The Baby On The Album Cover: Dumb Lawsuit, Valid Ethics Point

Naked baby cover

Thirty years ago, Spencer Elden, age four months, was photographed by a family friend naked and floating in a pool at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, California. The striking and cute photo was then sold by his parents to be the cover of “Nevermind,” the rock band Nirvana’s second album that shot the Seattle band to international fame. (Never could stand Nirvana myself.)

Through the years Elden pretty much exhausted the opportunities to exploit his accidental celebrity, recreating the wet, wild and adorable moment for the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries (but not with his naughty bits exposed, of course) “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember,” he said in an interview with The New York Post in 2016, in which he posed holding the album cover at 25. Eldon even reportedly has “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest.But this year he needs money, or has a change of heart, or met up with an unethical lawyer, or something. Now Elden is suing Nirvana for damages, claiming his parents never signed a release authorizing the use of his image on the album, and more provocatively, that his nude infant image constitutes child pornography.

“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” legal papers filed in California claim. Lasciviously? The album cover indeed showed Elden as a baby with his genitalia exposed. Maybe it also made tiny Spencer seem greedy, since the graphic artist added a digitally added dollar bill on a fishing line, leaving the impression that the tot was trying to grab the dollar.

Of course, he IS greedy now.

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Mid-Day Ethics Interruptions, 6/4/2021: After the First Item, You May Not Want To Read Any More…

Screamfest

1. When ethics alarms were never installed...The question here is not whether this was unethical. Of course it was. The question is how such an episode could happen anywhere in this country. Eight high school football coaches at McKinley Senior High School in Canton, Ohio have been placed on paid leave after apparently forcing a 17-year-old player, a Hebrew Israelite whose faith forbids the consumption of pork, to eat a pepperoni pizza in front of the team as punishment for skipping a practice. The family is suing the school district for violating the student’s First Amendment rights.

The head football coach, Marcus Wattley, allegedly told the boy that if he didn’t eat the pizza, his team mates would be punished. I don’t comprehend this. How can someone live in the U.S. and think forcing a child to violate his faith is anything but abuse? How does someone like Wattley get hired by a public school and entrusted with the welfare of children? Why would any high school have eight assistant football coaches?

If the facts are confirmed in an investigation, more than the coaches should be fired and, one hopes, prosecuted. The principal and other administrators should also be canned. [Pointer: JutGory]

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias…The dozens of ways the mainstream media warps the news and manipulates public opinion becomes oppressive once you are sensitized to it. The headline in the Times two days ago, for example, was “GOP Challenges Teaching of Racism’s Scope.” That headline presumes as fact that “Critical Race Theory” and the “1619 Project” fairly and accurately convey “racism’s scope.” “GOP Challenges What It Calls Anti-White, Anti-America Indoctrination In the Schools” would be a neutral headline. Later in the same article, the news story refers to President Trump’s “racist comments, ” which is just a continuation of a narrative build on a media-fueled Big Lie. President Trump made many insensitive, provocative and politically incorrect comments. None were “racist.”

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The Teacher, The Toilet, And Signature Significance

In Little Rock, Arkansas, Ashley Murry’s 5-year-old son told her that after a toilet clogged following his use of it, his teacher ordered him stick his hand in the toilet and remove his feces and the dirty tissue. Murry’s son is a kindergartener at Crystal Hill Elementary School. The mother reacted to his report by filing a complaint with the school, pulling him out of the class, and posting the story on social media.

The Pulaski County Special School District began “an investigation” while the teacher was put on administrative leave. The teacher attempted to patch things up by calling Murry and saying that she knew she was wrong. She also explained to the principal that she was only trying to teach the child not to use too much toilet paper so that the school toilets wouldn’t get stopped up.

See? Her intentions were good! Nonetheless, the child’s mother says the teacher needs to be fired, because “you don’t treat kids like this.”

Observations:

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Ethics Dunces: Cavan van Ulft And Lindsay Noad, And By The Way, Where Is Child Services?

Rory van

The tale of Rory van Ulft, the seven-year-old competitive weight-lifter, puts me in mind of Samuel Johnson’s famous quip about a dog walking on its hind legs: “It’s not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” According to one gushing profile, “Rory, who is just four feet tall, started training just after her fifth birthday after she was scouted at a gymnastics class. Fast forward to last week and she was crowned USA weightlifting under-11 and under-13s Youth National Champion in the 30kg weight class. She is the youngest US youth national champion in history and is the best pound-for-pound under-11s lifter in the US.”

Here’s another:

She has an Instagram account, managed by her parents [ Cavan and Lindsay] where the videos of her incredible feats are shared. Take a look at one such clip and prepare to get stunned….“I like getting stronger. Being stronger lets me do more and get better at everything I try. I don’t think about what came before, or what will come after. I don’t think about anything. I just clear my mind and do it,” she [said]….“Based on her current Sinclair total, Rory is not only the strongest seven-year-old in the world. She is likely also the strongest seven-year-old girl or boy who has ever lived, for whom there are verifiable competition results,” Rory’s dad told LadBible….

What do you think of this amazing girl?

I think, like the twin boys of “The Biking Vogels,” Abbie Sunderland, tiny gymnasts and skaters, child actors dragged to auditions and all the other children manipulated, exploited and ultimately endangered or harmed by their parents, Rory needs some responsible adult to step in and rescue her.

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The Vegan Parents: No, They Haven’t “Suffered Enough”

Review: “I don’t recommend this formula. It killed my baby.”

The vegan parents of a baby girl they condemned to a lifetime of brain damage pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, thus avoiding jail time. They will  have to perform 12 months of community service, and will also have to undergo mental observation and treatment.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Having ignored all legitimate health advice regarding the nutritional needs of infants for a full year, the parents took their 12-month-old baby girl to an emergency clinic in August 2018 with her suffering from extreme malnutrition, open wounds, rashes, bruises, discoloration of her skin, internal bleeding and blood in her stool. Her condition, doctors said,  resembled those of babies being raised in countries during famines.

A week before, the father had sought the help of an online vegan website, writing,

“Hi my 1-year-old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does, it’s not staying down or she starts to cough,” he reportedly wrote in the email. “What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink? She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.”

The recommended solution: “stomach tea.” The parents had decided that they didn’t trust doctors after being told  told that their baby required more than the coconut water and health store powders that they began feeding her after she stopped breast-feeding. Continue reading

Now I’ve Actually SEEN “Cuties,”So I know What I’m Writing About…

What does Barbara Streisand have to do with “Cuties,” you ask?

And, from my perspective, I have been taught, once again, that I should not rely on the opinions of others. Why is that such a difficult lesson to process? I bet I’ve “learned” it a thousand times, and yet here we are.

I initially wrote about pundit Rod Dreher’s angry assessment of the Netflix hit (it is one of the most streamed productions in its history) in this post. I think it was clear that I hadn’t seen “Cuties” myself, but I should not have written that he was disgusted “with good reason.” Veteran commenter Humble Talent provided Ethics Alarms with his critical assessment of “Cuties” in his Comment of the Day; it was negative as well. Having now watched the film with my wife last night (I regarded the session as work, not recreation), I understand what Dreher’s perspective was, and  I cannot say that Humble’s critique is “wrong.”

I disagree with both of them, however.

My thoughts on “Cuties”:

1.  I did not enjoy the movie. I would not watch it again. I would watch “1918,” “Parasite,”The Circle“…even “JFK,” “Ghost” and “La La Land,’  all movies I felt were at best disappointing and at worst ridiculously over-hyped, before I would sit through “Cuties” again. (I would rather watch “Cuties” than revisit “The Deer Hunter,” but then I would rather have my fingernails  pulled out than revisit “The Deer Hunter.”)

2. That doesn’t not mean I think “Cuties” is a bad movie. It’s a very good movie, for the audience it was made for. (“Ghost” is not a good movie, and anyone who thinks so is a tasteless sap.) This isn’t just a “chick flick,” it is a flick that men should be warned not to see, and possibly banned from trying.

3. As a man, I felt like a voyeur watching these semi-pubescent girls try to navigate their emerging sexuality and the corrosive influence of the culture. It’s not that I’m uninterested in this aspect of a reality I didn’t experience, it’s just that…ick. My wife, on the other hand, who grew up with three sisters, kept asking, “So what was supposed to be so objectionable about this?”

4. If art is supposed to convey truth, “Cuties” succeeds, I suspect. Of course, just because a story is true or embodies truth doesn’t mean it needs to be made into a movie. This precise topic has been dealt with before, but never so directly, at least in any movie that has been widely publicized.

5. I agree with Humble’s complaint that the director—a woman, of course—focused the camera on the girl’s bodies as they gyrated and twerked to the verge of salaciousness. I’m sure she would have a good answer for why she made this choice, and why it was artistically valid, but it was still a troubling choice.

6. I thought the girls were all excellent, and several were remarkable. That does not mitigate one of my ethical objections to the film, which is that juveniles were given this kind of material to absorb and experience. It doesn’t matter that they performed it well, and it doesn’t matter that the movie could only be made with pre-teen actresses. Nor will it change my view if they all grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults: that’s moral luck. The actresses were below the age of consent, and should not be asked to/ compelled to perform such material. The parents who consented for them are irresponsible and unethical, just as Dakota Fanning’s parents were unethical to allow her to be in a  graphic rape scene in “Hounddog,” just as Brooke Shields’ parents were unethical to allow her to appear as a pre-teen prostitute in “Pretty Baby,” just as Linda Blair’s parents were unethical to allow her to play the possessed girl in “The Exorcist.” I  may ask child performer advocate Paul Peterson to author a guest column on his view of “Cuties.” I think I know what he will say.

7. One of the major complaints about the film is that it will appeal to pedophiles. That’s an unfair reason to criticize a movie: the fact that sick people will like it for the wrong reasons. I refuse to believe that pedophiles are the intended audience, nor that either the director or Netflix were seeking to entertain men who have a sexual fixation on little girls. I’m sure “Seabiscuit” titillated some people who fantasize about having sex with horses.

8. The runaway success of “Cuties” is as fine an example of “The Streisand Effect” as we are likely to find. The only reason a film like this, focusing on a Muslim pre-teen coping with her family stresses by becoming obsessed with sexually provocative dancing that is rampant among girls just slightly older, becomes an cultural phenomenon is if it is controversial. Critics like Dreher guaranteed that many more people would watch “Cuties” than the subject matter would normally draw. It’s not titillating or enjoyable to watch 11-year-olds get into sexually provocative costumes and make-up and act like go-go dancers in a cage. It’s creepy, and it’s supposed to be creepy. But Dreher and the other would-be conservative cultural gate-keepers made sure that the pervs would find “Cuties” and settle down to watch with their lotion handy. Good job, everybody!

Regarding “Athlete A”….[Corrected!]

“Athlete A,” the Netflix documentary that tells the awful story of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s decades of sexually abusing young female gymnasts—perhaps as many as 500 of them—, how he was allowed to continue his crimes after complaints from parents and others, and the young women who finally sent him to prison with their testimony, is both disturbing and depressing. I watched it last night with my wife, who was horrified that she didn’t know the Nassar story.

Ethics Alarms wasn’t as much help as it should have been. Its first full post about the scandal was this one, which, in grand Ethics Alarms tradition, slammed the ethics of the judge who sentenced Nasser to 60 years in prison, essentially a “Stop making me defend Dr. Nasser!” post. I’ll stand by that post forever, but it didn’t help readers who are link averse to know the full extent of Nasser’s sick hobby of plunging his fingers and hands into the vaginas and anuses of trusting young girls while telling them that it was “therapy.”

The second full post, in August of last year,  was more informative regarding Nasser, but again, it was about the aftermath of his crimes, not the crimes themselves. That post  focused on the the Senate hearings following the July 30 release of the report of an 18-month Senate investigation  that found that the U.S. Olympic Committee and others failed to protect young female athletes from Nasser’s probing hands, detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.”  Then there was this: Continue reading

Naming Ethics: The Gaylord Affair

My short summary of this ethics controversy is: This mother is nuts.

A woman, 24, is due to have her first child in August, and, she says,  the first born son of everyone from her side of the family has been named Gaylord since the early 19th Century. She is determined to carry on the  tradition, though her husband is horrified, maintaining that to name any boy “Gaylord” is child abuse.

That’s probably overstating it, but just a bit. Gaylord is not a common name (it’s from the Old French gaillard meaning “joyful” or “high-spirited”), but Wikipedia lists 25 famous or accomplished Gaylords, only one of which I had ever heard of, the baseball player on the list (of course). That’s Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who won over 300 games during a 21 year career in which he was famous for throwing spitballs, an illegal pitch.  Perry is one of the three Gaylords on the list who is still alive, including a French long-distance runner named Gaylord Silly.

Now that’s child abuse..

But I digress. The mother says she offered her husband a compromise, agreeing that young Gaylord would go by “Gail” in school “so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”

What? Continue reading

There Are Many Ethics Villains In This Story, But The Boys Put In Handcuffs Aren’t Among Them.

In July of 2019, 10-year-old Gavin Carpenter and a friend were playing outside with toy weapons near a Fort Carson, Colorado intersection, acting out a favorite video game scenario. One of the weapons was an an orange Nerf bow that apparently didn’t work.  Gavin had a toy gun with an orange tip. It was also broken. The boys might as well have been using their fingers, or sticks.

As part of the game, they pretended to shoot at passing cars. One driver stopped, and was furious, shouting at the boys, who ran  to a grandparents’ house. The man called the police.  The County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested both Gavin and his friend. They were  handcuffed and taken to the Colorado Springs Police Department for mugshots and fingerprinting.

For pretending to shoot at cars with obvious toys that couldn’t shoot anything. And they were ten.

Gavin was finally released into his parent custody at10:30 p.m. They  hired an attorney to help get the charge expunged from Gavin’s record, but the District Attorney was intent on prosecuting.  The boys were moved into a diversion program requiring community service,writing an essay, and other hoops to jump through. 216 days later, what was charged as Felony Menacing was finally expunged from their records

Now the rogues gallery inhabiting this revolting episode: Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, Continued….Chapter 2: The Story Unfolds…

The Introduction is here.

Chapter I is here.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Kris is not really Santa Clause. The sooner you understand that, the more sense the movie will make.

Now onward:

2. The bad mother and the sneaky lawyer.

While Kris is enjoying his starring role in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we meet Susan Walker, Doris’s young daughter, and Attorney Fred Gailey,  who lives in the apartment next door. Susan has been raised  to be a joyless little cynic, the victim of an arrogant and misguided single mother who needed to read more Bruno Bettelheim ( except that Bruno didn’t write The Uses of Enchantment  until 1976).  Doris, as we soon surmise, has allowed a bad marriage to make her suspicious of dreams, hope, and wonder, and she is passing her own disappointment in life off to her daughter at the tender age of nine. Nice.

Lots of parents do this, I suppose, but that doesn’t mitigate how cruel and damaging it is. I remember how horrified I was at Susan’s brainwashing when I first saw the film at about the same age as Natalie Wood was in the movie. My parents, particularly my mother, surrounded my sister and I with fantasy and whimsy. They went to elaborate measures to make Santa Claus seem real, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. At one point my sister, having read a story about a lollypop tree, planted a lollypop stick in the back yard. My mother pooh-poohed the idea, telling my sister that this was just a fantastic story she was believing, and that she was  going to disappointed.  Then, three days later, my father exclaimed as he looked out the kitchen window,  “I don’t believe it! Look at that!” And there, about four feet height and covered with lolly pops of all  the colors of the rainbow, was the lollypop tree.

My sister and I weren’t idiots; we knew that our parents had made the tree. But we played along, and the lesson was taught.  Life is more fun and bearable if you believe in the unbelievable, and are open to a little magic in the world. Our parents gave my sister and me a gift that made us love music, literature, humor, mystery, and surprises. Doris Walker, out of ignorance, grief or anger, was an incompetent and selfish parent. ” We should be realistic  and completely truthful with our children  and not have them growing up believing in  a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example,” she says.

And your authority for this proposition is what, Doris? Generations of children have grown to healthy, happy maturity being raised on myths, legends and fairy tales, and you, with your invaluable perspective as a department store employee, are confident in your certitude that their parents were wrong, and you are right. Wow. Continue reading