The Problem With Apu?

Commenting on the recent attacks from progressives on the allegedly racist drawings of Dr. Seuss, I wrote,

I’ve missed it: have social justice warriors been protesting “The Simpsons”? No? Not even Apu, the Indian immigrant Springfield resident—Wait! Isn’t the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield?–who has the stereotypical ethnic occupation of a convenience food proprietor (Full disclosure: my local 7-11 is owned by an Indian American)? You know, this guy?

Apparently I inadvertently set something in motion in the zeitgeist; I’m so sorry. For the New York Times informs us that a new documentary debuting Nov. 19 on truTV  is called “The Problem with Apu,” and “wrestles with how a show praised for its incisive humor — over the years, it has explored issues like homophobia and political corruption — could resort to such a charged stereotype. Making matters worse is the fact that the Indian character is voiced by a non-Indian (albeit an Emmy-winning) actor, Hank Azaria.”

The article goes on,

“In the film, Mr. Kondabolu places Apu within the broader history of Hollywood’s depiction of Indians, including Peter Sellers’s brownface rendition of an idiot in the 1968 Blake Edwards film “The Party” and the Indians feasting on chilled monkey brains in Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” He also reached out to a who’s-who of South Asian actors to talk about their experiences in Hollywood.”

The Indian-Americans quoted in the artical are especially upset that Apu’s accent isn’t authentic; it’s just funny. Can’t have that.

Move through the muck and emerge in the b right sunlight of reality,  there is no problem with Apu. There are problems with lacking a mature reaction to humor and satire, being deliberately hyper-sensitive, power-grabbing using group-identification politics, and cynically looking for offense to justify claiming victim status,  but there is no problem with Apu.

I would love to know why Indian-Americans feel all the other characters in the show can be  outrageous stereotypes and extreme caricatures,  but Apu is unacceptably offensive and insensitive. This is contrived victimization. One cannot reasonable compare the Indians feasting on bugs and chilled monkey brains in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to Apu because 1) Apu is entirely benign: he is one of the smartest, sanest and nicest characters in “The Simpsons,” and 2) he’s a cartoon. Cartoons are always exaggerated, and if they are not, they aren’t funny. They also aren’t cartoons. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Dr. Seuss Museum

The fanatics who pollute the left end of our political spectrum apparently have no limits to their purges, political correctness tantrums, grandstanding, bullying, and efforts to warp the past, present and future. To fit their rigid view of a “just” culture, they have begun demanding that the cultural landscape must constantly be cleansed; no real or imagined discomfort to sensitive progressive souls can be permitted to survive in art, history, literature or the public square.

Since even their worst excesses are cloaked in self-righteousness and the Saint’s Excuse, what this requires of the rest of us—you know, those who have perspective and proportion, believe in diversity of thought, and object to airbrushing reality out of the nation’s palette—to have the courage and integrity to say, “No.”

Sometimes “Hell no.”

The directors of the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts lack these and other necessary markers of ethical character and responsible citizenship. Thus when three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Seuss Museum to be held on October 14 threatened to boycott the event because the above mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive, the museum cravenly excised that section of the painting.

Mo Willems, Mike Curato and Lisa Yee issued a public letter condemning the drawing as a “jarring racial stereotype… with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.”

“We find this caricature of ‘the Chinaman’ deeply hurtful, and have concerns about children’s exposure to it,” they wrote.

If the directors possessed comment sense, principle or the backbone God gave a guppy, they would have written back,

“We are sorry you cannot attend, and also that you are so enamored of political correctness grandstanding that you would unjustly insult Theodore Geisel, his work, his millions of fans, and this museum by your false and hysterical characterization. We do not engage in censorship here, nor do we accept presentist slurs on past art that involve retroactively applying modern sensibilities or hyper-sensitivities, to classic works that are decades old.”

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?

Let’s look at the offensive figure again: Continue reading

Aspie Savant’s Amazing Hypocritical Self-Indicting Blog Post

Israel slur

This blog post, an instant candidate for the Ethics Alarms Awards’ most unethical blog post of 2015, initially had me fooled. It announced itself as a list of the “16 Basic Principles of Mass Indoctrination,” and since there has been a lot of that going around lately, especially as the news media clears its collective throat to cover for President Obama’s failures and stump for a Democrat to succeed him, I scrolled through it. Indeed the principles listed were all spot on:

1. Start while they’re young.
2. Create the illusion of political freedom.
3. Use simplistic stereotypes to sway public opinion.
4. Mix facts with lies.
5. A big lie is more convincing than a small lie.
6. Give the masses “bread and circuses” to keep them well-fed and distracted.
7. Simplify complex issues by portraying them as dichotomies. Eliminate nuance.
8. Spread propaganda by all means possible.
9. Ostracize dissident voices through ridicule or defamation.
10. Faith in the correctness of a religion or ideology is more powerful than force.
11. Manipulate history records to support your religion or ideology.
12. Control different sides of the same debate and you control the outcome.
13. The masses are less swayed by reason than by stirring their emotions.
14. Drive the opposition in a corner. When they fight back, act like a victim.
15. Label all non-conforming behavior as pathological and promote “cures” for them.
16. Use rituals and mass events to keep people occupied and strengthen their faith.

Each was also illustrated, often very effectively, by a drawing, chart or cartoon. When I hit #14—“Drive the opposition in a corner. When they fight back, act like a victim”-–the illustration was the cartoon above, a standard issue, anti-Israel, fact-slanting slur coming uncomfortably close to anti-Semitic bigotry. More importantly, given the topic of the post, the cartoon embodied many of the techniques of indoctrination that blogger “Aspie Savant” was supposedly warning against. Continue reading

The War Against Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman-Flying

For a lot of reasons, I have avoided commenting on this story until now. First of all, it is so stupid that if there is someone who wants to defend the conduct of the school in the matter, I don’t want to know them or read them, and I generally don’t post about the obvious. Second, we still don’t have a name of the victim of the anti-Wonder Woman attack, the school involved, or the teacher or administrator involved. Finally, I’m suspicious: a Wonder Woman movie is nearing release, and this seems awfully convenient.

The tale began with a post by someone claiming to be the parent of a little girl named Laura who was sent home is shame because her Wonder Woman lunch box violated school policy. The letter sent home with Laura, which someone supposedly photographed, is head-explosion worthy: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Looney Tunes Cartoon Disclaimer

Warner Brothers Warning

Above is the disclaimer shown at the beginning of each DVD in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4, Volume 5, and Volume 6 sets, as well as the Daffy Duck and Foghorn Leghorn Looney Tunes Super Stars sets and the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection:

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the warning that introduces the Warner Brothers classic cartoon videos fair and responsible?

Continue reading

“Piss Christ” and Garland

Piss-Christ

Ethics Alarms participant Other Bill raised “Piss Christ” on the comment thread to my post about the Garland, Texas attack, progressives’ and news media’s “hate speech isn’t free speech” confusion, and Geller’s supporters’ “gratuitously uncivil speech is laudable” delusion. He posted a column by George Parry, published under the heading “Think Tank” on a Philadelphia site. I’m grateful to Bill for raising the column, which he neither endorsed nor criticized. Titled Double Standard on Offending Christians and Muslims, Parry’s argument was…

  • “Christians objected to “Piss Christ” and the feces-covered Holy Virgin. And they rightfully wondered why their tax dollars had been used to promote these blasphemies. But their objections and questions were condescendingly dismissed by the secular left in the media and intelligentsia. …
  • “As if in one voice, the mainstream media and self-anointed intelligentsia argued that antiquated religious sensitivities must not be allowed to interfere with either an artist’s free expression or his right to government funding regardless of how offensive his work may be to Christians….”
  • “In Garland, Texas, on Sunday, two radical Muslims died trying to replicate the Charlie Hebdo massacre by mounting an armed attack on a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. We are not talking about drawings of Mohammed dunked in urine or smeared with animal dung. No, the gunmen apparently deemed the mere drawing of Mohammed to be an offense punishable by death…The overall media consensus has been to blame the intended murder victims for recklessly provoking the terrorists. Such provocation, we are told, is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior given the risk of retaliation by offended radical Muslims…”
  • “Better to question the wisdom of cartoonists exercising their rights than to acknowledge and vigorously confront and expose the elephant in the room, i.e., that there is a disturbingly large number of radical Muslims in this country who oppose our Constitution and who believe that murder is an appropriate sanction for those who offend Islam….”
  • “All of which leads to this question: Given their pusillanimous double standard, why should any reasonable or serious person believe, respect, or credit the self-serving mainstream media?”

That’s not the question. First of all, there is already no reason to believe, respect, or credit the mainstream media. Second, while Parry is correct that the analysis of the issues in the Garland attack have been largely incompetent and tainted by media dislike of Geller and journalism’s own cowardice (most news outlets were afraid to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though they were essential to reporting on the Paris massacre), his analogy with “Piss Christ” is no better.

The questions areContinue reading

The Garland, Texas Shooting, Free Speech and Ethics

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Last Sunday, two men opened fire outside uber-Islam-hater Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Both gunmen were killed by police, a security guard was wounded. Since cartoons of the Prophet have sparked killings around the globe, this was a risk, if not an inevitability, of holding such an event. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons for it, in fact: to show defiance of those that would cow us into self-censorship.

Since the episode, commentators and pundits have engaged in various levels of  confused ethical thought regarding the competition and the shooting, much of the confusion due to cognitive dissonance regarding Geller, who is beyond question an anti-Muslim bigot. So horrible is it to their delicate liberal sensibilities to have the principle of freedom of speech represented by Geller that rather than accept it, many would prefer to jettison freedom of speech itself. In this they seem to have forgotten that the reason for free speech is precisely to protect the most infuriating, inflammatory, controversial speakers, whether they be hateful fanatics like Geller, or Martin Luther King.

It really is remarkable that the First Amendment has survived so long, since those who discuss it in public the most frequently are journalists and politicians, neither of whom are consistently able to interpret it accurately.

Ethically, this isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. In fact, not a single new issue is raised by the Texas shooting that was not thoroughly covered here five years ago:

1. No group, no matter how offended or righteous and no matter what its holy book says, is ethically entitled to threaten violence against those who say, or draw, things that they find offensive, including the offense of blasphemy.

2. Encouraging such groups to do this by self-censoring is cowardly and a threat to free speech. Thus South Park and Comedy Central breached their duties to the nation, the culture and free speech by censoring a satirical animated series after receiving radical Islamic threats. As I wrote here: Continue reading

Emoji Ethics…Oh, All Right, I Won’t Be Coy: The Unethical Firing Of Chad Franks

Screen-Shot-2015-04-28-at-10.50.42-PM

Would you fire someone based on that tweet? Is it so horrible to you, so seering to your senses, that it warrants harming a human being’s career and welfare? Can you even detect what it was that got its author fired? Could the person doing the firing believe that he or she would deserve firing for such a tweet, as in, say, The Golden Rule?

Has the world gone mad?

First the basics: What the hell is an emoji? From Wikipedia:

“Emoji (絵文字(えもじ)are the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “character” (moji). The characters are used much like ASCII emoticons or kaomoji, but a wider range is provided, and the icons are standardized and built into the handsets. Some emoji are very specific to Japanese culture, such as a bowing businessman, a face wearing a face mask, a white flower used to denote “brilliant homework,” or a group of emoji representing popular foods: ramen noodles, dango, onigiri, Japanese curry, and sushi. The three main Japanese mobile operators, NTT DoCoMo, au, and SoftBank Mobile (formerly Vodafone), have each defined their own variants of emoji. Although originally only available in Japan, some emoji character sets have been incorporated into Unicode, allowing them to be used elsewhere as well. As a result, emoji have become increasingly popular after their international inclusion in Apple’s iOS in 2011 as the Apple Color Emoji typeface,which was followed by similar adoption by Android and other mobile operating systems. Apple’s OS X operating system supports emoji as of version 10.7 (Lion).Microsoft added monochrome Unicode emoji coverage to the Segoe UI Symbol system font in Windows 8 and added color emoji in Windows 8.1 via the Segoe UI Emoji font.”

In short, they are tiny pictures increasingly used by Twitter freaks to jazz up their tweets. If you don’t look for them, you may miss them. They are, essentially, cartoons.

Chad Shanks, who ran the NBA Houston Rockets’  Twitter account as the team’s digital communications manager, posted the above tweet to celebrate the impending end of the first-round NBA play-off series with the Dallas Mavericks. The emoji of a pistol pointed at a an emoji of a horse’s head—the Mavericks’ mascot is some kind of a horse-human hybrid monster—in the upper left-hand corner was deemed by management so vile that Shanks’ head had to metaphorically roll. The shocking, PTSD triggering tweet with its reference to cartoon violence was deleted and sent to cyber Hell, and Shanks grovelled an apology, writing, via Twitter, of course, that he was no longer with the organization:

“I did my best to make the account the best in the NBA by pushing the envelope, but pushed too far for some and for that I apologize….Sometimes you can go too far. I will no longer run @HoustonRockets  but am grateful to the organization that let me develop an online voice.” Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

“At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”

—-Doonesbury cartoonist and relentless critic of the Right, Garry Trudeau, in a speech delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

Trudeau is a Yale grad, so perhaps we should cut him some slack muddled thinking. (Kidding!) However, in making his weak case that legitimate and socially acceptable satire only consists of “punching up,” he appeared to be advocating government prohibition of certain kinds of speech, to be designated by Trudeau and his ideological allies, who, of course, know best.

In doing this, Trudeau came very close to aping the popular theme from activists on the Left, especially on campuses, that “hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.” “Hate speech” is an invention of progressives, and is generally defined as political or social criticism of members in good standing of their club, or groups and individuals they sympathize with or approve of.  Saying that you hope Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys fail is funny and deserved;  saying Mike Brown engineered his own demise by attacking a cop is hate speech. It’s easy when you get the hang of it: just look at the world like Gary Trudeau.

Earlier in his speech, he talked about “red lines” in satire, and blurrily–that is, inarticulately enough that he has plausible deniability, called for restrictions on “hateful” cartoons like those that prompted Islamic assassinations in Paris: Continue reading

The Unethical French Animator, the Mammalian Duck, Dysfunctional Ethics Alarms

“Oggy and the Cockroaches” is a French animated comedy series produced by Xilam and Gaumont Film Company. Its future on the Nickelodeon children’s TV cartoon channel NickToons is in doubt, however, after the channel was thrust into an unwanted controversy by an unknown French cartoonist’s practical joke.

A recent episode that aired on NickToons featured a brief view of a framed wall hanging showing a cartoon female duck sporting a pair of bikini briefs, sunglasses and bouffant hair-do, and most significantly, naked torpedoesque breasts of a variety more familiar to afficionados of “Fritz the Cat” than the target audience of eight-year-olds. Naturally, the station was deluged with complaints from parents.

The NickToons  website now appears to have removed the show from both its schedule and its homepage. Good start. It should also end any relationship it may have with Xilam and Gaumont.

I know cartoonists are not known for an excess of maturity, but a network needs to be able to reside a modicum of trust in its contractors, suppliers and partners. If an animator would think it’s funny to slip a topless, sexy duck into a kid’s show, then who is to say the next “joke” won’t be a giant talking penis or Adolf Hitler having sex with a cow?

Far more disturbing than the prank itself are the rationalizations and justifications being offered for it in online comments to the story and in social media: Continue reading