Tag Archives: grandstanding

The Problem With Apu?

Commenting on the recent attacks from progressives on the allegedly racist drawings of Dr. Seuss, I wrote,

I’ve missed it: have social justice warriors been protesting “The Simpsons”? No? Not even Apu, the Indian immigrant Springfield resident—Wait! Isn’t the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield?–who has the stereotypical ethnic occupation of a convenience food proprietor (Full disclosure: my local 7-11 is owned by an Indian American)? You know, this guy?

Apparently I inadvertently set something in motion in the zeitgeist; I’m so sorry. For the New York Times informs us that a new documentary debuting Nov. 19 on truTV  is called “The Problem with Apu,” and “wrestles with how a show praised for its incisive humor — over the years, it has explored issues like homophobia and political corruption — could resort to such a charged stereotype. Making matters worse is the fact that the Indian character is voiced by a non-Indian (albeit an Emmy-winning) actor, Hank Azaria.”

The article goes on,

“In the film, Mr. Kondabolu places Apu within the broader history of Hollywood’s depiction of Indians, including Peter Sellers’s brownface rendition of an idiot in the 1968 Blake Edwards film “The Party” and the Indians feasting on chilled monkey brains in Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” He also reached out to a who’s-who of South Asian actors to talk about their experiences in Hollywood.”

The Indian-Americans quoted in the artical are especially upset that Apu’s accent isn’t authentic; it’s just funny. Can’t have that.

Move through the muck and emerge in the b right sunlight of reality,  there is no problem with Apu. There are problems with lacking a mature reaction to humor and satire, being deliberately hyper-sensitive, power-grabbing using group-identification politics, and cynically looking for offense to justify claiming victim status,  but there is no problem with Apu.

I would love to know why Indian-Americans feel all the other characters in the show can be  outrageous stereotypes and extreme caricatures,  but Apu is unacceptably offensive and insensitive. This is contrived victimization. One cannot reasonable compare the Indians feasting on bugs and chilled monkey brains in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to Apu because 1) Apu is entirely benign: he is one of the smartest, sanest and nicest characters in “The Simpsons,” and 2) he’s a cartoon. Cartoons are always exaggerated, and if they are not, they aren’t funny. They also aren’t cartoons. Continue reading

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Your NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck Update…

It’s Sunday, so the question naturally arises: What are NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest now?

In Houston, a majority of Houston Texans players “took a knee” during the National Anthem prior to today’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, presumably to protest  team owner Bob McNair’s botched comment last week when he said allowing the protests was like letting the inmates run the prison. He probably meant to say “asylum” rather than prison. NFL players, so many of them being accused or convicted felons, are understandably tender on the prison topic. McNair quickly apologized, but it doesn’t matter.  After all, there has to be some excuse for protesting the Star Spangled Banner, right?

What I can’t figure out is, if you take a knee to protest the incorrect use of hackneyed phrases, does that mean you aren’t protesting social inequities in America? Does such a protest mean these players care more about their hurt feelings than solving social injustice, since kneeling during the Anthem does so much to further that goal? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/17: The Clinton Campaign’s Russian Dossier Connection, Her Lying Lawyer, And Jeff Flake

GOOD MORNING!

1 I have long been an admirer of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who is one of the few members of Congress, more’s the pity, who will stick to his principles even when they pit him against his own party. However, his freak-out and verbal attack on President Trump accomplish nothing positive (unless you consider making Democrats happy positive) and  at this point constitute pure self-indulgence and, yes, these words are coming up a lot lately, virtue-signalling and grandstanding. I have no sympathy for Flake, Senator Corker, or any other Republican leaders who stood by and allowed Donald Trump to hijack their party. The time for Flake to take a stand was last March, or even earlier. Ethics Alarms stated that the GOP shouldn’t have let Trump into the debates or on its ballot. I said that he should have been kicked out of the debates when he began trashing the party, and when he  became disgustingly boorish and uncivil. I explained that it could have and should have refused to nominate him by changing the rules. The party had a duty to the country to present a competent, trustworthy alternative to the corrupt, venal, dishonest candidate the Democrats were going to nominate: everyone knew who that would be. Instead, the GOP sold its soul. Jeff Flake now says that Trump is reckless, outrageous and undignified? Who didn’t know that? I assume the President’s  voters knew that. On Ethics Alarms, I wrote about those Trump character traits in 2011.

It is particularly galling for me to read Flake’s attack on Trump in the Washington Post today, which begins, “As I contemplate the Trump presidency, I cannot help but think of Joseph Welch.” In fact, it makes me want to scream helplessly at the sky. In this Ethics Alarms post, I invoked Welch’s famous televised slap-down of Joe McCarthy before the first Republican candidates debate, and concluded “If someone doesn’t at least try it, none of these 15 non-Trumps are smart enough to be President.” I wrote that on September 16, 2015. 

Senator Flake is like a Senator  going to Honolulu in December of 1942 and proclaiming that the Japanese can’t be trusted. He deserves no sympathy or support now.

He should have been reading Ethics Alarms.

UPDATE: My friend and frequent ProEthics collaborator Mike Messer called this “flake news.”

2. I haven’t had time to thoroughly unravel what yesterday’s revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign funded what became the infamous “Russian dossier” means. A couple of points, however, Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Your NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck Update: Incompetent Quotes”

…or, in the alternative, are you ready for some vague, annoying protest by a scattering of players during the National Anthem, and THEN some football?

This Comment of the Day is from me, Jack Marshall, blog proprietor and moderator. 

I just finished writing it in response to a comment that I almost described as another incompetent quote; my comment begins with it. But that’s not really fair. What prompted this indeed is a spectacularly wrong quote, but still a useful one. This is the value (I hope) of discourse here. Even wildly misguided debate points can enlighten. This one enlightened me: now I know that the supporters of the NFL Kneelers are, beyond question, not processing reality, either out of confusion or ideological fervor. Their position does not make sense; it’s as simple as that.  I have to read a clear, purposeful expression of a bad argument sometimes to understand what exactly is so wrong with it.

This is a depersonalized version of what I just wrote in the comment thread, which was a bit mean. (It also had some typos, which I think I fixed, and a couple of other edits.) Luckily, I know that the recipient, unlike some people, won’t sue me for hurting his delicate feelings, if in fact I did.

Here is my Comment of the Day on the post, Your NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck Update: Incompetent Quotes:

“Since when do one’s “deeply held convictions” give one the right to force others to live by them? No NFL viewer’s deeply held convictions are meaningfully threatened by this silent protest. They remain free to show respect to the flag in whatever way feels right to them. You are the one advocating for a restriction of the NFL players’ freedom of expression. And while that restriction is legal, it is neither ethical nor necessary. It is, in fact, petty and stupid.”

This is, honestly, willfully or naively obtuse.

The NFL players ARE restricted by the nature of their work and the business they work in. This is so simple.

I am a perfect example of the problem you seem incapable of grasping. I am the Customer. I go to entertainment, like everyone else who does, to be entertained. I do not go to be involuntarily shamed, “Woked”, harangued, persuaded, bitched to or proselytized, silently, verbally or symbolically. I’m not paying for that, and it interferes with my enjoyment, both substantively and as a matter of principle. If said entertainment advertises that “before the game/show.performance, the captive audience will be subjected to a brief but heart-felt statement by the players/actors/performers regarding [IT DOESN’T MATTER], I appreciate the candor, and I’m not buying a ticket. If establishments that grants me admission in exchange for my attention, patronage and hard-earned cash,  pollutes my entertainment by allowing  this non-entertaining content without notice, I regard it as a breach of our deal.

Remember, I ran a professional theater company, successfully, for 20 years. And the nice, often progressive actors, board members and staffers were always asking that we have a “curtain speech” urging the audience to contribute for this cause or that crisis, AIDS research,  to help a member of the theater community who had been attacked by wolves or something equally terrible, or even to raise money for my company. My answer was always the same.

NO. NEVER. We do not take advantage of our audience that way, and exploit the fact that they are seated expecting a performance to force a lobbying effort on them, and it doesn’t matter if I agree with the cause or not. It’s wrong, It is in fact, the Saint’s Excuse. (Everybody Does It was also often cited.)

I wasn’t limiting anyone’s freedom of expression then, and no one is advocating restriction of the NFL players’ freedom of expression now. They can say and write whatever dumb (or not) thing they choose when they are not doing the job their employer is paying them to do. Continue reading

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Your NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck Update: Incompetent Quotes

The more NFL players, owners, brass, and other fellow travelers on the NAPETR talk about this fiasco, the worse it gets.

Incompetent Quote #1:

“What I see with the N.F.L. owners is a bunch of good old boys telling the players: Stay in your place.”

 ——Black Lives Matter demonstrator outside NFL headquarters.

Comment: “In their place”  in this context means“doing the job for which they are paid millions of dollars and not undermining the business of their bosses by irresponsible non-football activities on the field. “ Yup, telling employees to stay in their place is what all employers do,  must do, and have every right, indeed an obligation to do.

Calling such employers “good ol’ boys” is bigotry and race-baiting, which is what racist organizations like BLM do.

Incompetent Quote #2:

“We need to be above petty attacks from anybody, because racial and socioeconomic inequality has existed in this country for too long,”

 ——- Jed York,the chief executive and co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers, which started this mess. Continue reading

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The NFL Is In Ethics Zugswang, But It’s For A Good Cause

Remember this, the essay a University of North Carolina athlete submitted to one of his courses—he got an A—leaked to the news media in 2014?

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the  white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

I think about this when I’m reading manifestos from pro football players who think the on-field protests that they can’t adequately explain are vital to national discourse. The protests aren’t, and the protesters aren’t. All of the articles about how protests are inherently patriotic are revealed as lies when the protests they are extolling are this divisive, this costly, and this pointless. The Kneelers are almost entirely filthy rich, maleducated, pampered, narcissist dead-heads whose critical thinking skills are infantile, and whose literacy is dubious. What entitles them to a national canvas every Sunday upon which to scribble their graffitti? Nothing. And by continuing to scribble, they are gradually reducing the visibility of that canvas, as well as the viability of their own occupation, which is short-lived already.

The NFL, meanwhile, is stuck in ethics zugswang by its own incompetence. Allow the players to continue making a mindless Fall ritual of mob ecstasy over the visceral pleasures of watching behemoths in armor crush each other an exercise in cognitive dissonance, and the NFL betrays its ticket-buyers, business partners, sponsors and stock holders. Tell the players to protest on their own time, and the NFL is siding with a President who crossed a line by telling a private business how to manage its employees, and setting itself up as opposing “police brutality,” thus Black Lives Matter, thus African Americans.

Meanwhile, the liberal punditry and news media, which doesn’t give a fig about football, is cheering on the Kneelers even as it drives the NFL into cultural harikiri. It’s a little like some of the more disgusting of the anti-gun fanatics when they reacted to the Las Vegas shooting: “Well, it was a lot of conservatives, so who cares, as long as we can use it to ban more guns.” Same here: Liberals, who are far from the core audience for pro football, are quite happy to see the NFL form a circular firing squad if it furthers “the resistance” and progressive narratives, if even for a little while.

An instructive example was a column earlier this month from the Times’ latest hard left op-ed writer, David Leonardt. Called “The Choice Between Winning And Kneeling,” it purported to be a “protest smart” exhortation to the NFL kneelers, without ever articulating exactly what this foggiest of all protests is supposed to win.

Leonardt begins with five inspiring and completely irrelevant paragraphs about the civil rights protests on the Sixties. This is intended to sanctify the NFL kneelers’ grandstanding, but accomplishes the opposite. That protest movement had clear and specific goals. Blacks and fair Americans wanted an end to Jim Crow. They wanted blacks to be able to vote, as the law said they could. They wanted an end to segregation, and discrimination by public commodities. They wanted to have equal justice under law enforced.

Making the intellectually dishonest leap from Selma to the football field, Leonhardt states, “The professional athletes doing political battle with President Trump are heirs to the civil-rights movement. They are protesting government-sanctioned violence against African-Americans,” thus falling flat on his face immediately. Wait: are they opposing President Trump, or are they “protesting government-sanctioned violence against African-Americans”?  Is he suggesting that Trump favors violence against African-Americans?  Who and what is the protest about?

Well, some are protesting one, some are protesting the other, and some are just going along for the ride. By what measure does Leonardt make the factually false statement that violence against African American is “government-sanctioned”? The U.S. government encourages people to kill blacks? No,  it doesn’t.  Leonardt dishonestly links to the Washington Post data base on police shootings, as if this supports his slur.  Among other things, those statistics show more whites shot than blacks. Never mind. Leonardt is just trying to pretend the NFL players have a clue what they want.

We know what legislative and societal measures Martin Luther King wanted. What measures would address the Kneelers’ concerns? A law declaring that police must never shoot blacks when the officers felt threatened? Officers counting to five before using their gun if a suspect is black, and just to three if he’s white? Automatically pronouncing any officer who shoots and kills a black man as guilty of murder? Dispensing with juries when white officers are involved, and using “innocent until proven guilty” as the standard when black officers are involved? Colin Kaepernick thought that any officer who shoots a black man should be automatically suspended without pay, before any investigation. Is that the goal? As I have noted before, “ending systemic oppression”  is just a slogan. It is meaningless. If it is meaningless, so is the protest calling for “something” to be done about it.

Leonhardt doesn’t care. He just wants to promote societal division; it’s the Leftist Way. “From a moral standpoint, this issue is clear. The athletes are right — and have every right to protest as they have. Trump is wrong, about the scourge of police violence and about freedom of speech,” he writes. Really? What are the athletes “right” about? Even they don’t know.  The President has never said that police violence was or wasn’t a problem, but I thought Leonardt just wrote a few sentences before that the protest was about “government-sanctioned violence against African-Americans,” didn’t he? But he linked to a source about police shootings involving all races. Whatever! This is an op-ed for the choir, and not its brightest members, either: there’s no genuine analysis or reasoning, just shotgun endorsement of broad progressive cant. Blacks oppressed. Police bad. Guns bad. United States racist. Trump racist.

Trump, of course, is completely correct about freedom of speech in this matter: employees don’t have a right to turn the workplace into their own, personal Sixties college campus. But, you see, Trump is intrinsically “wrong,” so even when he’s right, it’s wrong. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading

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