Tag Archives: culture

Ethics Quiz: The Black Panther

The Black Panther opens today, and all signs indicate that the latest Marvel superhero film—full disclosure: I am sick to death of them all—will be the blockbuster Hollywood so desperately needs. But because this is increasingly a race-obsessed, silly place, and the New York Times is its oracle, we were told a few days a go that the popularity of a black superhero will create an ethical dilemma: Can white kids ethically wear Black Panther masks, costumes, and accoutrements? Would that be cultural appropriation? A return to blackface?

Your somewhat differently conceived Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day query is this:

Is the Times seriously raising this issue as mind-meltingly stupid and obnoxious as I think is?

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Quizzes, Race

Comment Of The Day: “KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial”

The recent post about Madison Avenue continuing its effort to coarsen the popular culture and society with gratuitously vulgar commercials, in this case Book-Of-The-Month Club believing that it is hilarious to fake out viewers into thinking they are watching a tampon commercial, was not one that I felt would ignite much controversy or varied comment. As is often the case, I was wrong. The essay generated several surprising threads, including a comment by prolix, controversial blog warrior Alizia, whose commentary here ranges all the way into another post, the article about a high school musical casting controversy and the school’s unethical response to it.

She also raises the question of whether Ethics Alarms should engage more frequently in meta-ethics and philosophy. One reason I selected her comment as a Comment of the Day is that I’m interested in other readers’ views on that topic, not that I’m interested in turning in that direction. My focus as an ethicist has always been practical ethics, and the posts here about grand ethics issues of the sort that have been debated to no productive end for centuries have been incidental and few. Frankly, those topics don’t interest me very much; certainly not enough to devote the blog to it. About a year ago an erudite young woman briefly submitted some provocative comments here but want to argue about competing philosophical theories. She was shocked, indignant and angered when I refused to engage, and after yelling at me for a while, left the forum.  For those seeking what she sought, I recommend going here.

Abstract and scholarly ethics have undermined the subject of ethics to the degree that it is not one  most people can tolerate or understand, effectively removing ethics from public education and general discourse, and thus undermined the goal of an ethical society as well. They are still relevant to the discussion; I just know from hard experience how philosophy tends to send normal people fleeing like the Tokyo crowds in a Godzilla movie.

Here is Alizia’s Comment of the Day on the post, KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial:

One things I noticed and have mentioned a few times in respect to the Ethics Alarms blog and, naturally, the people who participate in it, is that it often clearly distinguishes a situation or event in which an ethical issue is brought out and then it successfully and interestingly provokes an examination of the problem or issue. Yet what I notice as well is that the issue is not brought out in a larger context. Or, the larger context is rarely explored. The reason why it is not explored is more interesting and it seems to me more important than what is allowed to be explored or what is acceptable. I can think of two instances and I will mention them.

In this present instance it is noticed that advertising is incorporating vulgarity. But it is really far more than that, at least as I see things. What is the real issue? The real issue is the pornographication of culture. It is, I think this is true, coming about because this is the sort of things you-plural have allowed to go on. It is certainly true (as I have scoldingly said) that ‘it is your generation that has allowed these levels of moral and ethical corruption to creep in’ and I think that this is a necessary stance to take. In my view, though it is not appreciated much here, ‘the pornographication of culture’ connects to sexual expression of many sorts and also extends to ‘the homosexualization of culture’.

There is an active agent, either in the business culture itself, or perhaps in academic culture, that has set in motion these pornographic processes. And just as media culture and Hollywood has gotten continuingly infected with this material (which I assume *you* find titillating and exciting and do not oppose), similarly one can now notice the insinuation of homosexuality into the culture-productions. It becomes visible, included, and influential thereby. Normalized. But behind these appearances, behind this increasing in-flux, stands something far more raw, far more brutal, far more elemental, far more powerful and influential, and that is ‘the pornographic’, a truly ugly and vile *world*. And what *you* do has world-scale ramifications. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy

KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial

We have discussed here the increasingly common phenomenon of companies building their TV ads on the juvenile gag of suggesting a vulgar, obscene or rude word, or a topic not discussed publicly in polite society but not really saying what is clearly implied.

Kraft Heinz Company advertised its products with a TV ad in which a boss caught  his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, with the tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.” Get it? HAR! Heineken featured a gay-themed beer ad about “flipping another man’s meat”–“Huh? It’s just barbecue! You must have a dirty mind!.” Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” in phrases suggesting “fucking,” and K-Mart uses “ship” to suggest “shit.” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has run commercial featuring the tags Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  Last year, Volkswagen had Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees”  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples within engage in vigorous sexual intercourse, unless they are tying to use pogo sticks.

This is corporate America accelerating the coarsening and vulgarizing society, endangering manners, and helping to make boors out of our children. Quoting Ethics Alarms quoting Ethics Alarms the last time I wrote about this: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Kaboom!, language

Behind The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck: Why Directors Become Harassers

Portrait of the blogger as a young director…

It has been pushed from the front pages by other matters, but the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still picking up passengers and crushing powerful and famous men. It has hardly been a shock that a plurality of the figures exposed have come from the world of show business, with prominent directors taking a heavy hit.  Another one became rail kill this week, when the board of trustees of the famed Long Wharf Theater  fired its longtime artistic director Gordon Edelstein over accusations of sexual misconduct, one day after The New York Times published an article detailing the allegations by multiple women, four of whom accused  Edelstein of groping or worse.

Like Weinstein himself, Louis C.K., Dustin Hoffman, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and many other men on the list, Edelstein is a less than stunning male who may have never learned normal ways to interact with women, because he entered the warped and unique culture of the performing arts before he was an adult, and never learned the manners of civilized society. Directors are especially at risk for this effect: expect many more to be accused and fired.

This is one way to increase the ranks of female directors, I guess.

Here is the typical progression. A young heterosexual man whose talents and interests do not run to sports and who is not  particularly successful socially joins a theatrical group or club in high school. It is a revelation. Females vastly outnumber males, and many of the males that are involved are gay. He finds it far easier to form relationships with girls in this environment, particularly during the hyper-intense, exciting period approaching production and the performances themselves. All the classic features of a crisis-sparked romance are present, and they are especially enthralling the first time around in a theater setting. The girls are similarly stimulated. Flirting is epidemic, easy, and successful. If you have never experienced it, the environment is hard to imagine, but it is addictive, and it is sexy. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Professions, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/19/2018: Three Tests!

Good Morning, All!

1 Derangement test! As I write this, Washington, D.C. is on high anxiety alert over whether there will be a government shutdown due to Senate Democrats staging a tantrum over DACA. Previous shutdowns, stupid all, and all ultimately a disaster for the party that triggered them, the Republicans, at least involved a dispute over the budget, which we call a “nexus.” In this one, however, the triggering party is the Democrats, who are grandstanding to their increasingly radical base, declaring the interests of about 800,000 illegal immigrants as a higher priority than the interests of the law-abiding citizens of this country who are not obsessed with “Think of the children!” and the imaginary right of foreigners to cross into the country illegally and stay here as long as they don’t rape someone and blow  their “good illegal immigrant” status.

Essentially the Democratic leadership has decided to test the question of how many Americans have had their brains and values scrambled by the emotion-based pro-illegal immigration argument battered into their heads by the progressive/maintsteam news media coalition. Oh…there’s also their collateral justification of “We can’t make a deal with the President because he used a bad word in a private meeting, or so some say.”

Since both Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have their unequivocal condemnation of the very same tactic they are now engaging in on videotape, they must really be convinced that social justice warrior cant now infests the population. Well, maybe they are right. Maybe they aren’t as incompetent as I think they are, and their flip-flop won’t strike anyone else as cynical and proof of an integrity deficit.

If a party is successful, even once, using this extortion tactic to pass legislation, then the legislative process will have officially collapsed. Democrats—this shut-down is a unilateral offense, not another “everyone is to blame” fiasco—signaled their emergence as a protest organization rather than a responsible party in 2016 when they held a sit-down strike in the House to try to force the unconstitutional measure of banning gun ownership for citizens placed without due process on FBI no-fly lists. If Republicans allow such a tactic to succeed now, however, they will share the Ethics Dunce honors.

And, of course, will use the tactic themselves when the time is ripe.

Let’s see if sufficient numbers of Democrats have their brain cells and values in sufficient good health to tell their representative that those DACA kids have their sentimental support, but not THAT much support, you idiots, don’t be ridiculous!

It should be interesting. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “I Worry About Cary Grant”

Today’s Comment of the Day was spawned by the post about the fading of cultural memories of important film artists. texaggo4 has his doubts about my concerns, and whether the phenomenon is worth worrying about, or even a problem at all.

I admit, this topic is an unusually intense and personal one for me. It was the reason why I devoted a large portion of my life and creative energy for twenty years to the quixotic challenge of creating and trying to maintain a professional theater company in the Washington, D.C. area devoted to producing American stage works of quality and historical importance that were in danger of falling out of the American stage repertoire entirely, if they were not already forgotten. We proved that many shows thought hopelessly dated or politically incorrect still worked (“The Boys in the Band,” “The Seven Year Itch,” “Native Son,” “The Cradle Will Rock”…), found genuine masterpieces that almost nobody knew existed (“Moby Dick Rehearsed,” “Machinal,’ “Marathon 33″…), and lost a fortune on artistic gambles that didn’t pan out, for a wide variety of reasons, including bad management, bad luck, or the unpredictability of show biz. Notable disasters that still give me nightmares include ” “Home of the Brave,'” Mr Roberts,” “A Flag is Born,” “Dear World, and “The Pirate.” We had a devoted and loyal following, and I think we proved our point, but basically didn’t make a ripple despite all that work. (Except perhaps in this case, and maybe that was enough…) Heck, our theater was in a school building, and we couldn’t get any teachers to bring their classes to our shows, even for free.

But then, most of my life has been devoted to futile pursuits. After all, I’m an ethicist…

Here is tex’s Comment of the Day on the post,I Worry About Cary Grant:

What exactly are we asking for here? Facial recognition of the actor and an ability to recollect every great movie ever produced? What’s the goal of Cultural Memory? It cannot be the rote memorization of EVERY SINGLE great artist, producer and creator of art & culture. 1, we’d never have time to get around to memorizing ALL of it, 2, we’d never have time to get around to viewing all of it, 3, we’d never have any time to get around producing new examples of it, 4, we’d never have any time to get around doing anything else that life calls us to do.

The great conversation, as it is called, which is the ongoing “dialogue” between artists of the present with their contemporaries as well as with their predecessors. Artists take the concepts that are explored in the past, the debates had between opposing concepts in the past, and rework them in the present, either shedding light on new angles or re-engaging the old arguments, or bolstering new arguments. This long process of cultural production has produced MILLIONS of individual works and, without a doubt, TENS of thousands of artists. Of those countless producers & performers, we can assume there are many many thousands of individual works that could be called “culturally iconic” or “unique” or “ground breaking” and thousands of artists.

Feeling less well read that I ought to, I compiled a list of what several thinkers considered to be the “Western Canon”: a list of essential books that captured the literary and written philosophy component of this “Great Conversation”, with the goal of plodding through them over my lifetime.

930 books. Just the books.

The authors, as I read their names, certainly had recognizable names and I could probably guess relatively accurately the eras they wrote in. Could I reasonably hold a discussion or even mention some prominent idea found in them? Maybe 10% of that list. With any level of deeper understanding? Less than that.

But what I could do, without those books, is hold a relatively well thought out conversation about the ideas that most of those books were also exploring. Why? Because that is what cultural memory does for us, without being able to hold an in depth idea about a particular work of art, we can still be able to hold in depth ideas about the particular notion that a work of art was exploring. Because cultural memory goes a great way towards preserving, through the Great Conversation, all those ideas and philosophies and beauties and art, without me having to memorize in rote detail the specifics of each work.

930 books, considered essential to grasp the great conversation of *just* Western Culture. How many paintings & painters? How many concertos and composers? How many sculptures? How many plays and playwrights and stage actors? How many buildings and architects? How many movies and directors and actors and screenwriters?

The interesting thing of course, is how the growth of culture has accelerated due to population, communication and technology. Whereas one generation in the 1000s may have produced a half dozen *iconic* culture producers, one generation in the 1500s produced several dozen *iconic* culture producers. One generation in the 1700s, maybe 100. A generation of the 1900s, easily several hundred.

Producers. Multiply that by 10 for iconic works. And I think I’m underestimating. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Literature, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Month: The French Anti-#MeToo Letter

This translated open letter received a lot of publicity last week, in part because the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve signed it (that’s her, above, with Harvey Weinstein) , along with writer/psychoanalyst Sarah Chiche,  author/art critic Catherine Millet, actress/writer Catherine Robbe-Grillet, journalist  Peggy Sastre (author/journalist) and writer/journalist Abnousse Shalmani. It was signed by over a hundred other women.

The entire letter is important, and should be read by anyone interested in this issue—and everyone should be interested. All of the letter is ethically dead on, except one crucial element: workplace harassment is not trivial, as the letter mistakenly suggests. The letter states near the beginning:

“This summary justice has already had its victims: men who’ve been disciplined in the workplace, forced to resign, and so on., when their only crime was to touch a woman’s knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about “intimate” things during a work meal, or send sexually-charged messages to women who did not return their interest.”

The French just do not get this. I have seen it, fought it, and trained companies about it: supervisors using the workplace as a dating bar harms women, even when the particular target is receptive. It is a crucial component of the glass ceiling and fuels sexual discrimination, every one of those behaviors mentioned above can create a hostile workplace. Men who engage in such conduct, if the conduct can be proven, should be disciplined, as a matter of policy and ethics.

The rest of the letter is excellent.

Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not — nor is gallantry an attack of machismo.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power. This was necessary. But what was supposed to liberate voices has now been turned on its head: We are being told what is proper to say and what we must stay silent about — and the women who refuse to fall into line are considered traitors, accomplices!

Just like in the good old witch-hunt days, what we are once again witnessing here is puritanism in the name of a so-called greater good, claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to the defenseless prey of male chauvinist demons.

Ratting out and calling out Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Romance and Relationships, Workplace