From The Ethics Alarms Archives: Two Ethics Takes On Columbus Day

In 2011, I wrote an Ethics Alarm post extolling Christopher Columbus, and urging readers to celebrate this day named in his honor. Two years later, I wrote a post arguing that the holiday was a mistake. Which is how I really feel? Which is correct? I have no idea. I just read both, and found each persuasive. You know the famous observation in thethe essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds”? Today I like that line. Sometimes I don’t.

I certainly don’t like the current movement to cancel Columbus Day, and Columbus, out of the culture and historical record because he was not appropriately sensitive to indigenous people by 21st Century standards. That is no better than tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee, airbrushing history to avoid the inherent conflicts and dilemmas that make it invaluable to us going forward into the unknown…like Columbus did.

Here are the two posts. You decide. Meanwhile, I’m thrilled I could find the great Stan Freberg’s version of Columbus’s quest (above). More of my sensibilities about life, humor and history were effected by Freberg’s satire than I like to admit…

I. Celebrate Columbus Day, Honor Columbus

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “A Trigger Warning About A Trigger Warning: Audiences Should Walk Out Of The Movie Theater When This Appears”

“For May wol have no slogardie a-night.
The seson priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh him out of his slepe to sterte.”

  Now who can argue with that?  The passage is from a story Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” “The Knightes Tale,” the English  classic written between 1387 and 1400. I did not expect a substantive comment regarding Chaucer to follow an Ethics Alarms post (Chaucer has been mentioned in passing here in the context of the evolution of the English language), but there it was: Michael West revealed his fascinating discovery that Chaucer may have been a pioneer in more than just English literature. Michael’s Comment of the Day is unusual in another way besides its erudition. It was a comment on a post that is nearly two years old. It concerned the jaw-dropping warning that preceded the “Darkest Hour,” the acclaimed film about the wartime heroism and brilliance of  Winston Churchill:

“The depictions of tobacco smoking contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration and are not intended to promote tobacco consumption. The surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with smoking and with secondhand smoke.”

I wrote at the time,

Winston Churchill, you see, smoked cigars. Actually he chain-smoked them, and inhaled. They were among his trademarks. Any adult who doesn’t know that should not have graduated from high school. Interestingly, shooting and bombing people are also serious health risks, so I don’t know why it wasn’t noted that the depictions of warfare contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration.”

Whatever “based solely on artistic consideration” is supposed to mean…

Of course, showing Churchill smoking cigars is not an “artistic consideration,” but one of historical accuracy and integrity. Does this mean that there was really a debate in the studio about whether or not Churchill should be shown smoking, so as not to trigger good little progressive totalitarians, who believe in changing the past for the greater good of the present? I wonder if they considered making Winston, who was fat, appear slim and ripped, since the surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with obesity and over-eating. I don’t see why they wouldn’t, if they felt that showing people smoking in the 1930s, when almost everyone smoked,  might be interpreted as promoting smoking today.  Churchill also drank like Bluto in “Animal House.” Why no warning about that? Uh-oh—does this mean that the film, for artistic considerations, only shows Winston sipping soda water and prune juice?

That warning says to me, “We, your Hollywood moral exemplars, think you are an ignorant, illiterate  dummy who can’t tell the difference between a historical drama and a tobacco commercial. We also support the government’s belief that it should impose on every aspect of your life, including your entertainment, to protect you from yourself.”

I had, mercifully, completely forgotten about that asinine warning, and now I’m ticked off all over again. Gee, thanks, Michael, for reminding me.

Here is Michael West’s Comment of the Day on the post, “A Trigger Warning About A Trigger Warning: Audiences Should Walk Out Of The Movie Theater When This Appears”... Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck: The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator”

Checking what I had written previously about the despicable race-baiting journalist Jemele Hill (who has authored a piece for the Atlantic advocating a return to segregation in college), I re-read the post I had written two years ago as Hill when paving her road out of ESPN. As is often the case, I had completely forgotten what I wrote, and getting re-acquainted with it, I not only approved of the analysis but saw its application as relevant to other situations we have seen since and will continue to see.

Let me add that the fact that angry, divisive, unethical journalists like Hill have a place in legitimate (or what once were legitimate) news and commentary outlets is proof of ethics rot in the industry. She is no better nor different from ugly hacks like Alex Jones on the right, yet maintains visibility and a platform for her cultural poison for three reasons: she is a progressive, she is black, and she is female. None of these are valid reasons to inflict her personal vendettas and hateful rhetoric on America. Jones has been largely banned from social media, but Hill’s bile still flows undammed.

The post also is depressing proof of how relentless and irrational “the resistance” has been The line in the two-year-old essay—“Too many of Hill’s likely peer groups and those around her have, since last November 8, engaged in nearly continuous disrespect of the President’s person, his office, and the process that elected him. This continues to be divisive, destructive, and dangerous for the nation. It is wrong.”—has a familiar ring, for I have written almost the same sentence too many tomes to count since. I will probably write it again next week.

Here, lightly edited, is the September 14, 2017 post titled, Portrait Of An Ethics Train Wreck:The Race-Baiting ESPN Commentator”:

The recent still-rolling ethics train wreck launched by ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Jemele Hill is a perfect example of how such cultural fiascos occur.

Stage I:  The Instigator

Hill, a young African American woman, went on a Twitter rant against President Trump  this week.

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill tweeted. “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”

Factors, Stage I

A. An ethics alarms doesn’t  ring.

Why in the world would Hill think that the face of a national broadcast network could publicly call the President of the United States a white supremacist without causing a problem for her employer? The key ethics values being breached  are trust and responsibility. She has a responsibility to ESPN, which should be able to trust her not to harm it or upset viewers.

B. An instigator has an inflated view of his or her own importance, indispensability, wisdom, expertise or authority.

We are living in an age where narcissism is epidemic, but even so, a sports anchor has to be able to comprehend that once he or she is outside the realm of sports, her opinion on the President or anyone else cannot possibly have a positive effect on public discourse unless it is carefully thought out, crafted,, and expressed.

The key ethics values being breached are competence and  humility.

C. Social media. Continue reading

Labor Day Ethics Quiz: The Dr. Seuss Oath

Conservative writer Megan Fox was left sputtering with indignation after learning that a Missouri councilwoman, Kelli Dunaway (D…of course), took her oath of  office with her right hand on a Dr. Seuss book. “Just because we’ve done things the way we’ve always done them is no reason to keep doing them that way,” she told ABC News.

Good point! Let’s try taking the oath using a hunk of cheese next time!

The particular children’s classic Dunaway chose for this solemn ritual was “Oh the Places You’ll Go” which, ironically, we recently defended here from the accusation that it was racist.

Fox:

“One can only hope that choosing to make a mockery out of the serious pledge to protect and defend the Constitution will be the catalyst to take her to a new place in the next election–the private sector…Meanwhile, real satirists over at the “Babylon Bee” are suffering trying to come up with something weirder than this to report. No wonder Snopes can’t quit accusing the Bee of trying to sound like real news. The real news is insane.”

Is it?

Your Ethics Alarms Labor Day Ethics Quiz is…

Is it unethical–disrespectful, irresponsible, dishonest— to take an oath of office on a children’s book?

I think I’ll wait for some responses before I give my answer…but I have one.

Mark Of The Demagogue: The Ignorant And Dishonest Appeals To Emma Lazarus

Friends and followers: Don’t let anyone get away with this. Using “The New Colossus,” the 1883 poem that appears on the Statue of Liberty as authority in any current debate over national policy is either fatuous, ignorant, dishonest, stupid, or a cynical effort to appeal to the emotions of those who have no grasp of history or logic.

There is are periodic outbreaks of silly Lazerus worship every now and then, and we’re in the middle of another one. Indignant memes showing Lady Liberty and some or all of Emma’s one hit poem are popping up all over social media. Anyone who posts one is either an ignoramus, a liar, or shamelessly trying to suck up to progressive friends who are dishonest and ignorant, hoping that nobody will notice. I notice, and so should you. Call them on it. Appealing to the words of “The New Colussus” is approximately as  valid as extolling the words of “Imagine,” “Jabberwocky,” or “Me So Horny.” Anyone who tries it should be mocked and shamed.

The Trump administration issued a final rule yesterday empowering federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who have received certain public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future. Good. This is sensible and responsible policy, and while polls are inaccurate and the public doesn’t understand what it says it approves or disapproves of much of the time, it is also policy about 3/4 of the public seems to agree with.

Of course, Democrats are calling it “racist,” since anything that the Trump administration does is racist. The negative stereotype of the immigrant who dashes to the welfare office the second he becomes a citizen has been around for decades…

but Americans don’t find the behavior funny, and should not. Expecting new Americans given the privilege of using our individual liberties to succeed to the extent their abilities, creativity and diligence will take them to be self-sufficient is completely reasonable and responsible. It also is 100% consistent with the expectations when Emma Lazarus wrote her poem. There was no welfare, public housing, food stamps or other public assistance waiting for those  tired,  poor,  huddled masses yearning to breathe free. There was just the air to breathe free, and the opportunity to succeed or fail. Continue reading

From The Mouths Of Babes…Cultural Poison

A recent question to Phillip Galanes, the advice columnist whose “Social Q’s” feature for the New York Times has frequently sparked Ethics Alarms essays, was fraught with larger significance.

A mother said that her 12-year-old daughter had a a sticker on her water bottle quoting Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” The girl’s friend told her that  systemic racism made that statement false for many Americans, so the sticker was racist. The daughter then peeled off the sticker. “What’s a mother to do?” was the gist of the inquirer’s appeal. Continue reading

Meet The New APSA Editorial Team, George Orwell!

[For the second time in a week, reading a near-head-exploding ethics item right before bed has caused insomnia, necessitating this late-night post. My brain was already churning as I try to solve a work-related conundrum: this, I didn’t need. But this kind of stunning hypocrisy, dishonesty and lack of integrity the nation and the world don’t need, either.]

Behold a recent announcement from The American Political Science Association. Read carefully, now:

APSA Announces the New Editorial Team for the American Political Science Review for 2020

The American Political Science Association is delighted to announce a new editorial team to lead the American Political Science Review (APSR).  The APSA Council selected a team co-led by twelve political scientists from many institutions across North America. The new team’s term begins on June 1, 2020 and runs through May 31, 2024.

  • Sharon Wright Austin, Professor of Political Science, University of Florida
  • Michelle L. Dion, Associate Professor of Political Science, McMaster University
  • Lisa García Bedolla, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division and a Professor in the Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
  • Clarissa Rile Hayward, Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Kelly M. Kadera, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Iowa
  • Julie Novkov, Professor of Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University at Albany, SUNY
  • Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Associate Professor of Political Science, Purdue University
  • Dara Strolovitch, Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies and Politics, Princeton University
  • Aili Mari Tripp, Wangari Maathai Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Denise M. Walsh, Associate Professor of Politics and Women, Gender, and Sexuality, University of Virginia
  • S. Laurel Weldon, Professor of Political Science, Simon Fraser University 
  • Elisabeth Jean Wood, Crosby Professor of the Human Environment and Professor of Political Science, Yale University

Vision Statement by the Editors

We are honored to have been selected as the American Political Science Review’s new editorial team. We thank the APSA Council and the selection committee for their confidence in our team and for their support for our vision. In entrusting the editorship of the association’s flagship journal to our diverse and all-woman team, the Council is demonstrating its commitment to promoting a wider range of voices and scholarship in the journal and the discipline.

Notice anything strange? Ridiculous, mayhap? Babylon Bee-worthy, you might say?

It’s this: “our diverse and all-woman team.” Continue reading