Common Sense Doesn’t Matter Either: The “Woke” Acting Profession Is Betraying Audiences And Dooming Itself (Part I: “The Simpsons”)

Item: Fox’s apparently immortal animated series The Simpsons  released a statement last month regarding casting for non-white characters, including  black characters on like  Dr. Julius Hibbert: “Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”

This, stupid as it is, follows the non-logic of recent white actresses who dropped their gigs as the voices of grayish-brown inked “mixed-race” cartoon characters. How will that “only people of the same race can play roles of characters of that race” be reconciled with the objective of  non-traditional casting, which was devised in part (many decades ago) to open up more opportunities for black and minority actors, allowing them to take on roles written as white?

It can’t. It’s as simple as that. The two approaches eventually clash, and are mutually exclusive. “The Simpsons” policy is wrong and destructive in every conceivable way, and its ethical values, as in competent, fair or responsible, are non-existent.

  • If white actors can only play white characters, then white characters cannot be played (or voiced) by black performers. Oh, I’m sure that while in the grip of fear during the George Floyd Freakout and overwhelmed with the desire to signal virtue to one’s peers, white performers will tolerate such an obviously unfair and absurd double standard for a while, but show business is a brutal and competitive field, and the vast majority of actors of any color have scant financial resources and no job security. The arrangement being pushed by black performers and activists as they sense a window of opportunity created by the Freak-out and the concomitant intimidation of decision-makers will eventually engender resentment and conflict. If the BLM lackeys in the entertainment field really think that this double-standard “solution” to “systemic racism”—which means installing a new system of systemic anti-white racism—will prevail, they are deluded.
  • Moreover, the idea is anti-art, as is the “non-traditional casting as affirmative action” fallacy. If the performing arts aren’t a meritocracy driven by the market—does the performance entertain, or doesn’t it?—then they are doomed. Even with all the brainwashing and bullying to come, the public will never have enough people who will like a show (or a novel, or a painting, or a song)—or pay money to see it— based on its demographics and diversity rather than the quality of the performances
  • To “The Simpsons” and similar products, if the authentically black voice of Dr. Hibbert isn’t as funny, well-timed and deft as white Harry Shearer’s performance, the character won’t be as effective.

I look at all productions this way: a perfect show has 1000 points. Everything that isn’t perfect loses points for that production—a bad accent here, an ill-fitting costume there, missed lines–they all count.  One flaw that loses a few points won’t kill the show; it might not even be noticed. But all of those lost points add up, and when the points sink below a certain level, the production is no longer viable.

“The Simpsons” is voluntarily giving up points, which is simply bad show business and terrible art. If Harry Shearer is the best voice for the Simpsons’ family doctor, then it can’tmatter what color he is. The audience doesn’t care.  Every show loses points no matter how perfect it tries to be; giving them up intentionally is unethical, because the artist’s duty is to present the best, most popular and most profitable  work possible, not to meet EEOC quotas.

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Facts Don’t Matter: Academic Research Undergoes The Ultimate Integrity Meltdown

Heather MacDonald, whose Congressional testimony Ethics Alarms noted here, writes in the Wall Street Journal,

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a peer-reviewed journal that claims to publish “only the highest quality scientific research.” Now, the authors of a 2019 PNAS article are disowning their research simply because I cited it.

Psychologists Joseph Cesario of Michigan State and David Johnson of the University of Maryland analyzed 917 fatal police shootings of civilians from 2015 to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings. Neither did. Once “race specific rates of violent crime” are taken into account, the authors found, there are no disparities among those fatally shot by the police. These findings accord with decades of research showing that civilian behavior is the greatest influence on police behavior.

In September 2019, I cited the article’s finding in congressional testimony. I also referred to it in a City Journal article, in which I noted that two Princeton political scientists, Dean Knox and Jonathan Mummolo, had challenged the study design. Messrs. Cesario and Johnson stood by their findings. Even under the study design proposed by Messrs. Knox and Mummolo, they wrote, there is again “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by the police.”

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

The authors don’t say how I misused their work.

In a move redolent of Soviet-style retroactive censorship, Michigan State University deleted its press release promoting the study, which had said in part, Continue reading

The “I’d Say ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ But In A Home Office During A Pandemic Friday’s Just A Name” Ethics Grab Bag, 7/10/2020

1. Re: Privilege and bit more on the Harper’s letter fiasco. At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein flags this tweet by New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi:

A few thoughts:

  • Why do I subscribe to a paper that would employ someone like this? I forget.
  • She’s a bigot. I just wrote a bit on the “privileged smear” on another thread:

I have to say again that I do not comprehend the “privilege” line of thought at all. In the hands of most who wield it, I find the tactic the equivalent of Butch Cassidy kicking huge Harvey Logan in the balls to start their knife fight….

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Ethics Encounter In The CVS Parking Lot

My local CVS on Quaker Lane in Alexandria, VA, scene of many human dramas….

The errand I tried to complete this afternoon (resulting in my hearing the most outrageous comedy act I have encountered  since Red Foxx and Buddy Hackett were in their vulgar primes) failed, so I had to return to my pharmacy to get four refills of various drugs. As I was getting out of the car, I heard a loud voice shouting “God DAMN you!” and realized that the expletive came from behind the mask of large African-American man  of indeterminate age. I had to ask, “Was that directed at me?”

He immediately shook his head vigorously and walked over to me, saying, “No no! I’m so sorry, I was yelling at myself! I’m so damn mad—I locked myself out of my car!”

He continued, “Hey, maybe you’re my guardian angel.” He started handing me his IDs and wallet, and showed me the pills he had just received from the same pharmacy where I was headed. The man was sweating hard.  “I’m not some gangster or anything, I swear—I’m just hot, and tired, and I have prostate cancer…” I interrupted him.

“Just tell me how I can help. Do you need a ride home?” Continue reading

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

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers: “Cult Programming In Seattle,” And the Duty To Confront

This—the George Floyd Freakout, the indoctrination in schools and colleges, the submissive endorsement of the irredeemably dishonest, racist and Marxist Black Lives Matter and its fellow travelers, the Red Scare-reminiscent punishing and shunning of dissenters, the political and partisan enforcement of laws as journalists remain silently complicit—you know, this, has  begun to make me think I’m in another remake of “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” What never made any sense in any of the versions (the original, with Keven McCarthy and directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame was the best) is that aliens could take over the minds and bodies of millions of Americans across the country without anyone figuring it out, and without the news media warning the world with front page headlines and “how to stop the pod people” features. It  also seemed absurd that only McCarthy and his friends (or in the much grosser but less creepy re-make, Donald Sutherland and his friends) were the only humans who appeared to have the will and the gumption to try to resist the invasion.

I also have found myself pondering the end of “Three Days of the Condor,” when Robert Redford tells a horrified CIA official that he has passed on evidence of the agency’s lawless and murderous ways to the New York Times. Who or what can be trusted today to blow the whistles when it is the increasingly totalitarian Left moving to take over minds and destroy democracy? Continue reading

Update: The Answer To Question 13 [Updated Again!]

The above is Reddit’s new policy. It is one more example of unthinking and unethical “answers” to systemic racism.

On June 17, in this post, I concluded with a proposed answer to my Question 13, “What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?” That answer:

…special accommodations and benefits for African Americans in all things. Affirmative action in employment, promotions, salaries and school admissions; preference in grading, contracting and hiring; elimination of any standards that African Americans continue to lag in meeting. Reparations, of course; race-based leniency in law-enforcement and sentencing; plus  culture wide discrimination in favor of blacks and against whites in all things, all instituted by the intimidation, punishment and “cancelling” of anyone who dissents.

The accuracy of my prognostication has become apparent within a little more than two weeks. As Jeff Goldlum says ruefully in “Jurassic Park” as the T-Rex escapes,

Though the text of the “What We Believe” section of the Black Lives Matter site is so expansively vague and utopian that it could, literally, mean anything, in the rush to satisfy the explicit and implicit threats levied by spokespersons for the “movement” and the reality of the mobs, the woke, the cowardly, the terrified and the foolish have laid the following at the feet of the champions of “systemic race reform”

  • Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced plans to “correct inequalities in healthcare coverage in the state” by  expanding health care coverage to every black Kentuckian. Of course, state benefits distributed on the basis of race are per se unconstitutional, but his announcement was widely praised.

This was among the priorities he priorities he said all Kentuckians should support on moral grounds as part of his responce to the fatal shooting of a black woman during a botched house search by Louisville police, though there was and is no evidence that the accident was triggered by race or racism.

  • Students at the University of Washington and elsewhere demanded that professors to grade black students’ finals with more leniency. Students started a petition on Change.org that asks for professors to “give Black students a break!

Over 60, 000 have signed the petition. Such a policy, which some professors have implemented, endorses openly race-based grading.

  • Following through on The University of California Board of Regents vote to restore affirmative action to the admissions process, though granting preferential treatment to applicants based on their race or gender in public education or employment has been outlawed in California since 1996, the California legislature has voted to strike these words from the state constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”

The debate made it clear that the intent of the amendment is to permit discrimination on the basis of race and color. It is in open defiance of basic civil rights and equal protection under the law.

UPDATE: This is as good as a place to mention his as anywhere. Don Lemon, CNN’s second dimmest anchor, recommended that it would be salutary to add Barack Obama, “front and center,” to Mt. Rushmore. The justification would be that he’s black.

  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, the avowed Marxist who was allowed to inflict her false history “1619” project on Times readers, schools and the nation, as given a platform again (in the Times Magazine) to call for reparations. Five days later, last Sunday, the paper itself devoted a its opinion section to  “The Economy We Need” (“The America We Need” online)  a series of articles by Leftist members of the Times Op-Ed staff and academics advocating reparations for African Americans, usually while not using those words. The section was headlined throughout in inch-high red block letters.

Among the most prominent articles: “Banks Should Face History and Cancel Black Debt Now. Continue reading

And Today’s “Madness! Madness!” Item Of The Day: “The Unintentional Racism Found In Traffic Signals”

I didn’t make that title up. “The Unintentional Racism Found in Chex Mix,” I made up. Not  the other one.

You can read the article here.

The writer, David Kaufman, says in the article that he is black, so I’ll take his word for it. I’m not going to fisk or rebut the piece, any more than you would take the time fir rebut my Chex Mix conspiracy theory, if I really wrote it down. Both articles inhabit the special category  of “res ipsa loquitur” reserved for things that, without further analysis or explication, prove that their creator is mentally ill, or, in the alternative, trying, for whatever reason, to make people believe waht isn’t so, or, possibly engaging in satire. When you  read the article, the latter possibility is quicklyerases, and so is the second. The author is serious. He is deranged.

Here’s one section, just to illustrate:

“And there you have it: The government-approved origins of the “little White men” telling us to cross the street at corners across New York….I am now convinced that technology and necessity, rather than some anti-Black conspiracy, propelled the shift from verbal crosswalk cues to a lunar-white Walking Person. But my heart still sinks at the specter of teaching my sons to ask a White man for permission to do — well, anything. Because so much of the world already insists that we do.”

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Warning! You Never Know What Someone Is Going To Decide Is Racist…

These four Jimmy John bozos were fooling around, playing with dough. One made a noose with the dough, except that nooses aren’t made out of dough, so it wasn’t a noose. He then looped the dough-noose over his neck, as you can see. Then they posted the hilarity on YouTube.

  • They would not have done this, presumably, if they thought it was a demonstration of racism.
  • There were no African Americans present who could decide that the dough-noose was some kind of threat.
  • Nothing in the video suggests a racist attitudes or a racial motive….

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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