Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading

Show Business Ethics: Sorry, Nobody Feels “Safe” At Auditions

An actress named Ingrid Haas complained about a demeaning experience auditioning for the Super Bowl commercial advertising Bon and Viv Hard Seltzer. In a first-person essay published by Vice titled “My Bikini Audition From Hell Shows How Little Hollywood Has Change,” Haas wrote that she was embarrassed when a male casting employee told the women in the ad’s audition that they would have to dance in front of a camera for 30 seconds. When she asked why they had to dance, she wrote, the man responded: “Welcome to corporate America. This is how we sell stuff.” The actress says that she was proud of herself for refusing to dance, but the experience “humiliated and angered her.” And, of course, she did not get the job.

Anheuser-Busch, which makes the product, is now making politically correct noises and condemned the behavior that Haas described,  insincerely or ignorantly, though the first is more plausible, with Chelsea Phillips, vice president of the company’s Beyond Beer division, telling the media,

“The behavior described in the Vice article is completely unacceptable and goes against everything that our brand and company stand for. I regret that this individual had this experience. Anheuser-Busch does not tolerate any discriminatory or demeaning behavior. I reached out to the production company who produced the commercial, because we hold our business partners to this same standard.”

Baloney. The audition as described was neither atypical, unreasonable,  abusive, nor inappropriate. The ad’s producer’s CEO said,“Each actor was asked to dance at the beginning of their audition as this was a way to show one’s level of confidence.” This is not unusual or wrong. Then he too lapsed into politically correct nonsense: Continue reading

Why I Won’t Be Using Frank’s Red Hot No Matter How Good It Is

I know, I know. I’m like King Canute trying to command the seas, or Grandpa Simpson, shaking his fist and shouting at clouds.  I don’t care. If the culture and societyare going to allow America to be coarsened beyond all reason, at least I’ll be able to say that I wasn’t complicit.

All of my posts on this topic are basically the same; I know it. Here are a few…

[T]he Kraft Heinz Company’s newest frozen meals brand, Devour, has been advertising its products with a TV ad in which a boss catches his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, to which he applies a sexy spank with his fork. The ad’s tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.”

Kraft says the ad is aimed at men aged 25-35, so I guess that’s okay then. Everyone knows that demographic is made up of assholes—is that the theory?—and the best way to please them is to make the kind of juvenile sexual innuendo that we had in naughty songs like “Shaving Cream” about when I was 12. It’s so hilarious when people use a word that sounds like a dirty word in a context where it is obviously intentional, but don’t really say the word, because, see, its, like, not polite.  Got it. My sides are splitting.

…Here is what Ethics Alarms said in response to Heineken’s gay-themed vulgar ad about “flipping another man’s meat”:

‘There is no justification for polluting television and the culture with such ick, and it is irresponsible and disrespectful to TV audiences to do it…the useful and natural filter we used to have on language has been shot full of holes by too many high profile boors to mention, although the fact that one Presidential candidate is one of them doesn’t help.”

On the general topic of giving up any efforts to keep public discourse within civil boundaries, a January 2016 post concluded,

Does everybody want to live in a society where everyone from executives, pundits and actors to nannies, athletes and bank tellers are routinely spewing cunt,fuck, suck and motherfucker like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day? That’s where we’re heading, That’s where we’re heading, if enough people don’t have the guts and common sense to say, and fast,”Oh, stop it. Learn to speak like an adult.”

Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as a sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” to code “fucking,” and K-Mart thinks it’s funny to use “ship” to suggest “shit,” because who doesn’t want to think about shit? We make our own culture in the end, and if we want to live in a cultural pig sty, then that’s where we will live. Apparently no one cares, or not enough of us, anyway.

In 2015,  a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial featured the tags “Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  I wrote,

“Who decided that gratuitous sexual innuendo is inherently hilarious and appropriate in every context, at every moment? Well, no one yet. Again, it is the boors in ad agencies and clods in corporate boardrooms who are pushing us down this uncivil, impolite, needlessly sleazy path.  We can remind them that there are limits dictated by taste and decorum, or we can just shrug it off, part of the irreversible ratchet process called “defining deviancy down.”

Two years later, Volkswagen has Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees” (Dean’s version above is better, a joy)  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples who own it engage in vigorous sexual intercourse.

Now Frank’s Red Hot is being praised for it’s new, catchy slogan, originally uttered by an elderly actress (because old people being vulgar is always hilarious, for some reason): “I put that [shit} on everything.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/19: A “Who’s The Most Unethical?” Poll

Good Morning!

Let’s play “Who’s the Most Unethical?” Today’s contestants…

1. About that missed call. In last weekend’s NFL play-off game won by the Rams over the Saints, the refs missed blatant pass interference that all agree should have been called, but wasn’t. Most also agree that the officiating botch probably cost New Orleans a title the team deserved to win, as well as a trip to the Super Bowl. Some fans are even suing the league, demanding that the game be replayed from the moment of the infraction. Of course, in the age of TV replays, there was no excuse for any of this. An official watching the game on video in a booth somewhere had to know there was interference, as did everyone watching the game in bars and living rooms around the nation. NFL rules, however, don’t permit reversals of calls on that particular kind of play, at least until Locking the Barn Door After The Horse Has Gone, NFL-style, kicks in after the season, and the rule is changed.

I’m always thrilled to see pro football embarrassed, especially when it has significance for baseball. All season long, in discussions among broadcasters, ex-players and sportswriters about whether Major League Baseball should computerize ball and strike calls as they easily can, I kept hearing the fatuous argument that human error was “part of the game.” The point is ridiculous, and thank you, NFL, for graphically illustrating why. In a sports competition, the team that has played the best and deserves to win after all the vicissitudes of the game—the bad bounces and lucky breaks—have taken their toll should triumph, and fans of the game should be able to trust that it will. For the wrong team to win because a non-player makes an error of omission or commission that is obvious to everyone cannot be tolerated by a sports organization with any respect for its sport or its followers. Allowing a championship to be wrongly decided because of an official’s error isn’t charming, it’s horrible. If it can be prevented, and it can, then it is unethical not to. Continue reading

The Gillette Ad

“Everyone” is talking about the new Gillette ad above. It is cynical, manipulative in sinister ways, unfair, insincere, divisive, unfair, and wrong. Over at Reason, the usually rational Robby Soave was sucked in (as was Ann Althouse, who said the little boys at the end moved her to tears—Awwwww!) defending the ad:

But the ad never said that all men are bad. It never argued that masculinity is always and everywhere a dangerous ideal. It made a very modest statement—treat people better—in hopes of selling more razors to people who agree. Again, why is this bad?…Young guys need to learn from men who treat women well and act as protectors rather than victimizers, which…is exactly what the Gillette ad called on men to do. People are free to associate with whatever brand they want, so if Gillette’s so-called virtue signaling bothers someone that much, that person may go ahead and buy razors elsewhere. But it would be a shame if the right started boycotting companies for taking the position that maybe hurting people is bad. Is owning the libs really that important?

Sucker! I am heartened that the ad has generated overwhelmingly negative responses, and while I would never call for a boycott (I use electric razors, thanks), I would still love to see Gillette suffer for this naked virtue-signaling and insulting stereotype mongering, all while pretending to “care,” when in fact it is just a cynical tactic to create buzz. I hope the eventual buzz is the sound of Remington electric razors.

Jon Gabriel’s reaction was similar to mine:

Gillette has had a rough few years. The former shaving hegemon has seen its market share plummet due to a resurgence in classic “wet shaving,” online razor subscription services, and the popularity of beards. Gillette’s obvious options are to lower their artificially high price or drastically improve their quality. Instead, they’ve decided to make their remaining customers feel bad about themselves through an expensive new ad campaign…. “You’re a very bad person, give us money” is an odd marketing pitch, especially from a company that’s used sex to sell its product for decades…Gillette has now declared war on its customer base. [Quoting the Wall Street Journal]

Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.

Promoting social issues can be effective marketing, but notice the difference. P&G’s female-directed ads make women feel better about themselves. The company tells women “you’re great just as you are” and tells men “you’re bad and need to change.”

“Why is this bad?” asks sensitive Robby. Ah, let me count the ways: Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Reader Poll: Will The SCOTUS Decision on “Fuct” Be Unanimous?

It should be. It’s amazing to me that this issue has to take up the time of the Supreme Court, it’s so obvious.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that case of Iancu v. Brunetti, and decide whether the Lanham’s Act’s ban on “immoral” and “scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused to register a trademark for a line of clothing called “FUCT,” reasoning that “FUCT is the past tense” of a vulgar word and is “therefore scandalous,” a federal appeals court said. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had struck down the ban on scandalous and immoral trademarks in December 2017,  but clothing designer and artist Erik Brunetti had agreed that the Supreme Court should hear the case even though he had won.  The cert petitions are here and here.

The Supreme Court struck down another provision of the Lanham Act in June 2017,  when it held that the ban on “disparaging” trademarks violated the First Amendment. The case, Matal v. Tam, was filed by an Asian-American rock band that wanted to trademark the name the Slants. The vote was 8-0 because Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. That decision also squashed efforts begun by Democrats and the Obama Administration to force the Washington Redskins to give up their “offensive” team nickname. The team’s trademarks had been cancelled in 2014 following complaints from “offended” non-football fans and a small minority of Native Americans. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court,”It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”  The opinion rejected the government’s argument that protected trademarks become a form of government, rather than private, speech. Continue reading