Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/2019: Two Bingos, Two Drag Shows, and Poop

Good morning!

1. Is it me, or is this TV commercial indefensibly gross, and signals the impending end of civilization?

2.  Reasons not to duck the New York Times op-ed pages…Yale student Kathryn Hu contributed a sane and thoughtful essay on the topic of classic operas with characters and plot elements that seem sexist or racist to today’s more enlightened audiences. As we know, today’s “woke” censors of the arts and arbiters of what we are allowed to watch and hear have their own solution: never do the piece again, despite its obvious virtues, or interpret and rewrite it out of existance or into nausea, like John Legend injecting “It’s your body and your choice” into the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I had to suppress my gorge from rising while reading this article, for example, that described the current production of  J.M Barry’s 1904 classic “Peter Pan” in Washington D.C:

In [Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s] version now playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company (retitled Peter Pan and Wendy…), the character of Tiger Lily has been completely reconceived. No more the helpless princess in distress, Tiger Lily is now a spirited and fearless Native rights activist whose people thrived in Neverland long before Captain Hook’s pirate ship dropped anchor and Peter showed up with the Lost Boys.

Because as we know, there were so many Native American activists in 1904. To anyone with brain cells and cultural perspective that haven’t been woked to death, it is obvious that Barry’s Neverland is a child’s fanciful impression of Indians, pirates, and friendly wild animals. It has nothing to do with reality , so imposing current day adult political views on the and characters is neither fair nor necessary.

Hu’s solution to the supposed horrors of 19th Century biases and social mores in opera: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part II): Halloween Leftovers, Hot Yoga, And Polls

Today’s extended Warm-Up continues…

5. Halloween ethics left-overs:

  • Nah, there’s no Trump Derangement…In Hastings, Michigan, young Benny Drake wore a Donald Trump mask and costume around the neighborhood to solicit candy. At one house, the woman who answered the door threw candy at him and “asked me if she could slap me,” Drake said.

Benny should build a wall around her house.

  • Confession: I once wore a KKK-themed costume to a party. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a Ku Klux Klan costume won a Halloween contest and a prize at the Lil’ Dude Tavern. After the photo of the costume “went viral,” the bar was attacked on social media and condemned by the local NAACP. A few points:

a) Many of the news media reports discussed the costume but wouldn’t share the photo with readers or TV viewers, presumably out of fear of upsetting some of them. This is incompetent and cowardly journalism, in the same category as writing about the Danish anti-Muhammad cartoons without showing them, or writing that an “epithet” set off a controversy without stating what the epithet was.

b) I assume the ethics issues here are the same as in the Hitler costume controversy, correct?

c) When I wore a KKK-themed costume decades ago, it was after a prominent white supremacist had been killed in a plane crash. KKK costumes always looked a lot like ghosts to me,  so I made a hybrid ghost-KKK costume and carried a travel case with the victim’s name on it and the airline’s sticker.  And I won a prize, too: for Costume in the Worst Taste.

  • I don’t understand this one at ALL.  In Vermont, a trick-or-treater received a bag of poop deposited in his candy bag. According to police, who investigated, it was just a mistake. How could something like that be a mistake? If the bag contained rat poison or an “explosive device,” would “Oops! Silly me!” still be an effective explanation? What if the kid ate the poop, and got violently ill? Same result?

Continue reading

Great, Now I Have To Defend Bill Maher…

Bill Maher (that’s alleged comic Bob Saget as his “victim”) tweeted out a perfect parody of the infamous photo that triggered the demise of Al Franken, because his own party was fully committed to a sexual misconduct witch hunt, and they thought it might even lead to a successful execution of Plan J, to cancel out the election of President Trump.

Surely you remember the photo…

If there ever was a photograph and a situation begging for satire, this was it. The original photo was a gag that unethically used a sleeping young woman as a prop. Franken handled his apology badly. Then he set himself up as fair game for mockery by weasel-wording his way through the subsequent accusations of sexual harassment and groping, some of which occurred while he was Senator. Finally, he capitulated to a due-process-defying mob led by feminist vigilante Kirsten Gillibrand, and resigned his Senate seat in a snit. Later, Democratic Senators expressed doubts about their knee-jerk attack on Franken, but it was too late. The whole scenario was ludicrous. Ludicrous public events deserve mockery. [ The original version of this sentence read “pubic.” It was a typo, I swear. Thanks to reader crella for the heads up.]

Yet Maher’s tweeted gag is being widely condemned on social media, on a variety of theories, all bad. It’s “too soon,” some say.  Maher is a current events satirist: it’s never too soon. It’s wrong to joke about sexual harassment, others say. Who makes these rules? If the target is President Trump, about seven TV comics feel that they can joke about harassment, senility, nuclear war and incest. Then the ultimate declaration: It’s not funny. No, it’s not funny to those who don’t think it’s funny. It IS funny to those who do think it’s funny, and that’s all a comic cares about. For the record, and I loathe Bill Maher, I laughed out loud. Continue reading

Integrity Check For Saturday Night Live: Time For A Mr. Mike Moment

Larry David was the darling of the left-tilting TV audience of Saturday Night Live last year when he became the lovable avatar of Bernie Sanders, a casting no-brainer which, I will remind the assembled, I predicted here well before it became reality. It was also predictable that David, the misanthrope who co-created Seinfeld, was the real life model for funny sociopath George Costanza, and who just returned to HBO playing a fictionalized version of his laughably awful self in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” would be asked to host the creaky satire show, which he did last weekend.

But THE HORROR! David’s opening monologue was genuine Larry David, as any “Seinfeld” fan would recognize. That show mocked Jews, gays, women, AIDS marches, Puerto Rican Pride Day, old people, disabled people,  ugly babies, Kosher diet restrictions,  dwarves, Kennedy’s assassination and stroke victims, among other topics…in other words, it was intentional political incorrectness as comedy. It should not have been a surprise, then, when David riffed on girl-watching in Nazi concentration camps:

“I’ve always been obsessed with women, and I’ve often wondered if I’d grown up in Poland when Hitler came to power and was sent to a concentration camp, would I be checking women out in the camp? I think I would.However, there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp.”

Then he ventured into the Harvey Weinstein minefield, noting that a lot of the executives being accused of sexual misconduct are, like him, Jews:

“I don’t like when Jews are in the headlines for notorious reasons. I want ‘Einstein discovers the theory of relativity,’ ‘Salk cures polio.’ What I don’t want? ‘Weinstein took it out.’…I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative. When people see me I want them to say, ‘Oh, there goes a fine Jew for you!'”

Either of these would have been at home on “Seinfeld,” where George once mused about Moses’ nose-picking habits, and enthused about having a prison inmate girlfriend, so he could have sex and ensure that she had to wait until he chose to come back and see her. (She escaped, though…). Ah, but 2017 isn’t the Nineties. Now delicate progressives seek safe spaces, and the only acceptable targets of humor are the rich, whites, males, straights, Christians and conservatives. And Donald Trump, of course. The rest is hate speech. Taboo. “We–the Virtuous Collective of the Left— are not amused.”

Social media erupted with condemnations of David for daring to be unfunny on Saturday Night Live. For perspective, consider that SNL has sometimes gone years without being funny. Salon pronounced him “out of his depth and out of his time.” How dare he make a Holocaust jokes “when an era when anti-Semitism is surging in the United States”? (Any guesses whether Salon would similarly object to anti-Republican jokes when GOP Senators are being shot at, and mugged by their Socialist neighbors?) He hasn’t “moved with times,” tut-tuts that arbiter of hilarity, Salon.  After all, “Blazing Saddles” isn’t funny any more. “The Producers” is offensive, with all those Hitler jokes. How dare “Airplane!”make fun of black dialect , seek (and get) laughs with a stereotypical gay character, or show African natives instinctively dunking the second they touch a basketball? That’s not funny! You aren’t allowed to laugh at that, Comrade. Watch it! Because we are watching you.

Now, calling the President of the United States a cockholder and suggesting that he wants to have sex with his daughter, THAT’S funny.

Check the rule book.

At the Washington Examiner, Tom Rogan has the right and ethical perspective:

At The Atlantic, Professor Jeremy Dauber wailed that David thought comedy was acceptable “after Charlottesville.” Dauber continued, “David’s invocation of the concentration camp on Saturday as a kind of peekaboo provocation … might ring particularly hollow in an America where neo-Nazis march openly on the streets and white-nationalist memes proliferate online.”

“Might ring particularly hollow” are the operative words there. Dauber encapsulates the Left’s new reflex that if some words might offend someone somewhere, they should not be said.

I believe the opposite is true. Humor is supposed to be unrestrained and, if a comedian so desires, uncomfortable. Whatever our particular personal views, we’re lucky to live in a society in which humor is defined by the humorist not the humorless hordes. So yes, some might be offended to see Larry David make concentration camp jokes or urinate on a picture of Jesus (that one made me uncomfortable) or have a Jewish boy knit a swastika.

I say too bad. The beauty of humor in a democracy is that it’s always those who laugh who matter most.

Bingo. I don’t care if you find something funny: if I find it funny, that’s all that matters….and vice versa. Moreover, if the Left abandons humor (unless it is politically weaponized, like the tediously redundant  all-anti-Right-hate-all-the-time  late night talk shows and  cable shows), humor is doomed. Comedians and comics have almost entirely arisen from the liberal side of the ideological spectrum. A funny conservative is as rare as a popular ethicist.

Thus the attack on David for telling the kinds of jokes Larry David tells creates an integrity test for Saturday Night Live. A commenter named Michael Bauer told  the New York Times that “Mr. David’s comments were completely unfunny and embarrassing, not only to Mr. David but also to the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, and everyone associated with ‘Saturday Night Live.'”

Really? Really? This was the show that once, in its greatest years, featured the intentionally tasteless and blackest of black humor-obsessed Michael O’Donoghue. The ultimate O’Donoghue gag was a trilogy of sick  bits he performed as “Mr. Mike” to end SNL shows spaced over several weeks. In the first of them, he announced that he would do an impression of nice guy daytime talk show host Mike Douglas, with a twist:

Michael O’Donoghue: ” We all love Mike Douglas, of course. And I was watching Mike’s show this afternoon, and  a funny thought occurred to me. I thought, what if someone took steel needles, say, um, fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points — and plunged them into Mike Douglas’s eyes. What would his reaction be? I think it might go something… like this …

Then he removed his glasses, pocketed them, and turned around, in the fashion of celebrity impressionists from time immemorial, paused, and suddenly  began screaming and writhing on the floor.

TV critics, many of them, were not happy. The show and NBC received complaints. Cruelty, after all, isn’t funny. (I loved it.)

To their undying credit, SNL, Lorne Michaels, and O’Donoghue doubled down. A couple of weeks later, “Mr. Mike” was introduced again, again at the end of the show. This time, he was ushered on  by two attractive young African-American women in gowns: Continue reading

The Twittercide Of David Leavitt

A fatal terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert? Funny!

Social media and multiple popular blogs and websites are flaming with hate directed at David Leavitt, a freelance writer who didn’t get his annual ethics alarms maintenance performed and is now paying the price. Perceiving himself as a mad wag,  Leavitt took to Twitter for some levity following the horrifying event described in this lead from the BBC:

“Twenty-two people, including an eight-year-old girl, have been killed and 59 were injured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.”

Let me rephrase what I wrote before: Leavitt’s ethics alarms were not merely badly serviced, they had fallen apart into rusty chunks. He also hadn’t been paying attention to the world around him: did he miss the fate of Justine Sacco, who tweeted a joke to her friends that the cyber-mob decided was racist (though it wasn’t) as she boarded a plane, and by the time she had landed found that she had lost her job and become a national pariah? Had he not noticed that the Aflac duck had a different quack in 2011 after comic Gilbert Gottfried tweeted a series of jokes about the tsunami that devastated Japan and was promptly fired from what Gottfried had called the greatest gig in the world?

Either he had been practicing his craft (“Freelance Writer. CBS, AXS, Yahoo!, Examiner, & etc. I review #Games #Tech #Fashion #Travel. Casual #MTG #Twitch streamer”) from a cave, or he is an idiot, but in either case, he decided to tweet this…

then this…

Somebody apparently grabbed Leavitt and shook him hard (but not hard enough) as his tweets went viral and he was on the way to becoming the latest Justine. A few hours later he tweeted “Too soon?” and this apology:

Too late. HisCBS PR disowned him;  AXS sent his contribution down the memory hole; so did Yahoo. Boston’s WBZ, which had employed Leavitt, issued a statement condemning his jokes and saying that he was not an employee. Publications like Mother Jones, the New York Daily News,  Heat Street and The Daily Mail had placed essays attacking him on their websites. The reaction by British websites and news organization was even more intense. David Leavitt can forget about vacationing in the United Kingdom. Ever.

Observations:

1.  Nobody deserves to have their life destroyed over two tweets. Let me quote at length what I wrote about the Justine Sacco’s cyber mob, because it applies with equal force to Leavitt: Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

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Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Continue reading

The Ethical Problem With The Cinnebon Tweet

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First I was going to post an essay about Cinnebon’s humorous tweet above under the title “How Humor Dies.” Our culture is in serious trouble if a clever, playful, obvious joke like this attracts so much criticism that it generates a retraction and an apology.Clearly, there are Political Correctness Furies on the Left and  Puritan Scolds on the Right lurking and  lying in wait to make any attempt at levity too much of a risk for all but the socially inept or defiantly rude to attempt. I confess, I laughed out loud when I saw Cinnebon’s gag. I thought the company deserved applause, not opprobrium.

Then I thought about it, and decided to make the episode an Ethics Alarms ethics quiz. Does the fact that Cinnebon can be accused of using Carrie Fisher’s tragic death as product promotion outweigh the cleverness of the tweet, or was the joke a natural one for the sticky bun-makers to make? Who better to remind us of all the jokes about Leia’s odd hairstyle when “Star Wars” debuted? Maybe this was one example where the “she would have approved” standard might be more than a rationalization. Is there any doubt that Carrie Fisher would have laughed at Cinnebon’s joke more heartily than anyone?

Fortunately, I thought some more.

I hadn’t realized until just a few minutes ago that the tweet was issued on the day Carrie Fisher died.  Ick, and also, yecchh, as well as “Ethics Foul!”

It doesn’t matter how clever, well-executed or funny it was. Krusty the Clown could have told Cinnebon what was wrong with the tweet in a trice, if they had the sense to ask, and Krusty wasn’t a cartoon character.

Too soon.

KABOOM! The Wrigley Field DJ Really Thought This Would Be OK! (And The Cubs Get A Jumbo…)

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Talk about malfunctioning ethics alarms! This story made my head explode, once I confirmed that it was not a hoax, as I desperately hoped. It apparently made the heads of a lot of Cubs fans and Cubs executive blow craniums too.

If you don’t follow baseball closely, and by the way, what’s the matter with you?, you probably don’t know two crucial facts about the Chicago Cubs closer (that’s the pitcher who comes in to pitch the ninth when his team is ahead in a close game) Aroldis Chapman:

1. He throws the baseball over 100 mph. on almost every pitch, and has hit 105 mph. on the radar gun this season. Traditionally 90 mph on a pitcher;s fastball is considered good. 95 mph is considered very good. 100 mph is outrageous. Last year, Chapman threw more pitches over 100 mph than the rest of his league’s pitchers combined.

2. Chapman was suspended for much of this season for domestic abuse, under baseball’s new policies.

The Cubs recently acquired Chapman (from the Yankees) to be the team’s closer, in this, a season that bids fair to be the one that finally ends the team’s epic string of seasons without a World Series title. The Cubs last won the Series in 1908, over a century ago. The team hasn’t even made it to the Series since 1945.

Now here’s the punch-line.

Hold on to your head. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethic Quiz: ‘Springtime For Hitler’ Ethics”

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This most recent  ethics thread commentary from Rick Jones (a.k.a. “Curmie,” who chronicles education fiascos, among other matters, during the year on his own blog) involves the recent kerfuffle over a high school production of “The Producers” having its Nazi decorations stripped away. I confess that I specifically requested Rick’s take on this one, knowing him to be a theater colleague as well as a teacher, and he did not disappoint….except that he uses the British spelling of “theatre.”

Here is Rick’s Comment of the Day on the Ethics Quiz: “Springtime for Hitler” Ethics.

Oh, Jack… You couldn’t just let me have a spring break without feeling compelled to reply to one of your posts, could you?

And… as I suspect you may have been expecting if not hoping, I agree with your arguments but disagree with your conclusion.

First, let me confess to ignorance of the stage version of The Producers. I know the film, of course, but being neither a big musical theatre guy nor made of money, I’ve never actually seen the play. Assuming it to be substantially similar to the film, therefore, is for me (but not for those more informed) a risky proposition.

It is not clear whether the school’s administration formally signed off on the choice of play, but de facto they did: the rights and royalties for a musical will cost—depending on a variety of factors such as venue size, number of performances, and ticket prices—hundreds or (more likely) thousands of dollars, and no high school theatre director can just write a check on a school account for that amount of money. Expenditures of that size need approval.

So here’s where I agree with your point that cultural illiteracy was very much at play from the beginning of this saga. I’m not suggesting that every high school administrator should have seen the movie or the play, but certainly the “Springtime for Hitler” shtick has long since passed into the public consciousness. I was too young (in junior high, perhaps?) to have seen the film on its first run, but I knew about the campy production number long before I actually saw the film when I was in high school or college. Similarly, I know that “I will take what is mine with fire and blood” is a ”Game of Thrones” reference without ever having picked up one of the books or tuned in to the television show. A competent administrator would at the very least have known what s/he was signing off on. Or… you know… asked: that’s an option, apparently.

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Ethic Quiz: “Springtime For Hitler” Ethics

And speaking of Donald Trump…

In South Orangetown, New York, the school superintendent stepped in and cut the swastikas from Tappan Zee High School’s student production of “The Producers” less than a week before the production. Of course, the Mel Brooks musical satire based on his film “The Producers” employs swastikas on Nazi flags and armbands during its famous campy “Springtime For Hitler” number and at other points in the show. Before someone posted a picture of the swastikas on the stage on a Facebook page, this aspect of “The Producers” had somehow escaped the attention of school administrators.

Some parents were shocked, and complained. After checking out the stage, the superintendent cut the costume details and set dressing.“There is no context in a public high school where a swastika is appropriate,” South Orangetown Superintendent Bob Pritchard told CBS. Pritchard consulted with local rabbis before making his decision.

Rabbis, of course, would be a natural audience for “The Producers.” (Reports that the rabbis suggested a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” instead have not been confirmed.)

Your spring-is-in-the-air Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is this example of school censorship of the performing arts fair, responsible and ethical?

Continue reading