Ethics Quiz: The Return Of Sacheen Littlefeather

Apparently the Oscars are looking hard for virtue-signaling opportunities.

In this instance, they had to travel back in time 50 years and decide to make amends for one of the more ludicrous examples of celebrity grandstanding in pop culture lore. Marlon Brando, a cinch to win the Best Actor statuette for “The Godfather” in 1973, decided to snub the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences, his Hollywood colleagues and the Oscars’ TV audience by sending an obscure, Native American actress named Sacheen Littlefeather to go to the podium when Marlon’s name was read and make a statement about the abuse of Indians at Hollywood’s hands while announcing that Brando was rejecting his honor in protest. You know, because “The Godfather” was all about Native American mobs, or something.

It was a complete non sequitur, and many suspected that the whole stunt had little to do with Native American portrayals in film (about which Brando had previously said nothing) and more to do with the famously weird actor’s desire to stick his thumb in the eye of the industry that had made him rich and famous. He might have just as well had his statuette rejected by Bozo the Clown; maybe it came down to a coin flip: heads, Sasheen (it was an Indian Head nickel), tails, Bozo.

The young woman’s appearance did not go over well. “Mr. Brando very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award,” Littlefeather said. “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.”  That was a reference to a protest a month earlier,when the American Indian Movement had occupied the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, site of the infamous massacre, to protest Hollywood’s killing wait, it was the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans that protest was about. What did it have to do with movies, Brando, and the Oscars?

Oh, nothing. Continue reading

“Ignorant, Stupid And With Dead Ethics Alarms Is No Way To Stay In Business, Atlantic Sports Bar & Restaurant…”

And now for something completely appalling! The Tiverton, Rhode Island eatery posted this meme to Facebook:

Now what?

What occurred after the meme went up was that a local talk radio host called to investigate. She says the restaurant owner told her that he thought the meme was funny and then cut off the call. The employee who posted the gag alleged that he didn’t know who the girl in the photo was.

After the post had been taken down by the restaurant, a contrite apology went up in its place:

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Apology Ethics: Proxy Apologies Don’t Count

The apology, if you missed it, is for the First Lady comparing her Hispanic audience to “breakfast tacos.”

This is pretty basic, and I’m surprised that the First Lady and the White House doesn’t know it: an apology must come from the individual responsible for the words or conduct being apologized for. Isn’t that obvious?

A relay apology by a lackey is itself an insult. It says that the aggrieved parties aren’t deemed sufficiently important for the alleged apologizer to address directly. Jill Biden’s dodge reminded me of the Sid Caesar-inspired character in “My Favorite Year,” who would regularly abuse his staff and then order his secretary to “send the guy something from me…like a new set of tires.”

To call this a perfunctory, cheap apology is being too kind. It’s cowardly, arrogant, and obnoxious, failing all of the goals a sincere apology should strive for.

Wait, When Did Georgetown Law Center Take Over The Washington NFL Team?

Very puzzling. The Washington “Commanders” (previously the Redskins) are punishing an assistant coach because he dared to express an opinion on social media that his boss and employers don’t agree with, since it is not sufficiently in line with the George Floyd Freakout, The Great Stupid, and the Democratic Party’s show trial strategy to somehow stave off disaster for Joe and Company in the November mid-terms. In this, the NFL franchise is emulating it’s city’s most prominent law school, Georgetown Law Center, which only recently finished driving away a non-conforming law professor who dared to opine that limiting the pool of potential Supreme Court Justices by race and gender was not the wise way to find the best judge available.

To paraphrase Dana above, “What’s going on here?”

Nothing good, that’s for sure. Just another unethical effort by a business entity to strongarm employees into supporting one particular party and ideology, or at least to intimidate them sufficiently that they stifle their dissenting views. There is literally no possible justification for the Redsk…I mean “Commanders” actions. Continue reading

Now We Have Will Smith’s “Real” Apology

First he slapped Chris Rock in full view of America and the world, tainting a once-iconic tradition that was already shaky. Then he returned to his seat in the theater, as if nothing had happened, and shouted an obscenity at his victim. After being allowed to remain at the scene of the crime (and massive exposure of his broken ethics alarms) though he had been asked to leave and refused, Will Smith triumphantly accepted the Oscar for Best Actor, using his speech to rationalize his conduct, never coming close to a genuine apology.

Then he partied the night away like any other self-obsessed Hollywood celebrity.

Last night, after issuing a pro forma Instagram “apology” that was wretched by any standard (It was a #6 at best and a #10 at worst on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale), Smith took a third metaphorical swing at the contrition ball he had missed twice, and at least made contact.

He announced that he was resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, in the course of this statement:

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The Great Smith-Rock Rumble Ethics Round-Up!, Part 1

As Glenn Reynolds often says, “You’re going to need a bigger blog!” But there are many ethics alarms a-ring in this fiasco, so attention must be paid.

Let’s get to it:

1. Will Smith’s apology, posted last night on Instagram:

Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.

I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.  

I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

I am a work in progress.

  • There are some acts that cannot be apologized for, and this was one. “I’m sorry I hit a fellow performer in the face during the live TV broadcast’ is required pro forma, but nobody should treat it as anything more than that. The conduct can’t be excused or forgiven.
  • As Tim LeVier noted in his Comment of the Day yesterday, Smith is obligated to apologize to his victim, Chris Rock, face-to-face. He did not mention Rock in his half-mea culpa while accepting his Oscar. Rock will be professionally obligated to be gracious, of course, when and if that happens.
  • Do not think for a second that Smith composed that statement. I wonder how much he paid for it. I would have written him a better one for less. I’m sure.
  • I would have, for example, omitted: “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.” Jokes at Jada’s expense are also part of her job: she’s a celebrity, actress and talk show host. Furthermore, the joke was abut her shaved haircut, not her “medical condition”—this advances the dishonest “It’s Chris Rock’s fault” spin the Smith lobby is pushing. Hair loss is a medical condition, but as I wrote yesterday as a target of bald jokes and before that, “losing your hair” jokes since my early 20s, women are not exempt, by their own rules.

Oh, you acted emotionally by dashing up on stage, smacking Rock, and then shouting for him to keep the name of your wife out of his “fucking mouth”? Thanks for that clarification. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Good Friend? Bad Friend? Jerk Or Weenie?

For the first Ethics Quiz of the new year, consider Patton Oswalt. The gnomish comedian and left-wing wit has long been on my hate list, not for his work, for he is extremely sharp and often very funny, but out of envy: he managed to snag the heart of lovely actress Meredith Salenger, his wife and one of my all-time Hollywood crushes, despite Oswalt looking like a nuclear accident victim. But that is neither here nor there.

What is here and now is this: Oswalt had posted photos memorializing a nice gesture by long-time friend Dave Chappelle on New Year’s Eve. Oswalt, who was doing small show in Seattle (he mostly does small shows, which explains why you may not have heard of Patton Oswalt) got a spontaneous call from Chappelle to come over to the nearby stadium and join him in Chappelle’s huge show. Oswlat wrote gratefully on Instagram,

“I waved good-bye to this hell-year with a genius I started comedy with 34 years ago. He works an arena like he’s talking to one person and charming their skin off. Anyway, I ended the year with a real friend and a deep laugh. Can’t ask for much more.”

Of course the social media mobs took after him for being a friend of that anti-trans bigot Chappelle. First, Oswalt took down all the hate posts, and then felt compelled to explain himself, writing, Continue reading

From The Signature Significance Files: “The Divine Miss M” Demonstrates When An Apology Is Too Late And Meaningless

Another thing everyone should thank Joe Manchin for is the way his decision not to capitulate to pressure on the irresponsible “Build Back Better” bill has caused so many prominent Americans to unmask themselves as the jerks, liars and frauds thet are.

Take Paul Krugman...please! The ultra-biased and partisan Times pundit is supposedly a Nobel Prize-winning economist, yet his attack on Manchin’s “betrayal“—yes, a Democrat voting his conscience rather than meekly submitting to orders is a betrayal—is an embarrassing concoction of appeals to emotion, appeals to authority, and “everybody does it.” A high school paper columnist could have written the screed. “And studies show that policies to mitigate climate change will also yield major health benefits from cleaner air over the next decade,” Krugman writes. Yes, and other studies say they might, and still other studies doubt they can.

This economist also calls the multi-trillion dollar bill “Biden’s moderate spending plan,” though the CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would result in a net increase in the deficit of at least $367 billion over the 2022-2031 period, and that’s with increased taxes. He should be ashamed of himself for abusing his own perceived authority and his readers’ trust with such garbage, but we know my now that he’s shameless.

But my favorite self-indicting jerk is Bette Midler.

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Virtue-Signaling Gone Wrong: The Hilda and Jesse Debacle

Hilda and Jesse

In a classic of ethics duncery, Rachel Sillcocks and Kristina Liedags Compton, co-owners of popular San Francisco restaurant Hilda and Jesse, assumed last week that they could profitably engage in blatant anti-police bigotry and firearm phobia in San Francisco, which long, long ago abandoned common sense and logic for the outer frontiers of progressive mania. By the end of the week, it was clear that the Old Knight had a bead on the situation…

They began by kicking San Francisco police officers out of their restaurant. Here’s their explanation, posted on social media:

H and J annpouncement

The statement is moronic and unethical on its face, for it is transparently hypocritical, bigoted and insincere. The owners cannot simultaneously “respect” and be “grateful” for the work the police do while maintaining that they are not welcome in their establishment unless they abandon the tools they need to do that work, and the uniforms their job requires them to wear while they do it. Nor does it make sense to announce that the public servants whose job it is to keep the pubic safe make the restaurant’s owners and staff feel unsafe, yet still maintain that the owners appreciate their role.

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Ethics Pot Meet Ethics Kettle I: Rep. Boebert (R-Co.) vs. Rep. Omar

It’s like one of those monster vs. monster movies, such as “Godzilla vs. King Kong”: who do you root for? In the case of extreme right-wing, irresponsible and uncivil GOP fire-breather Lauren Boebert battling extreme leftist House Democrat Illhan Omar, the only ethical position is to hope they fight each other right out of Congress, where they both do immeasurable harm.

Omar is, I hope I do not have to explain in much detail, horrible. She would be the worst of “The Squad,” but, incredibly, the other members are so irredeemably awful that this is a tough call. Her background is full of scandals that would guarantee the end of the career of any non-black, non-Muslim representative in a sane party, which the Democratic Party is no longer. She repeatedly makes anti-Semitic, anti-Israel comments. Her infamous characterization of 9-11 (a comment barely reported by the mainstream media) was that “some people did something.” She has advocated defunding the police in Minnesota.

None of this justifies any member of Congress attacking her with ad hominem rhetoric, but Colorado’s Lauren Boebert is special, even by far right Republican standards. She has used Omar’s religion against her, calling her part of a “Jihad Squad” and told an audience before Thanksgiving that a Capitol Police officer was concerned about Omar boarding an elevator until Boebert reassured him by saying, “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”

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