Comment of the Day: “The Pope’s Smoking Gun”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican Ambassador, now residing under a bus...

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican Ambassador, now residing under a bus…

The blatant dishonesty of Pope Francis posing as an apolitical moral authority while engaging in outright political advocacy before the U.S. Congress, as he accepted accolades from manipulative partisans who have no interest in religion but who nonetheless were delighted to exploit his influence for their own purposes, was nauseating. Nearly as nauseating was the furious attempts by Catholics as well as these Pope fans-of-convenience to spin his comments and his conduct in support of Kim Davis, and by extension, her rejection of gay Americans and the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

After several days of stonewalling, the Vatican decided on a strategy that should be familiar to anyone who follows U.S. politics: make a lesser official the scapegoat. The difference, of course, is that because this is the Pope, we are supposed to accept such standard duck-and-cover strategies as (heh) the gospel truth. I was preparing to write a post about the furious spinning going on to excuse the Pope’s inexcusable conduct when the Vatican spoke up, and Rich in Ct did an excellent job analyzing the ethics carnage.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Pope’s Smoking Gun. I’ll be back at the end: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Washington Post Film Critic Ann Hornaday on “Selma”

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“How to reconcile facts and feelings, art and fealty to the truth? When filmmakers recall with pride about the deep reporting and research they’ve done for their projects, then they deserve to be held accountable for their projects. For fact-based films, accuracy becomes a formal element, along with acting, design and cinematography. It’s up to each viewer to identify the threshold where artistic license compromises the integrity of the entire endeavor. Cinema has more responsibility in this regard precisely because of its heightened realism, its ability to burrow into our collective consciousness and memory, where the myth has a tendency to overpower settled fact. But viewers have responsibilities, too. If accuracy has become a formal element of historical dramas, then the ensuing fact-checks have become just as integral a part of how we view them. That means it’s incumbent on audiences to engage in a mode of spectatorship that, rather than decide who’s right, can listen to and respect expert critiques, and still open themselves up to a piece of filmed entertainment that speaks to less literal, more universal truths.”

—–Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic, on the controversy regarding the counter-factual treatment of President Lydon Johnson in the new film, “Selma.”

The question of whether film makers have an ethical obligation to fairly represent history, and particularly individual historical figures, in their movies has been a topic visited frequently at Ethics Alarms, and I’m not going to re-hash conclusions that have been thoroughly discussed before, such as

…here, regarding the casting of “The Impossible” with a gleamingly light-skinned central family and the changing of the real life heroine from Spanish to British

…here,  discussing complaints that a fictional event was not portrayed accurately in “Noah”

…here, exploring the many falsehoods, some quite despicable, in James Cameron’s “Titanic”

…here, regarding unfair criticism of “Argo”

and here, discussing “Lincoln” screenwriter, playwright Tony Kushner’s inexcusable choice to represent a real life former Congressman voting against the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery when in fact he voted for it.

The conclusion of that last one sums up the lessons of the rest, I think. Kushner’s defense against criticism of the collateral damage his invented facts wreaked was to argue that they were legitimate tactics in the pursuit of drama and “greater truths.” He then compared smearing the reputation of a Congressman, to the detriment of his descendants, to misrepresenting the kinds of socks Lincoln wore. (Kushner can be a brilliant writer, but his ideological utilitarianism is repellant.) I wrote:
Continue reading

ALL ABOARD! The Elliot Rodger Ethics Train Wreck Is Leaving Rationality Station!

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Wait…I think I’ve seen this wreck before!

Richard Hernandez’s enraged rant at the National Rifle Association for getting three people stabbed to death by Elliot Rodger signaled that this mass killing would  be exploited to the max by a succession of unscrupulous and/or irrational activists, social critics, and pundits, and, as my son used to say before he stopped respecting the French, “Voilà!

The burgeoning ethics train wreck looks like it might be even more infuriating than most, though nothing, ever, will be able to top the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Express for pure, widespread, unethical lunacy. Early indications are that the usual suspects will try to wring lessons from the crazed acts of a very unusual, spectacularly deranged, unsympathetic creep as if the fair and obvious answer isn’t there for all to see who are objective and smart enough to perceive it: this one mad act proves nothing. Not about the U.S., men, not about whites, not about guns, not about law, not about Hollywood. Nothing.

It’s a big country, and there’s lots of time before climate change destroys us all or something else does first. The attack of Elliot Roger is the opposite of signature significance, an utterly meaningless convergence of factors with fewer lessons to teach than other odd but deadly events, like the Great Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, or the St. Pierre Snake Invasion of 1905. He means nothing, and should be shunted aside to obscurity as quietly and quickly as possible, so his undeserved notoriety doesn’t set off differently motivated but similarly unhinged sociopaths who are teetering on the brink. Unfortunately, that would require journalists, politicians and single-issue fanatics to be fair, logical and responsible. Continue reading