More Cultural Bulldozing: Political Correctness Gets H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson Of The Geeks

The bust says it all...

The bust says it all…

Really bad and dangerous ideas take hold and thrive because, like a particularly deadly virus, they pop up in so many places at once, especially dark corners and exotic locals. The current progressive contagion of airbrushing history, toppling icons and cultural bulldozing–one of several  habits of successful totalitarians being embraced by the left these days—is such an idea. As usual, defenders of this thought-inhibiting and unjust practice behave as if it is the epitome of common sense and virtue, when in truth it is the  opposite.

To the credit of the followers of the World Fantasy Award (for literature in the fantasy an horror field), the administrators’ decision to cave to political correctness and retire an H. P. Lovecraft bust (designed by black humor cartoonist Gahan Wilson) as its symbol—H.P. was like, Woodrow Wilson, a white, Western culture supremacist —was not met with universal approval. Nonetheless the Award’s head honchos did it.

They did it to mollify the social justice zealots in the organization’s midst, who insisted on sending the message that currently non-conforming ideas and beliefs should be punished decades or even centuries later by pretending that legitimate and important contributions to art, politics, science and civilization didn’t exist, if the man or woman involved stepped across a political correctness line that didn’t exist when it was stepped over. All it takes to justify eradicating any honor, recognition or symbol of cultural gratitude is for a major historical figure in any field to have been shown to have engaged in, thought about (or consorted with those who engaged in or thought about) practices that the current culture, with assistance of many years of debate and experience that the toppled never had, now finds misguided, objectionable, offensive or wrong.

The proper punishment for this retroactive crime, these spiritual brethren of Stalin believe, is banishment, rejection and shame in the very field where the individual’s positive accomplishments reside. This is necessary to keep future generations from being influenced by ideas that might trigger discomfort among true believers of the official creed.

Thus, reason doctrinaire Princeton kids who have figured out The Great Truths at their tender age, Woodrow Wilson’s major contributions of strengthening and burnishing the name of the college, leading the United States for two terms, including through a world war, and devising the concept of the United Nations, no longer warrant respect and memorial, because he was, like so many other Southerners of his time, an unapologetic white supremacist. Of course, so was Abraham Lincoln and much of the nation, but that cuts no ice with the practitioners of merciless presentism. It isn’t just the views of the long dead that are being punished, you see. It’s a warning to non-conforming thinkers alive yet. Watch out! it says. Your thoughts, inspirations and ideas are impure and wrong, and you are still vulnerable to real punishment, not just the post-mortem fate of being defiled and forgotten. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again”

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better...

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better…

Theories of democracy and political science, Robert Heinlein, minimizing bias from self-interest, scientist suspicion, GIANT BUGS…okay, it doesn’t quite get to the bugs. But what’s not to like about texagg 04’s reflections and exposition sparked by the post on Ruth Marcus’s plug for compulsory voting? Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again: Continue reading

Political Correctness Delusions #1: Melissa McCarthy’s Weight Has Nothing To do With Her Success

melissa-mccarthyOne of the many reasons political correctness is unethical is its attempt to not only exercise speech and thought control, but thought distortion and fantasy. In “Entertainment” magazine, Karen Valby scolds journalists and fans who keep mentioning the weight of actress Melissa McCarthy….you know, the morbidly obese comic who has made her career playing funny obese characters. According to Valby, this is sexism. After all, she says, heavy actors aren’t constantly hectored about their girth. Then she cites a group of actors who are usually heavy but do not play “fat” characters, and mixes in a few who do (John Goodman, Kevin James), hoping we won’t notice. John Goodman’s weight never discussed? Tell us another. Kevin James? James’ body fat percentage was a punchline approximately ten times a week on “The King of Queens.” Moreover, of the men, only Goodman is obese. Like McCarthy. Oops, I said it.

McCarthy is one of those comic actors, like Kathy Kinney, Jackie Gleason, Fatty Arbuckle, Lou Costello, Curly Howard, and Wayne (“Newman”) Knight, whose rotundity is inseparable from their character’s comedy. In “Mike and Molly,” a sitcom about a blue collar, obese married couple, the fat is the gimmick. McCarthy is funny and talented, but playing the funny fat woman is her niche. Valby (or McCarthy) can argue that she would still rake in starring turns if she was 130 pounds, but who is she kidding? A thin McCarthy would be thrown into a large, competitive pool of comic actresses, and there would be no guarantee that she could prevail. McCarthy is no fool: Valby says she is comfortable with her body, and maybe she is, but she is especially comfy with the income her unique body type generates. Continue reading

Further Thoughts On “The Vampire Candidate”

dracula for congress

I don’t want to make this Vampire Day, but after reading the comments so far on today’s Ethics Quiz involving Florida Congressional candidate/ fantasy vampire role-play enthusiast Jake Rush, I realize that the original post omitted some important points and queries. Here, in no particular order, are my further thoughts:

  • The Ick Factor? Both conservative and liberal commentators are ridiculing Rush, essentially concluding that his hobby disqualifies him as a serious candidate. The most quoted source referred to the images embraced by Rush’s role-playing group as “disturbing,” “bizarre,” and “unsettling.” Do these reactions signal a rejection of Rush’s values, or is this a clear-cut example of the “Ick Factor,” which is often mistaken for unethical conduct? Strange does not mean wrong or unethical.
  • Trust. When we elect leaders, we must trust them. “Strange” by definition suggests unpredictability; if we don’t understand why people do what they do, it is hard for us to know how they will behave, and if we don’t know how they will behave, we can’t rationally trust them.
  • Integrity. I should have raised the issue of integrity, for it is critical to the problem. Integrity is essential to trust, and a candidate like Rush raises the question: “Who, or what, is this guy?” Is he a “straight-shooting” conservative who likes to play vampire in his spare time, just like some politicians like to play poker or watch synchronized swimming (now that’s what I call weird), or is he a wannabe creature of the night who is just playing a conservative Republican in the daytime to conform to the expectations of conventional society? If there is doubt about that, then his integrity is in question.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Trust and the Vampire Candidate

jake-rushConservative Republican candidate Jacob A. Rush, a 35-year-old attorney, has begun a campaign in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District to win the primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, a Tea Party stalwart seeking a second term. Rush’s campaign website portrays  him  as a “conservative straight shooter,”and he may indeed be that. A Florida blog uncovered the fact that Rush is also, however, a long-time member of the Mind’s Eye Society,  “a nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who take on the personas of vampires and other supernatural beings” for fantasy battles “against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other.”

It’s all fun and games with improvisational theater tossed in, though with a decidedly adult set of themes. Rush liked ( likes?) to play a character named “van de Winst”, a lusty vampire, and photos of the lawyer were found on the web showing him and/or members of his club, playing vampire,  burning books, aiming shotguns at dogs, pretending to be demons, displaying Satanic symbols, being chained and gagged…you know, that kind of thing. Fun stuff.

After this all came out—how could he think it would not?—Rush explained in a press release:

“All my life, I’ve been blessed with a vivid imagination from playing George Washington in elementary school to dressing up as a super hero last Halloween for trick or treaters. Any cursory review of the Internet will show that I have played heroes and villains…. I have never hid nor shied away from disclosing my hobby activities. When I was hired at the Sheriff’s office, I fully disclosed my gaming and theatre background on the application, and these hobbies posed absolutely no problem or raised any flags. In fact, when applying for undercover work, these hobbies were considered an advantage, so much so my shift lieutenant nicknamed me ‘Shakespeare.'”

And he included this photo of him and his wife…

Rush and wife

…wisely choosing not to send this one:

Rush vanpire

WOW.

And thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is….

Is it  Jacob Rush’s unusual personal hobby relevant to his ability to serve in Congress?

Continue reading

Orc Attack! The Unethical GOP Campaign Smear With the Built-In Punishment

“Citizens of Maine, I give you your next state Senator! Her campaign slogan: “Better an Orc than an idiot!”

In Maine, Republicans have attacked a state Senate candidate with an unfair and stunningly silly accusation devised by fools for consumption by the gullible, ignorant and confused. Fortunately, such an attack comes with its own punishment, for it constitutes a smoking gun that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the Maine Republican Party is not only run by dolts, but dolts who never made it into the 21st Century.

Imagine: in a campaign mailing this week, Maine Republicans accused Democratic state Senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz of making “crude, vicious and violent comments” and living in a fantasy world because she plays the fantasy role-playing game World of Warcraft, and comments in online forums dedicated to the popular online pastime.”We need a senator who lives in our world, not Colleen’s world,” the mailing says. Continue reading

The Sex and Werewolf-Obsessed Novelist (But NOT Naked!) Teacher Principle

Could YOUR English teacher have written this?

Mild-mannered  Judy Buranich has taught high school English in Pennsylvania’s Midd-West School District for 33 years, always with the accolades of parents and students. Until recently, however, she had successfully kept a very different second occupation secret: under the pen name “Judy Mays,” she has forged a niche in the genre novel field, writing erotic fantasy suspense tales about lusty women who are typically involved in complex love-triangles where one or more participants are outer space aliens, vampires, or especially werewolves. On the Judy Mays website, a synopsis of her latest novel, “Undercover Heat,” reports:

“Melody Gray has a dilemma, two of them really. First, a CIA agent name Nick Price has appeared at her detective agency looking for a former client of hers named Jake Fields….What Nick isn’t telling Melody is that he’s really searching for Jake because his superior believes he’s a werewolf, not that Nick believes in them….What Melody isn’t telling Nick is that Jake Hurley is really Garth Gray, her brother.  She knows exactly why Nick Price is hunting her brother.  After all, Garth is really a werewolf.  So is Melody for that matter…. Continue reading

Ten Lessons from the “Dog Wars” Debate

Wait! Calm down! This is a CARTOON dog.

The “Dog Wars” Android phone app is apparently down for the count, the victim of too many complaints, threats and accusations that it was evil and irresponsible and promotes real, live dog-fighting, even though almost nobody sane makes similar claims about other video games. As with the subject of most posts on Ethics Alarms, however, the ethics issue lingers on, whether or not the specific incident that sparked the commentary has been resolved.

The comments, often passionate, that this post elicited have been fascinating, and had much to teach, even when the comments themselves were dubious. Here are ten lessons from the debate over the game and the Ethics Alarms commentary about it.

1. Ethics alarms aren’t always right. So many comments about “Dog Wars”, here and around the web, consist of various versions of, “That’s just wrong!” Well, why is it “just wrong”? Continue reading

Imaginary Bird Cruelty: Ethical; Imaginary Dog Cruelty….?

If you think the birds are angry, wait til you hear the anti-dog-fighting activists.

We’re just keeping our finger crossed that Michael Vick doesn’t have this app on his phone.

“Dog Wars,” a new video game available free of charge on the Android smart phone market. The game allows players to choose, feed, train and fight virtual dogs against the dogs of other players. Predictably, animal rights, anti-dog fighting groups and social critics want the app dropped.

“Dog Wars” may be in poor taste, but it’s not unethical. Guiding pixels shaped as dogs in tiny phone screen-size battles has no more to do with cruelty to animals than biting the head off of a chocolate Easter Bunny or eating animal crackers.  Critics are saying that the game teaches people how to prepare real dogs for real fights? Right…and “Risk” teaches people how to take over the world. Continue reading

Backtracking on Virtual World Ethics

 

Anything unethical about these guys?

I was wrong.

New technology challenges our ethics because we have no immediate frames of reference to rely on. The situations created by the use of new technology require us to reach back to things we are more familiar with for guidance, and we risk choosing comparisons that prove to be superficial and inaccurate over time. This is the trap I fell into when I first approached the question of whether a player’s misconduct —or rather his avatar’s misconduct—in virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life could be unethical. My frame of reference was video games, role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons,  and games generally. If engaging in Second Life is analogous to playing a game, then vandalizing someone’s home in cyberspace is no different from invading another player’s country in Risk. If “Warcraft” is essentially similar to playing a video game, then “killing”  an avatar is no more unethical than mowing down enemy soldiers in Medal of Honor.

And if virtual games were fantasies, I reasoned, then declaring anything that took place in their boundaries unethical was tantamount to policing thought. Thoughts are not unethical;  actions are. Case closed, right? Continue reading