Last August, I wrote about Spencer Eldon’s “Hail Mary” lawsuit against the surviving members of the band Nirvana over their use of his baby photo (which his parents received compensation for) in an iconic album cover above for “Nevermind.” The verdict here was that the lawsuit was doomed, he was greedy, and the law supported the band. However, I also wrote,
...Nonetheless, parents who use their children for public display are engaging in unethical conduct. Yes, they have the legal right to do it, and no, there is virtually no chance that any law will be passed banning what I consider to be child exploitation and low-level, but still unethical, child abuse. My wife and I have been watching the long-running British TV series “Call the Midwife,” and every episode requires one or more infants who are forced, without their consent, to endure the stressful experiences of playing newborns or sick baby’s under lights, in the arms of strangers, often covered with fake blood.
Elden might be insincere and the lawsuit is probably hopeless, but he’s not wrong in one respect. “[When] I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’” he said in one interview. “I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.” Not rights, never rights: parents will always have the right to inflict indignities, publicity and stress on their minor offspring for fame and fortune. From the Coppertone girl to Linda Blair to “Mikey” and the kid in “The Shining,” they have all been unethically exploited by their parents, just like Spenser Eldon, without informed consent.
It’s legal, but it isn’t ethical.
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.
“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
Well, I missed the 2-ish deadline, after which only the most dedicated or bored Ethics Alarms readers check in on Saturdays, and the blog is already mired in the predictable holiday slump. My fault. But as Saroyan said, if just one human being sings your song, you haven’t lived in vain…
1. I see that Ann Althouse has a leftist troll. Interesting. Although the Wisconsin law prof blogger is a center-left commentator herself, her commentariat has gradually become almost completely anti-progressive in tone and substance. I see this happening on all the blogs where the predominant and virtually mandatory anti-Trump bias isn’t encouraged or observed. Now she has a recently-pressed commenter named “President Toilet Paper Shoe’s Perfect Phone” who is flooding threads with supercilious attacks on the other commenters and even Ann herself. The comments are obnoxious, abrasive, and smug. Why does Althouse tolerate them, as she is an aggressive moderator? I think she is letting this guy get away with comment misconduct because she wants more viewpoint diversity.
I sympathize, but this is “The Leftist Jerk’s Pass.” She should ding him. I would.
2. Cute or not, having a baby mayor is child exploitation. Whitehall, Texas, has a seven months old honorary mayor after his parents bought the title a charity auction in October, but his anti-abortion activist parents are promoting Charlie McMillan as the “new face of the anti-abortion movement in America.”
They have even attached a slogan to his “office”: “Make America Kind Again.” Continue reading
Abby Sunderland, now and then.
Not awake, don’t expect to be awake…
…any time soon.
1. Where have I been? Yesterday’s 16 hour marathon for the D.C. bar, followed by another three hours bright and early this morning, pretty much have me operating with one-half of my brain tied behind my back while functioning like a lesser Kardashian with a closed head injury. That I got through it all relatively intact is all due to the Ethical Arts Players, my team of brilliant actors who frequently enhance ProEthics programs—in this case, Esther Covington, David Elias and Chris Davenport, who played 10 comic characters in the ethics training video we were shooting, and Paul Morella, who has been portraying Clarence Darrow with me for almost two decades. It was long day and an exhausting day, but thanks to them, a very proud day for ProEthics.
2. Terrific open forum, everyone, and once again, thanks.
3. On child exploitation...Since you asked about my view of children setting “youngest” records doing dangerous things: the opening thread on the forum was sparked Keith Walkers comment,
Yesterday on the Today Show there was a feature on a 10-year-old who just became the youngest person to ever successfully climb El Capitan. I immediately thought of Jack and this blog, wondering what he would think of the parents’ decision to let this happen, since someone who is 10 is clearly too young to understand the potentially deadly ramifications of failure. Several friends agreed with my leanings toward “what on Earth were the parents thinking??”, but some made some good points the other way as well. (The parents were well-trained climbers, were with her the entire climb, clearly professionals, etc. – the girl was surrounded with experience, if that makes a difference in your opinion.)
As several commenters knew or guessed, my position on this kind of thing is fixed, and I have expressed it many times. Like… Continue reading
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?
It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.
1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.
In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.
“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said. They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.
“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”
The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.
- Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
- Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
- Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
- What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
- Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
- The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.
1. A plug. The computer rescue service GuruAid is why I couldn’t get a Warm-Up post up yesterday: about four different technicians spend from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm helping me fix a serious malfunction in my old Dell PC, so I wouldn’t have to lose Windows 7 forever. It wreaked havoc with my day and schedule, but the computer finally starts immediately without black-outs, red screens, blue screens, warning, check points, sudden freezes and other distractions.
2. Yeah, why waste time on all of this “values” stuff? The Texas Board of Education will decide in the coming months whether to accept the recommendations of a working group to end state requirements that the heroism of the Alamo’s defenders be taught to seventh graders in a required history course, as as study of William Barrett Travis’s iconic letter written before the final Mexican siege that killed all of the approximately 200 defenders, including Travis. The letter ends, “I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.”
The group of educators and historians, tasked with streamlining social-studies standards, felt that teaching about “heroic” acts at the Alamo was “value-loaded,” and eliminating them from the curriculum, along with the significance of such Alamo figures as Davy Crockett and James Bowie would save 90 minutes.
You know, I don’t think I’m even going to bother explaining what’s wrong and alarming about this, except to note that if you wonder why our rising generations don’t understand what has been great about America, or why being a nation founded on values and ideals is important, this episode ought to enlighten you.
3. Beach ethics. Here is an interesting article about how to maximize ethical conduct at the beach. Continue reading
The recent post on the incredibly annoying Change.Org petition backing the “March For Our Lives’ sparked two epic Comments of the Day. I am gratified. That idiotic petition was signed by one of my favorite people alive, and this both inspired the post and made me depressed even before my left-wing Facebook friends started making one terrible argument after another in defense of the thing. (Not a word from the signee. I have a feeling she was so moved by her two teenagers, even though she knows better. I hope that is the excuse. Creeping dementia would be the only other explanation.)
This is a strange issue: the ethics really orbit around tangential matters rather than the alleged controversy itself. The Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere, no matter how loud the screams are or how many demonstrations there are. As is often noted on Ethics Alarms, I am not interested in abstract ethics without real life consequences; indeed, ethical formulas that only work in theory aren’t ethical. To me, the ethics issues following the Parkland shooting are,
- The cynical exploitation of the children by the Left
- The equally cynical, and unwise, hesitation to hold them accountable for their worse excesses in rhetoric
- The recycling of bad statistics and demonstrably (and demonstrated) bad arguments that have been used before to mislead and frighten the public, and
- The unethical cheerleading for the anti-gun position by the news media and pundits.
- The unusually vivid disconnect between the actual facts of the Parkland shooting and the measures being “demanded” in its wake.
The fake controversy—Should the United States allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves with reasonably state-of-the-art firearms for whatever lawful purposes they decide are necessary and to the extent those citizens feel necessary?—isn’t on the table. This is the United States of America, and that question was answered long, long ago. As long as it is the United States of America, the answer will be the same. Those sufficiently unwilling to accept that fact really are well-advised to consider Australia. I don’t say this as a “Love it or Leave it” rebuke. I’m sorry such people don’t like the basic values and culture of the country, but I would have a similar suggestion for a friend who is determined to keep protesting that the U.S. should make its national language Danish, except, of course, then I would recommend repatriation to Denmark.
The two comments will follow now in successive posts without further musings by me…
Nursery schoolers expressing their contempt for the NRA. Or they would, if they could spell it…
This story would be a KABOOM, except for some reason my head didn’t explode, perhaps because at some level I expected something like this, as I know that anti-gun zealots are without shame or common sense.
Students across the nation walked out of school Wednesday in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting last month, including a group of New London kindergarteners….While people involved in the walkout involving a group of 5-year-olds at Harbor Elementary School said the demonstration was about school safety, student safety and parent permission have been called into question.
…New London Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Tracy said he didn’t have a problem with the safety message, but he and the principal didn’t know about the march ahead of time and there was no written permission from parents. “When you’re going to do something like that, in connection with something that, let’s face it, is controversial, you need to seek the approval of the principal and the parents before you involve 5-year-olds in something like that,” Tracy said.
…Harbor Elementary’s crossing guard Joyce Powers said she saw the children escorted in two lines by teachers who were carrying signs that read “enough.” “I thought it was pushing it with that age group,” Powers said. “I don’t think they understood what was actually happening.”
Tracy said he’s talked to the two teachers involved but would not say if any disciplinary measures were taken.
Observations: Continue reading