And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Ann Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Ann Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.” Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/11/2019: No Laughing Matters

You know, Saturdays  were a lot more fun when I watched cartoons in the morning …

1. More on the divisive Red Sox visit to the White House, as all the blacks and Hispanic-Americans—but one—boycotted the honor.  Kyle Smith at the National Review has some spot-on observations. Some samples:

Naturally the media blamed the target of this calculated mass protest. “Did Donald Trump honor the Red Sox or the ‘White’ Sox?” asks columnist Edward Montini in the Arizona Republic, adding, “Trying to pretend that President Donald Trump has not caused a widening racial and ethnic divide means not believing what you can hear with your own ears and see — clearly — with your own eyes.” MSNBC guest and former Joe Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said, “I bet [Trump] was happy today that he was able to say that the white players were here and players of color weren’t. That’s the kind of division he fosters deliberately.”

Isn’t Klein’s statement obviously the blathering of an asshole? How far gone do you have to be to buy that? More from Kyle…

[L] et’s call this what it is: Top athletes, especially top athletes of color, are insulting the President of the United States. They have every right to do this, but let’s at least get the direction of the animosity right. Trump doesn’t invite just white athletes to the White House. The racial resentment in these ceremonies is being flung at him, not by him. The athletes, not the president, are racializing these ceremonies….These feel-good photo-ops for jocks are nonpartisan. Everyone used to understand this. Participating in a White House ceremony does not constitute an endorsement of a president, much less agreement with all of his policies. Before the Trump era, only a handful of athletes had ever been conspicuous no-shows at White House events to honor them, and most of them hastened to clarify that they had non-political reasons for missing the events. These days everything must be scrutinized for political content. Dave Zirin of The Nation is assailing Tiger Woods for accepting a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump, saying it amounted to “to kiss[ing] Trump’s ring.

Read it all, but really: who’s being an asshole here? It isn’t Trump.

2. Let’s give credit to conservative pundit Ben Shapiro for openly admitting that he behaved like jerk, but he really did behave like a jerk. Shapiro was a guest on  the BBC to discuss his new book, New York Times best-seller “The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great,.” Apparently he was expecting the kind of soft-ball, pandering interview from host Andrew Neil that he criticizes U.S. journalists for serving up to progressives and Democrats. Uh, no.

After greeting one another (the interview was conducted from London via satellite) Neil asked Shapiro whether he believed Georgia’s new abortion law was a return to the “dark ages.”

Rather than answering the question, Shapiro attacked the  questioner, saying, “OK, a couple of things. Are you [an] objective journalist or an opinion journalist?”

Neil’s response: “I’m a journalist who asks questions.” Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Points, 4/30/2019: New Developments In Old Stories

Pardon if I sound distracted—I’m still giggling about Kate Smith.

1. Kate, Robert E. Lee and the King of Pop. It’s ironic that this comes up as I am debating on Facebook with rabid Robert E. Lee statue-topplers, because this episode perfectly illustrates why they are wrong, and not just wrong, but stupidly and obnoxiously wrong. No historical figure is honored for everything in his or her life. They are honored for their importance, influence, good deeds, finest moments and best traits. The growing totalitarian mob on the Left wants to erase the memory of anyone who failed to meet their current standards of virtue decades or even centuries before those standards existed, when many of the standards  are unreasonable even now.

Great achievers are, with the tiniest sliver of exceptions, flawed, strange, obsessed and abnormal people, and those who would hold them to impossible levels of perfection guarantee a hollow culture, a sanitized and boring history, and a shallow society.

Thus I found myself surprising myself by sympathizing with the decision of an elementary school in Hollywood to keep Michael Jackson’s name on its auditorium, despite the growing likelihood that he was a child molester, as the Los Angeles Times reported. The majority of parents and staff of Gardner Street Elementary School, which Jackson briefly attended, voted to keep his name above the auditorium. Ick, but maybe that was the right decision. Jackson was a great and influential performer, and that’s what he’s honored for. Continue reading

More Ethics Notes On The New York Times Anti-Semitic Cartoon

  • The main lesson of this episode (which was discussed here in the fourth item) is that the New York Times culture is so ideologically and politically biased and one-sided that even an obvious breach of taste, decency and ethics like this cartoon can slip by the deadened ethics alarms.

The American Jewish Committee said in response to The Times’s editors’ note after pulling the drawing,. “What does this say about your processes or your decision makers? How are you fixing it?”

The Times can’t fix it.

  • One Times columnist, the politically schizophrenic Bret Stephens, wrote that “in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer,” the infamous anti-Semitic tabloid published during Germany’s Nazi regime. “The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t.” Stephens continued.

“The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism …. at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.” Continue reading

Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms

Christos Anesti!

…as my Greek-American mother used to greet us every Greek Easter morn. You were supposed to respond in kind, but my father’s Greek pronunciation was always so  hilarious that I don’t recall that he ever did.

1. Anthony Napolitano and the appeal to authority. Fox analyst “Judge” Napolitano (you’re not supposed to call yourself “judge” after you stop being a judge, but never mind) is suddenly being hailed as a definitive legal authority because he has “broken ranks” (as the liberal websites put it) to argue that President Trump obstructed justice based on the Mueller report. Virtually nothing Napolitano said or opined on prior to this was ever treated by these same sudden fans as anything but the meanderings of a crank, but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as someone once said in Sanskrit.

I would never appeal to Napolitano’s authority, though he is far from a crank. He was indeed a lower court judge in New Jersey, he has taught at a law school, and he has written many books. He is not a conservative or a Republican but a libertarian. Like Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand, Napolitano’s ideology is such that he arrives at positions that make it impossible for me to trust his reasoning processes. Notably, he doesn’t think Abraham Lincoln should have fought the Civil War or abolished slavery, saying that it would have been better to allow slavery to peter out peacefully without government intervention. I wonder how the slaves would have felt about that?

He also believes that human life should have full legal rights at conception, and that abortion ought to be outlawed completely. Well, both of those positions—he has others equally extreme—mean to me that as smart as he may be, I don’t know what kind of extremist bats are flying around in the man’s belfry, so while I believe his arguments  on obstruction should be judged on their objective merits, that fact that he’s the one making them do not and should not enhance their persuasiveness.

2. Trump Tweets segue...in a tweet, the President claimed that Napolitano asked him to appoint the “Judge” to the Supreme Court, and that his much-publicized obstruction claim is Napolitano’s revenge for the President refusing. Continue reading

A Note On The Mainstream Media Practice Of Making Facts Vanish By Pretending That They Never Existed…[CORRECTED}

On CBS This Morning, yesterday, the hosts interviewed comic Sandra Bee, host of the almost entirely Trump-bashing cable show, “Full Frontal.”  Oprah sock-puppet  Gayle King asked  Bee about the upcoming White House Correspondent’s Dinner, this year to be hosted by a non-comedian, with the plaintive query, “Don’t we need fun, too, Samantha? The country is so divided and so nasty and so mean…So, how do you navigate those waters? How do you know how far you can go to the line without crossing it?”

What a fascinating question to ask a comedian who called Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt on the air! Not only that, but Bee never apologized to the First Daughter for doing so; she just issued a stunning non-apology apology that I wrote about here. Bee has also called  Fox News viewers  Nazis and racists, and derided  Kirstjen Nielsen, ex-Department of Homeland Security Secretary, a “lying ghoul.”  She doesn’t navigate these waters, Gayle, you unforgivable, pandering hack. She has, in fact, explicitly stated that she has no interest in civility, in the course of not apologizing to Ivanka for calling her a cunt in public: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/19: Redacted Mueller Report Freak-Out Edition

Good morning!

1. Mueller report ethics!

  • Note the names and employers of the pundits and reporters who opine on the 400 page report (to be released today around 11:00 am) before they could possibly read it. [Althouse this morning: “What can they do, once 11 rolls around, to avoid continuing to analyze the Barr presentation (which will include denouncing his decision to do a press conference and dominate the news in advance of the release of the text)? You can be cynical and say the text won’t affect the media, and everyone will keep saying what they were already saying, and that is, in fact, my baseline assumption. The TV news is awful.” Yes, it certainly is.]
  • The New York Times and others are incensed that the Justice Department briefed the President on the report before it was released to the public. This is Trump Derangement, pure and unadulterated. The President has a right to see the report, and the Justice Department is part of the executive branch, which the President oversees.I’d want to be briefed ahead of the release if I were President, especially with a biased news media and a crazed “resistance” preparing to make it look as bad as possible no matter what it says. The complaint is one more entry in “Journalist making the public dumber.”
  • Ken Starr, also indulging in “future news,” says that he is concerned that the report will read like an anti-Trump manifesto. I will be surprised. It is true that the Mueller had some questionably aggressive prosecutors on the team, but the report has Mueller’s name on it and it is his historical legacy. He is regarded in D.C. and in legal circles as professional and fair. I would expect him to keep the report as factual and non-political as possible.
  • In Attorney General Bill Barr’s (completely appropriate) press conference this morning, he said in  part,

Continue reading