Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day #2: ‘Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics’”

I know, I know…enough Superman already. What is this, “Seinfeld”? I was fully intending to have a Superman-free zone this weekend, but Steve-O-in NJ’s deft and historically illuminating comment on the second of the four honored comments on the last ethics quiz could not be ignored.

Here is his Comment of the Day on Steve Witherspoon’s Comment of the Day on “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”

I think it shouldn’t be lost on folks here that Superman first appeared in Action Comics No. 1 in 1938. He came to be during the Depression, when this country was at its lowest and believing in itself the least. He was the creation of two aspiring Jewish writers named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who first conceived of him as a mind-reading, super-strong, and bald (!) villain given his powers by an experimental drug in a 1932 story called “Reign of the Supermen.” It wasn’t until 1935 that Superman became a hero and acquired his now well-known background, cape, and uniform. They had really wanted to get published in the comics pages as a strip, but when they kept getting turned down, eventually they signed away the rights to Jack Liebowitz, who had just formed Detective Comics, which would later become simply “DC” (although Detective Comics would continue to be published as a title and a year later Batman would debut there, but that’s another story). At least they’d finally see Superman published.

The rest, as they say, is history. However, Superman has, at least to some degree, always been an idealized “man of his times.” In the first few issues he was actually a bit of a smart aleck, and at one point anti-industrialist. Among other things, at one point he but two munitions manufacturers out of business, blaming them for war (THAT vanished with the coming of WW2). A real shocker was early on when he confronted a woman who had murdered someone. She drew a gun on him, whereupon he crushed the barrel out of shape, grabbed her hand, and asked her if she would surrender, “or shall I give you a taste of how that gun felt when I applied the pressure?” She of course surrendered, ruefully admitting that she would get the chair for the murder. Superman pitilessly replied, “you should have thought of that before you took a human life.” Obviously this would not fly now. It gets better when the character takes to radio in 1940, with a slightly modified origin story where he ages on the journey to Earth from Krypton and steps fully formed from the spacecraft, including being able to speak English. At one point he goes to confront a villain at his home, but finds only his Filipino houseboy, who of course speaks with a very exaggerated accent. He proceeds to intimidate him physically, and warn him, including a mild ethnic slur, that if he’s lied to him he’ll come back and kill him.

Continue reading

Friday Ethics Distractions, 10/22/21: Foot In Mouth Edition

foot in mouth Xray

Wow! People sure are saying some stupid things lately!

1. A David Manning Lie of the Month from Joe Biden! The David Manning Liar of the Month was a feature of the old Ethics Scoreboard honoring public figures or corporations that made obviously dishonest statements that they had to assume were harmless because nobody could possibly believe them. Thus Joe Biden really told reporters that he hasn’t gotten around to visiting the illegal immigrant mobs at the southern border because he’s just been too darn busy. All year. And, he added, it’s OK because Dr. Biden has been there. He also implied that he didn’t need to go to the border to see the utter mess his immigration policies have wrought because he’s seen the border

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

  • Joe has had time to go back to Delaware and Camp David, but not where there’s a border crisis of his making because he’s too busy. Does anyone believe that?
  • Let’s be fair: the President shouldn’t have to go to the border if he has competent subordinates to do it and accurately explain what’s going on. However, when President Bush chose not to personally visit the Katrina carnage, he was accused by Biden’s party and its news media of not caring, not doing his job, and, by Kanye West, of being a racist. What’s the standard? Bush felt that all he could do was get in the way. No, said Democrats, he had to go there, see what was happening with his own eyes. If that’s the standard, and I don’t think it needs to be, then why isn’t it also the standard for Biden and the border mess?
  • Talk about the cover-up being worse than the crime: Jen Psaki managed to top herself for mendacity and deflection when Fox’s Peter Doocy asked her why the President felt he had seen enough of the border. Why, she said, because he had been to the border in 2008! She really said that! “And nothing has changed since 2008?” Doocy reasonably asked. No! the President’s paid liar huffed. There’s been no immigration reform since then! And Biden knows President Trump has made everything worse by “separating children from parents” and building a “feckless wall” (whatever that means). So he doesn’t have to re-visit the border to know that, and again, he went there in 2008!

2. Shut up, or start a blog. The dim-bulb royals in exile decided that we need to hear their opinions on two issues. Prince Harry pronounced the First Amendment “bonkers”—yes, Harry, that attitude on the part of your relatives is why England doesn’t govern us any more—and his wife, Meghan Markle, received publicity for advocating paid leave for parents. Neither of these two people famous for being famous have done or said anything that should endow their opinions with any more persuasiveness or newsworthiness than the typical dogwalker’s. Harry was born well; Meghan married someone who was born well. It doesn’t matter what they think, or what they say. It’s not news. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #4 on “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”

Superman all-American

This, a Comment of the Day by Humble Talent, is the 4th of four fascinating and varied Comments of the Day that arrived quickly after I posted the ethics quiz about the evolving Superman mission statement. Now he’s not fighting for “the American way,” but for ” a “better tomorrow,” which is even more vague than “the American way.” (Consider the positions the far Left advocacy group People for the American Way has promoted.)

The four neatly explain why I made this episode in the culture wars (or was it?) an ethics quiz in the first place. I am pulled to both polls: the “Why should we care about the updating of a motto that is as corny as it comes relating to a comic book character whose importance is historical rather than current when it will have no effect on anything?” reaction, expressed in varying ways by Curmie and Humble, and the “This is part of the death of a thousand cuts being inflicted upon national pride and American exceptionalism by those who don’t like what the United States of America stands for and want to reject the Founders’ vision and the values that have served this nation and its citizens so well” response, represented here in differing shades by A.M. Golden and Steve Witherspoon (and in an upcoming Comment of the Day on Steve’s comment by Steve-O-in NJ).

My analysis is that yes, sometimes, as Dr. Freud would have said if he was a Superman fan, a comic book slogan is just a comic book slogan. I am fairly certain that’s how the soulless DC Comics honchos look at it; that’s how they have looked at everything else. “Gee, how can we get some more publicity and compete with Marvel comics, which everyone thinks is cooler? Let’s kill Superman! Let’s put him in a black and gray costume! Let’s make Ma and Pa Kent young again! Let’s have Superman fight Batman, as ridiculous as that is. Let’s make Superman’s son gay! Let’s make Lois mutate into a Squid-Woman!”

OK, they haven’t done that yet, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Superman’s mission was arguably the last remaining part of his classic intro that wasn’t already retired as outdated. “Faster than a speeding bullet…more powerful than a locomotive…able to leap tall buildings at a single bound”—that one’s great and nostalgic, but I haven’t seen a trace of it in decades. The same goes for the wonderful, “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s SUPERMAN!” At least Superman’s motto is surviving in some form…not that I care. I watched the first Christopher Reeve “Superman” movie and admired the funky, “He can fly!” poetic section as a brave innovation, but the climax where Supie reversed time by making the world spin backwards was one of the most insulting things I’ve ever had rammed into my eyes by a major film, and that was the end of movies with Superman in them for me. And yet…

As I have discussed on Ethics Alarms before, there is a crucial difference between introducing something new and changing something. When a company (or a government) changes something that is already in place, it signals, intentionally or not, that what was in place was wrong, and had to be replaced. That may not be the intent, but that is what it does. The effect may be subliminal, but the change also can be exploited by those who believe that what what has been removed was wrong. It’s a victory for them.

I will give the international corporation that owns the copyright to Superman the benefit of the doubt and assume that its decision was based solely on seeking better penetration in international markets and pandering to the young, who are more likely to assume “a better tomorrow” means defeating climate change, ending “social injustice,” achieving world peace and generally making John Lennon’s twaddle come true. That’s good old fashioned capitalism, as well as classic marketing: appeal to the idiots out there, because their money is as good as anyone else’s.

However, at a time in our history where the foundations of American values are under coordinated attack and the public’s appreciation of its nation’s immense contributions to humanity and the world is being undermined, the symbolic import of stripping fighting for “the American way” from an American hero’s goals should not be ignored, and cannot be credibly denied. DC has allied its iconic character with those who want to dishonor Thomas Jefferson, replace the National Anthem and cripple the Bill of Rights. That’s how it will be seen, and perception, in this case, is reality. The United States needs all the allies of liberty it can get, and that means this is no time for Superman to go woke.

The change was irresponsible and disloyal.

That’s where I come out on the quiz. Now here is Humble Talent’s answer, his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”:

***

I think that we are rapidly falling into a trap, and that it’s in our best interests not to take the bait.

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: AP Libel Victim Vito Gesualdi

Vito-Netflix-walkout

“The media sucks!

—-Comedian and videographer Vito Gesuald, after discovering that the Associated Press lied about his conduct while circulating his image to news outlets around the country.

A detailed account of this illustrative event is here, but the basic facts are these. During the walk-out of Netflix employees who want the streaming service to censor comedians who dare to make jokes about the anointed untouchables in our culture, currently transexuals (among others),  a counter-protester named Vito Gesualdi staged a mild counter-protest with a sign that read “Jokes are funny.” He makes videos and has a humorous podcast, and was on the scene to support  Dave Chappelle’s First Amendment right to make jokes even if some people find them offensive. Vito was photographed by an Associated Press photographer named Damian Dovarganes, with the result you see above.  But the AP captioned the photo, “Comedian and videographer Vito Gesualdi screams profanities as he engages with peaceful protesters begging him to leave…”

Vito was horrified and understandably so. “Screams profanities?” he tweeted. “Dude, I just yelled ‘I love Dave Chappelle’! The media sucks!”  A bit later, Vito discovered with a Google search  that the falsely captioned photo was turning up everywhere.

“Oh great, it’s a stock Associated Press photo caption so that lie is on dozens of news sites now. Any lawyers in the house? This is BS,” he wrote adding with another tweet, “Worth noting that my co-host Dick Masterson is currently at the hospital getting a CT scan after having his head bounced against a concrete planter by these ‘peaceful protestors.'”
Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #2: “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”

Superman of Tomorrow

Steve Witherspoon is the author of the second (of 4!) Comment of the Day reacting to the query as to whether changing Superman’s motto to seeking “a better tomorrow” without any American reference is unethical, as in irresponsible, or disrespectful, or un-American. Here is his intense reaction to “Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics”:

***

“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” George Orwell, 1984

Propaganda, that’s what Orwell was talking about.

Superman’s motto change; “Truth, Justice, and the American way” vs “Truth, Justice, and a better tomorrow.”.

“Is there anything wrong with DC making the Superman motto change?”

In keeping with what I wrote yesterday that “our society and culture has dramatically changed in the 21st century” I’m going to approach this from a changing cultural viewpoint.

Looking at Superman as a idealisticº cultural icon¹ (that’s what the character is) the answer to the question “is there anything wrong with DC making the Superman motto change” has to be no. The fact that they are changing the motto is signature significant, in that this single act is so remarkable that it has predictive and analytical value showing us how much our culture has actually changed and the act should not be dismissed as statistically insignificant. The Superman comic strip and its motto had an underlying theme that was pure propaganda² and that was to promote the American way of life as good, a huge cross section of our culture has moved away from that idealistic view of America and it’s inevitable that as the culture shifts away from American idealism that new propaganda will replace the old. Out with the old, in with the new.

SPECIAL NOTE: I think it’s very significant that we’re this invested in the motto of a comic strip character that was literally the purveyor of idealistic American propaganda.

All that said…

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Superman Ethics

superman-american-way

A DC Comics artist announced that recent decisions by the venerable comic book company to wokify its iconic hero were causing him to quit in protest. “I’m finishing out my contract with DC. I’m tired of this shit, I’m tired of them ruining these characters; they don’t have a right to do this,” said colorist Gabe Eltaeb during a recent podcast. “What really pissed me off was [changing Superman’s credo] to “truth, justice, and a better world,” Eltaeb added. “Fuck that! It was Truth, Justice, and the American way! My Grandpa almost died in World War II; we don’t have a right to destroy shit that people died for to give [to] us. It’s a bunch of fucking nonsense!”

What do you really think, Gabe? First, you should know what you’re quitting about: the new slogan is “Fighting for Truth, Justice, and a better world.” And the company obviously has a right to change the big guy’s slogan to whatever they want to. But yes, “the American way” has been sent to the ash heap of history.

Over at Fox News, they were freaking out, as usual. Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo said on a Sunday talking heads show that DC Comics altering Superman’s motto to eliminate fighting for “the American Way” was a “disservice to fans.” “Now you have a multinational corporation, D.C. Comics, that decided it would rather politically grandstand and build foreign markets than respect their character and the audience that built him. You don’t need Kryptonite to kill Superman when you have D.C. Comics doing a great job. This is a huge disservice to fans and I’m waiting for Superman to turn up in a red costume and we will just call him Super Person. Lex Luthor should send DC Comics a thank-you card for sidelining and killing Superman.”

“This is clearly a distortion and a disservice to anyone who loved Superman that read the comic books and watched those movies,” Arroyo told “The Big Sunday Show.” “Remember, this was about an alien from another planet, a dying planet that comes and lands in the heartland of America and embodies the American ideals of freedom, justice. He wears red, white and blue for goodness sake!”

There were two recent developments in the DC Comics universe that provoked all the angst: the longtime publisher of Superman comics, changed Superman’s 80-year-old slogan from fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way” to “truth, justice and a better tomorrow,” and also revealed that the younger version of Superman, the son of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, is bi-sexual, and was drawn kissing a guy.

OK, the last one is obviously blatant pandering, but what about the motto?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is there anything wrong with DC making the Superman motto change?

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education

Yale intimidation

Following through on its criticism of Yale Law School administrators’ attempts to threaten student Trent Colbert and intimidate him into signing a pre-drafted apology for an email that violated no policies and was both benign and constitutionally protected, The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The F.I.R.E.) has offered its own pre-drafted apology for the offending individuals [Director of Diversity Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ellen Cosgrove (above)] and Yale’s leadership to sign and present to Colbert, as well as any other students who have been treated similarly but who weren’t as careful as Trent and did not surreptitiously record their meetings:

Pre-written apology

The Colin Powell Ethics Problem

18hp-alert-powell-jumbo

The ethics news today begins with the death of Colin Powell, who died this morning, according to his family. He deserves the accolades for his service and leadership skills, but in the Ethics Alarms annals, he ranks as an ethics disappointment.

As the obituaries will certainly mention, Powell, the U.S.’s first African American national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of state, would have also been its first black President if he had been willing to run. Shades of Eisenhower, he was courted as a Presidential candidate by both Republicans and Democrats before deciding in 1995 that the challenge would take him away from his family, and acceding to his wife’s objections and fears (she was reportedly afraid he would be assassinated). Thus instead of the bi-partisan, unifying figure of Colin Powell, we got Bush, and then the hollow, racially divisive Barack Obama. And here we are.

Yes, I lay much of what has happened to the nation in the 21st Century at Powell’s feet. The majority of our Presidents sacrificed greatly to seek and accept the office; I do not forgive Powell for passing the buck when he was in a unique position to unify the nation and particularly the races at a turning point in our history. He was called: it is as simple as that. As a good citizen and soldier, when you are called, you have an ethical obligation to answer. Powell did not meet that obligation. America is much the worse for it.

Continue reading

“Insurrection” Hysteria Appears To Be The Democrats’ Sole Strategy For Holding Power, And The Media Is Enabling It. Of Course, This is Unethical….And Ominous [Corrected]

Insurrection committee

Glenn Greenwald’s latest newsletter from substack was nicely timed today. I was genuinely puzzled to see the front page of the Sunday Times left on my lawn this morning dominated by a 50 square inch photo, a scare headline and an article about the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. The episode occurred 9 months ago. This was neither news or history. What’s going on here? [Notice of Correction: the original version had the date and time passed wrong. Stupid mistake.]

Then Greenwald’s piece arrived. “When a population is placed in a state of sufficiently grave fear and anger regarding a perceived threat, concerns about the constitutionality, legality and morality of measures adopted in the name of punishing the enemy typically disappear,” he wrote. “The first priority, indeed the sole priority, is to crush the threat. Questions about the legality of actions ostensibly undertaken against the guilty parties are brushed aside as trivial annoyances at best, or, worse, castigated as efforts to sympathize with and protect those responsible for the danger. When a population is subsumed with pulsating fear and rage, there is little patience for seemingly abstract quibbles about legality or ethics. The craving for punishment, for vengeance, for protection, is visceral and thus easily drowns out cerebral or rational impediments to satiating those primal impulses.”

I have never been able to understand how anyone could accept the obvious exaggeration of the extent, intent, and import of the riot. I really can’t: it amazes me. This was 300, more or less, irresponsible, mostly middle-aged fools, behaving like the Chicago peaceniks at the 1968 Democratic National Convention but with less coherence. Their riot paled in all respects to the Black Lives Matter rioting across the U.S.: less damage was done, far, far fewer people were injured, and the only individual killed was a rioter. Although the post-George Floyd riots shut down businesses and government functions for weeks, the process of certifying the 2020 election results, allegedly the action that the Capitol protesters wanted to halt, weren’t even delayed a day. The claim that these unhappy Trump loyalist idiots were trying to take over the government with bear spray and funny hats was and is nonsense, and transparently so. Yet Greenwald writes,

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Secretary Of Transportation (And Proud Dad!) Pete Buttigieg [Updated]

pete-buttigieg-chasten-

When I wrote in September about Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo abusing his paternal leave privileges to abandon his team at a crucial time in its battle to make 2021 the play-offs, I expected a lot of heated criticism (I didn’t, though I did get a provocative counter argument that became a Comment of the Day.) I wrote in part,

The Boston Red Sox recently completed a disastrous collapse that dropped them from first place in the American League East to third. As they went into battle with the two teams now ahead of them, their hottest hitter, Alex Verdugo, vanished on a four game paternity leave. Shortly thereafter, another hot hitter, Hunter Renfroe, was lost for five days on bereavement leave after his father died of cancer. T’was not always thus: in the days before the Players’ Union bargained to add such mid-season leave as a new benefit, if a player’s wife was in labor or a loved one died, it was at the team’s discretion whether he would be permitted to leave the team. OK, I can appreciate the need for the benefit, but both players abused the right. These guys both earn millions of dollars a year. They both routinely talk about the team’s quest to win the World Series, yet when their team really needed them, they absented themselves for many days because they could. That’s a betrayal of the team, team mates, and fans.

By the force of pure moral luck, Verdugo’s indulgence did no damage in the end: the Sox made the play-offs and have prospered (so far, though they lost last night), in great part because of Verdugo’s clutch hitting upon his return. That doesn’t change my ethics verdict on his dereliction of duty however (which the player reminds me of every time he gets a hit now, because Verdugo makes a baby-rocking gesture to his team mates in the dugout.) Compared to the Biden administration’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, however, Alex Verdugo is a model of dedication and responsibility.

Buttigieg and his husband Chasten adopted infant twins named Penelope and Joseph in August. The little bundles of joy arrived as product shortages and the supply chain problems had made themselves evident, a developing crisis that is worsening, and one that threatens the economy as well as businesses, jobs and the welfare of millions of Americans. It is also a situation squarely within the jurisdiction of the Transportation Department. Not since the airplane-executed terror attacks of September 11, 2001 has that agency had such a crucial task before it, nor have more Americans needed the performance of DOT to be diligent, timely, and effective.

Never mind! The Secretary of Transportation decided that this was still an appropriate time to take advantage of the Biden administration’s “family friendly” policies, and took two full months of paid leave while the supply chain problems multiplied and expanded. He wasn’t even online with his department during most of that time.

I apologize, Alex! Compared to Paternal Pete, you’re a self-sacrificing hero. I wish you were Secretary of Transportation.

Continue reading