There are a lot of angles that I was tempted to apply to this Weird Tale from The Great Stupid about a longtime, popular talking head for a Jackson, Miss. news broadcast. It is obviously a “when ethics alarms don’t ring” story, for example. It could be used as evidence of persistent racial insensitivity in Mississippi, or the South, or the nation. The episode might be cited as more evidence that public apologies are usually meaningless, and that after-the-fact trainings for employees who utter words that suggest they have, let’s say, racial, gender and ethnic biases are window dressing and just about useless.
However, I’m going to cite the episode as an example of how broadcast journalists are hired more for their non-intellectual assets than any genuine talent in analysis and reporting, and also to illustrate how incomprehensible the current rules are regarding who can say what during The Great Stupid.
Barbie Bassett (above) was a popular news anchor, weather lady and a traffic reporter for WLBT, an NBC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi. The former beauty queen—beauty queens are innately talented as journalists, did you know that?—has been a fixture at the station for 23 years, but hasn’t been seen on the air since March 8 though the station hasn’t make any official announcement. She has apparently been sacked, since her image and any traces of her have been purged from the station’s website.
Bassett’s demise was triggered when she participated in a segment on a new variety of wine from Snoop Dogg’s Snoop Cali Blanc wine collection. (Now there’s news the public has a right to know!) Barbie was chattering away and quoted Snoop’s trademark gibberish, “Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle!” “Nizzle” is Snoop for “nigga.” Even though the rapper is featured in national TV ads for a couple of products and treated as a cute and harmless celebrity, white people aren’t allowed to say “nizzle,” though heaven knows why they would want to.
I can understand one dim bulb not realizing that this was a vulgar, juvenile, and offensive promotion. But an entire tourism organization? Nobody stepped up and said, “Wait a minute! Are you people nuts?”?
Experience Regina, the tourism organization in Saskatchewan’s capital city of Regina, came up with an oh-so-clever idea for new tourism campaign slogan: “Show us your Regina.” They really did that. They had a second slogan too: “The city that rhymes with fun.” Get it??
Venus is a town in Texas, by the way. Just thought I’d mention it.
Back to Regina: oddly, many people found the two slogans inappropriate. Actually, just about everyone did, which again raised the question of how these locker-room level gags got past the first brain-storming session. So, because nobody involved possessed either good taste, the sense God gave an oyster, or the guts to stand up and make the tourist promotion equivalent of, “Uh, General Custer? I don’t think going down into the valley is such a good idea,”Experience Regina’s CEO had to release a quick abject apology. groveling,
“I want to start by apologizing, on behalf of myself and our team, for the negative impact we created with elements of our recent brand launch. It was clear that we fell short of what is expected from our amazing community with some slogans that we used.”
Now he needs to resign for assembling such an inept and sophomoric staff.
Incidentally, there is a Delores, Colorado. Maybe he can start over there…
Here is a really weird question posed to “The Ethicist,” offered not for the issue raised (which is not exactly a tough one) but for the manner in which it is presented. The bolding is mine:
When my father died, my family took photos of his body before he was cremated. The photos were of him at home, peaceful in bed; my mother wanted to tenderly remember him both in life and in his death. My partner at the time uploaded these photos to their computer, storing these and other images in their cloud server as we archived memories from the trip home to say goodbye to my father.
One evening later that year, my then-partner pulled up the photos and did a slide show of our trip for their family. When my partner got to the images of my father’s dead body, they went through every image instead of skipping over them. It was immensely painful, compounded by the fact that my father is a Black man and these images were being shown to an affluent white family. The race and class dynamics here were staggering — it felt as if this white family was viewing these images as entertainment. This was among the incidents that triggered my ending therelationship; my ex didn’t quite understand why this was inappropriate or painful.
As we were breaking up, I asked that they erase the images from their drive. Since that time, they’ve made a million excuses as to why they can’t erase the images — the drive is in storage, they’ve moved, etc. It’s now been nearly six years. Still, I am deeply disturbed by the lack of control I have over these images. Currently my ex lives in the U.K., and I live in the U.S. What is the correct course of action here? Do I let it go? Seek legal action? My great fear is that these images will circulate into the futurewithout my or my family’s consent. — Name Withheld
Language is supposed to communicate, not be distorted to satisfy narcissistic eccentricities and grandstanding. Who or what “moved,” the ex-, her family, or the photos? The account is absurdly ambiguous, although if you pause long enough along the way and think hard, you probably can figure it out—except that human communication is not supposed to be like Rubik’s Cube.
In a typical incident, Whoopie Goldberg, once an iconoclast and truth-teller who didn’t bow to political correctness, groveled an apology to Woke World after…
…for using the word “gypped” in a spontaneous comment among “The View’s” usual incompetent blather. Now a virtual slave to the social media mob (Oooh, can I say “slave”?) Whoopie quickly told her Woke masters that she didn’t mean to utter a taboo word when she said, “The people who still believe that [Donald Trump] got gypped somehow in the election will still believe that he cared enough about his wife to pay … that money from his personal thing.”
She should be apologizing for taking a check to communicate like an illiterate 8th grader, but no: here was her actual apology: “When you’re a certain age, you use words that you know from when you were a kid or you remember saying and that’s what I did today. And I shouldn’t have. I should’ve thought about it a little longer before I said it, but I didn’t, and I should’ve said cheated, but I used another word and I’m really, really sorry.”
“Gyp” as a verb supposedly began as a reference to Gypsies and their alleged tendency to steal or trick unsuspecting marks. Did Whoopie use the term to insult the people who the language police demanded be called “Romani”? No. Did anyone have any problem understanding what she meant by “gypped”? No. Is she an Ethics Dunce by falling into line and acting like a good little bootlicker when she should have said, “I have nothing to apologize for. The whole ‘if a word may have originated from a reference that was motivated by prejudice or malice hundreds of years ago, it must be banned in 2023′”‘ is censorious garbage, and I refuse to follow it; grow the hell up!”?
Sadly, poor Whoopie is now stuck for life babbling with a bunch of idiots on TV and can’t afford to be courageous or principled, for she depends on Woke World to make a living.
In my home state of Massachusetts, the town of Southborough’s comment policy at town meetings partially read: “All remarks and dialogue in public meetings must be respectful and courteous, free of rude, personal or slanderous remarks. Inappropriate language and/or shouting will not be tolerated.” Southborough resident Louise Barron was accused of violating the civility policy during a town meeting and was threatened with physical removal before she left on her own accord.
In her remarks to the board, Barron had said the town was “spending like drunken sailors” and that the town board had violated the state’s open meetings law. A town official warned Barron against slandering town officials, telling her that the public comment session would be stopped. Barron refused to back down. “Look, you need to stop being a Hitler.” Barron said. “You’re a Hitler. I can say what I want.”
The board called a recess, and told Barron that she would be escorted from the meeting if she didn’t leave, precipitating her exit. That action by the Southborough government, Justice Scott L. Kafker of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote, violated protections for freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, according to the Court’s ruling handed down on March 7. His majority opinion held,
“Although civility, of course, is to be encouraged, it cannot be required regarding the content of what may be said in a public comment session of a governmental meeting. What can be required is that the public comment session be conducted in an ‘orderly and peaceable’ manner, including designating when public comment shall be allowed in the governmental meeting, the time limits for each person speaking, and rules preventing speakers from disrupting others and removing those speakers if they do.”
Business.com performed an experiment by sending two identical fake resumes to “180 unique job postings that were explicitly open to entry-level candidates.” Both featured a gender-ambiguous name, “Taylor Williams.” The only difference between two resumes was the presence of preferred gender pronouns on the test version. The test resume included “they/them” pronouns under the name in the header.
The fake resume including preferred pronouns received 8% less interest than the one without them, and fewer interview and phone screening invitations.
The researchers found this “worrisome.”Ryan McGonagill, director of industry research at Business.com, told NBC,
“The law makes it clear that you cannot base any employment decision (hiring, terminating, or otherwise) based on their gender identity. It’s incredibly disappointing and unethical that many of the hiring managers in our study would disqualify a candidate for being authentic.”
In describing to lawyers what deceit is in my ethics seminars (it is amazing how many layers don’t know what deceit is, though it is forbidden in the ethics rules), I often say that deceit is the official language of Washington, D.C. It’s a reliable laugh line, but it’s not funny. Using linguistic tricks to deceive and mislead the public is a tool of dangerous and untrustworthy governments, movements, leaders and politicians. I don’t know if this age old practice has become worse in recent years; to me it seems that way, but it could be an illusion. In the Sixties, leftists like Abbie Hoffman liked to use “liberate” as a synonym for “steal.”
The success of “Black Lives Matter” relied on a linguistic disorientation, like the old gag about a lawyer asking a witness, “When did you stop beating your wife?” What has been dismaying is how few people have the wit and courage to call out the trick and refuse to back down. The use of “immigrants,” “migrants,” “undocumented workers” and other deliberately misleading terms to hide the reality that the subject is law-breaking aliens has also been largely successful in bamboozling the public. “Affirmative action,” a nice and deceptive way to say “racial quotas,” is finally going down, but it kept the Constitution at bay for half a century. The all-time most sinister linguistic cheat, perhaps, is the use of the benign word “choice” to describe the right to kill unborn children.
Lately, the most prominent verbal deceit is embodied in the “Diversity-Equity-Inclusion” mantra, with “equity” serving as the cornerstone of the cheat. Most Americans—hey, thanks, public education system!—think that equity is just another word for equality. Now that Democrats and progressives are fully committed to socialism (while denying it—that’s not deceit, it’s just lying) they have been bombarding the public with the word without clarifying its implications. Equality means equality under the law; it means that every citizen has the same opportunity to accomplish what his or her talents, effort, ingenuity, determination, laws and the vagueries of fate and fortune allow without obstruction by the government. Equity means that every citizen should be guaranteed the same success to the extent government power can make such “equity” possible. It is based on the socialist/communist ideal that it is unfair that life provides unequal benefits , ability and advantages, so central power must ensure fairness by artificially eliminating as many disparities in these benefits , ability and advantages as possible.
For the second time this week I find myself grafting substantial sections of an archived Ethics Alarms post to a new one. (I promise not to make a habit of it.) The occasion is the appearance on one of my Alexandria, Virginia neighbors’ lawn the idiotic sign above. Once again I was seized with the desire to ring the house’s doorbell and cross examine the residents. Can they explain and justify what’s on that sign? I am almost certain that they cannot, just as my other neighbor who STILL displays a medieval suit of armor next to a 5 x 4 hand-made, painted wooden sign reading BLACK LIVES MATTER in block letters could not justify that obnoxious lawn ornament, since it is, after all, more indefensible than ever now that the movement it stands for has been exposed as cynical hustle.
In 2021, New York Times’ woke propaganda agent Amanda Hess was given a rare slot on her paper’s front page to opine on the sign above, which was apparently the beginning of the the viral Announce to your neighbors that you’re a smug, simple-minded idiot!” epidemic. Ethics Alarms has had several posts about similar signs, but I did not realize that I had missed Patient Zero.
Hess’s analysis by turns informed readers that the sign has “curious power” (to make me detest the homeowner?); that the mottoes are “progressive maxims” (so progressives really are that facile and shallow!), that “Donald Trump is out of office…But nevertheless, this sign has persisted” (Oh! It’s all Trump’s fault?), that the sign is “directed at the adults in the room, reminding them of their own mission” (Really? Open borders? Man-boy love? Anti-white discrimination? Marxism? Why is a sign aimed at adults so naive and childish? ), that it is “the epitome of virtue signaling: an actual sign enumerating the owner’s virtues. There is something refreshing, actually, about the straightforwardness of that.” (There is something refreshing about smug idiots placing signs on their laws that say, “I am a smug idiot”?).
Some misguided fool at the conservative polling operation Rasmussen Reports convinced the gang to ask 1,000 randomly chosen Americans two questions:
1. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s OK to be white”?
2. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “Black people can be racist, too”?
Question #1 is unforgivable—incompetent, irresponsible, unethical. “It’s OK to be white” was designed as parallel “gotcha!” linguistic retort to “Black lives matter,” an equivalent to “When did you stop beating your wife?” What does it mean? Agreeing with “It’s OK to be white” might mean, “I reject the premise behind Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory!” It also could mean, “Of course it’s okay to be white; any other position is racist.”
Disagreeing with the statement might mean, “I see what you’re doing there: trying to weasel out of white society’s obligation to recognize the intrinsic injustices it inflicts on black citizens!” Or it might mean, “I hate those honky bastards! They’re all the same: evil.” Without defining terms, no poll is legitimate.
I view this as similar to the “It’s OK to be white” controversy. It’s a veritable Rorschach test that provokes thought, consideration and discussion, and any business that does that without being pompous and annoying (Like, say, Starbuck’s) is making a positive contribution to public discourse.
“I had a high school student who thought it was okay to bring a Nerf gun in with another employee here,” the shop’s manager added. The other motivation for the sign was humor. Yet some critics on social media are “offended.” Is the sign a subtle shot at DEI? Is the shop saying people are stupid?
On balance, I’ve decided it’s a constructive and courageous message, especially in the Age of The Great Stupid.