Tag Archives: comedians

Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/18: PART I, Bee’s “Apology”

Hi!

1  Bee gets an Eff. If I didn’t find Samantha Bee so loathsome and her transparent grab for headlines and attention by the cynical device of intentionally violating all standards of public civility and fairness, her on-air apology might warrant a full post here. “Where does it fall on the Apology Scale?,” I have been asked. She really does richly deserve to be shunned and ignored, however, not that she didn’t before. Her act is monotonous, obnoxious (Is there anything more revolting than someone who aggressively  presents themselves as smart and clever who obviously is neither?) and divisive. Like others, she exists to constantly reassure the “resistance” that they are justified in acting and talking like assholes because they lost an election.

Boy, they must need a lot of reassurance.

But since her apology on her show was an abomination (distinct from her apology on Twitter, which was a lie), I have to talk about it. What a crappy way to start a weekend. I’ll save time by commenting as we go. Yes, this is as long as a full post; it’s as long as a long full post. I know it’s silly, but even if it’s just a technicality, I refuse to give someone as contemptible as Samantha Bee more than Warm-Up status.

She said:

“You know, a lot of people were offended and angry that I used an epithet to describe the president’s daughter and adviser last week.”

In other words, “some people” were offended, not you, team member, because you LIKED me calling Ivanka a cunt, but we still have to deal with “those people,” who might be sponsors. Essentially Bee makes it clear immediately that this isn’t an apology  at all. The “you know” is a verbal shrug, and signals, “I don’t think this is a big deal, but I have to say something.”

This sentence, like the whole apology, is signature significance for a terrible human being. If she were my employee, I would stop her and say, “Start again.”

“It is a word I have used on the show many times..”

First rationalization in the second sentence! This is a subset of “Everybody does it”: “I do it all the time.”

“…hoping to reclaim it. This time, I used it as an insult. I crossed the line. I regret it and I do apologize for that. The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.”

Doubletalk. The word she used was “cunt.” It has never been anything but an ugly gutter word. What’s to “reclaim?” How it might have been used at other times is irrelevant, making this theme a flagrant act of misdirection, which is itself the theme of the whole phony “apology.” Imagine a male comic under fire for calling one of Obama’s daughters a “bitch”  saying “I have used that word many times–as a dog breeder, to describe swishy men, and in the phrase ‘son of a bitch’…” So what?

Bee’s bait-and-switch also cleverly reframes the issue. The offense was describing Ivanka Trump, on television, using a denigrating, misogynist word. Bee is now declaring that her offense was the rhetorical mistake of  misusing “cunt” as an insult. That was the line she crossed, according to her. Then: “The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.” Oh, the problem is when they heard it, not the use of the word itself.

Imagine a comic trying to weasel out of calling, say, Barack Obama a “nigger” making that argument in a parallel “apology.”

“A lot of them don’t want that word reclaimed. They want it gone, and I don’t blame them. I don’t want to inflict more pain on them.”

Wow—I hadn’t read this atrocity for a couple of days. It’s even worse than I thought.

Now Bee says the problem is that her using the word to denigrate the President’s daughter (who had done absolutely nothing to inspire such an attack) inflicted pain on other women—the good ones, you know. The ones who hate President Trump and his family.

“I want this show to be challenging and I want it to be honest, but I never intended it to hurt anyone, except Ted Cruz.”

Translation “You all know Ivanka IS  a cunt, but I didn’t want to hurt any other women by saying so, at least none who voted for Hillary.” Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, language, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/30/18: Going Out Like A Lamb

Good Morning!

It’s especially good because this is the last day of one of the worst Ethics Alarms months ever, with the lowest daily average of views for an April since 2013. I have no idea why, and I wouldn’t change anything anyway. I have my dark suspicions, though….

1 Pig brain ethics. Researchers at Yale University restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs, and kept the organs alive for several hours.  Now ethicists are wondering if this was ethical.

Hmmmm:

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you asked the pig, he’d say that cutting his head off was more unethical than keeping his brain alive afterwards.
  • Like a lot of bioethics controversies, this is more “ick” than ethics.
  • Go on, make a “Futurama” joke.

2. Human brain ethics. Is we getting dumber? This Facebook quiz claims that “nobody” can get even 5 of these 10 questions right, and that if you get all ten right, you’re a genius. I hope that isn’t true. I would say that anyone who can’t get at least 8 of the 10 right is either under 15 or cognitively damaged. I really want to know what the average score is. If most Americans really can’t answer these, then we need to dismantle the public school system and start from scratch. And any teacher who can’t answer at least nine of the ten questions should be fired. Continue reading

124 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Science & Technology

Great, Now I Have To Defend Bill Maher…

Bill Maher (that’s alleged comic Bob Saget as his “victim”) tweeted out a perfect parody of the infamous photo that triggered the demise of Al Franken, because his own party was fully committed to a sexual misconduct witch hunt, and they thought it might even lead to a successful execution of Plan J, to cancel out the election of President Trump.

Surely you remember the photo…

If there ever was a photograph and a situation begging for satire, this was it. The original photo was a gag that unethically used a sleeping young woman as a prop. Franken handled his apology badly. Then he set himself up as fair game for mockery by weasel-wording his way through the subsequent accusations of sexual harassment and groping, some of which occurred while he was Senator. Finally, he capitulated to a due-process-defying mob led by feminist vigilante Kirsten Gillibrand, and resigned his Senate seat in a snit. Later, Democratic Senators expressed doubts about their knee-jerk attack on Franken, but it was too late. The whole scenario was ludicrous. Ludicrous public events deserve mockery. [ The original version of this sentence read “pubic.” It was a typo, I swear. Thanks to reader crella for the heads up.]

Yet Maher’s tweeted gag is being widely condemned on social media, on a variety of theories, all bad. It’s “too soon,” some say.  Maher is a current events satirist: it’s never too soon. It’s wrong to joke about sexual harassment, others say. Who makes these rules? If the target is President Trump, about seven TV comics feel that they can joke about harassment, senility, nuclear war and incest. Then the ultimate declaration: It’s not funny. No, it’s not funny to those who don’t think it’s funny. It IS funny to those who do think it’s funny, and that’s all a comic cares about. For the record, and I loathe Bill Maher, I laughed out loud. Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Social Media, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Comments Of The Day (2): “Desperate Ethics Quote Of The Week: Louis C.K.”

There were two Comments of the Day  on this post.

The first is a lovely and compassionate one from Charlie Green regarding Louis C.K.’s eloquent admission of misconduct and appeal for forgiveness; the second, a reminder of the importance of forgiveness from Zoltar Speaks!, often at sword-points with Charles on other issues. Both are worthy of separate posts, and I hope Charles and Zoltar don’t feel slighted by being asked to share. In this case, I felt that the pairing was complementary.

First, here is the Comment of the Day by Charles Green on the post, Desperate Ethics Quote Of The Week: Louis C.K.

A friend said, and it rings true, “to be a comedian, you have to be afraid, confused, and conflicted; and all of them are very angry.” Indeed, it’s their confusion and anguished conflict that makes them so interesting to us.

The best thing Louis CK said in his response was, “It’s now time for me to listen.” Contrast that with Michael Richards’ anguished attempt to continually go public with his attempts at self-analysis and self-justification – an abject failure. When “there’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is…” – apparently the case in for Louis CK – the one smart thing for him to do is shut up and listen. Deeply.

When you’re faced with a situation you honestly don’t understand, and your career depends on your continued inability to make sense of it, the dumbest thing you can do is to suddenly attempt public self-psychoanalysis.

Most comedians – think Joan Rivers, or Redd Foxx, Kathy Griffin or Sarah Silverman – have crossed the line a few times, and not just in jokes falling flat. That’s why they work out material in small late-night dive joints. We depend on, thrive on, their ability to walk just up to the line, and not cross over it. And some of them cross the line in their lives off-stage as well.

There’s no excuse for Louis CK doing what he did, and talented friends like Pamela Adlon will suffer collateral damage. He couldn’t see where the line was, and now he’ll bring down still more victims with him.

Among other things, it’s a shame.

***

Now Comment of the Day #2 on the same post, this time authored by Zoltar Speaks! Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks

Desperate Ethics Quote Of The Week: Louis C.K.

Comedian/actor Louis C.K. has taken the high road in responding to his share of the wave of accusations coming at various show business and pop culture figures following the launch of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck with its Kevin Spacey caboose. The New York Times recently revealed the certifiably awful stories of C.K.’s disgusting conduct toward five women, and subsequent show business sources have confirmed that “everybody knew” Louis  was abusing his influence and power to harass women. Now the often thoughtful and provocative comic is fighting for his professional life, and has evidently decided that the wisest course is to be accountable, remorseful and contrite. Here is his statement:

I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.

These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.

I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.

I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.

I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.

Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Professions

Professor Volokh’s Ethics Dissent On The Vicious, Pazuzu-Blaming Professor’s Firing

‘Yes, I know he’s an idiot, but we should support idiots as highly paid teachers of our children, for the protection of the non-idiots…

Eugene Volokh is one of the best and most objective legal minds in the country. If he finds himself on the Supreme Court when Kennedy retires or Ginsberg shuffles off this mortal coil, we will not have suffered through the ugliness of the Trump years in vain. When he opines, I listen, as we all should, and he has now opined regarding the now fired idiot that I wrote about this morning, ex-University of Tampa visiting sociology professor Ken Storey.

Storey used Twitter, in the middle of the still-unfolding human disaster in Houston and soon New Orleans, to announce that flooding victims who were Trump supporters or Republicans deserved to die. He did this twice, so his later claim that his words did not intentionally convey what his words were obviously intended to convey was a desperate and obvious lie.

I wrote:

The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Today, in the Washington Post, Professor Volokh advocates a different position:

Storey’s comments were nasty and mean-spirited; and I should note that the University of Tampa is a private university, in a state that doesn’t limit private employers’ ability to fire employees for their speech. The university’s actions thus seem legal (assuming they didn’t breach any contract). And Storey’s comments also weren’t academic or likely to be part of a serious political debate.

But the university’s action strikes me as further undermining the freedom of expression and debate at American universities, including the freedom to say things that are much more thoughtful. If you were an untenured faculty member at the University of Tampa, would you feel free to express your views on controversial subjects, when you saw how the university reacted to this tweet? Even if your views were very different politically, what do you think the University would do if people started pressuring for your dismissal, pointing to the Storey incident as precedent?

I’ve talked before about “censorship envy,” one mechanism through which these sorts of speech restrictions can grow: “If my neighbor — and especially my political adversary — gets to ban speech he reviles,” the thinking goes, “why shouldn’t I get to do the same?”

If a university has a strong policy of protecting speech, including offensive speech, administrators can point to that policy as a means of resisting calls for firing a controversial faculty member, and they can appeal to people’s desire to see speakers on their own side protected, and use that desire to help protect speakers on all sides. But once the university starts firing some people for speech “that do[es] not reflect [the university’s] community views or values,” that makes it much harder to resist calls for more suppression. Indeed, at that point tolerating speech starts implicitly conveying the message that the speech does reflect the university’s community views or values — and to avoid that implication, the university would have to fire any speaker who offended some sufficiently influential constituency.

I am very confident that in this rare case, Prof. Volokh is dead wrong. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/17: A Vicious Professor, Pazuzu, And Kathy Griffin Revokes Her Apology

[ Just to remind you how good Debbie, Gene and Donald were. Note that these dancers skipped the staircase..]

GOOD Morning…

I’m changing the Warm-Up headlines to reflect the topics covered. I may even go back and revise the old headlines. It took a while, but I realized that having dozens of essentially identical post titles with only a date as the distinction made archive research harder than it had to be.

1.I would have headlined the story of now fired visiting University of Tampa professor Ken Storey “Vicious, bigoted and possessed by the Demon Pazuzu is no way to go through academia, son,” but so many professors have used social media to make outrageous and offensive statements that the ethics issue is getting repetitious. (I think Jonathan Turley has done a post on each one of them, and will continue to on his blog.)

The question is whether a college or university is breaching its commitment to free expression and academic freedom when it fires a professor who says that all men are rapists, or that whites should be exterminated, or, in Storey’s case,

When asked later if this theory also applied to Florida,  and Trump supporters there deserved a similar fate.the Florida college professor replied,

“Yep, those who voted for him here deserve it as well.”

The answer is no. The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Ken compounded his ethical offense by the standards of Ethics Alarms by issuing a terrible apology that evoked the Pazuzu excuse. Realizing that he had gone too far, he tweeted,

“I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.”

Translation: “Oops. My hateful expression of glee over the tragedy afflicting Texans seems to have put my job in jeopardy. I regret that, so I have pulled down my tweet and am pretending to be sorry. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group, even though somehow my tweet wished ill on a group in the clearest terms, and I doubled down on it. Someone or something else must have been responsible. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly. (Saying that will let me keep my job, right?)”

This is a #10 apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the worst there is:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

Storey was fired.

Good.

2. Speaking of phony apologies, Kathy Griffin, she of the Bloody Head, went all the way to Australia to reveal that she really isn’t sorry about representing that the beheading of a U.S. President is hilarious: Continue reading

40 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Workplace