Tuesday Ethics, 6/2/2020: Stunts, Looting, Bad Great Movies, And “Understanding.”

Happy?

What the hell’s the matter with you?

1. On the President’s stunt visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church. I refuse to second-guess the President’s decision to walk across the street to  St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. to make an anti-riot statement, Bible in hand, since I do not believe it matters what he does right now. He will be criticized for it, and I refuse to participate in the gratuitous and destructive effort to make it impossible for him to lead and govern.

The immediate focus was on the fact that his way though Lafayette Park was cleared by police using rubber bullets and tear gas. The President was defying the protesters, and whether it was wise to do so, it was also his right to do so. If the President believes posing outside a riot damaged church is to the nation’s benefit, and that he should walk through protesters to do it, then he gets to make that call. If protesters are in the way or threatening his safety, they have to move. If they won’t move voluntarily, then some degree of force has to be used.

The news media has avoided mentioning it, but the protest was illegal: demonstrations in Lafayette Park require permits, and this mob had none. Moreover, the description of the group as “peaceful protesters” by the news media has to be viewed with skepticism. The past week has shown that “peaceful protesters” suddenly become violent rioters without warning, and even when they do, the news media is still likely to call them “peaceful.”

Other complaints about the episode involved the President’s use of the Bible. Yup, he used it as a prop! That doesn’t offend me particularly, since the Bible is used as a prop so often that I regard that as one of its major cultural functions. Presidents, in particular, have used it as a prop; I would argue that when they are sworn into office using the Bible, it’s a prop. I particularly remember Bill Clinton holding a Bible in photo ops when he was supposedly undergoing “spiritual instruction” during Monica Madness. Trump’s Bible was standard Presidential PR. but this President isn’t allowed to use the same tools available to his predecessors.

2. If you wonder why police appear to have no idea what to do about looters, wonder no more. Read this incomprehensible print version of humming from the Police website, circa 2005. Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh! [#1]

It took a while, but my complaint about the advertising world’s bizarre decision to make pirates the sole politically correct genre for innocent childsplay finally generated the intriguing commentary I hoped it would.

Here are two Comments of the Day on the topic, breached in Item #1 of the post, Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!”

First up, Isaac:

Permit me a midnight rant about pirates.

Kids did not play pirates at any time before this Gen-Xer was born. Kids played sailors or soldiers, and the PIRATES WERE THE BAD GUYS. That is because pirates were (and are) indeed very bad guys.

Treasure Island is a realistic story about stuffy British Christian men (and a boy) defeating a gang of vile, godless pirates. Once the story gets going there are exactly zero female characters. I can see why the destroyers of culture who lord it over modern schools would find this “problematic.” But it just might be my all-time favorite book. Pirates are interesting, fascinating, and make for good stories. BUT THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THE HEROES.

Even the least-murderous of real-life pirates still tricked innocent merchant vessels and robbed them by force. They still were known for spending their free time raping, drinking themselves to death, and spreading venereal disease. Within just the last few years, pirates off the coast of Somalia have been murdering entire ships’ crews, so it’s not as if there’s no modern frame of reference for understanding why they generally shouldn’t be cast as heroes, as you mentioned.

There was a funny but sad incident not too long ago told by a mom who had been to Disneyland. She took her son into a boutique in the park that styles up girls into princesses. They offered to do their equivalent service for the young man by making him into a pirate. The small child, who had more common sense and moral awareness than the entire Disney corporation, pointed out that pirates are bad guys, and insisted that he wanted to be a prince instead. There were no prince costumes.

There are now SEVERAL kids’ cartoons in which kids “play pirate,” mostly thanks to the Disney movie. One of them is “Jake and the Neverland pirates” which doesn’t even make any sense in the context of Peter Pan. A character on this show said to his tiny audience, at one point, and I quote, verbatim, “A good pirate never takes anyone else’s property.” And they were serious.

The elephant is there in the room from that very first film. Jack Sparrow proves himself to be “a good man” and the moral (such as it is) is that even a pirate can be good. And so, at the end of the film, “good man” Jack gets his ship and crew back and sails off into the sunset too…do what, exactly? Sail the world looking for beached whales to rescue? Hunt for lost treasure to return it to its rightful owner? The next several movies twist themselves into knots to avoid having to give the obvious answer to this question: the only way to be a pirate is to, you know, commit piracy. It’s right there in the name.

I wonder if 50 years or so would be sufficient time for Disney to train kids to “play terrorist.” Just make a wacky movie about an eccentric jihadist who turns out to have a heart of gold.

Now here’s Pirate Comment of the Day #2, from Jeff: Continue reading

Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!

Ugh.

I was supposed to be all better yesterday, and instead I took  a step back.

Sorry.

That photo above is from the last scene in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” after all of the comedians and Spencer Tracy have ended up in the hospital with horrible injuries following  their self-created disaster on an out-of-control fire truck ladder at the supposedly hilarious climax of the Sixties epic chase comedy. The film-makers were very creative in their uses of bandages, casts and traction, but even as a kid, I was struck by how it just isn’t possible to make injuries seem very funny.

1. Since everyone is watching as much TV now as I usually watch routinely, I’ll mention this: have you noticed that several commercials show parents playing pirates with their kids? Did you ever play pirates with your parents? Have you ever seen anyone play at being pirates?

The reason this is being forced on the culture as a thing is that political correctness has robbed kids of almost all fantasy outlets, so someone decided that pirates were safe and inoffensive–especially since Disney had to remove the rapey stuff from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. (Pirates are actually murderous thieves, today as always; what a weird safe haven to choose!)

In “Parasite,” Oscar’s Best Picture last year, the little South Korean son of the wealthy family was obsessed with playing “Indians,” complete with feathered headdress and arrows. I wonder if this feature would have disqualified an American film for cultural insensitivity. American kids can’t be cowboys anymore, since they were genocidal; soldiers are taboo, as are cops and robbers; even space invaders are verboten, since they involve guns. As my friends and I discovered long ago, you can try to play superheroes but they don’t leave you much to work with. Sword and sorcery games, like acting out fairy tales, trip on too many anti-feminist stereotypes.

I wonder what the next generation will turn out to be like, absent any symbolic fantasy villains and conflict to instruct their play. Pirates are not the answer, and again, I doubt any kids are playing pirates like the imaginary families in Bounty commercials. The iconic pirate novel “Treasure Island,” once a standard assignment in grade school, has been purged from the canon—too male, or something.  (It’s still a terrific book.) The other classic with pirates is “Peter Pan,” and that one is in the process of being scrubbed and gender-twisted beyond recognition. There still are Johnny Depp’s weird pirate movies, I guess, though his drunken, bumbling pirate slob anti-hero seems unlikely to inspire normal kids into flights of fantasy.

Our culture just is not in competent hands, and what the end result will be, nobody knows.

2. I’m not sure if this is unethical, exactly, but something’s definitely wrong… Continue reading

Yes, It’s Another “Ick Or Ethics?” Quiz: Sarah Palin’s Surprise

Believe it or not, that’s Sarah next to the bear….

To be absolutely transparent, my mind’s made up on this one: I think it’s unethical. However, I admit to be a hard-liner on this issue, which is “The duty of leaders not to debase their positions or former positions for personal gain or ego gratification.”

Let me introduce this  horrific cultural episode by saying that I regard the TV show involved, “The Masked Singer,” among the Top Ten Stupidest Shows in the history of network television, and I’ve seen a LOT of network television, far more than is good for me. Its existence is an insult to the public, its taste and intelligence, and the United States of America. Maybe the species too. Adam and Eve.

Now here is the video clip. Consider yourself warned: it cannot be unseen or unheard:

Yes, Sarah Palin dressed up in a rainbow teddy bear suit and rapped “Baby Got Back” on national television.

The lyrics from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Noel Cowardesque 1992 hit:

Oh, my, God Becky, look at her butt
It is so big, she looks like
One of those rap guys’ girlfriends.
But, ya know, who understands those rap guys?
They only talk to her, because,
She looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like out there
I mean gross, look
She’s just so, black
I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, want to pull up tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she’s wearing
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring
Oh baby, I want to get wit’cha
And take your picture
My homeboys tried to warn me
But with that butt you got makes (me so horny)…

Nice. Classy!

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was Palin’s appearance on “The Masked Singer” icky, funny, or unethical?

Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend Woody Allen! And Another Victory For The Illiberal Mob…

This blog certainly forces me to defend some  unsavory characters.

Woody Allen is one among the small group of artists who I find so personally repellent that I can’t enjoy their work even while recognizing and appreciating its excellence. That does not mean, however, thatAllen’s work is not important nor that his life and career lack cultural significance. As I wrote here,

“I found myself unable to enjoy any of Allen’s films after he cheated on his de facto wife with his de facto daughter. I also don’t believe in enriching, even indirectly, horrible people in their professional endeavors if I can conveniently avoid it.”

That, however, is a personal choice that I would never impose on others, nor on the arbiters and trustees of culture, as it would be unethical to do so. Thus I wrote, just a few days ago, of Ronin Farrow’s demand that his publishers refuse to hand Allen’s memoirs because he believes his sister’s account that Allen sexually abused her when she was a child,

“I yield to no one in my contempt for Woody Allen as a human being, but he is a major figure in film and cultural history, and his memoirs are of obvious value and interest. Farrow’s publisher’s obligation is to readers and stockholders, not the sensibilities of one author.”

Now we learn that the publishers have been intimidated into dropping Allen’s book after all:

Hachette Book Group on Friday dropped its plans to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography and said it would return all rights to the author, a day after its employees protested its deal with the filmmaker“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” a spokeswoman for the publisher said in a statement. “We take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”

But she added that Hachette executives had discussed the matter with employees and, “after listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”

There are those pesky rationalizations again! Oh, it’s a hard decision, so that excuses it from being a bad decision. This is 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision” again, which I reviewed yesterday. Next, we get this nauseating sequence, which perfectly embodies 64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is!”

The statement says that “We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard,’ and follows it up by saying that it will not publish this “challenging book” and thus this different voice and conflicting point of view  will not be heard. Seldom does such complete hypocrisy define itself in the span of so few sentences.

The “difficult” decision that contradicts the company’s stated values results from nothing better than cowardly capitulating to a mob carrying out the goals of cancel culture. In this case, those goals include infringing on free speech and the public’s right to know, if they want to know. Our democratic ideals and the principles enunciated in the Bill of Rights have no chance of surviving if those who own and run companies like Hachette emulate the spineless administrators of educational institutions and dissolve into pools of passive submission every time holding to those ideals and principles threatens to entail a risk of sacrifice or adverse consequences. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Forgetting What We Know”

This post, one of the very first on Ethics Alarms, was written on Halloween, 2009. The blog had essentially no followers then. I judge it an excellent post (if I do say so myself) but just a handful of people read it. There were four commenters: King Kool, who traveled over from the old Ethics Scoreborad site and who, I am happy to say, still weighs in now and then; “Ethics Bob” Stone, who commented her last year,  and a friend I met through my connection with child star advocate Paul Petersen and with whom I am still in touch.

I found it extremely interesting to review–I wouldn’t change anything substantive in it, though I made three small edits—in light of what has happened since, and the theme of the post, which was how ethics evolves.

The post was written before the #MeToo upheaval. For all I know, Harvey Weinstein was forcing an aspiring starlet to have sex with him and Bill Cosby was drugging a young woman as I was posting it. It references several  rationalizations before the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list had been launched.

I wonder, though, how much out society has really learned since it was written.  Roman Polanski is still living free and directing films in France. Six women have accused him of sex-related crimes, the most recent last November.

Bill Cosby is in prison for one of his rapes: Harvey Weinstein is standing trial right now. Bill Clinton appears to have finally been reduced to persona non grata status among progressives and his former defenders, but his complicit and unapologetic enabler, Hillary Clinton, is still treated as a feminist icon, and even harbors dreams of running for President again. The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax , has been convincingly accused of rape by one woman and sexual harassment by another, yetremains in office, and the local and national media have stuffed the story in the proverbial memory hole.

Six years after this post, David Letterman retired from “The Late Show” hailed as comedy legend, with Barack Obama and three former Presidents appearing on his farewell show. He continues to be sought after for interviews and as an MC, as in the USO event pictured above.  In 2016, Letterman joined the climate change documentary show Years of Living Dangerously as one of the show’s celebrity correspondents. In 2017, Letterman gave the induction speech for Pearl Jam when the group was inducted into the  Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. That same year, 2017, Letterman was feted on Turner Movie Classics with Alec Baldwin—don’t get me started–as he  co-hosted “The Essentials.”  Letterman and Baldwin introduced seven films for the series.

Wisely, “Rosemary’s Baby” was not among them.

In 2018, Letterman began hosting a six-episode monthly series of hour-long programs on Netflix called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. His old friend, patron, and feminist hero Barack Obama was his first guest.

The second season premiered on May 31, 2019.

This  is “Forgetting What We Know.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/2020: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

Well HEL-LO!

1.”A Nation Of Assholes” indeed. Not for the first time, the NFL and the Super Bowl, aided and abetted by the network whose news arm presents almost all of its female on-air talent as bimbos, is excoriated for it, has a movie made about it, and doesn’t care, presented a half-time show that spectacularly violated FCC rules about what could be broadcast when children are likely to be watching. There were stripper poles, crotch grabs, crotch shots and simulated sex. You know: family entertainment.

Did you know Donald Trump is a crude vulgarian?

Here’s some of Megan Fox’s critique:

…The camerawork was outrageously gross, zooming in on Lopez’s barely covered crotch, so close that the viewer could see some sort of silver maxi pad sticking out from either side of her way-too-small fraud of a garment. If that thing wasn’t riding up between her front-hole lips, then my 6o-inch HDTV television was lying to me, and HD never lies… The only thing separating her anus from the camera is a pair of sheer stockings and a black thong. This is not okay. What the hell is wrong with the NFL? … Also, the cameramen were focused on JLo’s crotch for most of the performance….If you want to see it go find it. But it’s indecent and totally inappropriate for the Super Bowl halftime show. Shakira was not as offensive, although the cameramen also could not stay away from her crotch. But at least she was wearing an imitation of a skirt and she wasn’t on a stripper pole. Yep. JLo did a striptease pole dance while barely-dressed backup dancers simulated an orgy underneath her. It was disgusting.

What is the message here for young women exactly? You are not a sexual object and can demand men be fired for looking at you or complimenting you in the #MeToo era. You can also dress up like a whore and gyrate around on stage half-naked for the pleasure of men, but if they take pleasure in it, you can accuse them of being harassers. Get it?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Vital Concept Of Culture, Part I: Ignore It At Civilization’s Peril”

I apologize for not yet having completed and posted Part II, as was my intention, but happily, certified Ethics Alarms commenting ace Ryan Harkins entered a Comment of the Day that could have been Part II on its own.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on “The Vital Concept Of Culture, Part I: Ignore It At Civilization’s Peril”:

There’s a certain “you reap what you sow” in all of this. Western Civilization has spent the last few centuries slowly jettisoning classic understanding of morals and culture while embracing relativism, in which no one can absolutely say anything is right or wrong. From this new viewpoint of tolerance, we’ve bred a culture in which no one’s “truth” can be better than anyone else’s, and anyone who claims to know “truth” is a bigot. This opens the door to the idea of multiculturalism, where we celebrate this plurality of opinions because we want to show how good we are by accepting everyone else’s “truths”.

But what ultimately underlies this progression from classic values to utter chaos? I would posit that it is the ever-present temptation to redefine as “good” everything that “I want”. It is the grasping of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All throughout history, we’ve undoubtedly had rationalizations for bad behavior. If someone says what we’re doing is wrong, we need to have an excuse that makes it not wrong. What the relativism of the modern age gives us is the perfect cover for all our immoral actions. I get to define what is right, because if you dare say what I’m doing is wrong, I barely have to defend myself. “That may be true for you, but it isn’t for me.” Or I can just accuse you of being a hater and walk away feeling justified. Continue reading

The Vital Concept Of Culture, Part I: Ignore It At Civilization’s Peril

Its is amazing to me how dismissive many supposedly astute people are regarding the importance of a single, strong and accepted culture to any group or organization, large or small. Even though toxic culture-based catastrophes occur at a  constant rate, the message never seems to get through sufficiently for metaphorical lightbulbs to switch on in millions of brains illuminating the thought, “Ah! Of course! Consistent, proven  values and common belief systems plus the societal enforcement of them are essential to our nation’s success, coherence and survival!”  It is amazing.

The unethical, ruthless, quid pro quo culture of Hollywood creates Harvey Weinstein, everybody makes inspiring speeches,, and  yet the core lesson that he was a predictable product of a industry sick culture never seems to sink it. It’s men’s fault. It’s a failure to believe accusers. No, it’s a failure to give proper priority to building and maintaining an ethical and healthy culture.

Baseball’s Houston Astros suddenly are found to have permitted widespread cheating by electronic sign-stealing, and their manager and general manager are fired for not detecting and stopping the problem.  However, the team had already indicated that it was working in a self-engineered “ends justify the means” culture when, in need of a relief pitcher, it signed one who was facing a trial for domestic violence even as the Astros had announced a “no tolerance” policy toward that very same activity.  The sign-stealing wasn’t the scandal; the gradual acceptance and nurturing of a corrupt culture was the scandal.

There are many other examples, but this an introduction, after all. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Leroy Schumacher, Grieving Grandfather”

“I usually tone down the “prophet Jeremiah” flavor notes when I reread these,” wrote Benjamin after I told him that his previous comment was the COTD. I’m glad he didn’t. I prefer strong assertions of ideas and principles ( as you might have noticed ) because they encourage strong reactions.

I  decided to write about a two-year-old story about a grandfather who opined that it was “unfair” for a man in a home his grandson was breaking into to shoot the teen and his two fellow home invaders with an AR-15, because they only were carrying a knife and brass knuckles. His absurd lament  crystallized nicely the “logic” of anti-gun zealots, who now are about to ban that semiautomatic weapon (among other anti-gun ownership  measures) in Virginia, where I live. Benjamin, however, saw larger significance in the the episode.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Leroy Schumacher, Grieving Grandfather,” which takes off from a quote by another commenter:

“I’m sorry he lost his grandson.”

I’m not. Such are the grandsons who ought to be lost. Mercy would be best, of course, but his survival would’ve necessitated the death of the innocent as a direct consequence of his direct intentions. Mercy is an elevated form of justice, so no unjust intention can ever be merciful. But, going one further, this grandfather’s response to losing his grandson belies a total abandonment of principle for the sake of immediate self-interest. No doubt, these are “values” he instilled in his children and they in his grandchildren. If we’re going to move for the mutilation of our laws, for the sake of bargaining, we could at least make a far less ridiculous mistake in steering the public support to seeking to penalize this grandfather for his not-totally indirect involvement in (and perpetuation of) the crime.

Such are the grandfathers who ought to be lost. At the very least it would be an effort (maybe the first I’ve seen in my life) to reverse the engineered-and-enforced public tolerance for addictive ideas corrosive to public decency. It would be better to instill in society (rather than the laws) an intense rejection of ideas like this and the people who hold them, but politics takes place in the realm of the possible, as they frequently tell me. Continue reading