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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 2]

[Continuing the reflections on the accusation against Kevin Spacey and its aftermath…Part One is here.]

I have always assumed that Spacey had endured some kind of serious trauma that explained his aversion to confirming that he was gay, since, really, it was so, so obvious. Many actors become actors because of familial abuse and self-loathing: if you think about it, it makes sense. They don’t like who they are and what real life has been, so they seek the fantasy life of being someone else on stage, films and TV.  Maybe Spacey’s long obsession with performer Bobby Darrin provided a clue. (Spacey eventually played Darrin in his own vanity film project. “Beyond the Sea.”) You have to be really unhappy with yourself to fantasize being in the shoes of Darrin, the talented, troubled heterosexual  actor-singer who died before he turned 40. Thus I was not surprised when Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, 62, a limo driver and professional Rod Stewart impersonator, described the home in which he, Kevin and their sister were raised as resembling the plot a  horror movie.

  • Fowler says he and his brother were both sexually abused by their father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (whom the children called “The Creature”), and that their mother knew about their treatment at his hands. Their older sister, Julie, was also abused before she fled home when she was 18. In a 2004 interview, Spacey’s brother described how their ultra-right-wing father was a member of the American Nazi Party. He was so enamored with Adolf Hitler, Fowler claimed, that he trimmed his mustache to resemble Der Fuehrer’s.

“I grew up in a living hell. There was so much darkness in our home it was beyond belief. It was absolutely miserable,” Spacey’s brother said then. “Years later, our mother actually wrote a letter to all three of us, trying to justify what had gone on by saying she was abused as a child and so was our father. Kevin tried to avoid what was going on by wrapping himself in an emotional bubble….He was so determined to try to avoid the whippings that he just minded his Ps and Qs until there was nothing inside. He had no feelings.”

Fowler described his younger brother was an “empty vessel” who had never been in a real relationship with anyone. “Neither of us had a chance growing up with two such damaged parents, ” he concluded.

No, I don’t know that what a Rod Stewart imitator and publicity-seeking sibling of a famous actor says is completely true, exaggerated, or a fabrication.  But it fits. Spacey should be given the benefit of the doubt, and accorded some compassion. We all deserve that. Continue reading

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 1 of 2]

The comments regarding yesterday’s ethics quiz have been varied and vigorous. As to the quiz question itself,

Is [Anthony] Rapp’s public accusation [against actor Kevin Spacey alleging that Spacey sexually assaulted him 30 years ago when Rapp was only 14] fair, responsible, and ethical?

I have arrived at my answer, and am abashed that I didn’t see it immediately.

No, the accusation was not fair, and it was unethical. It fails all ethical systems. It is a Golden Rule breach: What Rapp did to Spacey is not how he, or anyone would want to be treated. The fair and decent thing would have been to confront Spacey privately.  Maybe Rapp has distorted the incident over time; maybe Spacey is as remorseful and embarrassed by the incident as Rapp has been traumatized by it. All of us would want at least a chance to explain or make amends before being exposed…in Buzzfeed(!?).

Other observations, as Spacey is being metaphorically disemboweled by an angry mob…

  • Rapp also stomped on Kantian ethics, which forbids using human beings as a means to an end. Rapp says his goal was “to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent.” Wait: is there a shred of evidence that Spacey engaged in such conduct over “decades”? Is there any indication that Rapp is protecting future teens from his assaults? No, he’s just jumping on a train, joining a virtue-signalling mob engaged on what appears to be a scalp-hunting expedition. His late hit on Spacey didn’t stop a predator (as with Weinstein), didn’t report a crime to authorities (the statute of limitations is long past), didn’t accomplish anything postive and productive involing Spacey at all. I was just symbolic, and Kant, correctly, holds that it is unethical to destroy real human beings to make a political, social or culotural point, in this case the point being, “Don’t stay silent for 30 years if you have been abused, harassed or molested!”

This also fails any Millsian or Benthamist test of utilitarianism. The ends accomplished by Rapp’s accusation consist almost entirely of destroying Kevin Spacey. What else? I suppose its a warning too: anything you did that society will regard as worthy of making you a pariah can be revealed by an angry, vindictive or politically motivated alleged victim at any time, and you will have no recourse. Call it the Anita Hill Principle. That’s not enough of a “benefit” to society to destroy someone’s life. We have the Weinstein example, and the Bill Cosby saga. They were–are?—both serial offenders. Taking out Kevin Spacey based on one very old incident is not a means justified by any end.

  • Upon examination, Spacey’s response was a mistake and an ethics botch on multiple levels. Here it is again:

First, here we have another example of why Twitter is dangerous. Spacey is a smart guy, yet he foolishly, in his rush to deal with this crisis, authored his own rapid response on social media. In the old days, as my late friend Bob McElwaine, Hollywood publicist for Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum and many other stars, told me, he job was to make sure nothing attributed to his Hollywood clients was authored by them. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Weinsteining Of Kevin Spacey

This latest boxcar on the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck contains an ethics quiz because I have such mixed feelings about it.

Yesterday, actor and former child performer Anthony Rapp told Buzzfeed that in 1986, when Kevin Spacey was 26,  Rapp was 14, and both were appearing in Broadway plays, Spacey invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party. At the end of the evening, Rapp says, Spacey picked Rapp up, put him on his bed, and climbed on top of him. Rapp says he managed to squirm away and locked himself in the bathroom. Eventually he left Spacey’s residence, and never had any further contact with him.

Rapp is now 46. He says that before talking to Buzzfeed, he never told anyone about the traumatic  experience. However, Spacey’s success in his career constantly reminded Rapp of the incident.  “My stomach churns,” Rapp said. “I still to this day can’t wrap my head around so many aspects of it. It’s just deeply confusing to me.”

Rapp said he felt obligated to finally tell his story in the wake of the new awareness of the sexual harassment and sexual abuse culture in  the entertainment industry, sparked by Harvey Weinstein’s fall.

“And not to simply air a grievance, but to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent. … I’m feeling really awake to the moment that we’re living in, and I’m hopeful that this can make a difference.”

Spacey immediately tweeted an apology, and more:

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is Rapp’s public accusation fair, responsible, and ethical?

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/2/17 [UPDATED]

1. I wonder when and if the LGTBQ community will ever grow up. I had an annoying exchange yesterday when a Facebook friend began whining that President Trump hadn’t done or said anything to honor Gay Pride Day, proving again that he was the spawn of Satan. A friend of that friend then added, to the usual flood of “likes”—all you hve to do is insult the President to get likes— that for him to honor Gay Pride Day would be like Hitler observing ceremonies for Holocaust victims. Of course, nobody had the integrity or the decency to point out what an idiotic comment that was, so I did. When will people stop making me defend Donald Trump? He is the first and only President to enter office fully accepting same sex marriage (unlike Obama and Clinton) and the unending slur that he is hostile to gays is the product of two factors: fearmongering (He was going to put gays in camps!) and bigotry (If he’s a Republican, he must hate gays.) One response to my rejoinder was someone posting this NBC story as a “rebuttal.” The sum total of the anti-gay actions of the Trump administration, according to this alleged indictment? Here’s the description:

“For many LGBTQ Americans, the early days of Trump’s Republican administration have been fear-inducing. A series of Cabinet appointments have been roundly criticized by LGBTQ advocacy groups. An early draft of a reported executive order legalizing broad discrimination against LGBTQ people threw the community into a panic. The dismantling of Obama-era protections through executive orders came with the simple stroke of a pen.”

This is modern day fake-news journalism at its most obvious. All  the paragraph says is… Continue reading

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The Daily Beast’s Nico Himes Tricks Gay Olympian Athletes Into Revealing Themselves And Their Sexual Orientation To Him…And His Editor Sees Nothing Wrong With That [UPDATED]

_Sex-in-VillageThis is another one of those stories that makes me wonder it it’s time to switch fields. My current one feels especially futile this week.

The sleazy feature story from the Daily Beast’s Nico Hines was about how Olympic athletes were hooking up for hot, sweaty, muscle sex in Rio. Hines writes…

“Perhaps the question most people have is: How do the rest of us get an invite? Can an Average Joe join the bacchanalia?”

That’s right: that’s what most people think about when they watch the Olympics. Good lord. The creep continues:

After 60 minutes in the Olympic Village on Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to say that the answer is “yes.”Armed with a range of dating and hookup apps—Bumble, Grindr, Jack’d, and Tinder—your distinctly non-Olympian correspondent had scored three dates in the first hour. Athlete profiles on the various apps during my short exploration included a track star, a volleyball player, a record-holder in the pool, a sailor, a diver, and a handball player.

There is one teeny ethics problem. Well, several. The obvious one is that he wasn’t looking for real dates, just trying to see if he could attract some. That’s deception. It is an obvious Golden Rule breach, as well as misconduct in any other ethical system. It is like advertising a job opening to write a story about how many desperate unemployed people apply for job openings. How dead do your ethics alarms have to be not to instantly understand this? Well, as dead as Nico’s and the Daily Beast’s, I suppose.

Here’s the smoking gun quote:

For the record, I didn’t lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn’t—unless you count being on Grindr in the first place—since I’m straight, with a wife and child. I used my own picture (just of my face…) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.

Isn’t that great? Nico didn’t lie, except to suggest that he was looking for sex when he wasn’t, or pretend to be someone he wasn’t, other than pretending to be gay by the very fact of posting on Grindr, a gay social media site that exists so gay men can find other gay men seeking hook-ups.

Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: “Above The Law” Creator David Lat

The guy on the right feels happy and safe with everyone knowing he's gay, so the guy on the left is a fool for not wanting a sleazy website to tell the world that HE'S gay. Wait..WHAT?

The guy on the right feels happy and safe with everyone knowing he’s gay, so the guy on the left is a fool for being angry at a sleazy website for telling the world that HE’S gay. Wait..WHAT?

Every now and then, the Washington Post publishes an opinion piece from a guest commentator that crosses the line  distinguishing eccentric from irresponsible. Today’s essay by David Lat, the founder and CEO of the legal industry gossip site Above the Law, is an example of this bad habit. How wrong do one’s logic, values and message have to be before the Post deems them unworthy of promotion and wide consumption? Apparently, there is no limit.

Lat’s essay flagged its obtuseness immediately in its title: “Being Gay Isn’t Shameful, Do Why Does Outing Matter?” (The online version is “Peter Thiel had no reason to be angry at Gawker for writing that he’s gay.“)

The impetus for the article—it is so ethically deranged that I almost think it has to be a joke: who thinks like this?—is the news this week that  wrestler Hulk Hogan’s devastating and perhaps fatal lawsuit against Gawker Media was bankrolled by Peter Thiel,  the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and an  early Facebook investor.  Gawker outed him in a 2007 story, and Theil is using Hogan’ suit over Gawker revealing a sex tape to try to put the ethics-free celebrity-abusing site out of business. Thiel is just being petty and unreasonable, says Lat. Lat is gay and proud of it, so  Thiel should be too!

Writes Lat—whose own gossip site is not above revealing embarrassing facts about well-known figures for its readers’ titillation: Continue reading

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It’s Time To Play “Ethical, Unethical, Stupid, Or Tongue-In-Cheek?”, The Celebrity Quote Game Show!

Quiz show5

Are you ready, panel?

Here we go…I read to you from Mediate:

As the controversy continues over the white-washed pool of actors nominated this year for the Oscar awards, gay British actor Sir Ian McKellen has stated that homophobia is just as prominent in the film industry as racism.

McKellen, perhaps most prominently known for his work in the Lord of the Rings and X-Men series, spoke with Sky News today about why he felt sympathetic to the minority actors who felt like they were being overlooked by the Academy. While McKellen said that the concerns had merit, he also stated that black people were not alone in feeling disenfranchised by Hollywood.

“It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day,” McKellen said. “And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course.”

In a separate interview with The Guardian, McKellen also said that actors have won Oscars for playing gay characters in the past, and yet despite being nominated himself, no openly homosexual actor has ever won.

Now, you need some background for this round, panel. 

It is almost certain that a very large proportion of Hollywood is gay, and it has always been this way. The exact percentage is open to question, but those who have worked in other areas of show business encounter a large percentage of gay men, and also women, among designers, producers, directors, and actors, at all levels of the theater. In most college theater programs, there is a clear predominance of gays among both faculty and students. It would be strange indeed if the dominance of gays in the other aspects of show business was significantly different from the demographics in film. This suggests that there must be a strong contingent of closeted or privately gay men and women among the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

So now your question, panel: Was Ian McKellen’s bold assertion…

“Ethical, Unethical, Stupid, Or Tongue-In-Cheek?”

You have…30 seconds!

Time’s up!

Continue reading

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