Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/1/2020: I See Bad People And Penis-Talkers

1. This may not be the most trustworthy advocate for the President’s favorite Wuhan virus medicine…President  Trump’s supporters among the punditry and conservative bloggers briefly celebrated the endorsement of  hydroxychloroquine, despite recent studies questioning its effectiveness and safety, by Dr. Stella Immanuel. Support for her was redoubled after her posts were taken down by both Facebook and Twitter as “misinformation.” That’s censorship, of course, and arguably partisan.  Immanuel has an opinion. However, her response to the censoring of her posts does not enhance her credibility. She tweeted,

2.  I see…he shouldn’t be honored because he was white, right? I have reached the point where I have to conclude that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez just isn’t very bright, and those who support her passionate—but stupid!—pronouncements have a similar basic competence problem. Take this example: AOC complained in a video,

Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told — and virtually no one else. Check out Hawaii’s statue. It’s not Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, the only Queen Regnant of Hawaii, who is immortalized and whose story is told. It is Father Damien. This isn’t to litigate each and every individual statue, but to point out the patterns that have emerged among the totality of them in who we are taught to deify in our nation’s Capitol: virtually all men, all white, and mostly both. This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day.

I’ll have to do a full post on the entire “white supremacy” canard, which is basically linguistic game-playing. Culture, everywhere, is primarily determined by the majority.  In a majority white population, white people, their habits, preferences, interests and values, have the strongest effect on the culture. Because there are more of the majority than other groups, they also will tend to have the greatest visibility and participation in that area’s history. Framing this rather obvious and universal situation as something sinister is silly as an argument, and evidence of impaired critical thinking skills if one is persuaded by it. Continue reading

Tuesday Dusk Ethics Musings, 7/28/2020: Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

I had a friend who was sure the lyrics were about “ducks in the wind.” Dust, ducks, dusk…whatever. Never liked the song, but it suits my mood after today’s farewell to an old friend, maybe the sweetest person I’ve ever known or ever could know, at Arlington. Here were old friends, many who hadn’t seen each other in many years, standing around, six or more feet apart, trying to talk through masks and to recognize each other.

This is no way to live.

1. I have to say this: At a time when Gilbert and Sullivan is being “cancelled” by the sick combination of hyper-sensitivity to fantasy gender stereotypes and the ignorant belief that “The Mikado” is racist—morons!—I should not be forced to listen to Lifelight’s badly set, forced, incompetent parody of “The Major General’s Song.” I could write better lyrics than that, yes, even about vegetable meat substitutes, with half my brain tied behind my back. There’s no excuse for such lazy, lousy writing, especially for compensation. Was the writer the company CEO’s 12-year-old niece?  Gilbert and Sullivan were geniuses; their work shouldn’t be desecrated like that.

2. Shut up, David. David Price, who couldn’t be bothered to play baseball and help relieve the public’s stress for a paltry 10 million dollars, is home and sniping at Major League Baseball for not shutting down after 14 members of the Florida Marlins tested positive for the Wuhan virus. Well, some of his colleagues need their salaries, unlike Price, who has a 150 million or so in the bank unless he has a gambling habit, and baseball, to its credit, is determined to gut it out, much as it did during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Good. Thank-you.

3.  How can anyone take an award seriously that does something like this? On the other  hand, it’s comforting that after all these years, the Kennedys are still hyper-partisan, hypocritical, and silly. 2020’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Awards, which supposedly honors “changemakers” who are advancing human rights, equality and justice, have been awarded to, among others, Dr. Fauci and Colin Kaepernick. The Kennedys’ game could not be more transparent if they admitted it. Kaepernick, whose questionable contribution  to human rights has been kneeling where he shouldn’t and cashing in with Nike, but he’s a walking Black Lives Matter ad, and so it’s a poke in the President’s eye. As for Fauci, the message is that he’s brilliant, so Trump is the reason why the pandemic has raged.

Here are some recent award winners: Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi. Continue reading

Is It Unethical To Use HIV Transmission As A Plot Element In Drama?

In an essay in The Body, an HIV-AIDS community website, Abdul-Aliy A Muhammad argues that it is unethical and exploitive for writers to use the disease as a plot point in TV shows and movies. His argument is pitched at black writers particularly. (In case you are not familiar with the term he uses, the “down low” refers to apparently heterosexual black men who secretly have sex with males.) He argues in part,

Last week’s episode of the popular show on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Greenleaf, provided a storyline that’s become all too familiar—the disclosure of HIV status as a spicy and scandalous plot twist.

…During this season, at the end of episode three, a shocking reveal happens: AJ was raped in prison, and the person who raped him transmitted HIV to him. AJ is now suffering from HIV disease and finally tells Grace. That’s how the episode ends. As an HIV-positive Black person, my heart sank, because again, the failure to hold any nuance with HIV emerged, 16 years after the “down low” and HIV plot twists of the early 2000s. It’s as if we’re frozen in time.

… I want to say this to the writers and producers of Greenleaf, and other Black creatives: HIV is not a plot twist device. HIV is not a caricature, and HIV is not predatory. Yes, there are the very real stories of people contracting HIV after being raped, and yes, there are some people who are not fully open to their partners and who may have transmitted HIV. But the narrative of HIV as a hidden monster and prison rape are not what drive the epidemic in Black communities.

…[T]here have been many harmful representations of HIV stories in the media. Let’s start with Tyler Perry’s 2010 film…For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. In his film adaptation, Janet Jackson’s character, “Lady in Red,” is married to a man named Carl Bradmore…His character is struggling with sexual desire and can be seen cruising for other men in the film, and ultimately there is a scene where oral sex is performed in a car. Hardwick’s character Carl Bradmore is in a BMW under a bridge and gets head from another Black man.

…Throughout the film, Lady in Red has a scarf tied around her neck, and toward the end, the scarf is red. She coughs frequently and drinks tea, ostensibly to soothe her throat. The drama erupts toward the end of the film, when they are both sitting on a bed and not facing each other. She says something to the effect of, “You can keep your sorry and your HIV”—which is saved as a grand reveal, to provide shock and melodrama to the story. Shange’s original play includes no “down low” men, and it was written before HIV, so these aspects were specifically added by Perry.

I watched this film in shock…. My mother was a Tyler Perry fan; she thought his desire to (and practice of) giving leading roles to Black actors was something to celebrate. I on the other hand felt… here again is another media representation of the [down low] monster as a viral operative to drive the drama of the plot, and to both titillate and disgust. There is data that suggests that Black people aren’t doing anything behaviorally different than white people when it comes to intimacy or other vulnerable ways to become HIV positive. The difference in disproportionate infections comes from anti-Black racism that discourages trust of systems and incarcerates and criminalizes Black people. Our vulnerability is undergirded by the lack of infrastructures of care and the breakdown of food systems in the hood and in the rural South.

Until we truly consider the truth about HIV and not the easily propagated myths, we are doing more harm to our communities and aren’t standing in solidarity with HIV-positive Black people…. Isn’t it time for TV and film catch up and stop with the same tired use of HIV as plot twist or cautionary tale. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Calisthenics, 7/19/2020: Fig-Heads!

1. Our trustworthy news media, which we can trust to behave like this... From my AOL news feed: “Trump says he may not accept 2020 election results.” From the transcript of the Chris Wallace interview that the headline is referring to:

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: No.

What the President would not do is promise to accept the results if there were a  valid reason not to accept the results. Once Al Gore challenged the Florida vote count after Bush had been declared the winner in 2000, the long standing precedent, followed by election losers like Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Richard Nixon, all of which had reasons to question the results in their contests, of accepting defeat without a challenge was erased. If any of it remained at all, Hilary Clinton’s pursuit of some way of reversing the Electoral College tally in 2016 completed the job. Trump’s refusal to promise a return to the old tradition is reasonable,  especially with the chicanery enabled by mail-in ballots. What Joe Biden has suggested, despicably, is that Trump will not give up the Presidency even if he is defeated unequivocally and fairly. There is no justification for suggesting this. There is far more reason to believe that any Trump victory, even a resounding one, will send angry and frustrated Democrats into the streets

Trump, as usual, was trolling with his coy response here…

WALLACE: There is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

TRUMP: And you know what? She’s the one that never accepted it.

WALLACE: I agree.

TRUMP: She never accepted her loss and she looks like a fool.

This isn’t a topic he should be playing with, because the Democrats and the news media will claim that something sinister is in the works. Trump gives a strong hint of his real meaning: if Hillary looked like a fool by refusing to accept the election results, he wouldn’t want to behave like Hillary. But the President should have simply said, “If I lose, fair and square, of course I will accept the results.”

He also should have answered Wallace’s question as I would have, by saying, “Chris, the tradition you speak of has been rejected twice by losing Democratic candidates since 2000.”

2. There’s no excuse for this in 2020. I could not believe my ears as I watched “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”last night.

I thought that a TV version of “The Hard Way” (1991)  I watched a bit of until I couldn’t stand any more had wrapped up the all-time prize for idiotic Bowdlerization of movie dialogue with such substitutions as “slug in a ditch” for “son of a bitch.”  I mistakenly assumed that the days of red-penciling movie dialogue on the theory that a film’s audiences would be made up of six-year-old Mennonites and 88-year old nuns were long gone. But here was a a 2017 movie with a lot of rough language being made ridiculous by word censorship. “Fuck” was alternately represented by “flock,” “flip,” and “freak.” “Mother-fucker” became “flipper”—in a bar scene, I at first thought a fight started because one character called another a dolphin. “Bitch” for some reason was removed in favor of the word “cuck,” except it was pronounced like “cook.” A character complained about there being “too many cucks in here,” and for a second I thought I was watching “The Great British Baking Show.” All of these strange words ruined the movie, first because the silly replacements turned a smart and moving drama into a absurdist Monty Python skit, and second because the word substitution was so eccentric that I was constantly taken out of the story by wondering, “What word was supposed to be in there?”

In one scene, the protagonist played by Frances McDormand burst  into the police station calling the officer played by Sam Rockwell a “fig-head.” Another officer indignantly shouts at her, “You can’t come in here and call a law enforcement officer a fig-head!” Wait–what the hell is a fig head?

This is incompetent and unfair to the film, the artists who made it, and the audience.

3. OK, I admit it, I have no idea what Kanye West is doing. And I don’t care. After announcing he was running for President, then implying that he wasn’t, the mentally ill rapper held a campaign event yesterday highlighted by his criticism of Harriet Tubman on the grounds that she “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.”

This is gallactically stupid, but it’s still smarter than Candidate Trump’s criticism of John McCain’s war heroism. At least Tubman, her family and friends aren’t alive to exact their revenge on West should he get elected.

Requiem For “My Mammy”

 

I was just running an errand, and on the Sirius XM 60’s Channel they were playing the top 40 songs from this date in 1967 (my favorite year). And what should come on but The Happenings, the Four Seasons-imitating group best known for “See You In September” and the whitest group in history, singing “My Mammy,” the Al Jolson trademark song that he originally sang in blackface.  (I apologize for using the non- “Jazz Singer” version of Jolson singing the song, but an article about blackface got Ethics Alarms banned from Facebook, and I don’t want to give them provocation to have me shot The video above also has another Jolson standard, “April Showers.” There’s nothing wrong with more Jolson; he was one of the great ones.)

I had forgotten that The Happenings had a mild hit with it as the follow-up to “I Got Rhythm.” “My Mammy,”music by Walter Donaldson and lyrics by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis, is a terrific, tingles-up -the-spine song and performance piece (“I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles!”), but I assume it is now impossible to present because of its blackface connotations.

The loss of “My Mammy” isn’t  a great tragedy, but it’s still a tragedy. Big chunks of our culture are going to be torched before this insanity burns itself out, if it ever does. I have a feeling that I’ll be fighting this battle for the rest of my life.

Afternoon Ethics Agony, 7/9/2020: I See Awful People…

Hi!

I am feeling stressed because there are a lot of Ethics Alarms projects  and commitments that are languishing: I’m trying to work out the logistics of a Zoom symposium for commenters; I have to compile the many submissions for the corporate and organizational grovels to the George Floyd mobs so we can vote on the best and worst; I am finishing the Ethics Alarms glossary of fake news categories, and I still owe Michael  West his prize from an Ethics Alarms contest he won a couple of years ago—and that’s still not all of them. The best I can say is: please be patient, because I’m not.

1. Is this a good sign, or something else? I turned on Sirius-XM’s “Comedy Greats” channel while driving to pick up some prescription and heard a segment of a Nick DiPaulo routine that was unbelievably politically incorrect, or, as many would say today, racist, misogynist and anti-trans. The audience was in hysterics; several of the jokes were so extreme—but funny!—that I nearly lost control of the car. I had to check: no, he hasn’t been assassinated yet. Neverthless, I felt like I had fallen into a parallel universe. DiPaulo makes Dave Chappelle seem like Art Buchwald.

2. How about “Lady Asshole”? Several readers sent me links to this story, telling us that the Grammy-winning vocal group  formerly known as Lady Antebellum, having decided to ditch the second half of their name to grandstand and show that they support tearing down statues, are now suing Anita White, a blues singer who has called herself “Lady A” for decades, because she wouldn’t sell  the rights to that name to them for a price the group found reasonable.

I can’t imagine anyone being sympathetic with the group, especially a jury. Nobody made them change their name, and choosing “Lady A” without doing sufficient research was negligent. The group is using wealth and fame as a cudgel, with three rich white jerks trying to bully a local (and black) artist into bending to the their will. I hope someone has started a GoFundMe page to help Anita with her legal fees.

3. Find my 2011 post on Donald Trump running for President, substitute Kanye West’s name for his, and you’ll have the Ethics Alarms position on Mr. Kardashian’s candidacy. I know a lot of celebrities and too many members of the public don’t comprehend this, having the civic literacy of gerbils, but our democracy is not a game. Running for President as an exercise in ego-massage and branding is wildly irresponsible, and threatens to distort voting and results. West is not a serious candidate, but he’ll attract attention and the support of those who vote purely on the basis of group biases.  But the news media will give him more attention than he deserves, which is none, and he could easily take votes away from Democrats.

The good news is that since Kanye has approximately the attention span of a mayfly, it’s a good bet that this impulse will be fleeting, just as Trump’s was in 2011. Continue reading

Tuesday Ethics Tidbits, 7/7/2020: Goodbye To “Social Q’s,” Faithless Electors And A Weenie Judge

1. I’m cancelling Philip Gallanes. The advice columnist in the Times’ Sunday Styles section has provided some interesting topic for discussion here, but there have to be some consequences for irresponsibly spreading propaganda and falsehoods, even if they are sanctioned by his employers. In response to a “Social Q’s” query from someone who was annoyed that a neighbor had posted a “Defund the Police” sign and asked if it would be ethical to eschew calling the cops if she saw her neighbor’s house vandalized (Answer: Of course not.), Gallanes had to give readers the whole set of George Floyd Freakouts talking points:

“Many of the reports I’ve read about defunding the police focus on limiting the deployment of armed police officers to situations where they may be necessary and helpful — such as violent crimes. Many activists point to the large share of state and local budgets dedicated to police services when many calls to police (about persistent homelessness or family conflicts, for instance) would be better handled by social workers. Why not redirect some police funds to affordable housing and mental health services, they ask?”

Then why not say what you mean, I ask? Defund means defund. I resent this dodge.

“Still others would like to dismantle the current model of policing, as Minneapolis has pledged to do, and reimagine community safety given the frequency with which officers kill unarmed Black men and women.

And how’s that working out so far for Minneapolis, Phil? The frequency in which officers kill unarmed Black men and women is called “infrequently,” and the frequency is decreasing. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 3…Ethics Fireworks (and Duds)!,” Item #5

Extradimensional Cephalopod lassoed itself a Comment of the Day (I love the image of a cepalopod using a lasso!) with his musings on why races were designated “black” and “white,” since the white/black dichotomy is so frequently used to describe good/evil.

Here is his—its?—Comment of the Day on the fifth item (about Twitter banning such words as “whitelist” and “blacklist”) in the post, “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 3…Ethics Fireworks (and Duds)!”

I’ll be back at the end with a rather lengthy discourse of my own on this subject, because it’s a favorite of mine.

I actually find it annoying that on the one hand, human races (groups of humans who share some similarities in appearance) have historically been identified by colors associated with their skin, while on the other hand, completely independently and before meeting humans from other continents on a regular basis, Europeans started to use colors to indicate whether things are good or bad.

This etymology likely came about because when things rot they often turn black, and because blackness implies darkness (the absence of light), which most humans use to evoke ignorance, fear, or bad luck because they can’t see in the dark. (I use the metaphor of darkness in a much more neutral/benevolent sense, but that’s quite rare.) Interestingly, the color white is associated with death and mourning in many Asian cultures.

With the exception of finance (black ink marking positive numbers and red ink marking negative numbers), most historical evocations of the color black indicate evil, corruption, morbidity, or otherwise something negative. “Black heart,” “blackguard,” “black magic,” “black hat,” “black market,” “blackball,” “blacklist,” “black mark,” “black day,” “black comedy/humor”… Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2020: Updates On Baseball, The Pandemic, The News Media, And The Little Girl Who Sang “Tomorrow” When We Needed To Hear It…Like Now

Chin up, everyone!

“Annie” opened in the gloom of the Carter Presidency and the Watergate hangover, and it’s hit ballad, “Tomorrow,” sung by a relentlessly optimistic orphan with her scruffy dog at her side, , became a sensation until everyone got sick of it.

Unlike so many child phenoms, there was a bright tomorrow for the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, the 12-year-old with the freakish belt.  She never made the leap to movies, but she has had a steller stage career that’s still going strong, aided by the fact that puberty was good to her, and her voice mellowed without losing its clarion strength. 

After “Annie,” McArdlehad starring roles on Broadway in  “Starlight Express,” “Les Miz,” “State Fair,” and as Belle in “Beauty and The Beast.” For the last 20 years she’s continuously starred in regional production and tours, national and international, of such shows as “Cabaret,””Gypsy” (as Mama Rose), “Mame” and “Hello Dolly,” and several times in “Annie,” though now, in middle age, she plays the little girl-hating comic villain, Miss Hannigan (third photo, first row).

But she can belt out “Tomorrow”…as should we all.

1. Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck update:

  • Apparently the memo has gone out to the mainstream media that highlighting the George Floyd Freakout/Black Lives Matter mob’s anti-America rampage isn’t helping the cause of getting rid of President Trump. Thus it’s back to fear-mongering about the pandemic. Sunday’s Times was filled with giant, scary maps with big red blotches, and the headline was “Virus Inundates Texas, Fed by Abiding Mistrust of Government Orders.” The only non-editorial content in that headline is “Texas.” Further down on page one, another headline about a story that literally has nothing to do with the virus begins, “As Virus Rages…”

In contrast, there was no mention of how protesters danced on the American flag and chanted “America was never great!” during D.C.’s Fourth of July celebration, or how D.C.’s BLM flack mayor Muriel Bowser allowed the mob to block traffic returning to Virginia after the fireworks.

  • When I saw this story last night, I predicted that it would receive far more publicity than the death of a relatively little known 41-year-old Broadway actor normally would warrant. The reason is that  Nick Codero died from a series horrific complications after being infected–a series of strokes, heart failure, lung failure, the necessary amputation of his leg.

The severity of his reaction without having any underlying conditions is obviously an anomaly, but I see on my Facebook feed that friends are already hyping it to argue that America should remain in lockdown until everyone is living on the dole and wearing rags.

  • It’s not going to work now. People are right not to trust “government orders,” since the states and cities have abused their power with arbitrary restrictions and inconsistent enforcement, made fatal miscalculations (like Gov. Cuomo’s dumping of infected seniors in nursing homes), and the waffling CDC, including Dr. Fauci, has no credibility at all. (Rand Paul’s criticism of Fauci in the Senate hearing last week was  fair and appropriate.) Major League Baseball, having committed to the season starting this month, is noting infections among players, getting them quarantined,  and moving forward, in contrast to the NBA cancelling its season after a couple of infections in the Spring.

Good. Play Ball! Continue reading

A Typically Deranged Example Of The George Floyd Freakout In Destructive Action, As It Takes Every Bit Of Self-Restraint In My Being Not To Laugh, Because That Would Be Wrong

Now the statue-toppling, America-hating, woke-police have come for “Hamilton.”

That’s ignorant and destructive, as well as as stupid, like so much of what we have allowed the Black Lives Matter mobs to do. It is unethical, and as predicted by anyone who has learned the history fanatic movements throughout world history, it was inevitable. Such anger-driven uprisings never stop until they start devouring their own.  “Hamilton” doesn’t deserve the attack, but as one of the more arrogant and offensive agents of the resistance when it was just getting rolling on its divisive, self-righteous way, I am finding it difficult to be as sympathetic to its fate as I should be.

You will recall that about a week after the 2016 election, the cast of “Hamilton,” led by its star and creator Lin-Mamuel Miranda, signaled that all rules of fairness, respect and decorum were suspended as the Left vowed vengeance on Donald Trump, his supporters and allies. The cast ambushed Vice-President- elect Mike Pence, who had come to see the performance like any other audience member in any other audience, and who had every right to be treated with the same deference. Instead, the cast called out Pence during the curtain call, and subjected him to a scripted lecture, beginning,

“We hope you will hear us out. We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

How naive and quaint those words sound today, a little less than four years later, as the chaotic madness spawned by “the resistance” is in the process of trying to tear down the nation, constrict our rights, and replace our values. Continue reading