Tag Archives: cruelty

Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 2]

[Continuing the reflections on the accusation against Kevin Spacey and its aftermath…Part One is here.]

I have always assumed that Spacey had endured some kind of serious trauma that explained his aversion to confirming that he was gay, since, really, it was so, so obvious. Many actors become actors because of familial abuse and self-loathing: if you think about it, it makes sense. They don’t like who they are and what real life has been, so they seek the fantasy life of being someone else on stage, films and TV.  Maybe Spacey’s long obsession with performer Bobby Darrin provided a clue. (Spacey eventually played Darrin in his own vanity film project. “Beyond the Sea.”) You have to be really unhappy with yourself to fantasize being in the shoes of Darrin, the talented, troubled heterosexual  actor-singer who died before he turned 40. Thus I was not surprised when Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, 62, a limo driver and professional Rod Stewart impersonator, described the home in which he, Kevin and their sister were raised as resembling the plot a  horror movie.

  • Fowler says he and his brother were both sexually abused by their father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (whom the children called “The Creature”), and that their mother knew about their treatment at his hands. Their older sister, Julie, was also abused before she fled home when she was 18. In a 2004 interview, Spacey’s brother described how their ultra-right-wing father was a member of the American Nazi Party. He was so enamored with Adolf Hitler, Fowler claimed, that he trimmed his mustache to resemble Der Fuehrer’s.

“I grew up in a living hell. There was so much darkness in our home it was beyond belief. It was absolutely miserable,” Spacey’s brother said then. “Years later, our mother actually wrote a letter to all three of us, trying to justify what had gone on by saying she was abused as a child and so was our father. Kevin tried to avoid what was going on by wrapping himself in an emotional bubble….He was so determined to try to avoid the whippings that he just minded his Ps and Qs until there was nothing inside. He had no feelings.”

Fowler described his younger brother was an “empty vessel” who had never been in a real relationship with anyone. “Neither of us had a chance growing up with two such damaged parents, ” he concluded.

No, I don’t know that what a Rod Stewart imitator and publicity-seeking sibling of a famous actor says is completely true, exaggerated, or a fabrication.  But it fits. Spacey should be given the benefit of the doubt, and accorded some compassion. We all deserve that. Continue reading

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 1 of 2]

The comments regarding yesterday’s ethics quiz have been varied and vigorous. As to the quiz question itself,

Is [Anthony] Rapp’s public accusation [against actor Kevin Spacey alleging that Spacey sexually assaulted him 30 years ago when Rapp was only 14] fair, responsible, and ethical?

I have arrived at my answer, and am abashed that I didn’t see it immediately.

No, the accusation was not fair, and it was unethical. It fails all ethical systems. It is a Golden Rule breach: What Rapp did to Spacey is not how he, or anyone would want to be treated. The fair and decent thing would have been to confront Spacey privately.  Maybe Rapp has distorted the incident over time; maybe Spacey is as remorseful and embarrassed by the incident as Rapp has been traumatized by it. All of us would want at least a chance to explain or make amends before being exposed…in Buzzfeed(!?).

Other observations, as Spacey is being metaphorically disemboweled by an angry mob…

  • Rapp also stomped on Kantian ethics, which forbids using human beings as a means to an end. Rapp says his goal was “to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent.” Wait: is there a shred of evidence that Spacey engaged in such conduct over “decades”? Is there any indication that Rapp is protecting future teens from his assaults? No, he’s just jumping on a train, joining a virtue-signalling mob engaged on what appears to be a scalp-hunting expedition. His late hit on Spacey didn’t stop a predator (as with Weinstein), didn’t report a crime to authorities (the statute of limitations is long past), didn’t accomplish anything postive and productive involing Spacey at all. I was just symbolic, and Kant, correctly, holds that it is unethical to destroy real human beings to make a political, social or culotural point, in this case the point being, “Don’t stay silent for 30 years if you have been abused, harassed or molested!”

This also fails any Millsian or Benthamist test of utilitarianism. The ends accomplished by Rapp’s accusation consist almost entirely of destroying Kevin Spacey. What else? I suppose its a warning too: anything you did that society will regard as worthy of making you a pariah can be revealed by an angry, vindictive or politically motivated alleged victim at any time, and you will have no recourse. Call it the Anita Hill Principle. That’s not enough of a “benefit” to society to destroy someone’s life. We have the Weinstein example, and the Bill Cosby saga. They were–are?—both serial offenders. Taking out Kevin Spacey based on one very old incident is not a means justified by any end.

  • Upon examination, Spacey’s response was a mistake and an ethics botch on multiple levels. Here it is again:

First, here we have another example of why Twitter is dangerous. Spacey is a smart guy, yet he foolishly, in his rush to deal with this crisis, authored his own rapid response on social media. In the old days, as my late friend Bob McElwaine, Hollywood publicist for Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum and many other stars, told me, he job was to make sure nothing attributed to his Hollywood clients was authored by them. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Ames Mayfield’s Cub Scout Den

 

Ames Mayfield is a smart, gutsy 11-year-old, and this episode in his life may work to his eventual advantage. Nonetheless, his treatment by his Cub Scout den was nauseating, cruel and wrong, and contradicts the very values Scouting exists to imbue.

There is another likely villain here as well.

Ames’ Cub Scout den met with a Colorado State Senator, Republican Vicki Marble, last week. Ames came prepared with a long list of typed-up questions. (I wonder where THOSE came from?)  He raised his hand to ask his first one , involving gun legislation. “I was shocked that you co-sponsored a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun,” Ames said, according to a video posted to YouTube by …hmmm, not Ames but his mother. “Why on earth would you want someone who beats their wife to have access to a gun?”

Ames’s questions continued until a den leader suggested that he pause and allow the Senator a chance to answer. I wonder if Marble noted the Supreme Court’s decision n Voisine v. United States, holding that a federal statute banning firearms possession by anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” including individuals who have “misdemeanor assault convictions for reckless (as contrasted to knowing or intentional) conduct.” Maybe Ames, who I’m sure is an avid reader of Ethics Alarms, quoted my post on the issue, which concluded in part,

The real question, from an ethical standpoint, is whether Congress can and should remove a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse. Is that fair? Sure it is. It is already settled law that it is constitutional to prevent convicted felons from owning  guns, even if it was a non-violent felony. From an ethical public policy standpoint, why would it be overly restrictive to ban gun ownership from those who engage in a violent misdemeanor?

…The majority covers the legal logic of the decision; the ethics logic is simpler. How difficult is it not to physicality abuse a spouse to the extent that one is found guilty of breaking the law? It shouldn’t be hard. Nor do I weep for any degree of spouse-beater who is denied the right to purchase a gun. Good, I say to such a person. I don’t trust you, and I don’t trust your judgment. If having access to a gun was so important to you, you should have thought about that before you started knocking loved ones around. If the threat of losing gun rights makes hot-heads think twice before engaging in domestic violence, that’s good too.

After the meeting, the leader of Ames’s Cub Scout pack, which oversees various dens, met with the boy’s mother, Lori Mayfield, and told her that that her son was no longer welcome in the den. Her son’s question was disrespectful and too political, Lori was told. (Her son’s question…)

Accepting for the nonce that this was all Ames’ idea, which we should know is baloney, why would he be kicked out? Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “From The ‘Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!’ Files: The Golden Rule”

A commenter on the post on the studio tantrum thrown by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell going viral on YouTube after it was leaked said that such a leak was “predictable.” I asked,

“Why should it be “predictable”? Why shouldn’t we be able to trust co-workers not to try to hurt us, e-mail correspondents not to send out our messages to strangers and on social media? Was it predictable that Donald Sterling’s mistress/beard would tape his comments in his bedroom to destroy his reputation?”

This prompted Crella’s  Comment of the Day on the post, From The “Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!” Files: The Golden Rule:

Exactly. It shouldn’t be predictable. However, it seems that for a lot of people, their first instinct with anything they come across is to put it on the net, no matter the consequences. It’s so easy ( and I assume, extremely satisfying to bully types) to shame and humiliate on a scale previously unknown in human history. It’s irresistible to too many.

The ability to find thousands of like-minded people in a relatively short period of time on social media, and the sheer volume of encouraging positive feedback you can receive ( ‘if so many people agree with me, I must be right!’) has brought grade-school level cliques and meanness to the fore in a great deal of adult communication. It’s the same mechanism on a large scale. People rarely step back and see themselves, but I read and just wonder at it daily…the people most stridently against fat shaming, objectification, being leered at, and other ‘lookist’ offenses on social media are routinely ridiculing Trump on his hair, weight, skin color, and posture while playing golf, comments on appearance are very common. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Simon Radecki

“You probably haven’t seen the news. Can you confirm whether or not your daughter Bridget has been kidnapped?”

–Pennsylvanian Simon Radecki of Northampton County, asking Senator Pat Toomey a question at a public town hall relating to the President’s decision to suspend the DACA.

It’s seldom one sees a deliberate breach of question and answer ethics from a member of the public (journalists breach these all the time, but they also are held to higher standards).Radecki’s question to the Senator qualifies, and is about as odious as the breed gets.

To begin with, the question was framed as a lie, suggesting that there was any report to confirm. It was also vicious, an intentional infliction of emotional distress (a tort), a plausible threat, and a direct Golden Rule breach. Nobody would want to have someone falsely report that his daughter was the victim of a crime or in mortal danger, yet this is exactly what Radecki did to Toomey. To add to the question’s unethical pedigree, Radecki dragged Toomey’s innocent 16-year-old daughter ( Ivanka Trump-hate  notwithstanding, being the child of a Republican is not yet a crime)  into a political controversy, exploiting her and employing her as a tool of partisan attack.

Nice. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Anyone Who Ran This Story

On my way home from my seminar today, I saw that my cab’s in-ride video featured, along with three Jeopardy! questions from Alex Trebek, a Jimmy Kimmel feature (his “Pedestrian Belly-Flop” competition) and the weather, and a video from the ceremonies I had just returned from witnessing in person at Boston’s Fenway Park. The headline was-HAHAHAHA!—“First Pitch Goes Horribly Wrong!” and showed Mike Andrews, the ex-Red Sox second baseman from the 1967 “Impossible Dream Team,” receiving a pitch from the ceremonial first pitch tosser, who then heaved the ball far beyond Mike’s reach into a group of photographers, hitting one of them—it’s important to note that he is male–right in the crotch. The clip was attached to an ad for the local ABC affiliate here.

I thought that the mocking video was an ABC product, and it might be, since other ABC affiliates have distributed it. But the same video with similar mockery of the pitch in the commentary is elsewhere, and on its way to going viral. Here is the attached story used by ABC Channel 15 in Arizona:

A photographer and University of Arizona alum was the unfortunate victim of one of the worst first pitches in MLB history on Wednesday night.

Before the Boston Red Sox hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park, the gentleman who tossed out the first pitch threw it juuuuuust a bit outside — and right into a sensitive spot for Tony Capobianco, a photographer and page designer for The Eagle-Tribune who graduated from UA in 2013.

Fortunately, Tony reported he’s OK. Way to Bear Down, sir.

That “sir” is a triumphant cancer survival and success story by The Jimmy Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s ‘s research drive to cure cancer in children that the Red Sox  made the organization’s affiliated charity since Ted Williams became passionate involved with the project in the late 1940s. His pitch was the climax of the ceremonies honoring the 50th anniversary of  the storied pennant winning team, in part because that team became the first to ever award a full World Series share to cancer research, and in part because Andrews had followed his playing days with 25 years as the Jimmy Fund’s executive director. Continue reading

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Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle

“Oops! Sorry.”

 

A commenter yesterday inquired about the Ethics Alarms position regarding efforts to punish participants at white nationalist rallies by publishing their photos on Facebook and other social media, presumably to help get them fired.

I’ll begin the analysis with the Naked Teacher Principle, explored in its many variations on Ethics Alarms, which states,

“A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.”

The same general reasoning would apply to a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who placed videos or photos of himself or herself demonstrating in favor of racist causes, or giving the “Sieg Heil!” salute, on social media. Even a superb teacher, and one who never exhibited any racial bias at all, would be rendered untrustworthy by such photographs. A neo-Nazi has a right to his or her political views, but those views cannot interfere with the individual’s ability to do a job.

No, I wouldn’t trust a Klan member, a neo-Nazi or a white nationalist to teach my child.

The same would apply to social media posts, and the exact analogy are the college professors who have recently found themselves enmeshed in controversies by declaring on Twitter or Facebook that white people should be killed, that males are a social contagion, or similar bigoted sentiments. These teachers should be separated from their students, and many, though not all, have been. They are, however, publicizing themselves, as well as their bigoted views. Like the naked teachers who posed on-line, they are accountable for the images they project and publish, and how those images affect present and future employees.

However, this is different:

Thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

The activity described is a direct effort to punish people for  their opinions expressed through legal means. It is in the same unethical category as sending private e-mails that reflect badly on former lovers through social media, or using a questionable tweet to destroy the life and career of the tweeter. This kind of  “amateur sleuthing”  as the Times whitewashes the practice, is vicious, destructive, reckless, unfair, and a Golden Rule breach.

I have already pointed out that I might be tempted  join a demonstration against the unethical airbrushing of history that taking down Robert E. Lee’s statue in his home state represents. If I were an idiot (but not a bigot), and didn’t recognize that the white nationalists were just exploiting the General’s memory for their own agenda, I might have been in that group of Tiki torch marchers. A photograph of me marching with a bunch of Klansman and neo-Nazis would hardly be good for my ethics business, though I would be completely innocent of racist views.

The “amateur sleuths” also are not always correct (being amateurs, after all) , as well as being self-righteous, vicious, and opponents of free speech. The Times describes that fate of a professor, Kyle Quinn, who runs a laboratory dedicated to wound-healing research, and who resembled another man caught in a photo marching with the racists. Quinn was attacked on Twitter and Instagram, and social media demanded that he be fired, accused him of racism, and posted his home address online.

Nice.

Be proud, you vicious social justice warriors! Continue reading

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