The Damning Ethics Bombshell In “The Crown”

The Netflix series The Crown, which had its 4th season debut over the weekend, is a terrific historical soap-opera featuring some superb acting by its regulars and walk-ons. It is also historical fiction involving living people, notably Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and other members of Great Britain’s royal family. This is an ethically problematic area that Ethics Alarms has delved into before. There are legitimate ethical objections to a work of fiction misrepresenting the actions of any historical figure to that individual’s detriment and damage to his or her reputation. The ethical breach is worse when the fictional version of reality involves those who are still alive, and worse still, at least in the eyes of many Brits, when the dubious narratives put into vivid dramatic form involve the current head of state. This is an issue in part because such works of artistic license are too often accepted as fact by viewers who are too lazy to check Google, Wikipedia, or a history book.

“The Crown’s” scriptwriter, Peter Morgan, has said, “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth,” whatever that means. The four seasons of his series have made sensational use of some genuinely disturbing chapters of British royal history that the monarchy would like to forget—this infamous cover-up of a Communist spy in Buckingham Palace is particularly stunning— but Morgan has also been justly criticized for making up events out of gossamer and parallel universe annals.

In the current season, for example, a lot of time is devoted to a rift between Prince Charles and Lord Mountbatten that Morgan admits never happened. The problem is that when complete fantasy is mixed in with real events, public understanding of what is fact and what is fiction becomes blurred. (See “Titanic” and “JFK”)

This may allow the Royals to wiggle out of the implications of the astounding scandal revealed in one of Season 4’s episodes, “The Hereditary Principle.” Some of the details are fudged—the horrible truth was not, as far as we know, uncovered by Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter)—but it is true that five of her and Queen Elizabeth’s cousins were secretly committed to a mental hospital in 1941 and declared dead.

Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: reddit (ProRevenge)

I often have thought that I ought to research reddit more thoroughly for ethics stories. Then I stumble onto something like this, have to take a shower, and decide that I’ll be happier if  don’t. There is also the persistent reddit problem that one can never be sure when what you are reading isn’t completely made up by some aspiring James Frey wannabe. I have been burned in the past.

One of the reddit sub-site communities is devoted to revenge, and participants send in their alleged experiences. Revenge, as we all know, (I hope), is unethical. It’s also frequently entertaining and fun. Revenge has been a staple of drama since the ancient Greeks, and it’s vibrant still, perhaps because there is nothing unethical about revenge fantasies.

One particularly exhilarating (and disgusting) example is the original “I Spit On Your Grave” (yes, there are sequels), an extremely violent and graphic cult film in which a young writer is gang-raped and left for dead by five locals in “Deliverance” territory. She returns, trained, dead-eyed, determined and remarkably creative in a Marquis de Sade way, to pick them off, one by one.

Women seem to especially enjoy the film. I would not be surprised to learn that Hillary is a fan.

But I digress. The following story recently turned up on the reddit ProRevenge section. The disturbing thing was how few of the many commenters were critical of the writer’s alleged conduct, which is, as you will see, appalling.  Here is his account, redacted a bit for length, with periodic comments from your host. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance

A furious mother is making an issue out of a Utah middle school’s policy requiring sixth-graders to agree acquiesce when a classmate asks them to dance.

Alicia Hobson’s 11-year-old daughter, Azlyn was asked to dance by a boy she thought was icky. She “politely” refused, but the principle at Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah,  intervened, telling the couple to get out onto the dance floor. Was the boy short, fat, covered with acne, bad-smelling, a bully, afflicted with Down Syndrome? Was he poor, have a lisp, or Muslim? Was there a cool boy Azlyn was waiting to play Prince Charming? Never mind: As the principal, Kip Motta, later explained in a letter to Alicia Hobson, the school has a policy requiring students to accept dance invitations, and sticks by it. Motta wrote,

“We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy. There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”

Hobson equates the policy with “rape culture,” and is prepared to take the issue to the Utah Board of Education. “Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that,” Hobson wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way.”

Ethics Alarms dealt with a similar issue in a different context in this post, about children accepting kisses and hugs from repulsive family members.

Before I pop the quiz question, I have three observations. The first is that that the principal’s fad use of the word “safe” has just got to stop. That’s not what “safe” means, and if we keep using “safe” to mean “insulated from any event, feeling or experience that someone might prefer to avoid,” the word will cease to have any communication value. The second is that equating the social obligation to accept an invitation at a supervised dance with “rape culture” is a hyperbolic crock, and should be identified as such immediately.

The third observation is that the “Today” headline is intentionally misleading and unfairly supports the mother’s inflammatory framing. “School policy forbids kids from saying ‘no’ when asked to dance” presumes the conclusion Hobson wants. “School policy requires students to be kind and considerate when asked to dance” promotes  the school’s rationale. An ethical and responsible headline would be, ““School policy requires students to accept an invitation to dance.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today :

Is the school’s policy wise and ethical?

Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up On What I Fear Is The Start Of An Unethical Week, 1/27/2020

Just a sinking feeling I have …

…perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I am trying to keep all the plates spinning at home and office despite caring for my temporarily disabled wife and business partner, the urgent need to disassemble the driest Christmas tree in Alexandria (still looks spectacular with the lights on, though!), the sudden breakdown of two crucial appliances, and the fact that I’m incompetent at a lot of the small and crucial tasks that Grace does well.

By the by, the spinning plates act is my favorite metaphor for leadership, management and life…

1. Trump tweets…“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” tweeted our Chief Executive yesterday. What grade level does that one rise to? 6th? 7th? Surely reasonable people are inured to these embarrassing (for him, for us) outbursts after all these years and thousands of stupid tweets. And yet here are Schiff and the Democrats, bellowing that Trump “threatened” him. This, from a shameless demagogue who recently yalked about putting Republican Senators’ heads on pikes.

Essentially Trump’s “threat” consists of “he’ll be sorry!” That’s not even a veiled threat. It isn’t actionable, it isn’t clear. It may refer to karma, or a sudden attack of conscience. Stipulated: It’s wrong for a President to express such sentiments. The knee-jerk impulse of the “resistance” to react to everything the President does like it was proof of treason is self-indicting.

2. The alleged hypocrisy of jet-setting climate change activist celebrities is often overplayed by conservatives, but this is ridiculous. Not to be outdone by whatever she is these days semi-royal Megan Markle and her submissive hubby, Prince Charles polished his climate change alarmist  creds by taking three flights on private jets and a helicopter to hang out with Joan of Arc wannabe  Greta Thunberg. Then, after being blessed by the teenaged saint and making  an impassioned speech, the Man Who Has Been Waiting To  Be King  took a fourth private jet from Switzerland to Israel, making his flight total over 16,000 miles in less than two weeks. His carbon footprint for this odyssey was estimates as being more than 18 times that of the average British citizen’s output for a calendar year.

Here’s a helpful chart, courtesy of the Daily Mail:
Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Washington Post Political Reporter Felicia Sonmez [UPDATED And CORRECTED]

Too soon?

Of course too soon.

This is dead ethics alarms on display. A 41-year-old NBA legend, his 13-year old daughter and seven other human beings  die in a helicopter accident, and less than six hours later, a Washington Post reporter, involuntarily abetted by The Daily Beast, issues a tweet about the  low point in his life and career.

Is Sonmez  going for #MeToo brownie points? It sure looks like it. Let’s get a jump on canceling Kobe Bryant, womyn! It’s never too early.

No compassion for the family, no sorrow for the dead. Gotta trash the man, because there won’t be enough time in the future to rehash the 17-year-old rape allegations that Bryant, with the assistance of the King’s Pass, managed to avoid having destroy his career.

Has social media made people so cruel? Is this just the natural ethics void political journalists and progressive websites slip into after a few years of peddling hate against the President, day in, day out?

How can ethics alarms not ring out, loud and strong, when the idea is floated to attack a dead celebrity the same day he and his daughter are killed?

Update (6:50 PM): After being excoriated on Twitter, Sonmez deleted her tweet.

Too late.

Further Update: The Post suspended Sonmez. Good.

Notice of Correction: I originally included The Daily Beast in the headline, failing to notice that the article Sonmez linked to was from 2016. The Beast is blameless, and I apologize for the error. Thanks to VPJ for the note.

_____________________________________

To share this with your Facebook friends who idolize the mainstream media, use this Twitter link: https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1221581127862968323

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum,” Reality Show Thread

When I read  A.M. Golden’s Comment of the Day in yesterday’s Open Forum, I realized how long it has been since I wrote anything about TV reality shows, truly a center of popular culture ethics rot for decades now.  I have been remiss indeed. I had written about many of these monsters in the past, from “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” to “The Bachelor” and the fat-to-fit shows, and the even more horrible “let’s watch these miserable D-list celebrities debase themselves on camera so we can feel superior” shows starring attention addicts like Anna Nicole Smith, Scott Baio, the Kardashians and Danny Bonaduce. 

I used to write a lot about “American Idol” when Simon Cowell was humiliating deluded contestants who shouldn’t have been allowed to sing in the shower, much less on national television. Criticizing these shows was almost too easy, like shooting celebrity fish in a barrel. I got sick of it, frankly.

A.M. did me a favor by flagging the return of two such shows. As he points out, they really are cruel and exploitative. Reality shows have coarsened our tastes and dulled our ethics alarms. Send them to Hell.

Here is A.M. Golden’s Comment of the Day on two re-booting reality shows. At the end, he asks, “Agree? Disagree?”

I could not agree more.

Two reality shows from the past are re-emerging far too soon with reboots.

The first is “The Biggest Loser”, a weight-loss game show that pushed overweight contestants to the limit with ridiculous and humiliating challenges, caused physical injuries that persist years later and pushed healthy eating on the air while pressuring the players to reduce their intake to unhealthy levels in order to show dramatic weight loss that was presented as being the result of one week’s work when it was often longer.

The reboot promises a more healthy environment. I’m not betting on it. Realistic weight loss is not exciting and boring does not bring in advertising dollars.

Because in any television show, it’s always about the dollars. Continue reading

Interview Ethics With Angelica Huston

The pop culture site Vulture has published a long and wide-ranging interview with actress Angelica Huston. It’s a great interview from a reader’s point of view, candid, funny, revealing. It is also an interview given either by someone with no ethics alarms at all, or someone so steeped in an unethical culture that she no longer comprehends such concepts as loyalty, fairness, confidentiality, kindness, decency and the Golden Rule. That’s not all: the rationalizations also come thick and fast.

Huston reveals private, unflattering and uncomplimentary facts about friends, relatives, colleagues and ex-lovers, living and dead. The interview could be used in an ethics course to illustrate how you don’t talk about people behind their backs. Here are some of the many points that made me wince… Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 4/16/2019: The Wide, Wide World Of Ethics

1. Notre Dame fire ethics:  Michael West, whose rare (of late) comments are valued as pearls, offered a proposed poll regarding the proper response to the destruction of the ancient cathedral’s spire. Here it is, with a few tweaks from me:

At the risk of tainting the voting, I have a pretty strong opinion about this. The structure  should be left as it is. Did they repair the Great Sphinx’s nose? Did they cover up the crack in the Liberty Bell? Once a part of an ancient structure or monument us gone, it’s gone. Replacements and restorations are ersatz and deceptive. The fire is part of the cathedral’s history, and what remains should reflect it. There are far better—and more ethical– uses for the many millions it will take to restore the spire.

2. Thanks for all the kind comments in light of Ethics Alarms hitting two major milestones on the same day. In commemoration, the blog will launch a new series, Ethics Alarms Retrospective (EAR), focusing on one or more of the  10,000+ posts I have immodestly placed here, most of which even I have forgotten.

For the first installment of EAR,  I offer “The Unethical Humiliation of Sister Rita X”from August 10, 2010. The topic was Sean Hannity’s practice of allowing clearly deranged progressives to have extended exposure on his radio call-in show, so he could engage in cheap mockery with the implication that they are representative of the Left generally. The comments are especially fascinating, almost all of which were Hannity fans who concocted all manner of distortions and rationalizations to justify what was the equivalent of exploiting the mentally ill for laughs. Comment highlight? This:

Again- I don’t expect you to respond- because you already said you would cut this conversation off.
Again- typical lib.
And I have facts.
What have you got besides a hollow ideology and kool aid?

That’s me, all right: a typical lib! By the way, that (minor) post was shared 4 times on Facebook, where as the last several hundred or so have received none. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Fox News, Martha MacCallum, Paul Watson, And Oh My God This Is Terrible…[UPDATED]

Watch all of this, if you can stand it…

As I watched this horror show—I would normally say “jaw-dropping”—all I could think of was how my Dad would have reacted, other than being furious to see a fellow World War II veteran betrayed by his son and humiliated on national television. If  I ever get to that stage, he would say, “shoot me.” He was only half-kidding when he would say that, but I’m pretty sure this video would obliterate the facetious half.

This vulnerable man, now dependent on the good will and judgment of his caregivers and his fellow citizens,  s being exploited by his son as a prop, nothing more, as he is hauled around the country, half-aware, to promote his son’s project. Kant had this kind of unethical conduct pegged: he said it was always wrong to use a human being as a means to an end. I don’t have to guess what the philosopher  would say about a son using his barely conscious veteran father as his ventriloquist dummy to advance his own agenda.[Credit goes to Arthur in Maine, who flagged this video, for the ventriloquist analogy] Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend Lenny Dykstra!

It pains me to have to write this; after all, the 1986 World Series, best remembered for the  potential Series-winning game the Red Sox choked away for good when the ball rolled under Bill Buckner’s legs (it wasn’t Bill fault, but never mind), is one of the traumas of my life. That was a thoroughly dislikable (but great) Mets team that won in 1986, and centerfielder Lenny Dykstra was the worst of them.  Still, the perfidy, venality and cruelty of another member of that team requires me to take Lenny’s side.

Dykstra was an obnoxious player and has been in constant trouble since his retirement. In a new book released this week, “108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game,”  Dykstra’s team mate, turned broadcaster Ron Darling  (he’s on the left above, Lenny’s on the right) claims that Dykstra used racial epithets to unsettle Boston Red Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd, an African American, before Game #3 of the 1986 World Series. Darling has now  repeated the accusation on three radio shows this week, as he wrote that Dykstra was “shouting every imaginable and unimaginable insult and expletive in his [Boyd’s] direction — foul, racist, hateful, hurtful stuff” when he was in the on-deck circle before leading off the game. Continue reading