Halsey’s Lament And The Great Hotel Shampoo Ethics Challenge

When pop star Halsey took to Twitter to complain that the shampoo and conditioner typically made available to guests in hotel bathrooms are useful, if at all, only to women with “white people hair,” the immediate reaction in many quarters was that the race-victimization industry must be running out of outrages. “I’ve been traveling for years now and it’s been so frustrating that the hotel toiletry industry entirely alienates people of color,” she tweeted. (No, I never heard of her before either.) “I can’t use this perfumed watered down white people shampoo. Neither can 50% of ur customers. Annoying.” First she was accused of being white—she isn’t, believe it or not—

—then she was mocked for being ridiculous: surely the rich celebrity can afford to travel with her own hair products! But when one ponders a bit, Halsey has raised an interesting ethics dilemma.

After the commentary got rolling on social media, black women and women who were of mixed race genetic make-up spoke up to say that the singer was right: unless a woman had generic Caucasian hair, those little bottles make a mess of her coiffure.  “We’re not all millionaires, yet we all do stay at hotels and would appreciate if the shampoo didn’t turn our hair into Brillo pads,” wrote a Twitter user.

“Who knew me acknowledging that white hair care products are the national standard (while POC are confined to a tiny aisle) would piss so many people off. Not sorry,”Halsey persisted.  “If white ppl can enjoy the luxury/convenience, there should be an option for everyone to. It’s an ‘insignificant’ example of a bigger problem. That’s all!”

 Another fan wrote: “You need to remember this is one of the many small things that POC go through that makes them feel like we don’t matter enough to be catered to. It’s a microaggression.”

Is it really a microaggression? Or is it it just one of those realities of not being the majority that minorities have decided they should protest to bend society to their will? Is the fact that so many tools, appliances and other daily necessities are made for right-handed people a sign of hostility, or just a rational business decision? Hotel shampoo isn’t great (being bald, I find it makes good bubble bath, however), but it’s provided for those who want to use it. The “we’re not all millionaires” argument for the average person staying in a luxury hotel like the ones Halsey stays in is a stretch, but nonetheless, is it fair that hotels cater to the needs of the majority of women while ignoring the special needs of a minority? On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect hotels to spend the extra money to make multiple varieties of conditioners and shampoos available so no one feels discriminated against? Should I have to pay extra so Halsey isn’t offended?

Coincidentally, this week also brought the news that many hotels, as a cost saving initiative, were eliminating the small bottled entirely in favor of wall dispensers. I could easily see enough social justice warrior indignation being raised over racist shampoo that hotels decide, “Oh the hell with it. Let’s just stop stocking the stuff.” Would minority activists consider this a victory? Jack can’t enjoy his bubble bath any more because hotels had to choose between providing a tiny amenity to the vast majority of its guests and getting accused of “microaggression,” or spending a fortune to stock their bathrooms with sufficient varieties of hair products that nobody could complain of discrimination?

The controversy is really a smaller and more trivial version of the wheelchair-accessible transportation problem that I last wrote about here. I concluded then,

There are now 655 wheelchair accessible taxis in the New York city area.  I’d love to see statistics on how often they are used by the passengers they are designed to serve.  My guess: not that often. As much as anything else, this is an interest group power-play. It is discrimination, they insist,  if handicapped passengers have to wait longer than non-handicapped. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed broad new requirements for wheelchair-accessible service for the entire for-hire industry including Uber and the other ride-hail companies. Naturally: they want to put ride-sharing companies out of business, and this could do it.

Government has a legitimate interest in making basic public accommodations reasonably and sufficiently accessible to citizens with handicaps, to the extent this is possible and financially feasible without reducing reasonable access for the non-handicapped majority, or putting companies out of business that can’t reasonably be expected to make expensive mandated adjustments. The government does not have an obligation to spend taxpayer dollars and to bully businesses so the handicapped can avoid all of  the inconveniences attendant to their misfortune. Nor is it the government’s function to ensure that handicapped citizens don’t have to plan their days.

Or that people with frizzy hair don’t have to carry their own shampoo and conditioner when they travel.

I can’t see without my glasses, and can’t wear contacts. If I go to a 3-D movie, I am very uncomfortable wearing the 3-D specs over my own glasses.  Isn’t that unfair? Isn’t that a microaggression against my handicap? Shouldn’t the theaters be forced to provide 3-D glasses that I can use as comfortably as anyone else? How is that argument any different from the protests of the Frizzy Hair Activists?

Halsey put her Twitter-finger on an ancient questions that divides nations, religions and ideologies. Is fairness possible, when everyone’s needs and expectations are different?

TO THE POLL!!!

Addendum: The “Ableist” Accusation And The Insidious Spread Of Rationalization #64

I had not intended to post further on the Gal Gadot controversy, mentioned as item #5 in today’s Ethics Warm-Up, where she is being slammed as “ableist” for suggesting that Stephen Hawking might be relieved to shed the crippling limitations of his near lifetime battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (Knowing Hawking’s famed sense of humor, I assume he appreciated the best gag ever executed on  “Friends,” when idiot Joey asked what Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig died of. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” he was told. “Wow,” said Joey. “What are the odds of that!“) However, I realized that the argument against Gadot was yet another example of the increasing popularity of one of the most destructive and insidious of the rationalizations on the list, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”:

Named after John Yoo, the Bush Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo declaring waterboarding an “enhanced interrogation technique,” and not technically torture,  #64 is one of the most effective self-deceptions there is, a handy-dandy way to avoid logic, conscience, accountability and reality.

Examples of this are everywhere. Paul Krugman, the progressive economist and Times columnist, began a column like this:

“Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest?”

The Clinton Foundation’s fundraising created a conflict of interest, by definition. For a non-profit organization, with family connections to either a current Secretary of State or a Presidential candidate, to accept money from any country, company or individual who has or might have interests that the Secretary or potential President can advance is a conflict. It’s indisputable. No further ‘evidence” is needed.”

How does Krugman deal with this problem? Simple: he convinces himself that screaming conflicts aren’t what they are without “evidence,” by which he means “proof of a quid pro quo.” But a quid pro quo is bribery, not a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest might lead to bribery, but a conflict is created as soon as there is a tangible reason for an official’s loyalties to be divided.

Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is” turns up everywhere, and has since time began. A mother swears that her serial killer son “is a good boy,” so she doesn’t have to face that fact that he’s not. It is denial, it is lying, but it is lying to convince oneself, because the truth is unbearable, or inconvenient.  It is asserting that the obvious is the opposite of what it is, hoping that enough people will be deluded, confused or corrupted to follow a fraudulent argument while convincing yourself as well. The Rationalization includes euphemisms, lawyerisms, and the logic of the con artist. Illegal immigration is just immigration. Oral sex isn’t sex, and so it’s not adultery, either. I didn’t steal the money from the treasury! I was just borrowing it!

And waterboarding isn’t torture.

#64  also could be named after Orwell’s “1984,” and called “Big Brother’s Rationalization” in homage to “War is Peace,” etc. But John Yoo deserves it.

Rationalization #64 is also closely related to the Jumbo.

The Republican denial that torture was torture remains the worst example of “It isn’t what it is”, but the list is getting longer and becoming more of a burden to public discourse and problem-solving every day. In the case of advocates for the disabled, the rationalization actually holds that a physical handicap isn’t a disability at all, and one without certain abilities we would naturally regard as normal are just “differently abled.” No, that individual is disabled. The fact that Stephen Hawking, with an IQ estimated at 280, had a compensating superpower that allowed him to achieve amazing things does not make his disability imaginary. Maybe he would have liked to play softball. Maybe he would have liked to tap dance. Maybe he would have liked to hold his grandchildren. Denying his disability accomplishes nothing but distorting reality and making it less vivid and clear. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2018: First They Came For Wonder Woman….[CORRECTED and UPDATED]

Good Morning

… to end a frantic ethics week…

(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)

1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:

On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:

A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.

The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.

None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.

Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.

2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.) Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Day: Valerie Joseph, Wheelchair-Bound Uber User And Class Action Litigant

“I feel frustrated because I have to plan my day.I can’t do things on a whim. I have to plan it days in advance.”

Valerie Joseph, litigant in  class-action lawsuit accusing Uber of discriminating against New York City riders with disabilities by providing inadequate access to wheelchair-accessible cars .

Could there possibly be a better quote to exemplify the entitled mentality of so many Americans, and the unethical values they have somehow extracted from our political culture?

Yes, Valerie, you are handicapped. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not responsible for it. Nor are you entitled to make me, and businesses, and the government pay to ensure that society can mitigate every inconvenience created by your misfortune. You do not have the luxury of doing things “on a whim.” Neither do single mothers. Neither do small business entrepreneurs who have substantial debt. It’s your life, deal with it. I also have to plan my days because of circumstances beyond my control. It’s called adulthood. Grow the hell up.

The lawsuit Valerie champions, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by the non-profit Disability Rights Advocates is a classic. It is seeking to risk putting Uber out of business and remove its lower-cost transportation options for the vast, vast majority of the public by insisting on expensive retrofitting of the company’s cars that would benefit a tiny minority.

The Taxis for All Campaign filed a similar discrimination lawsuit over yellow taxis, virtual legal extortion that resulted in a settlement requiring half of all yellow taxis to be wheelchair accessible by 2020. Thus the litigants in the Uber suit already have an acceptable option: call a cab.  There are now 655 wheelchair accessible taxis in the New York city area.  I’d love to see statistics on how often they are used by the passengers they are designed to serve.  My guess: not that often. As much as anything else, this is an interest group power-play. It is discrimination, they insist,  if handicapped passengers have to wait longer than non-handicapped. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed broad new requirements for wheelchair-accessible service for the entire for-hire industry including Uber and the other ride-hail companies. Naturally: they want to put ride-sharing companies out of business, and this could do it. Continue reading

The Attack of the Grievance Bullies Continues…on “Napoleon Dynamite”???

So...I guess "Tropic Thunder" is out of the question, right?

A bulletin from the Austin (Texas) Parks Foundation:

“The Austin Parks Foundation is canceling tonight’s (Wed, 5/25) showing of Napoleon Dynamite at Republic Square. A new movie will be shown next month. A number of people contacted us objecting to a word used by actors in the movie. We didn’t recall that this word was used and we did not mean to offend anyone. Our apologies for this as well as for the last minute cancellation.”

The PG movie, you see, about a maladroit teen, upset advocates and defenders of the mentally challenged, or whatever code words are deemed politically correct these days–I haven’t checked my “Offense-O-Meter” in the last couple days—because one of the characters uses the word “retarded” exactly once…not to describe someone who is actually laboring with a disability, mind you, but to insult his friend, as teenagers are wont to due, and as they were especially wont to do in the Eighties, when “retarded” was used the way my generation used “spaz.” In other words, there was no justification whatsoever for either the complaint or the movie’s cancellation. Continue reading