Category Archives: Literature

Ethics Dunce: The Dr. Seuss Museum

The fanatics who pollute the left end of our political spectrum apparently have no limits to their purges, political correctness tantrums, grandstanding, bullying, and efforts to warp the past, present and future. To fit their rigid view of a “just” culture, they have begun demanding that the cultural landscape must constantly be cleansed; no real or imagined discomfort to sensitive progressive souls can be permitted to survive in art, history, literature or the public square.

Since even their worst excesses are cloaked in self-righteousness and the Saint’s Excuse, what this requires of the rest of us—you know, those who have perspective and proportion, believe in diversity of thought, and object to airbrushing reality out of the nation’s palette—to have the courage and integrity to say, “No.”

Sometimes “Hell no.”

The directors of the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts lack these and other necessary markers of ethical character and responsible citizenship. Thus when three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Seuss Museum to be held on October 14 threatened to boycott the event because the above mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive, the museum cravenly excised that section of the painting.

Mo Willems, Mike Curato and Lisa Yee issued a public letter condemning the drawing as a “jarring racial stereotype… with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.”

“We find this caricature of ‘the Chinaman’ deeply hurtful, and have concerns about children’s exposure to it,” they wrote.

If the directors possessed comment sense, principle or the backbone God gave a guppy, they would have written back,

“We are sorry you cannot attend, and also that you are so enamored of political correctness grandstanding that you would unjustly insult Theodore Geisel, his work, his millions of fans, and this museum by your false and hysterical characterization. We do not engage in censorship here, nor do we accept presentist slurs on past art that involve retroactively applying modern sensibilities or hyper-sensitivities, to classic works that are decades old.”

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?

Let’s look at the offensive figure again: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Literature, Race

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/17: Amazon Purges Reviews For Hillary, Equifax Must Die, Making Literature More Diverse, And The Red Sox Get Away With It…

GOOD MORNING!

1 “It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?”

This is the response that the widow of writer Roald Dahl to a reporter’s suggestion that Charlie, the hero of Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (aka “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:) should be made black in a future “reworking” of the book. Recently Mrs. Dahl has claimed that Charlie was originally supposed to be black, but that her husband changed the character before the book was published. She blames his agent, who was, she says (none of this is more than hearsay) afraid that the book wouldn’t sell as well in American with a black hero. She blames “American sensibility.”

No, it wouldn’t be wonderful to start changing the races (and inevitably, genders and sexual orientations) in “reworkings” of literary classics. It would be unethical and irresponsible, as well as a defilement of the author’s visions and creations. Whatever the reason was, and we cannot know it regardless of what Mrs. Dahl now claims, Charlie was white in Dahl’s book. If he had wanted his book to be about a black child, or a little girl, or a Muslim transsexual, the author would have made it so. If someone obsessed with tribal identity politics wants to write a new adaptation under their own name so we can jeer and mock him or her, swell. But it isn’t any more “wonderful” to “rework” Dahl’s own story this way than it is to make Bob Cratchit black, or Captain Ahab black, or Bigger Thomas in “Native Son” Asian-American.

Of course, a stage or film adaptation of the book can cast it any way it chooses.

2 The major business ethics story this past week has been that data security breach by credit giant Equifax. An estimated 143 million Americans now face identity theft for the rest of their lives because the company wasn’t competent to be in the business it was in. It’s that simple. The ways in which Equifax blundered into allowing all this data to be hacked are legion, with more revelations almost daily. My personal favorite is that it neglected to install a patch that would have made its files more secure, delaying for months for no good reason.

Business analysts point out that despite this massive demonstration of ineptitude, the company is not likely to suffer more than the cost and inconvenience of a class action lawsuit or five. The companies that pay Equifax weren’t harmed by the breach, just the lives of the credit-seekers who they use Equifax to check. Nobody seems to think that even this massive misconduct will put Equifax out of business.

The company has dumped some executives, and will probably dump some more, reorganize, and padlock that barn door securely now that the horse has fled. TooLate. The company is untrustworthy, and more than that, companies like Equifax that gather personal information about innocent citizens need to be scared sick about what will happen to them if they can’t keep the information from falling into malign hands. Equifax needs to be put out of business. Its leaders and management need to be imprisoned, fined so severely that they are reduced to eating cat food, or blacklisted so their future employment is limited to bait shops and traveling carnivals. Continue reading

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I Hate To Say This, And Believe Me, I REALLY Hate To Say This, But The More I Read Of “What Happened” And The More I Hear Hillary Spin Her Defeat, The Less Upset I Am That Trump Is President

Exhibit A:

Yes, Hillary Clinton thinks the lesson of Orwell’s “1984” is that the public needs to rely on leaders, the news media and “experts.”

This would have exploded my head, thus earning a KABOOM! tag, if it was much of surprise. There is no benign reading of this passage, which was presumably either written by Clinton or approved by her, as well as by editors who one would assume had her interests in mind. Hillary is saying that it is authoritarian to try to define reality, and that the public should trust the government, leaders, the press and approved experts to define reality.  Their authoritarianism is evil; OUR authoritarianism is good, because, of course, we are right. Hillary Clinton thinks this way. She just told us, if we didn’t know already.

Terrifying.

Or, perhaps, “Whew! That was a close one!”

This is, as readers of Ethics Alarms will recall, the reason I ultimately abandoned my decision to vote for Clinton as the horrible but obviously better candidate than Donald Trump. I realized that Hillary and her party now embodies exactly this anti-democratic and creepily (and creeping) totalitarian mindset. We know what’s best; we are manipulating the news, facts, and public opinion (and the nomination, debates, statistics, FBI investigations, the Constitution, Senate procedures, IRS policies, whether Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video…) for your own good, so trust us; when they do it, it’s wrong and sinister, but when we do it, it’s gooooood… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Leadership, Literature, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

The Stupid Wall

The current Trump upset over the Stupid border Wall is fascinating as a lesson in the danger of making improvident promises that you don’t think you will ever be in a position to break. Presidential candidates do this all the time; I don’t think Trump’s Stupid Wall was even the worst of the 2016 crop.  The President almost certainly thought he had no chance of winning when he began promising to build the SW, then doubled down when he said, ridiculously, that he would make Mexico pay for it.

A lie is still a lie when it is said to deceive even if only the gullible and dim will be fooled, as the old Ethics Scoreboard (current down, but it will rise again) used to  remind readers when it celebrated such lies in its David Manning Lie of the Month, named after Sony’s fake movie reviewer that Sony argued wasn’t fraudulent since nobody believed those review snippets in movie ads anyway. “Manning” had said that Rob Schneider’s  idiotic comedy “The Animal” was a comic masterpiece.

It’s not certain that the President knew the idea of the SW was ridiculous since he is—well, you know. Either way, however, it was a promise that shouldn’t have been made, just like Bernie Sanders’ promise only to appoint SCOTUS justices  who would “repeal” Citizens United should never have been made. Luckily for Sanders (and the rest of us), he wasn’t elected, and never had to try to deliver. That’s just moral luck, though. A promise you cannot keep is unethical when you make it, whether your ethical breach is dishonesty or incompetence. Continue reading

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From “The Progressive War On Free Speech” Files, The Unethical Website Of The Month: “Leave Your Dog Poop On Crissy Field”

I’d like to take a national poll, a California state poll and a San Francisco poll asking who thinks deliberately littering the site of a planned far-right demonstration with dog shit is an ethical thing to do. I think it would tell us a lot.

Patriot Prayer, a far right group that has held several  “free speech” events in the Pacific Northwest, applied for and was awarded a permit to hold a demonstration today on San Francisco’s Crissy Field.  San Francisco’s officials, being totalitarians at heart and like their increasingly senile but steadily anti-speech member of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, hostile to the concept of free speech, tried to pressure the National Park Service to deny the group a permit. The Service, foolishly hewing to the Constitution, demurred. The city’s police department  planned for a riot.

To foil the demonstrators, an artist named (yes, I checked this one for being a hoax) “Tuffy Tuffington,” had a brainstorm, or perhaps shit-storm is the better description:  to make the beach uninhabitable for Patriot Prayer First Amendment protected proceedings, he urged San Franciscans to plan to festoon Crissy Field, which is normally a lovely beach by the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, with piles of their various dogs’ droppings

“I just had this image of alt-right people stomping around in the poop,” said Tuffy, a self-righteous asshole. He is convinced that this is the best way to respond to right wing extremists in the wake of Charlottesville.  Presumably, President Trump will be required under threat of impeachment to declare that there is nothing wrong with defiling a public place and breaking the law to make it impossible for a group to demonstrate, because it is a false moral equivalency to insist that all Americans have equal access to Constitutional speech. Do I have that correct, Tuffy? Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: “13 Reasons Why”

“13 Reasons Why” is a Netflix  television series based on the 2007 novel “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. A high school student receives a box containing 13 cassette tapes recorded by his friend Hannah Baker, before she committed  suicide. The show has been a critical and popular success (although the Times didn’t like it much) , and a second season is planned.

But Researcher John Ayers of San Diego State University has studied the results of the show on the culture by monitoring discussions of suicide on the internet following the debut of “13 Reasons Why.” The phrases “how to commit suicide” and “commit suicide”  have experienced a 26% and 18% increase in searches. Ayers sees no other explanation for this other than the show.  Searches for the phrase “suicide hotline number” also jumped, by 21%

Ayers now says, “Our worst fears were confirmed That is, thousands of people, thousands more, are searching online about ways to kill themselves.”

Ayers wants the first season to be re-edited to discourage suicidal behavior, and argues that the second season should be postponed. “Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization’s validated media guidelines for preventing suicide. The show’s staff instead continue to prefer their gut instincts,” Ayers says.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this head-scratcher…

Is it ethical for Netflix to continue running the series in light of Ayers’ research and recommendations?

Continue reading

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Lying To Us To Make Us Feel Better: Those Fake Crosswalk Buttons

In the classic science fiction story “The Marching Morons”  by American writer Cyril M. Kornbluth,  the world hundreds of years in the future is a reverse-eugenics nightmare. Between centuries of intelligent people not having children (perhaps to address climate change?) and excessive breeding by fools and dolts, the typical member of the public has an IQ of around 45, while an elite few who have IQs of 100 or more work around the clock to save the world, and the morons, from chaos. One of their tricks is to manufacture cars that make lots of noise and create the illusion of high speeds to fool the morons, who are (as we all know) wretched drivers. In truth, the cars crawl along more slowly than tricycles.

I thought of this when reader and frequent commentator here Charles Green noted in his excellent newsletter that those buttons at pedestrian crosswalks in major cities are an intentional fraud on the public, a placebo to keep us calm and feeling in control when we are not. Charles link was to my old hometown paper, the Boston Globe, but it’s behind a paywall. Never mind, though: newspapers have periodically been noting this phenomenon for years. They apparently think it is amusing. It isn’t.

The New York Times reported in 2004 that the city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the advent of computer-controlled traffic signals.  Today there are 120 working signals; about 500 were removed during major construction projects. But it was estimated that it would cost $1 million to dismantle the rest of non-functioning mechanisms, over a thousand of them, so city officials decided to keep them in place. And people keep pushing them. After all, sometimes, by sheer luck, the light changes soon after the button has been pushed. It works!

Tribal rains dances “work” the same way.

ABC News reported in 2010 that it found only one functioning crosswalk button in a survey of signals in Austin, Texas.; Gainesville, Florida, and Syracuse, New York. Other studies have turned up similar results in dozens of other cities. To be clear, presenting a button to pedestrians that is represented as a legitimate tool to cross the street when in fact it does nothing is a lie. It is an intentional falsehood, designed to deceive. Continue reading

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