I mentioned earlier that I had stopped checking New York Times Sunday advice column “Social Q’s” because its author, Phillip Gallanes, had apparently received the memo from Times brass so his advice and choice of queries were now primarily “woke” propaganda. However, reading material in our bathroom was recently in short supply, forcing me to peruse two recent Gallanes columns in which there was one interesting ethics issue raised, and two others that were a perfect examples of where Gallanes’ biases make him an untrustworthy advice columnist.
1. The photograph:The interesting issue regarded a daughter whose parents had recently died, and who was shocked that a valuable photograph was not directed her way in the distribution of the estate. It was, she said, second only to the parents’ home in value, and had appreciated in value greatly in the decades since it was given. Didn’t she have a right to get the photo, since she had given it in the first place? Wasn’t it unethical for the parents to treat it like the rest of their estate?
Gallanes properly pointed out that there was no basis for her assumptions in law or ethics. There are no strings attached to transfers of property unless they are made explicit at the time of the gift. What a cumbersome societal norm that would be: an estate is obligated to figure out the original source of every object of value and make sure they return to the original giver! What Gallanes didn’t say, and I would have, is “Who are you kidding? You want the valuable item, and have concocted a phony justification for claiming it.”
I was musing early yesterday about whether calling the current reaction/over-reaction/ exploitation/ “Hey great now we can do all kinds of stuff because nobody will dare say no to us!” to the George Floyd video a “freakout” was excessively denigrating it, trivializing or misrepresenting it. I decided it was all three. By the end of yesterday, I realized I was wrong.
I’ll still use the “George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck” tag on posts emanating from this madness, but ethics train wrecks, situations where virtually anyone who gets involved instantly engages in unethical conduct, are more rational than ethics freakouts, which are almost entirely fueled by emotion, hysteria, hate, present time perspective, and mob mentality.
I haven’t used the description often here, but looking back through the lens of history, I’d list among past freakouts the Salem witch trials, the French Revolution and “The Terror,” World War I, the Holocaust, and the U.S.’s ” Red Scare.” There are others; I’m not looking to compile the definitive list. The definition of a freakout, as opposed to a an ethics train wreck, is partially that once the fever has passed, virtually everyone looks back on the event and thinks, “What the hell? How did that happen? What was wrong with those people?” The other distinguishing factor is that while wise members of a society will contend with each other during an ethics train wreck and try to stop the runaway train, the tendency of the un-freaked during a freakout is to try to keep their heads down, avoid making eye contact, and if confronted with one of the raving, just nod and mutter, “Sure. Whatever you say.”
THAT, as the partial list above demonstrates, is a dire mistake. Ethics freakouts get people killed, and do damage to lives and society that can take decades to repair. Continue reading →
Stipulated: the ethics position here has been since long before the Trump years that Presidents should keep their opinions of persons, places, things and events having nothing to do with their duties or responsibilities to themselves.
Presidents are not kings, nor popes, nor universal authorities on everything. They have a role to fill, and they should fill it; it’s not like there should be plenty of time left over for weighing in on such matters as sports, popular culture, celebrities, and local controversies.
President Obama did far more of this than was responsible or good for the country, notably during race-related controversies. President Trump, obviously, has taken this misuse of his position into the stratosphere with his addiction to Twitter. His unrestrained tweets have done him at least as much harm as good; my own guess is that if he eschewed social media, his approval ratings would be 10% higher than they are.
It is also, I think, beyond argument that Trump’s use of Twitter guarantees that future Presidents will also use it to opine on matters that are none of their business. This is not a good thing.
The President’s latest self-made controversy, actually two controversies, came when he tweeted in part last week,
“How bad were the Academy Awards this year? Did you see? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know? I’m looking for — where? — can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies. The winner is: from South Korea. I thought it was Best Foreign Film. Best Foreign Movie. No. Has this ever happened before? …”
And then he went off on Brad Pitt’s gratuitous crack about John Bolton. Continue reading →
1. In a comment thread about Joe Arpaio’s pardon, the absurd assertion was made that Chelsea Manning was “tortured” at Leavenworth. In knocking down this anti-U.S. propaganda, courtesy of the U.N. and others, I noted that even the U.N. accuser based that assessment on the weird conclusion that Manning was “never convicted of a crime.”
Translation: military courts martial don’t count. Thanks for that opinion, U.N. guy! Why don’t you start your own country?
The other part of the phony torture accusation is the assertion that being held in solitary confinement is torture. Under international law, it is considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” not torture, but… surprise! The U.S. is not governed by international law, much as the globalists wish it were!
Solitary confinement has (rarely) been found by U.S. courts to violate the 8th Amendment when it is of indeterminate duration and without good cause, but that has nothing to do with Manning, who was considered in danger as a traitor in a military prison, and was in solitary for her own protection. The Supreme Court determines what is cruel and unusual punishment in this country, not the U.N., and not international law.
2. I also (I admit it: I knew I would) triggered a freak-out here, and some unfair insults that I will gracefully ignore, by stating that I would have supported execution for Manning, who was and is a traitor. (President Obama commuted her sentence, making the anti-war Left happy but oddly triggering a fraction of the condemnation in the news media that has followed President Trump’s pardoning an 85-year old man facing a minimal jail term. ) The U.S. has been historically reluctant to execute traitors, and in the era where a cyber-leaks can give more aid and comfort to the enemy than Julius and Ethel Rosenberg could have managed in a hundred years, a re-evaluation of that kind, merciful but dangerous policy is over-due for reconsideration. Manning avoided conviction on the worst of the charges against her (then, him) because prosecutors didn’t prove intent sufficiently. Manning claimed that she was just trying to start a “conversation’ about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and was willing to put classified information into the hands of terrorists in order to do it. If she knew she would be facing the death penalty with some certainty, it is likely that Manning would have thought twice, at least. It’s called deterrence, and in an age where self-righteous low-level types like Manning and Edward Snowden can get U.S. intelligence personnel exposed and killed with a few keystrokes, serious deterrence is called for.
3. Remember when I asked readers to alert Ethics Alarms when the first talking head suggested that out first major hurricane in 12 years was the result of climate change? It took longer than I expected, but the first reported fool was CNN anchor John Berman. He was interviewing Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center, and asked,
“Is there a why to this? Why there is so much water associated with this storm? One thing we heard from scientists over the last 10 years is that climate change does impact the intensity of many of the storms that we see.”
To his credit, Read assured Berman that the heavy rains had nothing to do with climate change, and everything to do with the typical behavior of this kind of storm. The episode shows 1) how little many journalists (I won’t say all, but it is very close to all) understand the science of climate change, but promote it anyway because it aligns with their partisan politics, and 2) how they will try to generate fake news, which is what “Hurricane Harvey Deadly Rainfall Possibly Caused By Climate Change, Expert Tells CNN” would have been. If Berman was interested in promoting public understanding of the climate change controversy, he would have asked, “Climate change models and Al Gore’s documentaries predicted more and more violent storms as a result of global warming, yet this is the first major hurricane we have seen in more than a decade. How do you account for this?”
4. In the teeth of this renewed attack on U.S. history and culture during the Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, I asked how long it would be before “Gone With The Wind” was banished from the airwaves. The Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis, Tennessee just withdrew its annual screening of the classic 1939 film out of concern that some may find it ‘offensive’.
If no one has the courage to stand up for art, expression and history as “the offended” try to strangle cultural diversity out of existence, then Orwellian thought control will be the inevitable result. I don’t blame the “offended” for trying to suppress speech, thought and history as much as I blame the cowards who capitulate to it. Next in the line to oblivion: war movies, movies with guns, “Gettysburg” and John Wayne. Continue reading →
I guess no good deed really does go unpunished: I stand up for the vile and hateful comedian’s legitimate use of “nigger” in a witticism on live TV, and the former host of “Politically Incorrect” caves to political correctness, which he has sworn repeatedly that he will never do.
“Well, you know, I’ve been through this so many times. There’s a lot of people in America who have, of course, nothing to do except look for something to get mad at. And I’ve been a frequent target and I’m happy to provide that service. So, you know, I always say, as I’ve said many times in these kind of situations, if I hurt somebody’s feelings, I’m always sorry about that, I’m not trying to hurt somebody’s feelings. But if you want me to say I’m sorry what I said was wrong, no, sorry, I can’t go there.”
I guess what he meant is that he can’t go there when he’s only using vile language to denigrate conservative women who feminists and NOW don’t regard as worthy of their alleged principles, in attacks that make his ideologically sympatico crowd secretly snicker and chuckle because those twats deserve it.
This time, however, he offended the all-powerful race grievance lobby by calling himself—himself!— a “house nigger,” in a “Gone With The Wind” reference prompted by a Republican Senator asking him if he’d do field work. Lacking the integrity and fierce belief in the Jester’s Privilege that he has proclaimed before when it wasn’t progressives carrying the torches and pitchforks, Maher capitulated like Galileo, even though in this case, he had been neither vicious nor insulting, just “offensive” to those who want to ban words—you know: liberals.
When Bill Maher participated in the lowering of civil political discourse and the escalation of hate and ad hominem rhetoric in the culture by calling female Republican figures “cunts” and “twats’ as his leftist studio audience squealed with delight, there was no significant objections from NOW or other feminsits entranced by his anti-conservative fervor, nor were mainstream media liberals in the pundit ranks overwhelmingly indignant. After all, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann didn’t deserve civility, and besides, it was just a joke! Maher’s pass on breaching basic rules of decorum in public speech greased the slippery slope that led us to “cockholster” and beheaded Presidents today. In addition, the double standard was established that vulgar and gross gutter language was acceptable when aimed at conservatives, but only conservatives. Is there any question whether Maher would still be leaving his slime trails at HBO if he had called Hillary Clinton, Diane Fienstein, or Michelle Obama a cunt?
Nevertheless, the principle at issue is that we all have an ethical duty to extend basic human respect to our fellow dwellers on this planet, or civilization rots and falls apart in chunks. Indeed, this is the duty too many progressives and Democrats have been breaching in their treatment of the President of the united States for the past six months. Entertainers and comedians get some special dispensations, but they need to be sternly rebuked when they abuse the privilege by using it to express hatred and to spread intolerance. We do not ban words in the United States. We do reserve the right to regulate conduct in the interests of out democratic and pluralistic ideals, often by expressing vocal disapproval.
Which brings us back to Bill Maher. On Friday’s edition of Maher’s “Real Time,” Maher was verbally fencing with Republican Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse. At one point—the context doesn’t matter—Sasse facetiously invited the host to “work in the fields.”
Ethics Alarms has almost 15,000 tags, which means that a lot of diverse topics hard been discussed here in connection with ethics issues. Saddened as I was to learn of the passing of the great Mickey Rooney, truly one of the most talented and versatile individuals in entertainment history and the last of MGM musical stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I can’t justify honoring his ethics; by all accounts, Mickey was not as admirable a human being as he was a performer. Still, Ethics Alarms has a Mickey Rooney post, from 2011, and when I read it over just now, I still liked it. Thus I will honor Mickey by reposting my defense of perhaps his most criticized performance. For one of his best, watch this. Yes, Judy’s in it too. (TCM has made everyone take down their Mickey clips, but so far, this Russian pirate site still has it. I know, I know—but Mickey would approve. This ethical breach is for you, Mick…)Continue reading →
Rooney’s performance, in my opinion, was cringe-worthy even in 1961, one of director Blake Edwards’ not uncommon excesses in vaudeville humor, placed in a context where it didn’t belong. It is a scar on an otherwise marvelous film, but there is nothing inherently wrong with comic stereotypes. Stereotypes are a staple of comedy, and have been forever; the question is whether a particular stereotype is cruel, gratuitous, harmful, or funny. Some stereotypes are cruel and funny. Continue reading →