Tag Archives: cultural appropriation

Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Halloween Costume [UPDATED]

BOO!

From the Las Vegas Review Journal :

An Adolf Hitler costume worn to a community Halloween event in Boulder City by the son of a Clark County teacher raised an uproar that spread far beyond the confines of the “Best City By A Dam Site.” Photos of the costume — consisting of brown pants and leather coat, a red arm band bearing a Nazi-style swastika and a brush mustache — went viral after being posted on social media after the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “Trunk or Treat” event on Saturday.

The reaction was harsh, with commenters’ outrage primarily focused on the child’s mother, identified as Janet Arsanian, and the fact that she is a teacher at Cortney Junior High School.

“Interesting to see a #CCSD teacher pridefully dressing her 13-year-old as Hitler,” wrote one Facebook poster. “These nazi sympathizers are supposed to be educating our kids.”

Wait: dressing your child as a monster or villain demonstrates support for the figure portrayed or his or her habits and conduct? Since when? I dressed up as a pirate in elementary school. Were my parents supporters of piracy? When kids dress up as Dracula, does that mean the parents are blood-suckers? Funny, when kids rang my door bell last year wearing Trump masks, I didn’t think that meant their parents voted for him. Were all those people wearing Nixon masks in the 70s Nixon supporters? I did not know that! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2018: Doppelgangers And Other Weirdness

Oh-oh! It’s a creepy morning…

1. If “there are no coincidences,” then what the hell does THIS mean? The ethics category, if there is one, would be “Nature Incompetence,” or perhaps “deity abuse of power.” Look at minor league baseball pitcher Brady Feigl:

Oh! I’m sorry! I meant “Look at these TWO minor league baseball pitchers who are both named Brady Feigl.” One is in the Texas Rangers system, and the other is in the Oakland A’s system.

A similar example of God fooling around for his own amusement and our confusion had historical significance.

This man is Will West, a convicted criminal who was sent to Leavenworth Prison in 1903…

 

…and this is William West, who was already being held there:

The fact that the two men were so facially similar helped convince American law enforcement to begin using fingerprints rather than facial measurements for identification.

2. Over-blown conservative news media controversy of the week: In “First Man,” Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong. For some reason, director Damien Chazelle decided to omit the iconic moment when Armstrong planted the American flag on the Moon. The Horror. Fox News can’t stop talking about it. President Trump has declared that he’ll boycott the film. Morons. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/7/2018: Back in the USSR

Good Morning!

1. Self-Promotion Dept. I’m heading off to New Jersey today, to present one of my musical legal ethics seminars—3 hours!—for the New Jersey Bar Association. The real star is my long-time partner in these shows, New York-based singer/musician Mike Messer, who channels Freddie Mercury, Bob Dylan (with harmonica!), Paul Simon, even Johnny Cash in the various song parodies.  This one is called Ethics Rock Extreme, and ends, like all of my musical seminars, with a sing-along. Yes, we get lawyers to sing the chorus of the “Piano Man Parody”…

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man
Sing us the Rules tonight!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
So tell us what’s wrong and what’s right!

(No, “Back in the USSR” is not one of the songs we do.)

2. First Amendment for me, but not for thee: In an embarrassing episode that is also telling, the Newseum has capitulated to a storm of protests from journalists and will no longer sell its popular “Fake News” mercahndise…like this shirt…

online or in its gift shop. “We made a mistake and we apologize. A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people,” the Newseum announced Saturday in a groveling blog post. “Questions have also been raised regarding other merchandise. As an organization that celebrates the rights of people from all political spectrums to express themselves freely, we’ve historically made all types of political merchandise available for our guests to purchase. That has included former and current presidential slogans and imagery and merchandise from all political parties. We continue to do so in celebration of freedom of speech.”

Translation: “In celebration of free speech, we will acquiesce in the censoring of a particular expression of opinion on a humorous T-shirt, because it hurts journalists’ feelings.”

Again, I ask: why does anyone trust journalists and the organizations they represent? Continue reading

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Monday Ethics Afternoon Warm-Up, 8/6/18: Relatively Trivial Edition

1.  Facebook Conduct I Could Do Without Dept. A friend who happens also to be on Facebook just posted his opinion about a matter and added, “If you don’t agree,  don’t respond, just unfriend me.” I’m tempted to unfriend him for that. What a cowardly, lazy, arrogant stunt.

2. He’s also dead wrong in his opinion, which has to do with this “good illegal immigrant” news item. My friend thinks that the wife of a Marine should get a pass  despite being in violation of immigration laws because her husband served his country. I don’t disagree with the principle he’s espousing, but it’s not the law. If there should be law that gives some kind of leniency to the spouses of military personnel, then draft it, debate it, and pass it. The Marine fought for a nation of laws, not a nation where law enforcement makes up the laws as it goes along. This was the Obama approach: we just won’t enforce the laws against this particular group of law-breaker that we like.

3. How dumb can “cultural appropriation” complaints get? This dumb:

In women’s mag “Marie Claire,” Krystyna Chávez argues that deciding to pluck your eyebrows so that they are very thin is “cultural appropriation.” writing that she was was horrified when she saw a photo of Rihanna with her new, skinny eyebrows. Chávez writes in a piece titled “I’m Latina, and I Find Rihanna’s Skinny Brows Problematic.”  Unfortunately, as Katherine Timpf points out, a Louisiana State University student named Lynn Bunch wrote an op-ed last year declaring that  thick eyebrows that cultural appropriation:

“Current American eyebrow culture also shows a prime example of the cultural appropriation in the country. The trend right now is thick brows, and although a lot of ethnic women have always had bushy, harder-to-maintain eyebrows, it has only become trendy now that white women have started to do it.”

Boy, the outbreak of such serious statements of idiotic opinions makes me feel unsafe…because I’m afraid that I am surrounded by lunatics, in a culture that is encouraging warped values and reasoning to such an extent that for a disturbing number of Americans, no idea sets off the Stupid Alarms.

I may have to start a sister blog…

4. And you thought Trump Derangement Syndrome was silly.New York-based UMA Health, an online mental health marketplace, is providing free, confidential therapy sessions to Mets fans who are in emotional turmoil as a result of the team’s disappointing season, which cratered  is last week’s 25-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, the worst loss in Mets history—yes, even worse than any of the embarrassing drubbing the team received in its first, horrible season in 1962, when “the Amazin’ Mets” lost a record 120 games.

UMA says its tongue in cheek promotion is meant to bring attention to the important role of therapy, and to eliminate the stigma of going to a therapist.

That’s odd: I think the promotion does the opposite, suggesting that therapy is self-indulgent, useless, useless bunk, which it too often is. I have an amusing  personal story that explains my bias here, which I will leave for another time. If something is important your profession is to enlighten the world about its benefits, however, is it competent to promote it like this? Continue reading

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When The Anti-Liberty Mobs Attack, Courage And Character Are Paramount, Part II: “Slav”

Betty Bonifassi in “Slav”

Fortunately, not every artist has the jelly-spine of Scarlett Johansson when the political correctness, anti-liberty mobs attack.

In Montreal,the Montreal International Jazz Festival immediately did its best imitation of the artist bowing out of her planned role as a transgender male when it cancelled  the show “Slav,” by the acclaimed Quebec theater director Robert Lepage. The production called itself a a “theatrical odyssey” inspired by “traditional African-American slave and work songs,” but–oh-oh!–it also features a nearly all-white cast performing “black” music. Silly me, I never realized music was colored.  Lepage, is white, as is “Slav’s” star Betty Bonifassi.  Only two of the seven cast members are black.

The show was immediately attacked for its “cultural appropriation” and by black activists for “stealing” “their” songs.

The jazz festival , emulating most organizations that ironically tend to have even fewer spinal columns than individual people, canceled the show after only two performances, even though the production had sold more than 8,000 tickets for its scheduled for 16 performances. The craven festival organizers said it had been “shaken” by the criticism, and grovelled, saying.in a statement, “We would like to apologize to those who were hurt. It was not our intention at all.”

Yecchhh.

As I wrote in the Part I, as Johansson essentially killed a film project because she didn’t have the wit or the guts to stand up to unethical bullying by transgender activists, “What is desperately needed when groups misbehave this way and abuse their influence and power is for their target to say no. Unfortunately, doing so requires unusual levels of principal, character, responsibility, intelligence and courage.”

Scarlett obviously doesn’t have them. Roger Lepage, however, does, especially after several leading theater directors in Quebec rallied behind Lepage this week, pointing out that closing the production could have a chilling effect on artistic expression in Canada. At least four theaters are now proceeding with productions of “Slav,” and preparing to metaphorically spit in the protesters’ eyes. Continue reading

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Phony Casting Ethics Controversies Reach A New Low: Scarlett Johansson and “Rub & Tug”

“Tex” Gill and Scarlett

 

I have to congratulate the political correctness bullies and hypocritical casting ethics scolds, I really do. I thought that their absurd  caterwauling over the casting of Scarlett Johansson to star in “Ghost in the Machine”  was as ridiculous and contrived as casting ethics complaining could get. Not only have they topped themselves with their attacks on “Rub & Tug,” they are unfairly targeting Johansson again. Impressive.

You may recall that the previous casting controversy involving Johansson occurred last year when she was cast as the lead in “Ghost in the Shell,” an adaptation of a Japanese anime tale. Then, her crime was supposedly “white-washing”: since the character was originally Japanese, it was somehow wrong to cast the white actress to play her. This, of course, is an outrageous double standard, because minority actors have been calling for Hollywood to be open to casting them in roles traditionally played by whites for decades. As I wrote in the post about “Ghost in the Shell,”

“…movie makers can’t win. If a black actor isn’t cast to play a white character in the source material, Hollywood is engaging in bias by eschewing “non-traditional casting,” which is necessary to remedy de facto segregation and prejudice in movies. If Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican, as in “Touch of Evil,” it’s “whitewashing”—prejudicial and racist casting of whites to play non-whites. Of course, when Morgan Freeman, an African American, is cast to play a dark-skinned Semitic character in “Ben Hur,” nobody calls that “blackwashing,” for there is no such thing as blackwashing. Casting Denzel Washington as a white character from “The Pelican Brief”: great! Who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Denzel as the white hero of “The Magnificent Seven” in the remake, when the white hero was non-traditionally cast with the sort-of Eurasian Yul Brenner in the original, was also great, because—who doesn’t like Denzel?  Casting  Andy Garcia, a Cuban-American, as member of the Italian Corleone family in “Godfather III” was also fine and dandy, but not the casting of sort-of Eurasian Brenner as the King of Siam in “The King and I,” (even though he won the Tony and the Academy Award for an iconic performance)—, especially with all those great Thai musical comedy stars available. So that was–what, “sort-of-whitewashing”?

All right: how about a musical conceived with the novel conceit of having the Founding Fathers played by young black and Hispanic performers? Is that non-traditional casting? Minority-washing? Is it racist to stay with the original (brilliant) concept and tell white actors they can’t audition to be Hamilton, Jefferson, and Aaron Burr? Of course it’s not racist. After all, those actors are white. Screw ’em.

Are you seeing a theme here? Neither am I. What matters in casting a play, film or writing an adaptation is whether the final result works: How well do the actors play their roles? Is it entertaining? Does it make money?

Now the casting of Johansson as an originally Japanese character in a Japanese manga comic and animated film is being attacked as racist. Whitewashing, you know. No, in fact the words applicable here are “adaptations,” “movies,” “cultural cross-pollination” and “commerce.” 

Do you sense a bit of pique on my part? Correctomundo, and that was a year ago. I’m far more disgusted now, perhaps because I just spoke at the Smithsonian about the manufactured controversy over the supposedly “racist” Gilbert & Sullivan masterpiece, “The Mikado.”  The latest attack on a Johansson role, however, takes the cake. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police”

Huh! I didn’t know this was traditional Chinese business attire! Imagine: This is what Marco Polo must have seen!

The most amusing reaction to the apotheosis of progressive silliness that was the attacks on Utah high-schooler Keziah Daum for wearing a Chinese-style prom dress came from China, where the South China Post’ s Alex Lo, who authored a column titled, “Go ahead, appropriate my culture.” He wrote in part,

If anyone thinks social media is harmless, this incident should prove otherwise. A person called Jeremy Lam apparently first tweeted about her transgression, which is now being called “cultural appropriation”. “My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress,” he posted…I apologise in advance for contributing to the silliness, but just needed to get it off my chest.  A publication as esteemed as The Independent of London ran a column supportive of the criticism.“The debate her prom pictures have prompted is justified,” the columnist wrote. “Cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she is the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want, go wherever they want and be able to fall back on: ‘Well, I didn’t mean any harm’.”

I would argue those who scream loudest about cultural appropriation are themselves after power…Why does Jeremy Lam think Chinese is his culture? Is his the same as mine? Is it some kind of property like an inheritance? If so, where is the will, written in our DNA, perhaps? And is it taxable or payable, and by whom? Why did Lam write in English? Isn’t he inappropriately appropriating English-speaking culture? …SJWs turn culture into some kind of finite asset, a zero-sum rather than a growing-sum game. They are oblivious or ignorant of how human cultures actually work: culture is cultural appropriation.

The topic sparked many excellent comments here, including this Comment of the Day by Alexander Cheezem…on the post, Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police:

It’s worth noting the issue of what I can only call — with much irony — aggregation bias here. There _has_ to be a term for it that doesn’t rely on punning off a statistical concept, though…”

In reflection, I suppose that what’s going on is technically a variant of the ecological fallacy — but it’s manifesting as a form of bias (in the non-statistical sense) based on the aggregation of behavior… so the term isn’t quite right, leading me right back to punning off of the statistical concept. I can’t explain the issue without a massive amount of technical language (e.g. “the emergent nature of many features of a complex system”).

And that is a huge problem with modern liberalism. Continue reading

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