Tag Archives: airbrushing history

Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Sorry, Steve Bartman, But It’s Impossible To Leave You Alone

As the Chicago Cubs plowed their way to the World Series and a possible end to their 108 year failure to win a World Series, numerous sports writers, including some I thought were smart enough to know better, set out to prove their compassion, sensitivity and gooey caramel centers by arguing that the news media and fans should “leave Steve Bartman alone.” Bartman, for those of you who have lived in a bank vault since 2003, was the hapless young Chicago Cubs fan who unintentionally interfered with a foul ball that might have been catchable by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou in the decisive game of 2003 National League Championship Series. In a perfect display of the dangers of moral luck, Bartman’s mistake—it didn’t help that he was wearing earphones and watching the ball rather than the action on the field—began a chain of random events  that constituted a complete collapse by Chicago in that very same half-inning, sending the Miami Marlins and not the Cubs, who had seemed comfortably ahead, to the Series. Bartman, who issued a sincere and pitiful apology, was widely vilified and literally run out of town. He then became part of Cubs and baseball lore, one more chapter in the sad saga has been called “the Billy Goat Curse,” the uncanny inability of this team to win it all.

Over time, even Bartman’s tormenters came to see that holding him responsible for the team’s failure was cruel consequentialism at its worst. Alou, who had sicced the Furies on Bartman by angrily pointing at him after the incident from the field and later told everyone that with the interference, he would have caught the ball, even came out ten years later–five years!—to say that he wouldn’t have caught the ball, and Bartman wasn’t to blame. (I wrote about that epic example of barn-door locking here.) Now, NBC’s Craig Calcattera and many others are beating a new drum: nobody should write about or talk about Stave any more, because it’s so unfair. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Journalism & Media, Sports

KABOOM! ESPN Achieves A New Low In Unethical Journalism: Misinforming The Public Out Of Spite

If you told me ESPN COULD make my head explode, I wouldn't have believed you...

If you told me ESPN COULD make my head explode, I wouldn’t have believed you…

ESPN has been foundering in a sea of ethical ignorance for some time now, but this was shocking even for them.

In a petty exercise to express its disdain and and anger at dismissed baseball commentator Curt Schilling, the sports network excised an entire section of its documentary on the legendary 2004 American League Championship play-offs when it was shown last night prior to the scheduled Red Sox-Yankee game. I cannot think of a single example of unethical journalism by a major outlet so blatant and so offensive.

Let’s go back a bit. Schilling is an outspoken religious conservative, active on social media. He was suspended from his baseball game broadcasting duties last season after comparing Islamic radicals to Nazis in a Twitter post—not all that unreasonable, actually, but if ESPN has a policy against its employees making controversial political statements on social media, and apparently it does, Schilling was asking for trouble.

Indeed, Curt has nothing if not integrity when it comes to expressing himself, and he could not resist commenting on the transgender bathroom controversy, re-tweeting a particularly ugly meme on the issue:

transgender bathroom tweet

ESPN fired Curt. He had earlier in the year opined in a radio interview that “If I’m gonna believe, and I don’t have any reason not to believe, that she gave classified information on hundreds if not thousands of emails on a public server after what happened to General Petraeus, she should buried under a jail somewhere.” Allowing for hyperbole, that’s a perfectly legitimate position to take, but again, if ESPN doesn’t want Curt, who it was paying a million bucks or so, to take shots at someone it believed its audience members were fond of,  it can instruct its employees accordingly. It expressed its objections to Schilling, and he tweeted the meme anyway. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Social Media, Sports, Workplace

Ethical Quote of the Month: Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler

cosby-star

“The answer is no. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk.”

Leron Gubler, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, answering a question about whether Bill Cosby’s star would be removed from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cosby was formally charged with sexual assault today in Pennsylvania, the first time allegations of any of his nearly 50 accusers have resulted in a court appearance. The Cos is out on a million dollar bond.

Exactly.

Variety also quotes the late Johnny Grant, a former chairman of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Committee, who once addressed the status of another fallen star’s place on the walk, saying:

“Stars are awarded for professional achievement to the world of entertainment and contributions to the community. A celebrity’s politics, philosophy, irrational behavior, outrageous remarks or anything like that have never been cause to remove a Walk of Fame star.”

On this matter of ethics, at least, Hollywood gets it, unlike Disney World, Harvard Law School, Princeton, the University of Kentucky, the World Fantasy Award, Connecticut Democrats, the National Park Service, Saltzburg University…and many others.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, History

Ethics Quiz: The Nazi Scientist

Scientist, genius, Nobel Prize winner, Nazi. Now what?

Scientist, genius, Nobel Prize winner, Nazi. Now what?

Konrad Lorenz, 1903-1989 ,  was an acclaimed Austrian zoologist regarded as the founder of modern ethology, which is the study of animal behavior. His research  explained how behavioral patterns may be traced to through evolution,  and he made major contributions to the study of aggression and its roots. Lorenz shared a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973 with the animal behaviorists Karl von Frisch and Nikolaas Tinbergen.

It seems that documentation surfaced proving that Lorenz joined the Nazi Party in 1938, however, and for that, Austria’s Salzburg University last week posthumously stripped him of his honorary doctorate.

Your Day Before The Night Before Christmas Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

Is this the right thing to do?

Continue reading

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KABOOM! From The Niggardly Files: It Has Come To This!

No, this graphic makes no sense, but neither does anything in the post...

No, this graphic makes no sense here, but neither does anything in the post…

A whole set of ethical guidelines were built upon the infamous episode in the District of Columbia government when a white executive was disciplined for using the word “niggardly,” because some of the products of the District of Columbia public schools were unfamiliar with the word and took offense. Then there was the time the Los Angeles NAACP attacked Hallmark for a “talking card” with an outer space theme that mentioned “black holes,” thinking the card was talking about “black ‘ho’s.”

These and similar episodes are usually fairly filed under “Morons” and can be recovered from if not forgotten. College students, however, engaging in this kind of race-obsessed word confusion is too much for my always combustible brain. This caused my head to do its best Krakatoa impression.

Ready? You are warned: Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Kaboom!

Ethics Quiz: Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s Fresco

Fresco

In 1934, under the auspices of the New Deal’s Public Works of Art program, artist Ann Rice O’Hanlon painted a fresco (the largest ever painted by a woman up to that time) in the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall. It has become famous and is much admired by art historians, and thousands of Kentucky students have walked past it through the decades. The large, six section artwork depicts many events, industries, traditions and activities that were significant to the state, invented in Kentucky or by Kentuckians, as well as historical events. Among the scenes shown are black slaves picking tobacco and black musicians serenading whites.

Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s masterpiece became the target of choice at Kentucky as the University ‘s black students were seeking to emulate the power plays by their equivalents at the University of Missouri, Yale, Amherst, Harvard Law, Dartmouth and other institutions. The Kentucky students held a meeting with president Eli Capilouto and argued that the fresco was offensive, as it relegated black people to roles as slaves or servants, and did not portray the cruelty of slavery and the later Jim Crow culture that existed in the state.  Capilouto capitulated, agreeing to move the work to “a more appropriate location.” In the meantime, Kentucky will cover up the 45-by-8-foot fresco while adding a sign explaining why the mural is obscured.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Should a university remove works of art on campus because particular groups of students or individual members of such groups find the artwork upsetting, offensive, or a negative influence on their experience?

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society