Curse You, Political Correctness Bullies! Now You’re Forcing Me To Defend Lena Dunham!


A downside of running an ethics blog is that you have to defend really disgusting people from time to time: Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump…and now Lena Dunham. In fact, this story rescued the “Girls” creator from a different post here, as she recently had to apologize for an online newsletter rant that attacked the character of NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. and attributed various sexist attitudes to him based purely on the fact that he showed no interest in her when they were seated together at a recent function. ( Legitimate reasons why he may have ignored her: he had other things on his mind, she’s not his type, she’s a professional jerk, she’s Lena Dunham).

Before I have to defend Dunham, who is an awful person based on available evidence, let me make a few observations. One is that fame in the 21st Century can expose the unsavory and unethical nature of the famous far more than it did in pre-social media days. This is part of Donald Trump’s plight. Another is that Twitter and social media are literally traps for jerks, and it is amazing that so many of them keep getting caught, even with the bodies of previous trap-ees littering the immediate landscape. Finally, I wonder if there are still publicists around in the tradition of my late friend, Bob McElwaine. and if there are, why doesn’t Lena hire one to save her from herself? Bob was a Hollywood Golden Age publicist who saw his job as keeping the fact that his clients were jerks secret. He was great at it: his major client was Danny Kaye, a truly vile, troubled and nasty individual whose public persona was exactly the opposite.

All right, enough stalling.

For some reason, this Dunham tweet from five years ago surfaced, and has led a social media lynch mob to attack Dunham as being a racist…

Dunham tweet

Pop quiz: What exactly is it about the tweet that makes it racist?

The answer is “Nothing.” Racism requires attributing negative features or conduct to an individual or group based solely on racial bias and prejudice. It is not racism to base conclusions on statistical reality. Interestingly, most of the attacks on the tweet claim that the tweet is anti-Asian. It is racist to attribute virtuous qualities, like a reluctance to rape, to a race? Wow! Apparently the tweet is being condemned as a slur on Asian manhood. Since when is it manly to rape someone? Silly me: I assumed that Dunham was referring to well-documented  cultural support of respect for women, law-abiding conduct and other ethical virtues in Asian-American families.

Or is the complaint that by assuming an Asian-American is less of a threat than a male of another race, Dunham was by extension saying that other races were more of a threat? This would most fairly interpreted as an anti-white slur, however, since whites make up almost 75% of the population of convicted rapists. I thought anti-white bigotry was OK in political correctness circles! Continue reading

The Harry Reid Asian Jokes “Gotcha!”

margaret cho_lead shot

Sen. Reid’s crime: Pretending to be a white, old, male, unfunny Margaret Cho.

I cannot pass up an opportunity to come to the defense of Senator Harry Reid regarding a supposed ethical breach that doesn’t exist.

The Democratic Senate leader was addressing the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, and at one point told the audience, “I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.” Later, when another man named Wong came  to the podium, Reid took the microphone and ad-libbed, “One problem I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”

The horror.

Continue reading

My Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) Post: “Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly”

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney...

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney…

Ethics Alarms has almost 15,000 tags, which means that a lot of diverse topics hard been discussed here in connection with ethics issues. Saddened as I was to learn of the passing of the great Mickey Rooney, truly one of the most talented and versatile individuals in entertainment history and the last of MGM musical stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I can’t justify honoring his ethics; by all accounts, Mickey was not as admirable a human being as he was a performer. Still, Ethics Alarms has a Mickey Rooney post, from 2011, and when I read it over just now, I still liked it. Thus I will honor Mickey by reposting my defense  of perhaps his most criticized performance. For one of his best, watch this. Yes, Judy’s in it too. (TCM has made everyone take down their Mickey clips, but so far, this Russian pirate site still has it. I know, I know—but Mickey would approve. This ethical breach is for you, Mick…) Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Jimmy Kimmel, Child Abuse, And Signature Significance”

(I am backed up three deep on the “Comments of the Day,” and I apologize to the deserving and patient commenters.)

And who can forget Mickey Rooney's hilarious turn in that beloved American film masterpiece "Breakfast at Tiffany's"?

And who can forget Mickey Rooney’s hilarious turn in that beloved American film masterpiece “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”?

Alex Yuan raised an element of the revolting Jimmy Kimmel stunt discussed in my post, an extension of his penchant for using children as uncomprehending props for his often ugly comedy, that I glided right over: Why was showing a child suggesting that wiping out the Chinese was  a viable solution to national problems even considered fit for broadcast, when a similar comment about Jews, gays, Hispanics or blacks would be considered instantly taboo? Why doesn’t the ethics alarm sound when the minority being slurred or threatened is Asian?

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Jimmy Kimmel, Child Abuse, And Signature Significance:

It is interesting that you should mention political correctness because I can’t help feeling that in deciding it appropriate to air this segment, ABC – perhaps as a reflection of societal attitudes at large – is illustrating the alleged double standard against Asians when it comes to how topics concerning minorities and other protected classes are handled in public. Continue reading

Jimmy Kimmel, Child Abuse, And Signature Significance

In Jimmy's defense, Japan thought "Kill the Chinese!" was funny too...

In Jimmy’s defense, Japan thought “Kill the Chinese!” was funny too…

What a surprise—Jimmy Kimmel did something despicable involving children.

This time, the smug and unethical-to-his-very-DNA ABC late night host may have also triggered an ethics train wreck. Perhaps at last the network and his tasteless, enabling viewers will finally conclude what has been obvious for years—that Jimmy is a cultural corrupter whose miserable methods and values should be rejected, condemned, and sent packing to an obscure corner of table TV!


Kimmel’s latest hilarious stunt aired on Oct. 16, in a segment called “Kids Table,” where Funny Uncle Jimmy asks small children who have no idea what is going on or  that a creepy middle-aged man is luring them into saying things that will haunt them on Youtube until the day they die to comment on issues of the day. This time, Mirthful Machiavellian Jimmy caught comedy gold: when he asked a six-year-old how the U.S. could solve the $1.3 trillion trade imbalance, the giggling answer came back, “Kill everyone in China!”

Nice. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: An Angry Young Man at Yale Law School

flame faceA third year law student decided it was appropriate to send an obscene, ranting letter to the entire student body of Yale Law School announcing that he hated “like 90%” of them, and also, in his words (after announcing that he is going to be a writer):

“…fuck you guys, you judgmental, uninformed pricks, patting yourselves on the back on top of your goddamn moral high horses. I realize I am killing my future political career. GOOD. If you’ve read The Republic, you know exactly what my opinion of politicians are. I realize I am burning bridges. EXCELLENT. If I succeed in my passions, I want to make damn sure it is without the help of any of you phony-ass shitdicks. I’ve ALREADY gotten compliments about how inspirational I am, and I haven’t even fucking started yet. That’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever received in my life. It’ll probably take you guys 10-20 years to get that even once, so good luck and keep up the good work!”

His name was included on his post, just to make certain that it keeps him from finding gainful employment with any potential supervisor who doesn’t have a death wish.

A few observations: Continue reading

Political Bloodsport Déjà Vu: Democrat Kelly Steele Gets The Pat Rogers Treatment In Washington State

There’s nothing funny about racism. Somebody tell Norman Lear.

Remember Pat Rogers? I posted about him twice (here and here): he is the New Mexico lawyer and RNC member whose self-evidently satirical (and private) e-mail mocking a Republican rival of Governor Susan Martinez was hacked and intentionally twisted by progressive activists, and used to trigger protests by Native American tribes, a huge voting bloc in that state. It didn’t matter that any fair and intelligent person who was meant to see the e-mail knew exactly what it meant; it didn’t matter that the interpretation of the e-mail  that supposedly justified the public uproar—that Rogers was extolling Gen. George Armstrong Custer—was obviously false, and moreover, that it made neither historical nor political sense to read the message in a way that insulted Native Americans; and it certainly didn’t matter that Rogers career and reputation were being unjustly trashed for pure political gain. State Democrats, aided by the news media and frightened Republicans unwilling to oppose classic minority group grievance-mongering, forced Rogers to leave his law firm, and are still trying to use the incident to turn Native Americans against the Republican Party in time for the election.

It was and is a revolting episode. Given the opportunity, would Republicans behave this way, intentionally finding offense in an unoffensive joke ? We know the answer to that question—YES—because this is exactly what Republicans have done to a Democratic advisor to Sen. Maria Cantwell, Kelly Steele. Continue reading

“Marion Berry’s Dirty Asian Summer Punch” and Attacks on Free Speech From The Left

The United States’ has to be vigilant in protecting its unique Bill of Rights from dilution, degradation and manipulation. Once the threats came from the political right, as with the Red-baiting tactics of Sen. Joe McCarthy. Now it more typically comes from the kinder, gentler, more hypocritical political left, often in the form of threats to “hate speech,” a term that can mean pretty much whatever the kinder, gentler censor wants it to mean, and is especially handy to stifle dissent.

This First Amendment assault was on view yesterday on MSNBC, as PR loud mouth Donny Deutch, columnist Mike Barnicle and University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler all agreed that the makers of the anti-Muslim video now being used as an excuse to attack embassies should be indicted. Uh, no. Making a movie cannot be a crime in the U.S.: this was what Citizens United was all about, and the principle is called “Freedom of Speech.” But bigger brains than Donny’s are trying to chip away at the right that makes America America, using the ever-popular “everybody does it” rationalization to argue that European nations prosecute those who “hurt religious feelings”, in the immortal words of our Cairo Embassy, so it must be the right thing to do.

Scared yet? If not read this post, and this, from the Volokh Conspiracy, on the arguments for limiting Free Speech being made by Prof. Peter Spiro and former Yale Dean Harold Koh, the latter now working in the Obama State Department.

Or just watch how much the bureaucrats in our nation’s capital respects the First Amendment. Or understand satire. Continue reading

Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly

"Andy Hardy, the Asian Years"

A Bronx woman, Ursula Liang, has started a petition against Brooklyn Bridge Park’s “Movies With A View” series showing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 Audrey Hepburn classic that gave us “Moon River” and one of actress Hepburn’s most endearing performances. Why? Well, the movie, which has long been popular for summer screenings in New York City and elsewhere, also contains a pre-political correctness performance by Mickey Rooney as Holly Golightly’s comic Japanese neighbor, “Mr. Yunioshi.”

Rooney’s performance, in my opinion, was cringe-worthy even in 1961, one of director Blake Edwards’ not uncommon excesses in vaudeville humor, placed in a context where it didn’t belong. It is a scar on an otherwise marvelous film, but there is nothing inherently wrong with comic stereotypes. Stereotypes are a staple of comedy, and have been forever; the question is whether a particular stereotype is cruel, gratuitous, harmful, or funny. Some stereotypes are cruel and funny. Continue reading

Mr. Friedkin? Mr. Hawks? Meet Mr. Madison and Mr. Twain

It was Saturday Censorship at the Movies last night in Cable Land.

First, I got to watch that manly channel, Spike, blanch at showing a possessed 12-year-old girl use the work “fuck”, which, as you horror devotees know, is a word rather central to showing how she has been taken over, like Helen Thomas, by the demon Pazuzu. There was Linda Blair, as the suddenly possessed Regan O’Neill, bouncing rhythmically on her bed as her horrified mother and physician looked on, shouting “—Me!—Me!—Me!”, apparently horrifying them with a noisy outbreak of egocentricity. The later scene in which the Demon Child is found masturbating with a crucifix was also clumsily chopped up so it was impossible to figure out what was going on. Continue reading