Stop Making Me Defend Stacey Abrams!

tucker-stacey-abrams

Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson thought it would be cute last night to have his senior producer “perform a dramatic reading of the most titillating moments” from one of the pulpy romance novels Georgia politician Stacey Abrams wrote before she started running for office. The excerpt was objectively awful, but that’s irrelevant: Carlson’s stunt was an unethical cheap shot, and the equivalent of an ad hominem attack. Abrams’ bad prose tell us nothing about the validity of her political positions, and bringing them into the discussion is designed to mislead.

I hate this tactic, and I have condemned it before regardless of who was the target and who was the slime artist. Minnesota Republicans tried to discredit Al Franken when he was first running for U.S. Senate by digging up a sexually-provocative humorous piece he had written for “Playboy”—you know, the epitome of evil—eight years before when he was a full-time comedy writer. “When Republicans do things like this,” I wrote on the old Ethics Scoreboard, “they insult voters by assuming that they are narrow-minded and illiterate, celebrate humorlessness, and willfully blur the difference between entertainment and public policy.”

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Remembering Arturo Di Modica, The Artistic Ethics Train Wreck

Talented and bold artist? Shameless self-promoter? Hypocrite? Unethical jerk? Arturo Di Modica, the Sicilian-born sculptor who died earlier this year was all of these. He was also a one-man ethics train wreck.

In mid-December of 1989, the artist illegally dropped his “Charging Bull,” a 3.5 ton bronze sculpture (that’s a similar model he had mounted in China above), in Lower Manhattan one night in 1989. He claimed it was a gift to his adopted country, the United States, urging courage and defiance after its 1988 financial collapse. Maybe. Or he just wanted to grandstand and get publicity. Either way, you cannot put a giant statue in a public place without permission, permits, owning the property involved, little things like that.

This was a planned crime. Di Modica spent weeks prowling the Wall Street area after midnight, noting when and where police officers walked by. He had about forty accomplices waiting at around 1 a.m. when he loaded his sculpture onto a flatbed truck and drove to Broad Street, next to the Stock Exchange. But it was nearing Christmas, and the Stock Exchange had put up a huge Christmas tree where he had planned to drop “Charging Bull.”

So he put it under the tree.

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2021: Confusion And Irony

Doomscrolling” is a relatively new term to describe the habit of constantly checking one’s smartphone for bad news. Jeffrey Hall, professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, has spent over 10 years studying technology use in conjunction with relationships. He says that the mass media is intentionally triggering the habit:

“People tend to have what’s called negativity bias when it comes to information. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s related to the idea that we needed to be more alert to threats. If things are not particularly surprising, we can reside in a very low energy state, but as soon as we see something that’s potentially threatening or worrisome, it piques our attention. The algorithms are picking up on what we engage in, and our attentive processes tend to focus on the more negative information….”

The professor recommends filtering social media as a remedy:

“You can also take active steps to recognize if there are people who are a part of your social network that seem to be fueling your sense of doom and gloom. You may want to consider unsubscribing or muting them. People are very loath to actually unfriend or stop following a person altogether. However, there are ways to not get that content. Oftentimes we’re very upset about content we see, but we don’t do anything to change what we see.”

I dunno, professor! The people on Facebook seem to revel in shared, if imaginary, gloom and doom. Most of them “muted” me when I pointed out that the false narratives about the President being some kind of a traitorous Nazi racist monster trying to end American democracy were media-driven, partisan scams. That should have been good news, and it happened to be true. Instead, my Facebook friends crawled back into their comforting imaginary crisis bubble and, from what I can see, virtually no one there reads any EA posts that I put up. Trump Derangement was (in fact, is) a fad, a pastime, and sort of a club that eventually metastasized into a mindless mob.

1. On the question of canceling artists of bad character…A note that on this date in 1936 Shirley Temple, who was all of seven years old, signed a deal paying her almost a million dollars per picture in today’s currency reminded me of this horrible story: when Shirley was an attractive teen seeking to transition away from child roles, she met with MGM’s legendary movie musical chief, Arthur Freed. He exposed himself at the interview, and Shirley’s mother decreed that she would have no further dealings with MGM.

First, how sick to you have to be to expose yourself to Shirley Temple (the term “scumbag” comes to mind)? Second, would that justify refusing to watch and enjoy all of the classic musicals he was responsible for at the studio, like “Singing in the Rain,” “The Bandwagon,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Gigi,” the Mickey and Judy films, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and many more? How about all of the songs he wrote, including the ones used in “Singing’ in the Rain”? I love that movie, but it is presented as a celebration of Arthur Freed, as is another favorite, “That’s Entertainment!” And the guy exposed himself to Shirley Temple!!!

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Saturday Ethics Aftermath, 11/14/2020: Art And Ethics

Brussels statue

1. Movie plot ethics. It’s clear that I have watched far too many movie and TV programs. I am now at the point where certain routine plot and directorial devices not only annoy me, they insult me. I regard these now as disrespectful and incompetent, and in that sense, unethical. I’m not talking about the cliches that still work with the young and uninitiated, like how the apparently dead/injured/ betrayed/ rejected or abandoned character you forgot about is always the one who shows up to save the day. (Among the reasons I love the “Magnificent Seven” so much is that when the one member of the team who had quit shows up to rescue his pals in the final gun battle, he is shot and killed immediately.) I’m referring to tropes that are self-evidently stupid and should seem so for any viewer over the age of 12.

For example,  if there’s a vicious, murdering psychopath chasing you, and you knock him cold with a steel pipe or incapacitate him in other ways, you don’t assume he/she/it is dead and leave the killer there to revive and slaughter you. You make sure the manic/monster is dead. Beat his head to a pulp; heck, cut it off.  This is often paired with another idiotic scene, the ill-timed hug. The world is going to blow in seconds, zombies are coming, crazies are beating down the door: save that passionate embrace for later, you morons! The same applies to long, emotional conversations in the midst of disasters when every second counts. Which is worse, I wonder: the long debate in “Armageddon” between Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck when they have literally seconds to save the Earth from an asteroid apocalypse, or the even longer argument among three fire fighters in the middle of a burning building?  That was in “Backdraft,” and I never quite felt the same about director Ron Howard after that.

2. Statue ethics again.  A new London  sculpture dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century writer and feminist hero (and the mother of Mary Shelley) is attracting much hate from art critics and the public.

MW memorial

The work by the British artist Maggi Hambling features a small, naked woman standing on a pillar silvered bronze, set on a cube of dark granite. The overall form is just larger than an average person, and sits well with the park: “Why is Mary naked?” critics are demanding. One Twitter user said: “I had no idea Mary had shredded abs.”

Morons. Read the statue’s base: “For Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.”  This is not intended to be a likeness of, but a tribute to,Wollstonecraft, whose most famous quotation from her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” published in 1792, appears on the other side of the base:  “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

Before one starts criticizing anything, it is essential, fair and responsible to know what one is talking about. Every day I send to Spam Hell comments from Ethics Alarms critics who obviously didn’t read the post they are commenting on. I once went to great lengths to get a local theater critic fired who reviewed a show I directed after I saw her walk out before the second act.

On the other side, as a stage director who made being clear my prime directive, I hold the artist partially responsible when a large proportion of viewers don’t understand what is being communicated.

3. Then there is this:

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Ethics Cool Down, 8/27/2020, From A Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Day…

(I told you there would be more)

1. Kudos to luckyesteeyoreman, the venerable EA commenter who exactly predicted what Joe Biden’s ventriloquists would have him say about the riots, aka “the angry genie the progressives will never get back in the bottle”: The violence is “Donald Trump’s America.”  Lucky bested me: I never thought even the Democrats could be that incompetent. By claiming that the riots are the President’s fault, he sends exactly the opposite message from the one he needs to send,which is that the riots are not being blamed on Trump, but on the Democrats. Biden’s argument, “he made me riot” is one that the campus Left has been justly mocked for, and nobody but cowering college administrators and indoctrinated students regard it as anything but risible.

2. Speaking of things the Democrats and media are having no luck blaming on Donald Trump, Issues and Insights published five charts that nicely debunk the “The pandemic in the US is worse than anywhere!” talking point.  These are the best:

Of course, nobody in their right mind or who isn’t a Times reporter or  works for CNN believes the figures from China, Iran, or Russia.

Then there is this. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2020: Fact Checks, Fear-Mongering, The Emmys, And Another Cancellation

Yes, it’s time again for Gene, Debbie and Donald to begin the day with the level of enthusiasm that I wish I could muster. A Jack Russell Terrier would also help.

1. “Nah, there’s no news media bias!”The New York Times costs the Marshalls $80 a week. The last two editions were essentially anti-Trump campaign brochures, front to back. Even the sports sections had gratuitous anti-Trump vibes. The Washington Post is worse than the Times, but it’s much cheaper, being a home town paper. Nonetheless, I feel badly enough paying Jeff Bezos for digital access. At least the Times didn’t smear Catholic school boys because an established Native American propagandist told them to.

Yet these are, really and truly, the best newspapers in the country. Think about that. One close relative of the hard-left persuasion subscribes to no papers, and the holes in her basic knowledge of what’s happening would fill the Albert’s Hall. (She relies on MSNBC.)

Newspapers… can’t live without them, can’t have a functioning democracy any more with them. And progressives still tell me to my face that I’m imagining it: the claim that the news media is partisan and biased is a “conservative conspiracy theory.”

2. Fact check! I saw this “fact check” of Barr’s testimony two days ago in my Times today, knew what was coming, decided I didn’t feel well enough to have my temperature raised, and then commenter Dr. Emilio Lizardo was cruel enough to send me a link and a precis.

As with so much of the news media’s fake news and biased analysis, I’d assume that savvy readers can smell the stennch of these things, but maybe not. The good doctor writes,

“This is misleading” – 4 occurrences
“This is exaggerated” – 2 occurrences
“This is false” – 1 occurrence
“This lacks evidence” – 1 occurrence

Nothing like using subjective terminology to demonstrate your objectivity.

Here was my favorite:

What Mr. Barr SAID:  “According to statistics compiled by The Washington Post, the number of unarmed Black men killed by police so far this year is eight. The number of unarmed white men killed by police over the same time period is 11. And the overall numbers of police shootings has been decreasing.”

This is misleading. Mr. Barr accurately cited a database of police shootings compiled by The Washington Post. But the raw numbers obscure the pronounced racial disparity in such shootings. (The statement was also an echo of Mr. Trump’s technically accurate, but misleading claim that “more white” Americans are killed by the police than Black Americans.When factoring in population size, Black Americans are killed by the police at more than twice the rate as white Americans, according to the database. Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police officer for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed.Nationwide, the number of police shootings has remained steady since independent researchers began tracking them — declining in major cities, but increasing in suburbs and rural areas.When Representative Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana, took issue with Mr. Barr’s presentation of the data, Mr. Barr responded, “You have to adjust it by, you know, the race of the criminal.” But some research has shown that even when controlling for the demographics of those arrested, there are still racial disparities in the use of police force.

In other words, “misleading” means “contrary to the narrative Democrats and activists want to push.” Got it. Continue reading

Yes, Some Things Are Worse Than Racism, Part 2: The Betrayal Of Daniel Miller

This seems like a propitious time to keep reminding people, especially those who are currently engaged in trying to tear up the culture and the nation into little pieces without a clue about what to do next,  that some things are worse than racism. Lots of things, actually. At some point, we will have to have this debate and that truth must be established.

In ethics, we judge conduct, not thoughts, beliefs, desires and even words, if they are not truly linked to unethical conduct. “Cancelling” people based on past racist or bigoted sentiments that do not seem to have been consistent with later conduct is unfair and  oppressive. The current movement to punish American citizens based on their failure to conform mandated thoughts and specific beliefs is at its core totalitarian, and is doomed to failure, or worse, success.

Playwright Arthur Miller committed one of the most nauseating acts of selfishness, cruelty and betrayal imaginable, but he wrote some of the most ethically resonant dramas in the American theatrical canon: “Death of Salesman,” “The Crucible,” ‘All My Sons,” “A View From the Bridge,” “The Price.” More than any other U.S. playwright, indeed writer in any genre, Miller earned a reputation as the culture’s herald of morality.  When he died in 2005, Miller was celebrated as perhaps our greatest playwright (he isn’t, but he’s certainly near the top.) He was also lionized as a lifetime ethics hero, in particularly because of his refusal to “name names” before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. His battle with HUAC caused  Miller to be convicted of contempt of Congress in May 1957, when he was sentenced to prison sentence, fined, blacklisted, and forced to surrender his  passport.

Then, two years after the obituaries and tributes The Atlantic magazine revealed a horrible secret— not a skeleton in Miller’s closet, but a living, breathing, son.

Miller married the last of his wives, photographer Inge Morath (she came after Marilyn Monroe) in February, 1962.  The first of the couple’s  two children, Rebecca, was born on September 15, 1962. Their son, Daniel, was born  in November 1966.  Miller was excited about the birth until doctors diagnosed Daniel as having  Down syndrome. Against his wife’s wishes—she couldn’t have objected too strenuously— Daniel’s famous father sent the newborn to a home for infants in New York City within days of his birth, then four years later  to Southbury Training School, then one of two Connecticut institutions for the mentally challenged. There Daniel stayed until he was 17. Of that place, The Atlantic’s Suzanna Andrews wrote,

By the early 1970s, however, around the time Arthur Miller put his son there, Southbury was understaffed and overcrowded. It had nearly 2,300 residents, including children, living in rooms with 30 to 40 beds. Many of the children wore diapers, because there weren’t enough employees to toilet-train them. During the day, they sat in front of blaring TVs tuned to whatever show the staff wanted to watch. The most disabled children were left lying on mats on the floor, sometimes covered with nothing but a sheet. “In the wards you had people screaming, banging their heads against the wall, and taking their clothes off,” says David Shaw, a leading Connecticut disability lawyer. “It was awful.”

One observer reported that the institute reminded him of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Continue reading

From The Signature Significance Files: And Now We Know, If We Didn’t Already, That Spike Lee Is A Weenie

I had a long day yesterday, and then had trouble sleeping because I was so annoyed about last night’s Atlanta Wendy’s shooting—which should not have happened for many reasons, and the mass stupidity necessary for it to happen is staggering—so I’m not sufficiently alert and awake for too substantive a post. This I can handle though…

In an interview on two days ago, director Spike Lee said,

“I’d just like to say Woody Allen is a great, great filmmaker and this cancel thing is not just Woody. And I think when we look back on it… we are going to see that — short of killing somebody — I don’t know that you can just erase somebody like they never existed.”

Then, after the predictable reaction by the social media mob, Cancel Culture division, Spike did a sudden reverse-backflip with a twist, added a grovel, and tweeted,

I Deeply Apologize. My Words Were WRONG. I Do Not And Will Not Tolerate Sexual Harassment, Assault Or Violence. Such Treatment Causes Real Damage That Can’t Be Minimized.-Truly, Spike Lee.

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When Artistic Boldness Is Unethical: The “Merrily We Roll Along” Movie

In an epic and unprecedented project, auteur director Richard Linklater will direct a film adaptation of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the cult 1981 Sondheim musical fashioned from the 1934  George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart Broadway play.

The production, which will begin next year,  will take 20 years to shoot, so the actors can age with their characters. You see, the story in “Merrily We Roll Along” is told backwards, with the audience meeting the characters as jaded middle-aged adults, and then watching how they got where they are, until they are seen as idealistic young students preparing to go out into the world. Linklater is probably correct that this is the only way to film such a plot credibly, and he is a bold and courageous artist to commit to an artistic endeavor requiring such a long time commitment, extreme expense, and uncertainty.

He’s also deluded and irresponsible. The project will cost many millions of dollars, and tie up not only his talents but many others to varying degrees over 20 years. The film is quite likely never to be completed, and if it is, likely not to be any good. Even if it is good, it will have no market, and is guaranteed to lose money. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “FUNNY!..But Unethical” Files: The McDonald’s Japan Promotional Cups

Last year, Land O Lakes finally changed its famous Indian Girl logo so you could no longer do the “boobs trick”  by folding the package just right and making a little flap of the butter package that young Elizabeth Warren or whatever her name was holding that when raised would show her oddly shaded knees as something less pedestrian. Why they would bother papering paper over one of the longest-running and most famous  commercial artist gags ever after decades, I don’t know.  In its day, the gag was considered obscene, but by 2018 it was Americana. I had an uncle who kept one of the risque  package cut-outs in his wallet.

There are others, of course. I once got an office supply catalogue in the mail that had a back page with a color image of a man using an office product on one side and an image of a woman using a different product on the other that when held up to the light so both illustrations were visible at once,  produced a composition showing him looking up her skirt. I have been told that commercial artists are prone to such gags, being frequently frozen at the emotional age of 12.

Now some similarly juvenile artists have made a McDonald’s promotion in Japan into another obscene practical joke, this time by modern standards. On each side of two plastic cups, which the stores are handing out in a summer promotion, innocent appearing cartoon drawings of cute young children, a boy and a girl, are visible in  various chaste poses. However, when the drink is gone, one one can see both images at once, and the resulting spectacle is this..

or  this…

I’m sure its just a coincidence.

I wonder how my uncle would have managed to fit those in his wallet? He would have found a way, knowing him.

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Source: Mashable