It Appears Great Britain’s Anti-Racism Madness Is Even More Advanced Than Ours

Hear_No_Evil,_See_No_Evil,_Speak_No_Evil

The obvious question is whether this is encouraging or depressing: does this brain-explodingly absurd story mean that The Great Stupid has finally passed over the U.S. and is reaching its ridiculous peak across the Atlantic, or is the insanity moving in the other direction?

In what may be the best examples yet of the principle “if you can hear the dog whistle, you’re the dog”—except that it involves monkeys, not dogs—the University of York removed the iconic image of the “Wise Monkeys, better known perhaps as “See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil,” from its website because somebody decided the image was racist and nobody had the courage and common sense to tell them that the theory was crackers and made the whole institution look like monkeys. The image had been used to promote an upcoming art history conference, and the organizers issued an apology rich in scholarly gibberish, saying-–don’t giggle now, these are intellectuals

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Saturday Ethics Alerts, 1/16/21: “Nevermore!” If Only…

Raven Addams

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” was ratified by the requisite number of states on this date in, 1919. It was a great, botched, ethics experiment. Alcohol was too far embedded in the culture for too long and in too many ways, and the laws prohibiting alcohol were badly drafted and engendered public resentment and contempt. Still, as the Ken Burns documentary on the topic made clear, the damage being caused by alcohol abuse before Prohibition was permanently slowed down and reversed by the ban, though the ban itself was doomed from the start.

1. Quote of the Day: I just finished watching “We Bought A Zoo” again, and it reminded me of the quote, alluded to in the film, by the real life English man who did buy a zoo, and whose story was transferred to America in the film staring Matt Damon. Benjamin Mee said in his book (with the same title as the film) about the adventure, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

He’s absolutely right, and this principle has enriched my own life too many times to count.

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Tales Of The Great Stupid: Wow…Who Could Have Seen THIS Coming?

Children are being bombarded by media and social media propaganda asserting that a vast number of people are trapped in bodies having the “wrong” sex organs, and celebrating the “T’s in the LGBTQ+ interest-group-of-convenience as the cool new martyrs. Thus an increasing number of these children convince their woke and irresponsible parents, and doctors who would rather be politically correct than “do no harm,” to divert their fates from the natural biological path to something else, because everybody is doing it, or everybody is saying it’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t take much to figure out this is a terrible trend based on terrible reasoning, but there are so many such trends and ideas flourishing now that it’s hard to bat them all away.

And so we have the case of 23-year-old Keira Bell in Great Britain, who is suing a National Health Service gender clinic that she says should have challenged her decision to transition to male as a teenager. A tomboy as a child, Keira says her determination to switch gender gradually built up as she found out more about transitioning online, and “one step led to another.”

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Rainy Monday Ethics, 11/30/2020: Statues, Dogs And Lies

Also getting me down, Karen Carpenter songs. As with great movies with O.J. Simpson or Gig Young in them, these are hard to enjoy now, at least for me. One of the most lovely natural voices in pop music history was silenced by the pernicious disease of anorexia, exacerbated by, among others, her brother, her family, and music industry executives, who made Carpenter so self-conscious about her weight and appearance that she slowly starved herself to death before her 33rd birthday. I wish I could hear her sing—and I will do that a lot in the days approaching Christmas—without thinking about that, but I can’t.

1. Proposition: any nation’s historical figures who had the impact on those nations that Margaret Thatcher did in Great Britain over a significant period of time deserve to be memorialized with statues, absent some cataclysmic disqualifying act, like Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Even in Nixon’s case, I would support a public memorial to such a historically influential figure.

In the English town of Grantham, where Thatcher grew up, an 11-foot pedestal awaits the arrival next year of a large statue of “the Iron Lady.” Apparently many in Britain, and a large proportion of Gratham’s working class residents, disapprove of Thatcher’s conservative politics and policies, and thus oppose the statue, which will be in immediate danger of toppling the minute it is erected.

Morons. One doesn’t have to personally agree with a historical figure’s position or even admire her to appreciate the impact that figure had. The criteria for memorializing prominent citizens should center on whether future generations need to know who they were and what they did, not whether their achievements and conduct are approved of according to often fleeting political, social and cultural values. Charles Moore, who wrote an authorized biography of Mrs. Thatcher, says, “It’s obvious there should be statues to Britain’s first woman prime minister. But…but…George Floyd! The New York Times’ article on the controversy says that statue toppling has become a world-wide phenomenon since the death of George Floyd. Now that makes sense: one of Great Britain’s most successful and important leaders should be robbed of her legitimate honors because a rogue cop accidentally contributed to the death of a black criminal in Minnesota.

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The Damning Ethics Bombshell In “The Crown”

The Netflix series The Crown, which had its 4th season debut over the weekend, is a terrific historical soap-opera featuring some superb acting by its regulars and walk-ons. It is also historical fiction involving living people, notably Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and other members of Great Britain’s royal family. This is an ethically problematic area that Ethics Alarms has delved into before. There are legitimate ethical objections to a work of fiction misrepresenting the actions of any historical figure to that individual’s detriment and damage to his or her reputation. The ethical breach is worse when the fictional version of reality involves those who are still alive, and worse still, at least in the eyes of many Brits, when the dubious narratives put into vivid dramatic form involve the current head of state. This is an issue in part because such works of artistic license are too often accepted as fact by viewers who are too lazy to check Google, Wikipedia, or a history book.

“The Crown’s” scriptwriter, Peter Morgan, has said, “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth,” whatever that means. The four seasons of his series have made sensational use of some genuinely disturbing chapters of British royal history that the monarchy would like to forget—this infamous cover-up of a Communist spy in Buckingham Palace is particularly stunning— but Morgan has also been justly criticized for making up events out of gossamer and parallel universe annals.

In the current season, for example, a lot of time is devoted to a rift between Prince Charles and Lord Mountbatten that Morgan admits never happened. The problem is that when complete fantasy is mixed in with real events, public understanding of what is fact and what is fiction becomes blurred. (See “Titanic” and “JFK”)

This may allow the Royals to wiggle out of the implications of the astounding scandal revealed in one of Season 4’s episodes, “The Hereditary Principle.” Some of the details are fudged—the horrible truth was not, as far as we know, uncovered by Princess Margaret (played by Helena Bonham Carter)—but it is true that five of her and Queen Elizabeth’s cousins were secretly committed to a mental hospital in 1941 and declared dead.

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Saturday Ethics Aftermath, 11/14/2020: Art And Ethics

Brussels statue

1. Movie plot ethics. It’s clear that I have watched far too many movie and TV programs. I am now at the point where certain routine plot and directorial devices not only annoy me, they insult me. I regard these now as disrespectful and incompetent, and in that sense, unethical. I’m not talking about the cliches that still work with the young and uninitiated, like how the apparently dead/injured/ betrayed/ rejected or abandoned character you forgot about is always the one who shows up to save the day. (Among the reasons I love the “Magnificent Seven” so much is that when the one member of the team who had quit shows up to rescue his pals in the final gun battle, he is shot and killed immediately.) I’m referring to tropes that are self-evidently stupid and should seem so for any viewer over the age of 12.

For example,  if there’s a vicious, murdering psychopath chasing you, and you knock him cold with a steel pipe or incapacitate him in other ways, you don’t assume he/she/it is dead and leave the killer there to revive and slaughter you. You make sure the manic/monster is dead. Beat his head to a pulp; heck, cut it off.  This is often paired with another idiotic scene, the ill-timed hug. The world is going to blow in seconds, zombies are coming, crazies are beating down the door: save that passionate embrace for later, you morons! The same applies to long, emotional conversations in the midst of disasters when every second counts. Which is worse, I wonder: the long debate in “Armageddon” between Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck when they have literally seconds to save the Earth from an asteroid apocalypse, or the even longer argument among three fire fighters in the middle of a burning building?  That was in “Backdraft,” and I never quite felt the same about director Ron Howard after that.

2. Statue ethics again.  A new London  sculpture dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century writer and feminist hero (and the mother of Mary Shelley) is attracting much hate from art critics and the public.

MW memorial

The work by the British artist Maggi Hambling features a small, naked woman standing on a pillar silvered bronze, set on a cube of dark granite. The overall form is just larger than an average person, and sits well with the park: “Why is Mary naked?” critics are demanding. One Twitter user said: “I had no idea Mary had shredded abs.”

Morons. Read the statue’s base: “For Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.”  This is not intended to be a likeness of, but a tribute to,Wollstonecraft, whose most famous quotation from her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” published in 1792, appears on the other side of the base:  “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

Before one starts criticizing anything, it is essential, fair and responsible to know what one is talking about. Every day I send to Spam Hell comments from Ethics Alarms critics who obviously didn’t read the post they are commenting on. I once went to great lengths to get a local theater critic fired who reviewed a show I directed after I saw her walk out before the second act.

On the other side, as a stage director who made being clear my prime directive, I hold the artist partially responsible when a large proportion of viewers don’t understand what is being communicated.

3. Then there is this:

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Of Intent, Offense, And Uncivil Parrots

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Centre in Great Britain has a problem, or thinks it does. Billy, Eric, Tyson, Jade and Elsie, gray parrots all,  joined  to zoological park’s  flock of 200 gray parrots in August, and quickly proved to be a bad influence.  All five have a penchant for telling visitors to “fuck off,” and one reportedly has called a zoo manager a “fat twat.”  Zookeepers believe the five  were encouraging each other to be potty-beaks, and risked turning the entire group of gray parrots into little feathered versions of Bill Maher.

Can’t have that. The zoo is separating Billy, Eric, Tyson, Jade and Elsie for being  bad influences on each other and threatening to corrupt the other parrots.

This episode has special resonance with me. In 1988, I had just joined the staff of The Association of Trial Lawyers (now called, to the group’s great shame, The Association for Justice because a consultant found that people don’t like trial lawyers) to run its various profit centers. Almost immediately, I found myself in Maui overseeing the group’s winter convention at the Ka’anapali Beach Hyatt in Lahaina. That sounds nice, but my convention manager was in the process of going nuts, and I was tasked with minimizing the damage when, among other things, she locked herself in our convention headquarters weeping and screaming.

I had other responsibilities as well, including dealing with rebellious exhibitors and moderating various meetings at which virtually no members were attending, given the lure of the warm breezes and Hawaiian surf. On the day ATLA’s new Executive Director screamed at me for not being able to talk my convention manager out of her fortress of solitude, and the exhibitors ambushed me at a meeting and called me a Nazi, I was walking, disconsolate and exhausted, from a meeting room back to the exhibit hall in the late afternoon. As I walked past a large, colorful macaw in a cage, I heard a voice say, “Fuck you!” I remember freezing, turning around, and staring at the bird. “Really?” I said. “Really? That’s just what I needed to hear today.” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/2/2020: Imaginary Fans In New York, Elusive Justice In England, And Utter Cluelessness In Colorado

There’s nothing like a great hymn on a Sunday, and it’s always a good time to hear the rousing Battle Hymn of the Republic. When they sang it at Winston Churchill’s funeral—he chose it for that occasion–the moment was unforgettable. I made sure it was sung at my father’s funeral service at Arlington as well in 2010. Thanks to the largely theatrical mourners in the chapel,  side benefit of directing so many musicals and operettas, the rendition was spectacular. “Wow!” the surprised chaplain exclaimed.

It’s a good thing Dad wasn’t singing. He loved belting out that song, and he was completely tone deaf. His version of the Star Spangled Banner would bring anyone to their knees. It made Rosanne seem like Beverly Sills.

1. A gaffe with signature significance. The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, was widely conceded to be a shoo-in to take the Senate seat away from Republican incumbent Cory Gardner. Then he said “All lives matter.” The Horror. Worse, he said that George Floyd was shot. He really did.

I can’t imagine a more conclusive sign that a politician is simply exploiting an event rather than bothering to learn what happened or think about it. The entire catalyzing effect of Floyd’s death was the symbolism of the cop’s knee on his throat. This guy even ran for President, and this is the seriousness and diligence with which he approaches political leadership. What were all those “I Can’t Breathe!” signs about, Governor?

Glenn Reynolds often says that we have the worst political class in U.S. history. I am reflexively opposed to “this is the worst it has ever been” pronouncements, but in this case, I am inclined to agree.

2. Yecchh! Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump”

Adding international and historical perspective  to yesterday’s post regarding President Trump’s “dark and divisive” speech at Mt. Rushmore ( the mainstream media narrative has been so remarkably consistent that it has been credibly suggested that a memo went out. I could believe it…), E2 gives us this Comment of the Day on “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump”:

Re the media’s race/Trump racism false commentary:

Doesn’t anyone know any history? As an amateur historian of British history, Churchill, the Holocaust, and WWII, I understand the horrors of British imperialism in the 18th-19th century (Africa, the Near and Far East, and on and on), but…

Queen Victoria (against the South’s fond hopes) refused to support the Confederacy for one reason: slavery. Despite England’s need for cotton, she wouldn’t put her stamp of approval on slavery in the interest of their economy. Of course one could argue that British imperialism was almost as bad as slavery, but it really was not, and unlike the French, who conquered African nations, hunted with chieftains, slept with their women, stole their resources, then left when it seemed appropriate or necessary, the British, in their unique fashion, created whole government structures (e.g. India) that survived as useful bureaucracies after WWII and the end of British imperialism. Smart they were, though, creating the British Commonwealth, which their conquered countries could join if they chose. An amazing number did.

But slavery of a particular race was not in the British ethic. (Or the Romans either, who enslaved everyone they conquered, regardless of race/origin/culture…) The result — especially after WWII — is that Britain became populated by traditional Englishmen, Indians, African blacks, Asians — all with the hope and most always the realization of good, safe, respected, lives. (The European Union, Brexit, etc., is changing that, I’m sure. It’s been a decade since I’ve been to England.) But to the point: Continue reading

A Nazi Jumbo!

OK, OK, I put the mustache in. I couldn’t resist.

In Great Britain, the enlightened isle that has never quite embraced the  concepts of “freedom of speech” and “freedom of association,” is putting four neo-Nazis in  jail for being “active members” of the banned  group National Action (NA).

Alice Cutter and her former partner Mark Jones, along with Garry Jack and Connor Scothern, appeared at Birmingham crown court, where they were convicted of being members of the group. NA was banned in December 2016 after a series of rallies and incidents that included praising the murder of the MP Jo Cox.  Not killing her, mind you. Praising her murder.

Cutter denied that she was an active member of the group as the prosecutor had argued to the court. True,  Jurors were shown messages in which she joked about gassing synagogues and using a Jew’s head as a football.  Joke! She was joking! But I’d say where she really ran into trouble denying that she was a Neo-Nazi was the fact that she competed in the “Miss Hitler” beauty pageant. Cutter entered the  pageant under the catchy name “Buchenwald Princess.”

Führer ? What Führer ?