Ethics Observations On The Jussie Smollett Hoax

Lookin’ mighty smug there, Jussie…

Or, “How’s that ‘believe all victims’ stuff working for you’?”

Last night, the ugly truth of what many had suspected was confirmed. One of the few benefits of CNN assiduously burying stories that reflect poorly on the Left, “the resistance,” progressives and their allies is that when it does report such a story, you can probably believe it…unlike, say, its speculation about the Mueller investigation. Here is the substance of the CNN report:

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollet paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month. The men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”The sources told CNN the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago….Smollett identifies as gay and since 2015 has played the gay character of Jamal on the Fox TV drama “Empire.”…According to Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the actor told detectives he was attacked by two men near the lower entrance of a Loews hotel in Chicago. Police were told the two men yelled “‘Empire’ faggot” and “‘Empire’ nigger'” while striking him.

…One of the men has appeared on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. A police source also told CNN on Friday night that the men had a previous affiliation with Smollett, but did not provide additional details.

Following the alleged attack, Smollett’s colleagues and fans rallied around him, expressing shock and sadness. “We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows that we are united on a united front,” Lee Daniels, the creator of “Empire,” said in a video posted to his Instagram page on January 29. “And no racist fuck can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie. I’m with you.” Smollett gave his first detailed account of what he says was a hate crime against him, and the aftermath, in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Thursday. During the interview he expressed frustration at not being believed.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more,” Smollett said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now.”

Got that last part? That’s the coded and not so subtle “this is all because Donald Trump is a racist and bigot” message, making it a catalyst for the Big Lie.

Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/19: Sick Room Edition

I hope you’re feeling better than I am.

1. Sick Ethics. Being sick on the job is always an ethical conflict, and riddled with bias. My father’s approach, so characteristic of him as someone who insisted on going into the Battle of the Bulge as an officer with a mangled, recently-repaired foot that was still oozing blood, was to ignore the illness and soldier on. There are two problems with that, however. First, you are working at diminished capacity, and second, you risk infecting others. The problem is a bit easier when you have a home office like I do, but there is still a trade-off issue: if I “soldier on” like my father, do I risk a longer illness and reduced capacity for far longer than if I just took a day or two off to recuperate? In my case, this is always a tough call: I am very vulnerable to bronchitis and pneumonia following chest colds (that’s what I’ve got, big time, starting last night), and when the stuff I cough up starts attacking me through the Kleenex, I’m in big trouble that has sometimes lasted for months. There is also a bias problem when you feel rotten. Right now, I would love to lie down. I can’t think of anything I would like more. I bet I can rationalize air-tight reasons why I should lie down, despite all of the very valid reason not to.

2. And speaking of sick...All 50 states require vaccinations before children to attend school, but 47 of them  (California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the exceptions) allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have religious beliefs against immunizations. Eighteen states also allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have personal, moral or philosophical beliefs against immunizations, including beliefs that they can think straight when they are in fact idiots and get their medical advice from Jenny McCarthy and other hysterical anti-vaxxers. Oregon and Washington are among the states that allow for a parent’s personal beliefs to exempt their kids from being immunized, along with Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont.

You know. Morons. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/18: The Defended And The Indefensible

Goooood Morning!

Baby, it’s stupid outside…

1.PLEASE stop making me defend Hillary Clinton. In a “controversy” reminiscent of the mainstream media’s hyped and manufactured criticisms of every word. sigh, look or twitch by President Trump, the conservative web is in an uproar over Hillary Clinton’s “snub” or Melania Trump yesterday. Hillary didn’t wave at Melania, you see. She just “nodded” her head. Good Lord, leave the poor woman alone. She’s obviously not well. We know she’s bitter, angry and depressed. Now she and Bill are facing sparse audiences on their ill-advised tour together. So she didn’t greet Donald Trump’s spouse with enthusiasm at a funeral—so what? If she had, everyone would be saying that she’s a hypocrite and a phony. She is, of course, but that’s not the issue.

Fake snub.

2. Oh, fine, now I have to defend Natalie Portman… Inexplicably acclaimed actress Natalie Portman apologized to has-been singer/actress/ sex-symbol Jessica Simpson after  Simpson said Portman was slut- shaming her. Portman said in an interview with USA Today that as a teenager she was”confused” by a sexy photo of Simpson “on the cover of a magazine saying ‘I’m a virgin’ while wearing a bikini.” Portman said, “Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.”

This triggered a long rebuke by Simpson on social media:

“I was disappointed this morning when I read that I ‘confused’ you by wearing a bikini in a published photo taken of me when I was still a virgin in 1999. As public figures, we both know our image is not totally in our control at all times, and that the industry we work in often tries to define us and box us in. However, I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then – and I believe now – that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body are not synonymous with having sex. I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know that they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want. The power lies within us as individuals. I have made it my practice to not shame other women for their choices. In this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same.”

Portman immediately backed down, saying her comments were not meant as a jab toward Simpson, saying, “I would never intend to shame anybody and that was absolutely not my intention. I was really talking about mixed media messages out there for young women and completely apologize for any hurt it may have caused because that was definitely not my intention. What I said was I was confused by mixed messages when I was a young girl growing up, and there are a lot of messages for how women should be, and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.”

The issue Portman raised was and is a legitimate ethics conflict, and should be discussed openly by women, men, and culture. Continue reading

Analysis: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s #MeToo Accusations And His Response

Oh, great…the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still making stops and picking up passengers. This time the target is Neil deGrasse Tyson who someone, actually several somones, decided was a powerful man too full of himself who needed to be taken down a peg or sixty, and thus he has been accused–Democratic Senators would say “credibly” accused—of two episodes of sexual harassment and one rape. This is no trivial matter for Tyson, whose carefully constructed image as the new Carl Sagan is now in real danger. So is his job, his celebrity, his reputation and perhaps his marriage.

The three accusations belong in two boxes. The two sexual harassment claims may bolster each other, for harassing is an attitude, a habit, and a form of ethics blindness. Real harassers never do it just once. Rape is something else entirely, and, obviously, far more serious, since it is a crime.

Let’s examine each of the accusations, and Tyson’s defense, which he issued in a long Facebook post over the weekend.

Accusation #1:

Workplace Harassment: Hostile work environment and Unwanted sexual advances (2018)

Ashley Watson, who began a job as Dr. Tyson’s assistant on “Cosmos” in the spring, told an interviewer that on one occasion he asked if she would like to come to his home to share a bottle of wine and “unwind for a couple of hours.” She agreed to come in for one glass, she said, believing that they were going to talk about work and her future assignments.

Once in the astronomer’s apartment, she said, he told her that “as human beings, we all need release,” and asked if there were any “releases” she needed.  (Oh-oh!) As she began to leave a while later,  and he asked if she would let her show her  a Native American handshake.” This required clasping their hands together , finding the pulse on the other person’s wrist, and looking into each other’s eyes. (Super Oh-oh, and also “You’ve got to be kidding me.”) She says that it made her uncomfortable, and she broke it off after about 10 seconds.

As she was again trying to leave, she says Dyson commented, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

Then, the next day, he told her, “You say you want to be a producer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle for you because you’re too distracting.”

She says told a supervisor ,a line producer,about what had happened, and that she was quitting.. The supervisor, asked Watson if she wanted to file a complaint. She said no. The supervisor suggested she tell her co-workers that she was leaving because of a family emergency, which she did.

Comment: If accurately described, this is slam dunk sexual harassment. The apartment visit is an extension of the workplace. If it is a veiled “date,” Tyson has crossed a line because he is the woman’s supervisor with hiring and firing power. She cannot consent meaningfully. The release comment, depending on the delivery and context, is creepy and plausibly sexual in intent, unless he also said, “Me? I like to watch baseball. How about you?” The “Native American handshake” sounds like a nifty version of the old “shoulder rub.” Now there has been touching, and forced eye-gazing. Ew. The last comment at the apartment  is also a sexual advance, especially in context with the rest.

Tyson’s Explanation: Not good. In his Facebook post,  Tyson described the handshake as one he uses “in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.” He said that at work, Ms. Watson freely offered hugs, which he typically rejected, but that on a few occasions, he “clumsily declared, ‘If I hug you I might just want more.’”

“My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection,” he wrote.

He also wrote that . Watson had come into his office after the incident in his apartment and told him she had been “creeped out.” He said he had “apologized profusely” and that she had accepted the apology.

Comment: Tyson’s defense is essentially “I didn’t mean anything by it, she construed it the wrong way, and anyway, she accepted my apology.” Those are three excuses, none of which carried any weight in sexual harassment cases. It’s what the harasser did, and how the harassed felt about it. His apology and her acceptance of it, even if true, doesn’t undo the event. The encounter and his words  made her uncomfortable working with him, and objectively, anyone can see why. It is also interesting that Tyson doesn’t deny the “release” conversation, or his later comment about her being a distraction.

Since Watson had to leave her job, this episode could justify a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

Accusation #2: Sexual assault (2009)

Continue reading

Mourning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/5/2018: Fredo, Tom Arnold, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Hirono, Fredo, Joe Biden, And Camille Paglia—Who Doesn’t Belong In This Group?

Good Afternoon…

1 A Big Lie is born!  The fact that Tom Arnold married Rosanne Barr tells me all I need to know about his intelligence and judgment, though it did get him a single good movie role in “True Lies,” which I never could completely enjoy because the her husband’s abuse of Jamie Lee Curtis’s character seemed so cruel and offensive, but was still played for laughs. That movie is decades old, but Arnold is still holing on to shred of celebrity by being a full-time President Trump troll,  thus getting him the love and fealty of thousands of like-minded Twitter users. 250,000 of them.

Last week, he tweeted that “80% of gun owners shoot themselves or members of their own families.” His tweet was shared all over social media, and not entirely by those who used it to demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that Arnold is a moron. Thus it will believed by many Americans, quoted by the anti-gun addled, and generally make Americans even dumber on this topic than they already are.

2. When will they ever learn?  Or un-learn? The University of Montana is now featured as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) “Speech Code of the Month.” It earned the honor by declaring in its Student Code of Conduct’s ‘Statement of Responsibility’  that all members of the campus community “have the personal responsibility to promote an atmosphere of civility,” and that discussions “should never become mean, nasty or vindictive.”

Of course, since the administrators of a committed left-biased institution will decide what is “mean” or “uncivil,” both subjective standards, you can guess whose speech will be chilled by this.

When did freedom of expression stop being a liberal value? Presumably it began when progressives stopped being able to defend their most extreme conduct, positions  and beliefs…

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Rundown, 11/25/ 18: Liberty Games

Good Morning!

1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…

The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also  in the photograph, whose story is that  “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.

2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain  several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

Continue reading