Dinnertime Ethics Appetizer, 8/7/19: Spinning, Tweeting and Joking…[CORRECTED]

…and whatever THIS is…

The jaw-dropping video above has nothing to do with ethics, but after stumbling across this weird and wonderful act late, late last night in a 1944 B-movie musical revue called “Broadway Rhythm,” I’ve decided that the Ross Sisters need to be rescued from obscurity. We will never see the likes of this again. You decide whether that’s a good thing or not….

1. It’s nice to see the Times confessing that it’s a partisan hack news source, don’t you  think? When I posted about the unethical Times headline yesterday (“ASSAILING HATE, BUT NOT GUNS”),  I had no idea that a controversy had already erupted over the previous and subsequently removed headline in an earlier edition (“TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM”), which was attacked as being not negative enough about the President, or that the Times had replaced it in response to an outcry from its main audience, Democrats and Trump-haters.

How can the Times or its defenders pretend to claim that the paper has any integrity at all after such a craven and obviously biased performance?

In a Bizarro World spin job, the Times editor actually described the fiasco this way: “People think we are an important and necessary institution and they hold us to a high standard.”

Oh.

A “high standard” by a news organization is embodied by switching from an objective statement of facts to a partisan and biased one, after anti-Trump readers object! Good is bad, right is wrong, objective reporting is a mistake, the New York Times is the epitome of American journalism.

Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias!

2. It’s official: nobody knows what racism means any more. Comic Chris Rock concocted a gag meme for Instagram:

Get it? “Betty White” as in “Bet he white!” Ok, it may not be not Oscar Wilde, but it’s clever enough for Instagram. Yet Rock was attacked for being “racist,” not counting the critics who thought he was wishing for the beloved comic actress to be mowed down in a hail of bullets. (Social media is good for causing the idiots among us to self-identify.)

There is nothing racist about the meme. Nothing. NOTHING. Rock’s meme is not suggesting that one race is inferior to another. He is stating a fact—a couple, in fact. The vast, vast majority of mass shooters (and serial killers) are white males. Not all of them, but almost all, which is what make is a bet, and a wise one. The other fact is that when educated, informed people hear about such shootings as we had last week, they assume that either the shooter is a Muslim terrorist, or a crazy white dude.

“If a white person posted this about black people their career would be over but when it’s the other way around nobody gives two shits,” read one social media commenter. “You can’t fight racism with racism, you’re just contributing to the problem. Sad a 17-year-old kid has to say this.”

Yup, it’s sad our 17-year-olds lack the abilities of critical thought and analogy. Rock’s meme wasn’t trying to fight racism, and merely mentioning race doesn’t make observations racist. If a white person posted this about black people, it would be immediately recognized as nonsense. Nobody, even white racists, think that blacks are typical mass shooters.

I’m praying that Rock, who has thus far been adamant about refusing to buckle to political correctness and social media mobs, continues to have the integrity not to apologize.

PLEASE, Chris. You’re my only hope. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2019: The NCAA Tournament, Colbert, Chris Rock, And Bullshit

Good Afternoon!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad for some reason, and that was his favorite hymn. It’s an Easter hymn, but our church always had the choir sing it on the special spring service. My unusually musically talented friends knocked it out of the park at my father’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery. It also has the advantage of being composed by Arthur Sullivan, just like “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and “Tit Willow.”

1. Fill out your brackets, and enable corruption. It’s the NCAA tournament again, and again, helping the schools and the NCAA and the networks make money off of the destructive and corrupt culture of big time college basketball is ethically indefensible. The New York Times wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it did recently write about the dissonance, beginning,

Every March, millions of Americans fill out brackets (more than 40 million people, by one count), cheer the underdogs and tune in on television. Others buy tickets to the games, wear jerseys of their favorite teams and let wins and losses dictate their mood. Yet fans who follow college basketball closely know about the game’s intractable relationship to corruption. Even many who come just for March Madness must know that the real madness is not always on the court.

A wide-ranging and fear-inducing F.B.I. investigation into college basketball recruiting continues to ensnare big-name colleges and little-known crooks. It is why Louisiana State, for example, is playing without its head coach, Will Wade, and why Auburn recently had an assistant coach suspended and a former assistant plead guilty of conspiracy for accepting bribes.

This week, the lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike in exchange for concealing information he had about illicit payments to recruits. He has since revealedsome allegations on Twitter….

The Times doesn’t bother to go into the related problem of how basketball distorts academic goals, sucks away resources that should be used for education, and usually leaves its athletes no better educated than they were when they arrived. As you might expect, the Times’ writer is too ethically incompetent to provide and enlightenment. For example, he quotes one ethicist as saying, “…Someone thinks, ‘Gosh, this is unethical, but I love it so much, and my friends and I have such a good time rooting and cheering that I’m going to participate anyway.’” That description could also be used to justify gang rape. Can we have a little nuanced clarification? Then the Times writer, John Branch, offers these ill-devised analogies:

“Such internal debates permeate our culture. Is it O.K. to dance to a Michael Jackson song, to laugh to a Louis C.K. joke, to watch a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein? To cheer for football knowing what it may be doing to players’ brains?”

Let’s see: wrong, wrong,wrong, and…right.  1 for 4.

A Michael Jackson song isn’t corrupt, or unethical: it’s art. He’s dead: dancing to the song does not enable the misconduct. A joke is a joke regardless of who tells it, and again, laughing at a C.K. joke doesn’t make it more or less likely that he’s going to masturbate in front of a female colleague. Workplace misconduct doesn’t taint the work product, and nobody has claimed that movies themselves are culturally corrupting, or that Weinstein’s films harmed the actors in them.  Cheering for football is a legitimate comparison, because the sport itself is the problem, just like college basketball itself is the problem.

Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week; Chris Rock

Shut up, Chris.

Shut up, Chris.

“You say the wrong thing — you see what happened to [Donald Sterling],” Rock said. “I’m not defending what Sterling said at all, but if that’s not the First Amendment then what the [bleep] is? And what did he say, ‘I don’t want my girlfriend hanging out with black basketball players’? Me neither!”

—Black comic and “truth-teller” Chris Rock, discussing the fear in Hollywood as a result of the Sony hacks.

Gee, Chris, that’s courageous, fair, perceptive and true.

What a shame you didn’t have the integrity or guts to condemn what happened to Sterling while every other black pundit, columnist, athlete, and celebrity was comparing him to Satan. You just allowed everyone to pile on the old, rich white guy, take away his team and make him the face of racism for telling his slutty black  girlfriend—in his own bedroom!—not to flaunt the fact she was only hanging with him for the money by showing up at his teams’ games with her real boyfriends. You Hollywood types are hilarious–as in disgusting— in your selective belief in rights, privacy and fair play. First Aaron Sorkin, who didn’t object to the media feeding frenzy over Sterling’s private remarks, suddenly argues that his friends and business associates’ equally damning comments shouldn’t be reported because they aren’t about crime and corruption, and thus aren’t news. Then you suddenly decide to defend Donald Sterling’s rights of privacy and free speech now, when there is no cost to you at all, and the damage is done and irreparable.

Here’s what’s unethical about your statement, Chris: it’s too damn late.

 

Encore: “Ethics Call To Arms: Fight the ‘Fuck You!’ Culture”

 

kid fu

[This happens sometimes with 5000 posts in the bank: some topic causes me to find one that I can’t even remember writing, and I realize that I still agree with it, and if I forgot about, everyone else probably did too. The previous post led me to link to this one, and I decided that the list of steps I recommended to try to halt the culture’s slide into permanent vulgarity and incivility was worth re-posting, especially since five years ago the blog got less than a fifth of the traffic it does today. Thus I am re-posting this one, slightly edited to remove a few rhetorical excesses and outdated references, from November 18, 2010.]

“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

This was the very first edict in the list of civility rules memorized by George Washington as a child, rules that shaped his character and significantly influenced not only his life and career but the fate of America. Like most of Washington’s 11o rules, the first has universal and timeless validity, pointing all of us and our culture toward a society based on mutual respect, caring, empathy, and fairness.

Recently, however, there has been a powerful cultural movement away from George’s rules and the culture of civility that they represent. Rudeness has always been with us, of course, and public decorum has been in steady decline since the Beatniks of the Fifties, to the point where it is unremarkable to see church-goers in flip-flops and airplane passengers in tank-tops. Something else is going on, however. Like the colored dots of paint in a George Seurat painting, isolated incidents and clues have begun to converge into a picture, and it is not one of a pleasant day in the park. I believe we are seeing a dangerous shift away from civility as a cultural value, which means that we are seeing a cultural rejection of ethics. Continue reading

Cellphone Videos Of Stand-Up Comedy Routines Are Unethical: Ban Them

no cell phonesVulture features an interview with Chris Rock, on which he waxes forth on many topics.I don’t especially care what Chris Rock has to say about Ferguson, but I care a lot about his views on stand-up comedy, where he qualifies as an expert, and the disastrous effect unauthorized videos are having on his art.

Rock has walked off the stage in appearances when he couldn’t stop audience members from filming him, and for very good reasons. He doesn’t want untested, half-baked material to get out to the public via YouTube:

“There are a few guys good enough to write a perfect act and get onstage, but everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like Sammy the Bull, you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, ‘Oh, I went too far,’ and you would just brush it off. But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.”

On Elahe Izadi’s Syle Blog in the Washington Post site, other comics voiced similar concerns. Continue reading

In Tennessee, the Tea Party Tries An Anti-Chris Rock

The fine art of whitewashing, brought to you by Tennessee’s tea parties.

It might have been Chris Rock’s anti-Fourth of July tweet, or perhaps because there hadn’t been enough news stories making tea party members look racist or foolish (though there have), but suddenly Salon and other left-leaning websites started publicizing an 19 month-old press conference by Tennessee tea parties demanding that the Tennessee legislature pass a law that would whitewash American history, particularly as it applies to the Founders. From a report in the Commercial Appeal from January of 2011:

“Hal Rounds, spokesman for the group, recently claimed at news conference that there was ‘an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the Founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.’ As a result, the Tea Party organizations argue, there should be ‘no portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.’ ‘The thing we need to focus on about the Founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,’ Rounds explained of his interpretation of the legacy of the Founding Fathers.”

There is a lot of useful information to be extracted from this remarkable theory, some with ethics ramifications, and some without. Among the non-ethical conclusions are that… Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Day: Comedian Chris Rock

“Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks”

—-Chris Rock, in a 4th of July tweet

Crispus Attucks. Missed the fireworks.

Let’s see: what’s wrong with this comment?

Ignorant, racist, divisive, unfair, disrespectful, bitter, dumb, and not funny…what else?

In analytical terms: What an ass!

Ethics Dunce: The Delaware State Human Relations Commission, et al.

Justice finally prevailed in a disturbing Delaware case that took hyper-sensitivity to racial bias to absurd extremes. You can read the court opinion here. In essence, the Delaware State Human Relations Commission found that a theater manager who supplemented an on-screen request for patrons to turn off their cell phones, not talk during the film and not mill around in the theater with his personal announcement to the same effect was engaged in racial discrimination, because most of the audience was black and some felt that his tone was condescending. Continue reading

Ethics Call To Arms: Fight the “Fuck You!” Culture

“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

This was the very first edict in the list of civility rules memorized by George Washington as a child, rules that shaped his character and significantly influenced not only his life and career but the fate of America. Like most of Washington’s 11o rules, the first has universal and timeless validity, pointing all of us and our culture toward a society based on mutual respect, caring, empathy, and fairness.

Recently, however, there has been a powerful cultural movement away from George’s rules and the culture of civility that they represent. Rudeness has always been with us, of course, and public decorum has been in steady decline since the Beatniks of the Fifties, to the point where it is unremarkable to see church-goers in flip-flops and airplane passengers in tank-tops. Something else is going on, however. Like the colored dots of paint in a George Seurat painting, isolated incidents and clues have begun to converge into a picture, and it is not one of a pleasant day in the park. I believe we are seeing a dangerous shift away from civility as a cultural value, which means that we are seeing a cultural rejection of ethics. The past two weeks have presented damning evidence that this true. Continue reading

Comedy Ethics, Censorship, and Culture

(The current uproar over the use of  various versions of the word “retarded” by Rahm Emanuel and Rush Limbaugh seems to warrant a reprint, slightly revised, of the following essay on ethics and comedy, a January 2008 post on The Ethics Scoreboard. The word “retard” also came in for criticism in a comic context last year, with its use in the Ben Stiller comedy “Tropic Thunder.” Of course, comedy is one thing, and gratuitous cruelty is another. In either case, the issue is the use of a word, not the word itself. As discussed in the previous post, it is appropriate for any group to promote sensitivity and to encourage civility. It is unethical to try to bully others into censoring their speech by trying to “ban” words, phrases or ideas. )

Here is the essay:

Comedy Ethics

“Saturday Night Live” has, not for the first time in its three decade run, ignited an ethics controversy with politically incorrect humor. Was SNL ensemble member Fred Armison’s impression of  New York Governor David Paterson, who is blind, including as it did a wandering eye and featuring slapstick disorientation, legitimate satire or, as Paterson and advocates for the blind have claimed, a cruel catalyst for discrimination against the sight-challenged?
It is not an easy call, though the opposing sides of the argument probably think it should be. And it raises long-standing questions about the balance between ethics and humor. Continue reading