Ethics Observations On The Megyn Kelly “Blackface” Fiasco

You know, one could make a strong argument that the misadventures of a richly compensated  morning TV host is not worth thinking about, arguing about, or even paying attention to. The problem is that in trivial events vital enlightenment often reside. We ignore the Megyn Kelly mess at great risk. There are many ethics lessons there.

The Megyn Kelly fiasco started long before her self-immolation over the now-radioactive topic of Halloween costumes, but let’s begin there. In case you missed it (that is, you have a life), Kelly was using her special segment of the “Today Show” to moderate a round-table discussion of how, as she put it,  “the costume police are cracking down” on Halloween costumes. The former Fox News host and Donald Trump irritant decided to emulate the President and blunder into a political correctness minefield.

“What is racist?” she mused. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was O.K., as long as you were dressing up as a character.” Then she talked about the travails of Luann de Lesseps, a member of the cast of the Bravo reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” who was criticized for dressing up as Diana Ross, complete with skin-tone.  Megyn found the criticism  passing strange.

By the end of the week, Kelly had issued a tearful on-air apology and others on social media. She had been condemned by “Today” colleagues and NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, went even further at a midday staff meeting, saying,“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them.”

Then NBC announced that “Megyn Kelly Today” was cancelled, and so was Kelly’s 19 million dollar a year employment, subject to the result of negotiations between her lawyers and NBC’s.

Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/2018: Parlor Games! [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I know that’s a photo from last night’s Red Sox World Series victory, but thinking about this catch by Andrew Benintendi it has certainly brightened MY morning…

(Psst! Joe, you idiot: George Wallace was crippled for life by an attempted assassination.) Said Joe Biden at a political rally two days ago, “This president is more like George Wallace than George Washington!” Long before Trump came along, Joe told African Americans that Mitt Romney would but them back in chains. I know it’s unfair to focus on Simple Joe (or Hillary, or Maxine, or Elizabeth, or Nancy, or Keith…) to characterize Democrats, but according to polls, this guy is currently the party front-runner for the Presidential nomination. [Pointer: Ann Althouse, who rejoined, “Because he doesn’t own slaves?”] Joe really is a boob, but he makes for good parlor games. My favorite comments in the Althouse thread…

“He’s more like George Washington…they both got elected president.”

“Trump is more like Elizabeth Warren because they’re both not Indians.”

“Because he doesn’t own slaves?” No, because he worries about black unemployment. Washington never worried about that.

“Because Wallace was a Democrat, like Trump was his whole life until 15 minutes before he ran for president?”

2. Fake News. New York Times headline:Pipe Bombs Sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices.”

How much more dishonest can a single headline be? There were no “pipe bombs,” but hoax bombs, and the hoax bomb sent to “CNN offices” was addressed to John Brennan. The headline deceitfully aims to suggest that the target was the news media.

3. I figured this out when I was 17 years old. A new book called The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre, (Doubleday, 336 pages, $27.95) explains that the iconic personality test is junk science. I first took the test in high school, when my parents paid a psychologist to advise me where to apply to college. He complained that the battery of tests I took had contradictory results. Yes, that would be because it was so obvious how to manipulate them, and also how insulting they were, since any fool could see the little pigeon holes the tests were trying to stuff you into. Essentially, the test was designed to create bias on the part of employers. Writes Reason,

“This book is a useful study of how a dubious idea can gain traction if it arrives at the right time.”

There’s another parlor game: which dubious ideas are gaining traction now, supported by junk science, junk research, or false assumptions? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Halloween Costume [UPDATED]

BOO!

From the Las Vegas Review Journal :

An Adolf Hitler costume worn to a community Halloween event in Boulder City by the son of a Clark County teacher raised an uproar that spread far beyond the confines of the “Best City By A Dam Site.” Photos of the costume — consisting of brown pants and leather coat, a red arm band bearing a Nazi-style swastika and a brush mustache — went viral after being posted on social media after the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “Trunk or Treat” event on Saturday.

The reaction was harsh, with commenters’ outrage primarily focused on the child’s mother, identified as Janet Arsanian, and the fact that she is a teacher at Cortney Junior High School.

“Interesting to see a #CCSD teacher pridefully dressing her 13-year-old as Hitler,” wrote one Facebook poster. “These nazi sympathizers are supposed to be educating our kids.”

Wait: dressing your child as a monster or villain demonstrates support for the figure portrayed or his or her habits and conduct? Since when? I dressed up as a pirate in elementary school. Were my parents supporters of piracy? When kids dress up as Dracula, does that mean the parents are blood-suckers? Funny, when kids rang my door bell last year wearing Trump masks, I didn’t think that meant their parents voted for him. Were all those people wearing Nixon masks in the 70s Nixon supporters? I did not know that! Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “NOW What The Heck Are We Supposed To Do?” Files: Our Values-Addled Colleges

The cultural and societal chaos that has descended like a crazed raptor on America can be traced to, among other things, the deterioration and corruption of our elite educational institutions, which have abandoned their mission, education, for indoctrination, and their obligation, opening young minds, for the opposite: closing them. One of my alma maters, Harvard, has declared that it will punish male students for off-campus associations, and arrogantly insists that its policy of discriminating against Asian Americans for the benefit of African Americans is fair and necessary.  Another, Georgetown, absurdly asserts that there is nothing inappropriate about employing a professor who proclaims her violent bigotry against men, whites, and those with whom she disagrees on political matters. At USC, a dean has announced that sanctions must be taken against a professor who remind students of basic principles of justice, such as the ensuring that those accused have due process and the presumption of innocence.

These are not cherry-picked anomalies. These are typical of what American higher education has become. I got another reminder while being stuck in an airport yesterday, which afforded me the opportunity to read the literary review “The New Criterion.” The October issue included an update on the ridiculous controversy at Yale, where a professor and his wife, a lecturer, were driven out of their jobs and the school because she opined that students needed to lighten up in their political correctness fanaticism regarding Halloween costumes:

Yale University quietly bestowed a Sterling Professorship, its highest academic position, on the sociologist and medical doctor Nicholas Christakis this summer. Many readers will remember the Christakis Affair. It unfolded early in November 2015 when Christakis, then the Master of Silliman, a residential college at that super-rich bastion of privilege and self-satisfaction, had the temerity to defend his wife Erika from an angry mob of students. Her tort? Suggesting in a public memo that college students be allowed to choose their own Halloween costumes…

An amateur video of the confrontation between Nicholas Christakis and that angry mob of students went viral. It is worth looking up. Christakis is a model of desperate restraint. In soft, reasonable tones, he explains that an academic community depends upon good will, and patience, and respect for alternative points of view. The trembling mob was having none of that. They shouted and swore and berated Christakis, exploding in a manufactured fury that was both alarming and contemptible. “I apologize, I’m sorry,” Christakis wailed at one point. Too late.

…The Christakises resigned from their position as heads of Silliman College. Erika left off teaching at Yale altogether. Nicholas, a highly decorated academic, took a sabbatical. Then Yale bestowed its “Nakanishi Prize” on two of the student ringleaders, Alexandra Zina Barlowe and Abdul-Razak Mohammed Zachariah—potential employers take note—for … “exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.”

…Peter Salovey, the spineless president of Yale, responded to related student demands (made around midnight at his private residence) by shoveling $50 million to various “diversity” initiatives. Yale dropped the title “Master” because some illiterate students thought the word had racial rather than scholarly overtones. Salovey also convened (again, you cannot make this up) a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming and a Committee on Art in Public Spaces to scrutinize the names of things at Yale and the university’s publicly displayed art for signs of political incorrectitude. Calhoun College, named for the U.S. Vice President and Yale alumnus John Calhoun, was changed because Calhoun not only owned slaves but thought slavery was a good thing. (So did Samuel F. B.Morse, for whom another Yale college is named, but Shh! don’t tell anyone.) Stained glass windows depicting slaves working in the fields were vandalized, others were hustled away for safekeeping, as were various sculptures: a bas-relief at the Yale Library, for example, which depicted a Pilgrim carrying a musket.

….Surmising, no doubt correctly, that the public appetite for outrage had moved on, Yale decided it was time to make amends to Nicholas Christakis and offer him the tasty sop of a coveted professorship. After all, deep down, Christakis was one of them, a paid-up member of the progressive brotherhood. He had been unexpectedly blindsided by an event that no one could have foreseen. Quietly, quietly, then, he has been rehabilitated and given an extra pat on the head. He is “deeply honored,” of course, and “eager to make [him]self useful to Yale’s mission.”

The worst and most frightening part of the tale is the ending. Christakis’s groveling capitulation, stating that he is deeply honored, and “eager to make [him]self useful to Yale’s mission” is the exact equivalent of the final line in “1984,” in which Winston accepts that he loves Big Brother. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “The Handmaiden’s Tale” Halloween Costume

It’s never too early to have a stupid Halloween costume controversy.

Online retailer Yandy revealed a “Brave Red Maiden” Halloween costume for sale, evoking the garb women forced into sexual surrogacy wear in Hulu’s series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer have a say,” the description reads. “However, we say be bold and speak your mind in this exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.”

Predictably, the social media mobs attacked, so Yandy pulled the merchandise and grovelled,

“Over the last few hours, it has become obvious that our “Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume” is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment. This is unfortunate, as it was not our intention on any level. Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we’ve received, we are removing the costume from our site.”

In other words, “We, like almost every other company, will restrict the right of other Americans to express themselves if enough people complain loudly enough that those expressions from others don’t matter as much as who is offended by them.”

Of course, the original hype that the outfit would be “inspiring” was ridiculous, as is the contention that this science fiction show has any real relevance to anything in current United States culture. Women no longer have a say? That’s rich.

However, there is a dystopian future looming if the fascist of the Left are able to censor ideas, art, recreation and any other activities they find objectionable. Aiding them greatly are craven companies like Yandy. “Is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression” by whom, exactly? It’s a Halloween costume! If you don’t like a costume, don’t wear it. The CNBC article says,

“The iconic red cloak from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a feminist symbol of protest against women’s oppression around the world. Recently, demonstrators donned the costume outside Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing.”

Now THAT was offensive. I can see the costume as satire, then, of the brain-addled delusions and delusions of such protesters. Maybe I want to dress up as one of the maidens. I guarantee that won’t look sexy. Would that be offensive? A sexy Handmaiden’s Tale costume is silly, but so is a sexy Hester Prynne costume, and sexy witch costumes (Is this disrespectful to the women unjustly hanged in Salem?) Is a sexy Little Red Riding Hood costume…

…offensive? Why not? I think it makes light of pedophilia. Red was a little girl. You shouldn’t be allowed to sell such a costume. You shouldn’t be allowed to wear one. You shouldn’t be allowed to smile at one. You shouldn’t be allowed to think such a get-up is funny.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day While I Struggle With A Legal Ethics Opinion That Is Driving Me Nuts:

Should Yandy have removed the Handmaiden’s Tale costume from its site?

My view, in case you couldn’t guess, is that if enough people want to buy the stupid thing, they should be able to. Doing far more societal harm than any Halloween costume in dubious taste is the complicity of the private sector in political correctness bullying and restrictions on freedom of expression.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/11/2017: Words, Debt, And Costumes

Good morning from Richmond, Va.!

1 Passengers keep piling onto the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck:

  • Fashion designer Donna Karan, questioned about Weinstein at an event, said in part:

“I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women,” Karan said to the Daily Mail. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”

Then she pointed to Weinstein’s achievements, and said Weinstein and his wife were “wonderful people.”

(Note to the designer: men who use their power to harass and assault women are not wonderful people by definition.)

After the predictable response to these idiotic comments, Karan protested that her quote was taken out of context, as if the context wasn’t Harvey Weinstein, and issued a low level apology that could only mean, “I’m deeply sorry I said something in public that reveals the miserable level of my values.”

  • Lindsay Lohan, currently in exile in Great Britain and Dubai, used social media to remind her fans in the US that she is, after all, a moron, writing on Instagram,

“I feel very bad for Harvey Weinstein right now. I don’t think it’s right what’s going on….He’s never harmed me or did anything to me – we’ve done several movies together.I think everyone needs to stop – I think it’s wrong. So stand up.”

One of the real benefits of social media is that it reveals the total lack of ethics comprehension, reasoning ability and life competence that inflict so much of the public, including celebrities. With clarity of thought like that, is there any mystery regarding how the once rising star managed to mangle her career despite beauty, talent, and early success?

  • NBC was presented with the Weinstein story before it was broken by the New York Times, says Ronan Farrow, the author of a new Weinstein investigative piece in The New Yorker. The network hasn’t said why. Does it have to? Weinstein was close to both the Clintons and the Obamas, and the scandal directly implicates the Democratic party and its core supporters….like NBC. It is fascinating to watch cable and network anchors and guests desperately try to analogize Weinstein to President Trump, but the Hollywood mogul was enabled by self-righteous liberals and was given the King’s Pass (with an assist from the Saint’s Excuse) because he gave to Planned Parenthood and Hillary, making him, in Donna Karan’s words, “wonderful” by definition. The analogy is Bill Clinton, of course, and any journalist who refuses to acknowledge that has confessed crippling partisan bias.

2. This brings us to a quote by blogger Ann Althouse:

“My hypothesis is that liberals — including nearly everyone in the entertainment business — suppressed concern about sexual harassment to help Bill Clinton. Giving him cover gave cover to other powerful men, and the cause of women’s equality in the workplace was set back 20 years.”

Her hypothesis is correct, and I said so when the liberals, feminists, abortion zealots, artistic community and others circled their wagons around Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. This is one reason why Hillary’s campaign stance as standard-bearer for women’s rights and victims of sexual assault was so grotesque.

Here’s another quote from Althouse that I like:

“Who are the women who accepted the deal as offered by Harvey Weinstein? Will their names be kept out of the press? Should they?…

…So much silence facilitating so much harm! Should the women who took the bargain and got what they wanted out of it be regarded as victims and entitled to keep their names secret, or are they part of a system that hurt many others, and subject to outing.”

I’ve answered this question in various comments on previous posts, much to the unhappiness of readers who believe that victims who remains silent and thus allow evil to continue shouldn’t be criticized. The women are part of the system, and accountable. Continue reading

The Professor’s Blackface Salute: An Ethics Mess

oregon-blackface-mashup

Halloween costumes, political correctness, law, privacy, and the Niggardly Principles—this one has it all.

Last Halloween, University of Oregon law professor Nancy Shurtz dressed as Dr. Damon Tweedy, the author of Black Men In A White Coat , as an homage to the African American physician and author. She did this at a Halloween party in her own home. Nobody at the party appeared to misunderstand the gesture or the intent of the costume, in part because she could explain it on the spot, and because they knew that Shurtz was no racist. Shurtz had also told the students who were invited that she would be “going as a popular book title,” hence the blackface, Afro wig, white coat, and  stethoscope.The university report on the episode states that Shurtz “was inspired by this book and by the author, that she greatly admires [the author] and wanted to honor him, and that she dressed as the book because she finds it reprehensible that there is a shortage of racial diversity, and particularly of black men, in higher education.”

But as always happens now because there is no such thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy even in one’s own home, reports of Shurtz in costume and make-up got out into the campus at large, and inflamed the predictable outrage. The university launched an investigation that culminated in a critical report prepared by an attorney and the university’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.  Shurtz issued an apology—for her private conduct within her own home that was pounced upon by Political Correctness Furies, since she appears to be one herself-–on November 1. Some of her colleagues on the faculty and many students demanded that she resign, and she may have to yet. Shurtz has been censored and suspended, and is now on paid leave. It being claimed that her wearing the costume–within her own home as a gesture that all agreed was intended as benign and that nobody at the party either objected to or failed to understand— created “a hostile environment” at the school. This is apparently because

“as part of the uproar, students said things of which the administration disapproved: The report specifically notes that students used “other offensive racially-based terminology during class times in the context of discussing this event and broader racial issues.” It related that “some of the witnesses reported that the students’ reactions to the event were racially insensitive or divisive.” And it apparently viewed such statements as relevant to whether Shurtz’s own speech was properly punished.”

The report, meanwhile, concludes that the costume constituted “harassment,” and that her intentions are irrelevant.

Writes First Amendment expert Prof. Eugene Volokh: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Disney’s Maui Costume

maui

It’s a bit early for Halloween costume controversies , but the outrage machine is ever vigilant, and has provided a provocative ethics quiz, though not a difficult one if one isn’t the Headless Horseman.

Disney released a Halloween costume for kids that will allow tykes to dress up as the Polynesian demi-god Maui, a character in its new animated movie “Moana.” This is classic Disney cross-marketing, what Wells Fargo would call “cross-selling,” and what Elizabeth Warren would call “evil,” because it makes money for a big corporation. The difference is that Disney allows customers to actually purchase such products intentionally, while Wells Fargo charges customers for products without their knowing it.

Wait, how did I get off on Wells Fargo and Warren? Right: the next post. Sorry.

Back to Maui: The costume features a body-suit with thin brown material covered by traditional Polynesian tattoos, as well as a grass skirt and a plastic bone necklace. As soon as it was released on the web, the costume was attacked as racist (it’s the equivalent of blackface, critics say) and an example of cultural appropriation. Marama Fox, co-leader of New Zealand’s Maori Party, said that selling the costume is “no different to putting the image of one of our ancestors on a shower curtain or a beer bottle” while Pasifika news site Samoa Planet described the release as “cultural appropriation at its most offensive worst”.  The New Zealand Human Rights Commission issued a statement calling on Disney to “listen to the views of the communities and people whose cultures their movie is based upon.“ Translation: “Bend to our will, or else.”

Activist Chelsie Haunani Fairchild argued on Facebook that Disney was encouraging a children to wear “the skin of another race.”

“Polyface is Disney’s new version of blackface. Let’s call it like it is, people,” Fairchild argued in a video.

Oh, let’s!

Your Ethics Alarms (Ridiculously Early Halloween) Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is there anything genuinely unethical about making, advertising, selling or wearing the Maui costume?

Continue reading

The University Of Missouri Football Players Boycott And The Campus Race Conflicts To Come

In 1967, it was called "Columbia"...

In 1967, it was called “Columbia”…

I have searched far and wide, and this appears to be the full extent of the alleged provocation for the revolt of black students against the president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe:

Sept. 12: Missouri Students Association president Payton Head posts about a racial slur directed at him.

Payton Head, MU senior and president of MSA, renewed the dialogue about racism and the racial climate on the University’s Columbia campus after publishing a Facebook post about his first-hand experience with racism. The night before, Head said he was walking around campus when the passenger of a pickup repeatedly shouted the “N-word” at him.

Head’s statement went viral on social media, and many people shared their support of Head and frustration with MU’s response, or lack thereof, to his post. “I’d had experience with racism before, like microaggressions, but that was the first time I’d experienced in-your-face racism,” Head told a Missourian reporter.

Oct. 5: Legion of Black Collegians members are the targets of racial slurs by a man on campus.

Another instance of racism brought the racial climate on campus again to the attention of students and administrators.

The Legion of Black Collegians shared a letter on social media describing the group’s encounter with overt racism the night before. The group was rehearsing for a performance at Traditions Plaza when a “young man” talking on his cellphone walked up to the group. After being politely and repeatedly asked to leave, the man walked away but referenced LBC members using racial slurs.

That same day, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin responded with a post of his own, acknowledging and condemning racism at MU.

“There was a silence that fell over us all, almost in disbelief that this racial slur in particular was used in our vicinity,” Naomi Collier, president of MU’s NAACP chapter and member of the LBC’s activities committee, wrote in the letter.

Oct. 8: Loftin announces mandatory online diversity training for faculty, staff and students, which is met with widespread skepticism.

The training came after a number of accounts of overt racism experience by students on campus, but was met with skepticism and suspicion.Jonathan Butler, MU graduate student and campus activist, wrote a letter to Loftin saying the training was “a step in the right direction, but it is not enough.”

More recently,  someone used human feces to draw a swastika inside Mizzou’s Gateway Hall. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Anti-Washington Redskins Activist’s Bob Marley Costume

The Native American in the middle is dressed as a famous Jamaican. Would it have been offensive if he dressed as Sitting Bull?

The Native American in the middle is dressed as a famous Jamaican. Would it have been offensive if he dressed as Sitting Bull?

Terry Rambler, chief of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, has  been at the forefront of the effort to force The Washington Redskins, a privately owned NFL sports franchise, to change its name and logo of long-standing because both are allegedly racist. [ As I have made clear many times, the team’s name is not racist, as neither its origins nor current use suggest or imply racist intent, purpose or impact, and the team’s owner has a First Amendment right to call his team whatever he wants. The decades long political correctness stunt has gained more traction under the Obama administration, because the Obama Administration and Senate Democrats do not respect the Constitution or follow it when it gets in the way of its agenda. (See: drones, Obamacare, immigration, NSA domestic spying, harassment of reporters, IRS partisan activities, recess appointments, Libya bombing, selective prosecution,  putting government pressure on the Redskins to change its name, etc )

But I digress.

This year, Rambler’s Halloween costume was Jamaican musician Bob Marley, complete with dreadlocks, wig, and rasta beanie. He also wore appropriate make-up to look like Marley.

Here is what the chief looks like most days:

Terry

Here he is on Halloween as the Reggae icon…

Halloween Marley

The costume is making  Rambler the target of criticism from both sides of the controversy: Redskins defenders who view his make-up as “blackface” and thus hypocritical, and his own Team Political Correctness, which sees Rambler as engaging in the same kind of insensitive conduct they claim the Washington Redskins embody.

To make things worse for Rambler, there was another recent Bob Marley controversy in  Gaston County, (North Carolina), where a sheriff’s captain  apologized  for wearing dark make-up as part of her own Marley Halloween costume after her in-costume photo appeared online.

And thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was the Native American activist’s Bob Marley make-up unethical or hypocritical?

Continue reading