Hollywood Ethics: The Top Nine Movie Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated!]

My back is out, I’m feeling sick, and I’m not up to any complicated analysis right now. For some time I’ve wanted to put all of the iconic movie clips that I turn to when the circumstances demand, so it’s time.

1. To illustrate the folly of suspending or violating the rule of law, the Constitution, or due process for “the greater good” as it appears to some to be at the time:

2. To comment on a strikingly incompetent argument, theory or proposal:

3. When I feel I should resist the impulse to attack an ethics miscreant with special vigor, but decide tp go ahead anyway

4.  To explain the conduct of some individuals or organizations that cannot be justified by facts, principles of logic, or any other valid motivation:

5.  To illustrate the impulse to respond to injustice and the abuse of power by resorting to symbolic acts of pure defiance, even when they are likely to fail…

6. When a individual abandons integrity or other ethical values for a non-ethical consideration…

7. When an individual feigns indignation and disapproval of conduct that he or she has either participated in or enabled:

8. Used to signal that a politician, journalist or scholar has intentionally or negligently used such impenetrable rhetoric as to be completely incomprehensible [Forgot this one: thanks to Phlinn for catching the omission]:

9. Commenting on a particularly incompetent, irresponsible, or otherwise unethical decision with disastrous consequences:

The Ethics Alarms Directory Of “Fake News”: Prelude

The first use of the tag “fake news” on this website was on March 4, 2015. That’s more than three months before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015; the oft-published claim that Trump launched the term “fake news” to deride the news media for criticizing him and his Presidency is, ironically enough, fake news.

The 2015 piece was about CNBC publishing as legitimate news a press release by an anti-vaxx group, a category of fake news called “Hearsay news” in today’s directory to come. I posted three more articles tagged “fake news” before Trump was elected. One of them was the Mother of All Fake News episodes, when the Boston Globe hit the news stands and front walks on April 10, 2016 featuring a satirical front page with headlines about a fictional, dystopian Donald Trump Presidency. “This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action,” went the introduction. I wrote in part

This is a spectacular  failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue….No paper published such a “future news” piece about the world under Nazi rule, or the race war if civil rights laws didn’t change. No respectable publication predicted a similar dystopian future under President Huey Long, or Joe McCarthy, or what a U.S. with open borders would look like, or what a Ron Paul style US with heroin for sale off drug store counters would lead to. That is because this means of political advocacy and commentary is reserved for the features and entertainment sections, not where facts are supposed to be, and where readers must be able to expect a reasonable attempt at truth, not a showboating effort to distort it.

The episode marked, as it turned out, the beginning of an epidemic of metaphorical canaries dying in the poisoned mine of American journalism. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/25/2020: The Quiet Before The Storm

Something’s coming.

(I’d have the West Side Story song up, but for some reason WordPress hasn’t been letting me embed videos lately.) Do you feel it? I sure do…

1. Our incompetent leaders, Part 645, 991. The proper anti-virus conduct as modeled by Nancy Pelosi on TV last week: take off your mask, wipe your nose with your hand,

…and touch the podium. Members of both parties demonstrated similar Wuhan virus safety awareness:

2.  Meme Wars…

[Pointer: Steve Witherspoon (not Other Bill, as I erroneously stated originally. Sorry, Steve)]

…and this (from the Babylon Bee):

3. You know, I really don’t care what someone like this thinks about illegal immigration. In a review of a pro-illegal immigration book by illegal immigrant (OK, she’s a “Dreamer”)

Quick diversion: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that “Dreamers”—people brought to the U.S. illegally as children—cannot access emergency funding set aside for college students who are enduring disruptions in their education because of the pandemic, because grants may only be given to students who are eligible for federal aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act,  meaning U.S. citizens. Naturally, she is being attacked as cruel and racist.

It is the correct, responsible, legal and ethical decision.

So she is laboring under emotional difficulties, a law-breaker herself, and a liar. That’s some expert you got there. She’s also not very bright, based on this statement from her book: Continue reading

A Diversion….

A friend on mine from the Gilbert and Sullivan crowd issued a challenge to write a parody of Koko’s “I’ve Got A Little List” from “The Mikado.” Well, I couldn’t pass that up: I wrote my first parody of the song when I was 16 and played The Lord High Executioner in high school. I wrote another one years later when I played the part again in my 20’s, and yet again, several times, when I wrote and directed a political satire revue that played at a D.C. hotel for several months.It’s also a very easy song to write new lyrics to, which was by Gilbert’s design.

This took me only a bit longer to write than it took to type it. It’s not an ethics post, but hell, if I can’t post something on my own blog just because I feel like it, what’s the point?

I promise not to abuse the privilege.

Here’s the Wuhan virus version of Koko’s list…

Continue reading

I Have To Defend Bill Maher Again. Life Is Cruel.

Although to be fair, I should have seen this line coming. His old show was called “Politically Incorrect,” after all.

As he does periodically, the generally despicable HBO clown nose on-clown nose off  pseudopundit, whom left-wing pundits and politicians grovel to in order to be cheered by his studio audience of  ex-Occupy Wall Street campers, Bernie bros and you know, morons, bucked a progressive talking-point by saying, essentially, that it was stupid.

This one was particularly low-hanging fruit for Maher, as it should be for anyone: he said, admittedly in the most vulgar and tasteless way  imaginable, that the Virus That Came From China should be called a Chinese virus (or variations thereof, like the Wuhan virus name I use on Ethics Alarms and explained why here) and that saying it is racist to do so is cretinous. In Bill’s words,

“Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time. Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River.There’s the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, of course, the Spanish flu. MERS stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome. It’s plastered all over airports, and no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?”

Then Maher did a nice takedown of a characteristic tweet by Rep. Ted Lieu, who embarrasses the U.S. Congress, his state (California), his party (Democrats) and his district roughly every time he says anything. He had tweeted on this issue,

Calling #COVIDー19 the Wuhan Virus is an example of the myopia that allowed it to spread in the US. The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus.

One would think that one of the few things Lieu could speak authoritatively about is being stupid, but no, not even that. Maher correctly reacted,

No, that would be way stupider because it didn’t come from Milan! And if it did, I guarantee we’d be calling it the Milan virus. Jesus fucking Christ!  Can’t we even have a pandemic without getting offended? When they name Lyme Disease after a town in Connecticut the locals didn’t get all ticked off …It scares me that there are people out there who would rather die of the virus than call it by the wrong name.

It scares me that someone like Ted Lieu is in Congress, or, for that matter, walking the streets without a harness and a keeper. Maher continued on his rant,

This isn’t about vilifying a culture. This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We’re barely four months into this pandemic, and the wet markets in China — the ones where exotic animals are sold and consumed — are already starting to reopen.

Sorry, Americans. We’re going to have to ask you to keep two ideas in your head at the same time: This has nothing to do with Asian Americans, and it has everything to do with China .We can’t afford the luxury anymore of nonjudginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere because this isn’t the first time. SARS came from China and the bird flu and the Hong Kong flu, the Asian flu. Viruses come from China just like shortstops come from the Dominican Republic. If they were selling nuclear suitcases at these wet markets, would we be so nonjudgmental?”

Naturally, Maher is now being called a racist. The argument that it is racist to call something from China Chinese is itself a miracle, like one of those bacteria that can survive without oxygen or water. There is nothing supporting this argument, yet people still make it, because crying “Racism!” is supposed to stop free expression like holy water stops vampires. Confront someone with a functioning brain with the fact that, as Maher explains, the claim makes no sense whatsoever, you will be told that the real problem is that it gives actual racists an excuse to beat up Asians. With this they are advocating a thug’s veto, or a moron’s veto, or something like that, that just happens to bolster Chinese Communist propaganda.

Even a knee-jerk anti-American like Maher is too smart for be part of that.

Movies To Keep You Happy, Inspired And Optimistic, Part II

Another boring weekend approaches, so it’s time to finish this project.

Some further clarifications on this continuing list: it’s not a list of my favorite films by any means. The criteria is, as the title above would suggest, the emotions the film leaves you with, or that well up inside your earthly vessel during the film. One reader reacted to the first list by dissing “Rocky,” but here’s the point: when I first saw that film in a stuffed theater, and the movie reached the part in the climactic fight when, after seemingly being out-boxed and outclassed by the champion Apollo Creed, Rocky sees Creed lets his guard down for an instant and , dazed and bleeding, suddenly hits him with a series of the body blows we had seen him practicing on sides of beef . The crowd in a Philly bar goes bananas, and the audience in the theater went bananas too, only louder, cheering and applauding. I’ve seen a lot of movies, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve witnessed that kind of spontaneous eruption of excitement and elation from an audience.

I also have to explain why what anyone here knows are my four  favorite comedies don’t appear. They just don’t fit the theme, that’s all. They make me laugh, pretty much every time, but they can’t be called inspiring by any normal definition of the word.

Here’s the second half of the list:

Sea Biscuit (2003)

I’m not a horse enthusiast,nor a fan of the sport of kings, but this is a wonderful story, and mostly true.

Star Wars (1977)

Oh, all right..

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

And so much better than the stupid movie it evokes, “An Affair To Remember.”

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

The only movie ever where a guy’s walk to the electric chair makes you smile..

Spartacus (1960)

Maybe my favorite story out of history ever, plus Cory Booker’s favorite scene…

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Obligatory.

To Sir With Love (1967)

The list needs an inspirational teacher movie (and only one) so I pick this one. Lulu’s song scene makes the difference.

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

Probably the least seen or appreciated film on the list. But Judy Holiday radiates the joy of performing and the genius of a comic pro here like few others, and attention must be paid. Forget that it was her last movie…

As Good As It Gets

One of the best romantic comedies ever, and one of the strangest. Plus an incredibly cute dog… Continue reading

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