with revelations about America and its culture as well as the infinite variety of humanity that breeds and mutates under rocks and over them. But it is also so teeming with freaks, sociopaths and morons that it often makes you feel like you are watching “The Anna Nicole Show” or one of the other reality shows that exploits its dumb, attention addicted stars.

Focus, Jack! Focus! There are a lot of ethics issues here, largest among them the icky exotic animals trade.  (Fun Fact!  There are more tigers in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined. Now: Is that a good thing for tigers, or a bad thing?) There are also clinical cases of  corrupt business owners, narcissism on steroids, marriages that make Bill and Hillary Clinton look like John and Abigail Adams, toxic personalities (once you have met series star “Joe Exotic,” you may never think of anyone as a narcissist again…no, not even you-know-who), astounding hypocrisy, the infuriating twilight world of young, healthy people (well, physically healthy anyway) whose lives consist entirely of getting stoned or waiting to get stoned, abuse of the legal system, idiots with guns… the list is ridiculously, depressingly long. Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More

I’m stimulated!

And you?

1. Maybe not the wisest move, but ethical… Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn) shared  his cell phone number on Twitter for anyone who needed to discuss their fears about the impact of the Wuhan virus. “If [you’re] feeling overwhelmed or scared and just want to talk to somebody give me a call,”  said. “We will get through this together.”

He added, “I know everybody’s under a lot of pressure with what’s going on with the Coronavirus. If you’re feeling all that pressure and it’s getting to you…I know in the last little bit here we’ve had nine people in our community taking their life. That’s a horrible, horrible thing, somebody taking their own life. If you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself or maybe hurt somebody around you, why don’t ya’ll just call me. Let’s talk.”

2.  I know this is an unpopular position, but it’s not the first time I’ve explained it. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin was overcome with emotion as  she interviewed a woman who’ had been unable to say goodbye to her mother in person before she died of the Wuhan Virus. Baldwin is an unprofessional hack. In recent years, alleged professional journalists, especially on CNN, have allowed their emotions to influence their reporting. This results in a form of editorializing, and the practice demonstrates how much today’s journalists see themselves as performers rather than objective communicators of information.

Admittedly, this kind of interview is designed to bring out the Kleenex,  but CNN lets its hosts display grief when a favorite candidate loses (like Hillary Clinton), glee, when a figure they don’t like is abused (Carol Costello chuckling at a recording of Sarah Palin’s daughter breaking down)  or anger when a political figure  doesn’t toe the progressive line. (Don Lemon, more or less constantly.) It’s hackery.

3. And today’s Covidiot is...Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River Church in Tampa, a so-called “mega church” that held a service over the weekend in which over a thousand worshipers  were “squeezed in like sardines,” as one reporter described it. Howard-Browne had said that he would defy the restrictions imposed by the state and county to stem the threat of the  worldwide pandemic. “We are not stopping anything. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place,” the reverend said.

Following the service, a warrant for his arrest was issued. He is now in custody.

4.  Hmmmm...Here are Governor Ralph Northam’s exceptions to his “order” regarding the stay-at-home restrictions in Virginia:

a. Obtaining food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in Executive
Order 53;

b. Seeking medical attention, essential social services, governmental
services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services;

c. Taking care of other individuals, animals, or visiting the home of a family
member;

d. Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation,
or child care;

e. Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals
comply with social distancing requirements;

f. Traveling to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work;

g. Traveling to and from an educational institution;

h. Volunteering with organizations that provide charitable or social services; and

i. Leaving one’s residence due to a reasonable fear for health or safety, at the direction of law enforcement, or at the direction of another government agency.

Aside from the fact that some of this would be vulnerable to constitutional challenges—those will come later—why is traveling to and from churches permitted, if church services are per se prohibited? Why is traveling to and from schools an exception, if all schools have been ordered to close? Why is visiting a relative permitted, but not a close friend? A best friend? Your only friend? Do only blood relatives count? In-laws? Seventh cousins twice removed?

The order seems arbitrary and hastily composed. Laws that infringe on civil rights cannot afford to be like that, if they want to withstand eventual court challenges, or even if they just want to be coherent.

5. Ugh. Mike Lindell, the My Pillow infomercial hustler whose TV ads have been banned at my house, was a guest at the White House Task Force press briefing yesterday.  He explained that his company was  devoting 75% of its manufacturing capacity into making face masks. Then he asked if he could add something, and President Trump said “Okay.”

Well, what choice did he have? The guy has volunteered to do a public service. He has cultivated the image of a nice person. If the President had said, “No, Mike. Sorry. We’re moving on,” he would have looked ungrateful. However that is exactly what Trump should have said. It’s not worth the risk.

Embodying a worst case scenario, Lindell said,

God gave us grace on November 8th, 2016, to change the course we were on. God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. And I encourage you: Use this time at home to get — home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families. Our President gave us so much hope where, just a few short months ago, we had the best economy, the lowest unemployment, and wages going up. It was amazing. With our great President, Vice President, and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.

Ethics foul. It was not Lindell’s place to engage in religious grandstanding and a political endoresment, however sincere it might be. This wasn’t a political rally, nor a time for religious proselytizing. It also, once again, painted a target on the President, who responded,

That’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it…. I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine, and I do appreciate it. Thank you, Mike, very much.

At that point, I don’t know what else he could say.

 

Observations On The Times Review Of “Apropos Of Nothing”

Woody Allen in “Manhattan” with a 16-year-old Mariel Hemingway (playing a 17-year-old)

To be clear, I haven’t read Woody Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing,” and I won’t. I found myself unable to endure anything related to Allen after he married his own quasi-daughter following a sexual affair with her while they were both living with Mia Farrow, Allen as her supposed lover and domestic partner, Sun-Yi Previn as her adopted child. While I maintain that the works of artists should be kept separate from the character flaws and misdeeds of their creators, that’s an intellectual and ethical position, not an emotional and gastrointestinal one. The latter are non-ethical considerations, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore them.

If I were a professional book reviewer, however, I would be forced to put my revulsion aside, or refuse the assignment of rendering a verdict on “Apropos of Nothing.” It is undeniable that the New York Times book reviewer, Dwight Garner, couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. To be fair, the Times no longer enforces the core journalism ethics principle that journalists shouldn’t allow personal biases to infect their reporting, but that is an explanation, not a defense. Some observations: Continue reading

From The Archives: “Ethics Quote of the Week: Moses (Charlton Heston) in ‘The Ten Commandments'”

Seven years ago, while  watching the annual showing of “The Ten Commandments ” on ABC, I realized how advanced its civil rights message was for its time, and what an interesting and instructive ethics movie the epic was. This post was the result. I’ve edited it a bit.

The movie hasn’t been shown yet in 2020 ; it’s scheduled for the weekend before Easter, which is late this year.  I never miss it, and if you watch the film with your ethics alarms primed, you might see it in a whole new dimension.

_______________________________

“That evil that men should turn their brothers into beasts of burden, to be stripped of spirit, and hope, and strength – only because they are of another race, another creed. If there is a god, he did not mean this to be so!”

—-Moses, as played by Charlton Heston and scripted by seven writers, in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” answering the Pharoah Seti’s question, “Then why are you forcing me to destroy you? What evil has done this to you?”

“The Ten Commandments” is so extravagantly fun and entertaining that, I must confess, I never watched it as an ethics film until tonight, as ABC once again broadcast the Biblical epic on an Easter weekend. This quote especially struck me as remarkable for a film made by an infamously rigid conservative, DeMille, in 1956.

Less that a year earlier, on Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus. The next twelve months were tense, difficult days in which the entire U.S. population was undergoing a wrenching cultural debate regarding human rights.  On Dec. 6, 1955, the civil rights boycott of Montgomery city buses, led by Rev. Martin Luther King , began. January 1956 saw Autherine Lucy, a black woman, accepted for classes at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the first African-American ever allowed to enroll.  On Jan. 30, the Montgomery home of Martin Luther King, Jr. was bombed. February 4 saw rioting and violence on the campus of the University of Alabama and in the streets of Tuscaloosa. Lucy had to flee the campus, and the university’s Board of Trustees barred her from returning. On the 22nd of that month, warrants were  issued for the arrest of the 115 leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott. A week later, courts ordered Lucy readmitted, but the school expelled her. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics, 3/30/2020: As Another Fun Week Looms…

Yes, I’ve been thinking about this episode (“The Shinning”) of “The Simpsons” a lot lately…

Of course, in my case, I’m writing on the walls, “No baseball, no seminars make Jack Go Crazy!”

1. And speaking of people going crazy: the various anti-gun mayors and governors who are arguing that gun stores are “non-essential” are displaying their irrational Second Amendment phobia, much like Ohio and Texas attempting to prohibit abortions as “non-essential” surgery. The ability to self-arm is more essential at times of social disruption than usual. Looting and attacks on homes are just around the corner as resources dwindle and people become desperate, and we already have plenty of evidence that irresponsible, anti-social and unstable members of the public are not as rare as we might wish. The comparisons of the Wuhan virus crisis to zombie scenarios (as in “World War Z”) are invitations to hysteria, but in one respect the analogy is apt. Guns are useful tools to have around in both situations.

2. Good. From CNN:

The Justice Department has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter. The inquiry, which is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, according to one of the sources. Public scrutiny of the lawmakers’ market activity has centered on whether members of Congress sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the virus epidemic.

And if this causes the Republicans to lose control of the Senate, they deserve it. Burr, in particular, should resign now. He should not be allowed to run for re-election.

3. I would think that this is a slippery slope we don’t want to get on… Continue reading

From Australia, A Cancel Culture Chapter That I Don’t Understand At All

The above cartoon is the work of Michael Leunig, an Australian cartoonist of some note. Apparently the drawing got him into serious trouble with the social media and political correctness mobs Down Under. Color me completely bewildered, mate.

I have always regarded Australia as a having an admirably  rough, honest, brutally independent and common sense-based culture. Apparently I’m missing something; maybe one of Ethics Alarms’ Australian readers can explain what. (There have been about 24,000 views of the blog there so far this year; Australia is the second largest source of Ethics Alarms readers outside the U.S., after Canada.)

Because of the cartoon, Leunig, who has been creating cartoons professionally to express political and social commentary for half a century, is being threatened with cultural “cancellation.” He writes in part that the drawing has “brought so much hostile public reaction that I began to lie awake at night wondering why I had followed such a troubled, painful and precarious career path….

…[To]be so hated, insulted, slandered in the public domain for this – as I was – is indeed a dismal fate for the lone cartoonist. It speaks volumes about the current condition of civil society and tolerance. This is bigotry. The malice has been astounding and so extreme that it has plunged me into a deep contemplation about the nature of angry hatred. Indeed, I am coming to the view that there is an emerging new form of hatred in society which might be more of a mental illness than a passing emotion. Perhaps I would call it “free-floating, obsessive compulsive hatred”.

His son wrote of the effect on the cartoonist’s family: Continue reading

Now THIS Is a Kaufman If There Ever Was One: Crossword Constructor Diversity

In this post earlier this month, I introduced the essential Ethics Alarms term and category “Kaufman’s Observation,” or a Kaufman for short, which was duly entered into the blog glossary.

The particular application then was the “problem” of scam murder-for-hire websites. The Kaufman is reserved for “alleged ethics violations so inconsequential as to be unworthy of attention or indignation.”

Here’s another one. In The Atlantic, which has become so mindlessly and relentlessly progressive that it is painful to observe, there really and truly is an article titled, “The Hidden Bigotry of Crosswords:The popular puzzles are largely written and edited by older white men, who dictate what makes it into the grid—and what is kept out.”

A sample: Continue reading