Ethics Quiz: Fat-Shaming Or Legitimate Criticism?

Belgian health

That’s Maggie De Block, the Belgian Minister of Health from October 2014 to October 2020. She is currently serving as a member of the World Health Organization’s Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development.

For some reason her photograph came to the attention of social media over the weekend, and she is being made the target of considerable mockery (though she is being incorrectly labeled as Belgium’s current Minister of Health). At 59, she is estimated to weigh between 350 and 400 pounds.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz to begin a busy week is…

Is it fair to criticize her for her weight when she is in a position involved with health promotion and policy?

Continue reading

Failed Late Thursday Ethics Review, 11/19/2020 Turned Early Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/2020: Let’s Play “Stupid or Not Stupid”!

Unrelated to any kind of stupid: Yesterday was the anniversary of the demise of my old friend, Glenn White, in 2013. I never got to attend a funeral or service for Glenn; his family didn’t see fit to let me know he had died, despite our association of thirty years. This is what I always will remember about Glenn: He knew what it meant to be a friend. We knew each other through theater, though he was a Fairfax City, Virginia politician. Glenn used to say, “If you need me, Jack, you just have to ask. I’ll be there.” And he always was. When he was in his late 70s, I needed someone to play an old man in one of my theater company’s shows. Glenn used to call himself The American Century Theater’s resident geezer, but he had moved to the Virginia countryside, and it was more than a three hour commute, round trip, to rehearsals and performances. My plight was barely out of my mouth when he said, “Sure, you can count on me.”

How many people do you get to meet in your life who are like that?

1. I really hate this...I spent precious time, as I was trying to get a post in before the clock struck 12 last night, writing about this story, published yesterday and passed along credulously by a U.S.news aggregator, only to find that the events described happened in 2019. I have encountered this before: some website is light on material, so it uses an old story for click-bait without stating the time frame until the very end.

2. Today’s inexcusable, biased, partisan and unethical headline from the New York Times front page: “Trump Targeting Michigan In Ploy To Subvert Election.” Clearly, the Times isn’t even trying any more. The use of “ploy” and “subvert” is not only editorializing, it’s irresponsible editorializing. There were certainly a lot of strange things going on in the Michigan voting and vote-counting;the state should be targeted. (There are strange things going on in Michigan generally.) If the Michigan vote was corrupted, discovering how and how much doesn’t “subvert” anything. If it turns out that Michigan actually was won by Trump—admittedly a remote possibility—then that discovery prevents the election from being subverted.

The Times’ job is to explain what the Trump campaign’s challenges to the election are in factual terms, not to speculate on diabolical motives, to trigger violence and subvert democracy.

3. What does this display remind you of?

Belgian phallus

Continue reading

And The Winner Of The “It Would Be A Better World If Everyone Read Ethics Alarms” Contest Is…Aalst, Belgium!

From the BBC:

Israel, Jewish groups and Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès were among many who strongly condemned the costumes in Sunday’s parade in Aalst.  Some critics said likening Jews to ants was similar to Nazi anti-Semitism, which persecuted Jews as “vermin”.

The Aalst mayor’s spokesman told the BBC “it’s our humour… just fun”. Peter Van den Bossche said “there isn’t a movement behind it” and “we don’t wish harm to anyone. It’s our parade, our humour, people can do whatever they want,” he said. “It’s a weekend of freedom of speech.”

Aalst lies 31km (19 miles) northwest of Brussels – the heart of the EU…The city drew much criticism for parading caricature Jews last year – so much so that it was dropped from Unesco’s cultural heritage list in December. After the outcry, Aalst itself had asked to be taken off the list….

There were also people parading in Nazi SS uniform-

– despite the fact that, in World War Two, the Nazis deported about 25,000 Jews from occupied Belgium to the Auschwitz death camp, where most were murdered…In Sunday’s parade some caricature Jews posed with a mock-up of the Western Wall – often called Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, a holy site for Jews. It was labelled “the wailing ant”, in Dutch “de klaugmier”. The Dutch for “wailing wall” is “klaagmuur”.

“This doesn’t encourage anti-Semitism; the reaction last year was over the top,” Mr Van den Bossche said. “Two hundred percent it’s not anti-Semitic.”

Continue reading

Child Abuse And The Genius

I don’t know what the ethical way to raise a prodigy is, but I am certain this isn’t it.

Laurent Simons is a 9-year-old Belgian genius,  and was finishing up on a brain-connected electrical chip for his final project at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. His goal was to get a diploma before he turned 10 on December 26, making him the all-time youngest university graduate. The child started primary school at 4, entered high school at 6 and began college at Eindhoven at 9.

Now his parents have pulled him out of Eindhoven, because the school determined that Laurent would not be able to graduate until after his birthday. In a statement, administrators said that the parents had insisted that Laurent receive his bachelor’s degree at  9, and  the university had determined that he could not take the necessary  the exams in that time. Laurent’s father accused the university of using his son “like a Christmas tree,”  a “glittering ornament that made the institution shine.”

The university is using the boy like a Christmas tree? Last month, the New York Times reports,  his parents announced to the news media that Laurent would graduate with a degree in electrical engineering by the end of the year. Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992)

The great Marlene Dietrich, Ethics Hero

It was on this date in 1992 that the magnificent Marlene Dietrich died, in her sleep, in her Paris apartment at age of 91. She had hidden her face from the world since she had stopped performing over a decade before, saying that the public should remember her as she had been. Sadly, Dietrich is one of those former icons of Hollywood whom the public is slowly failing to remember anything about at all; most are more familiar with Madeleine Kahn’s send-up of her in the Western spoof “Blazing Saddles” than they are with Marlene herself. That is wrong, for she deserves better. Not only was Marlene Dietrich a unique performer and important cultural figure, she was also an Ethics Hero.

She was a rising German stage and screen actress when director Josef von Sternberg cast her as Lola-Lola, the beautiful, cynical leading character in “Der blaue Engel,” (The Blue Angel), Germany’s first talking film. The movie made Dietrich a star. Von Sternberg took her with him when Hollywood beckoned and signed her with Paramount Pictures. There Dietrich built her image and legend by perfecting her femme fatale film persona in a series of classic films directed by her mentor: “Morocco” (1930), “Dishonored” (1931), “Shanghai Express” (1932), “Blonde Venus” (1932), “The Scarlet Empress” (1934), and “The Devil Is a Woman” (1935).

Meanwhile, she had already begun fighting Hitler’s regime. Continue reading