Policing Ethics, Part One: Firing The Faint Of Heart

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department this week fired Officer Cordell Hendrex for “freezing” (it’s all on video) as a deranged sniper  fired hundreds of rounds into a crowd of county music fans below the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas in 2017. “I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor,” Hendrex said into his radio as he hid behind a wall. “I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”

As Hendrex stayed there in terror (by his own testimony), the gunman continued to fire, eventually killing 58 people and wounding more than 800 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.  His lawyers are  appealing the decision. His defense? He was scared, that’s all. It’s unreasonable for the public to expect  police officers to rise to heroic standards and place their lives in jeopardy in a public safety crisis. The Las Vegas department’s training didn’t prepare Hendrex for storming the hotel room. He’s been a terrific cop, as long as he didn’t have to put his life on the line.

Oh. Continue reading

And Another One BitesThe Dust: Bowling Green State’s Unethical Slap At Lillian Gish [UPDATED]

The problem with so many of the statue-toppling/ renaming debacles at U.S. universities isn’t just that they are  transparent grandstanding, virtue-signalling and pandering to power-seeking black activists. The more disturbing problem is the intellectual vacuousness and lack of critical thought that school administrators display in the process of their grovels. The recent action of Bowling Green State University in Ohio is a particularly noxious example.

[Correction notice: the post originally had the university in Virginia, perhaps because I was once pulled over for reckless driving in Bowling Green, Virginia. Anyway, that was wrong. My apologies.]

Lillian Gish ( 1893-1993) had an epic  film career spanning 75 years, from 1912, in silent films,  to 1987. She was frequently  called the “First Lady of American Cinema,” and film historians credit her with introducing basic movie performing techniques to her craft. The PBS series, American Masters devoted an episode to Gish’s life and achievements; Turner Classics Movies observes,

Having pioneered screen acting from vaudeville entertainment into a form of artistic expression, actress Lillian Gish forged a new creative path at a time when more serious thespians regarded motion pictures as a rather base form of employment. Gish brought to her roles a sense of craft substantially different from that practiced by her theatrical colleagues. In time, her sensitive performances elevated not only her stature as an actress, but also the reputation of movies themselves. 

She had 120 film and TV credits before she was done, including “Night of the Hunter,” an enduring classic. In short, she was important. She enhanced the culture and her industry, and she earned her honors. She should be remembered.

Bowling Green State University has honored  Lillian Gish (and her less-celebrated acting sister Dorothy) for more than 40 years. But members of the college’s Black Student Union objected the theater’s name, on the grounds that in 1915, when she was 22 years old, she was one of the stars in D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” a seminal work in the U.S. film canon by one of its most talented and influential directors. The film, despite its artistic merits and importance to the development of the movies, is widely regarded as racist in content and purpose, celebrating as it does the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. The film is also blamed in part for the rise of Jim Crow in the South, also aided by President Woodrow Wilson’s open promotion of the movie as well as Griffith’s political views.

None of which has anything to do with Lillian Gish. Actors don’t write scripts or control a movie’s message, nor are they responsible for how audiences perceive a film beyond their own performances. D.W. Griffith was not only the early 20th Century’s equivalent of a Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, he was young Lillian’s patron and metor. She had literally no choice other than to accept his decision to cast her in his Reconstruction opus; to rebuff him would have risked ending her career. Nor was there any way, in 1915, for Gish to know what the impact of “Birth of a Nation” might be, or to know, while she was being filmed, what the director would do with the footage.

Gish was not responsible for the movie, and holding that she was is as ignorant and indefensible as it is unfair. Continue reading

My Involuntary Evolution On “Never Apologize…It’s A Sign Of Weakness!”

“Never apologize…It’s a sign of weakness!” is one of John Wayne’s many famous quotes from the characters he portrayed on film, though no one ever wrote a song about it like Buddy Holly did after he watched “The Searchers” and couldn’t get “That’ll be the day!” out of his head.

The line was given renewed life when NCIS leader Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) repeatedly cited it to his team of investigators on the apparently immortal CBS procedural “NCIS,” as he taught them about life, their duties, and ethics. “Never  say you’re sorry…It’s a sign of weakness!” is #8 (on some lists, #6) among  36 “Gibbs’ Rules” that include “If it seems like someone is out to get you, they are” (#30) and “Never date a co-worker” (#14).

Once, not very long ago, I regularly referenced #8 in ethics seminars as one of Gibbs’ worst rules when I discussed “Dr. Z’s Rules,” social scientist Philip Zimbardo’s tips for girding oneself against corruption in the workplace. One of the points on that list is,

“Be willing to say “I was wrong,” “I made a mistake,” and “I’ve changed my mind.” Don’t fear honesty, or to accept the consequences of what is already done.

I would tell my students that Gibbs and the Duke were wrong, that apologizing for wrongdoing is a sign of strength and integrity, signalling to all that you have the courage and humility to admit when you were wrong, and to move forward.

Then came the advent of social media bullying and Twitter lynch mobs, and I saw how I had underestimated the noodle-content of the  spines of politicians, celebrities, CEOs, and others… Continue reading

The Kate Smith Ban, Chapter II: Oops! Kate Was Actually An Important Voice AGAINST Racial Prejudice! Now Can We Put Her Statue Back Up And Listen To Her Recordings Again?

Oh, how I love this development!

As Ethics Alarms discussed last week, The New York Yankees banned singer Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” at their games after some individuals claimed she was a racist because of the lyrics of two songs she recorded in the 30s. This was a stupid complaint, and the Yankees were cowardly to react to it as they did, but you know, the Yankees. (I kid: my Boston Red Sox were even more craven for  removing the name of their most essential owner, Tom Yawkee, from the street bordering Fenway Park as a virtue-signaling  surrender to Boston progressives.)

The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers had  more reason to be loyal to Smith’s memory than the Yankees, for the singer was the team’s good luck charm, singing “God Bless America” at crucial Stanley Cup home games in the early 1970s. Not only did  the Flyers ban Kate’s rendition of the Irving Berlin patriotic anthem, it covered Smith’s statue in front of the team’s arena with a tarp, then took it down completely.

Nice. I wonder why they didn’t renounce their Stanley Cup victories, since now they are tainted.

Now it appears that Kate was falsely smeared, misrepresented, misunderstood and mistreated.  Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/2019: Dumb, Dumber, Fake, and Fakiest

At least this guy has hair

If I’m out of bed, it’s morning to me…

1. Update. Wow. My furious ex-Ethics Alarms commenter actually filed a motion to oppose my motion to extend the time to file a response brief to his rambling 70+ page, incoherent rant of an appellant brief, as he tries to get the dismissal of his defamation suit against me overturned. Such extensions are granted as a matter of course and courtesy, and real lawyers never oppose them, so a petty motion like that sends a strategically unwise signal to the court that this is not really a legal matter but an abuse of process to pursue a grudge. Of course, reading the brief itself makes that clear.

2. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Day: Rep. Jason Crow (D-Co), who tweeted about the President sending troops to the border,

This guy needs to be sent back to government kindergarten. Troops are almost always deployed for political reasons, both national and international. Does he remember when LBJ sent troops into Selma? How about Truman using troops to break the railroad worker’s strike? Commenter Tim Levier correctly notes, “What troop was ever deployed for a non-political agenda? They go where the politicians send them. And what better place than in their home country defending their actual borders for national defense?”

The  new class of Democratic representatives is one for the ages. What an idiot. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/18/2019: “The Pussy-Grabber Plays,” And More

1. The Comment Of The Day That Wasn’t. An aspiring troll calling himself “Alan P Siegfried, PharmD” attempted to post a debut comment on “Prophesy Confirmed: SNL And Our Nation Of Assholes,” which concerned Saturday Night Live mocking the war wounds of then candidate, now Congressman Dan Crenshaw as part of a campaign of ad hominem attacks on Republican. I considered making the post a Comment of the Day, as I have in the past with especially amusing rants, but it’s not that funny. I am going to reproduce it here, though, first, to provide another example of the kind of approach that the Comment Policies explicitly warn against. You don’t get leave to comment here by insulting me or condescending to your host, much as I am in thrall to the wisdom of pharmacists. I don’t know how someone can think that it is ethical to enter a house and immediately to start vomiting on the furniture, but commenters who do think that aren’t going to be tolerated. I also thought the attempted comment would be instructive on the question of why the current imbalance between commenters on the Left and Right here or late. Recent progressives have been arriving sneering and spitting; new moderate and conservative oriented readers have been acceptably civil. Why is that, I wonder? Here is the post, and my comments follow intermittently:

How many adults did you see ‘roll with laughter?’

This is called “a bad start.” I wrote that the mockery of Crenshaw by snickering Pete Davidson had the SNL barking progressive seals roaring with laughter, which it did. The first line also was signature significance, apparently suggesting that the vicious disrespect of a wounded veteran was mitigated if the laughter was muted. “Ah!” I say, when a comment begins like this. “An idiot!”

Or is that conjecture from a big city gal who dine went and lost touch with reality??

Wait—I’m a “big city gal”? I don’t even identify as one. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “The Handmaiden’s Tale” Halloween Costume

It’s never too early to have a stupid Halloween costume controversy.

Online retailer Yandy revealed a “Brave Red Maiden” Halloween costume for sale, evoking the garb women forced into sexual surrogacy wear in Hulu’s series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer have a say,” the description reads. “However, we say be bold and speak your mind in this exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.”

Predictably, the social media mobs attacked, so Yandy pulled the merchandise and grovelled,

“Over the last few hours, it has become obvious that our “Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume” is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment. This is unfortunate, as it was not our intention on any level. Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we’ve received, we are removing the costume from our site.”

In other words, “We, like almost every other company, will restrict the right of other Americans to express themselves if enough people complain loudly enough that those expressions from others don’t matter as much as who is offended by them.”

Of course, the original hype that the outfit would be “inspiring” was ridiculous, as is the contention that this science fiction show has any real relevance to anything in current United States culture. Women no longer have a say? That’s rich.

However, there is a dystopian future looming if the fascist of the Left are able to censor ideas, art, recreation and any other activities they find objectionable. Aiding them greatly are craven companies like Yandy. “Is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression” by whom, exactly? It’s a Halloween costume! If you don’t like a costume, don’t wear it. The CNBC article says,

“The iconic red cloak from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a feminist symbol of protest against women’s oppression around the world. Recently, demonstrators donned the costume outside Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing.”

Now THAT was offensive. I can see the costume as satire, then, of the brain-addled delusions and delusions of such protesters. Maybe I want to dress up as one of the maidens. I guarantee that won’t look sexy. Would that be offensive? A sexy Handmaiden’s Tale costume is silly, but so is a sexy Hester Prynne costume, and sexy witch costumes (Is this disrespectful to the women unjustly hanged in Salem?) Is a sexy Little Red Riding Hood costume…

…offensive? Why not? I think it makes light of pedophilia. Red was a little girl. You shouldn’t be allowed to sell such a costume. You shouldn’t be allowed to wear one. You shouldn’t be allowed to smile at one. You shouldn’t be allowed to think such a get-up is funny.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day While I Struggle With A Legal Ethics Opinion That Is Driving Me Nuts:

Should Yandy have removed the Handmaiden’s Tale costume from its site?

My view, in case you couldn’t guess, is that if enough people want to buy the stupid thing, they should be able to. Doing far more societal harm than any Halloween costume in dubious taste is the complicity of the private sector in political correctness bullying and restrictions on freedom of expression.