High Noon Ethics Shoot-Out, 10/21/2020: Religious Bigotry Vs Anti-Gay Bigotry! “Whitewashing” Vs Anti-Semitism! Google Vs Trust!

As you may (and should) know, the classic Western “High Noon” was and is regarded by some conservatives as anti-American. I think it is, as excellent as it is. The ending, where the heroic law man (played by Gary Cooper in an Academy Award-winning performance) throws his star in the dirt in disgust (imitated by “Dirty Harry” for very different reasons in that conservative film years later), is widely seen as a rejection of American society as hypocritical. (The fact that the screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was a Communist doesn’t help.)

My favorite scene in the movie, where Cooper begs the church congregation to help, plays like a “Twilight Zone” episode, with the whole town rationalizing furiously to avoid helping the desperate law man minutes away from having to face, alone, vengeful thugs determined to kill him. (The whole scene is not on YouTube; I searched.) “Rio Bravo,” one of the best John Wayne Westerns and a personal favorite, was devised by director Howard Hawks as a direct rebuke of the selfish and craven America “High Noon” posits. In the Duke’s movie, the lawman, Wayne, constantly rejects the offers of help he receives, though he knows hired killers are massing to free his prisoner. Yet people go out of their way, at great personal risk, to help him anyway, time after time. “High Noon” is a better movie (maybe), but “Rio Bravo” is a fairer depiction of American values and history.

1. This is why I tell lawyers and government employees that it’s unethical to use Google for professional communication and client matters. Mac programmer Jeff Johnson has discovered that if you set Google Chrome to eliminate all website cookies and site data when you close the browser, the data remains un-erased for YouTube and Google itself.

What a coinkydink!

“Perhaps this is just a Google Chrome bug, not intentional behavior, but the question is why it only affects Google sites, not non-Google sites,” Johnson says. “I’ve tested using the latest Google Chrome version 86.0.4240.75 for macOS, but this behavior was also happening in the previous version of Chrome. I don’t know when it started.”

Bottom line: Don’t trust Google. Like I’ve been saying….

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High Noon Ethics Showdown, 7/14/2020

“High Noon” is an ethics movie to be sure, but a very strange one. I put it on a list of ethics movies in 2016, but as I wrote then,

“High Noon” is a Western that shows the American people at their worst, refusing to help a single law man threatened on his wedding day, and cringing in fear and denial when their values need to be fought for.

I have long felt that the movie is like a “Twilight Zone” episode, or a Western version of “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” What’s wrong with those people? However, it feels less like a Rod Serling parable now, when I find myself thinking “What’s wrong with those people?” several times a day as I surf the news feeds.

It is reported that John Wayne was offered the role of the desperate law man, eventually played by the Duke’s friend, Gary Cooper. Wayne, who was always protective of the heroic character he had created over the course of his career, hated the script, and turned it down. I cannot imagine John Wayne running around a town begging for help as four gunfighters are on the way to seek revenge, and apparently neither could he. In response to “High Noon,” Wayne and Howard Hawks made “Rio Bravo,” about a sheriff who keeps refusing assistance as a rancher hires gunfighters to free the sheriff’s prisoner, his brother.  At every turn, people keep saving the sheriff anyway.

I think one reason Wayne wanted to star in “True Grit” so much is that Rooster Cogburn, old and fat, takes on four villains by himself, charging them on horseback with the reins in his teeth and guns blazing.

1. It’s amazing that everyone isn’t sick of this yet. The latest Times “fact check” of President Trump, like so many others, relies on an interpretations of the notoriously sloppy-speaking POTUS that nobody fair and attentive could possible  think was his intended meaning. The statement at issue was that “99% of which are totally harmless.”

By “totally harmless,” the hyperbole addicted President meant “aren’t fatal.” The game, however, is to pretend the Presidents words, whatever they are, are lies. (The Washington Post just updated its hilarious Trump lie database. I challenge anyone to pick ten entries at random that even include a majority of “lies.”)

The Times even writes, “Studies that have calculated the death rate based on broader antibody testing that takes these silent cases into consideration suggest an infection death rate of less than 1 percent, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.” Continue reading

Holiday Ethics Assigment: Quick! Watch These 25 Great Old Ethics Movies Again Before You Go Bonkers Too!

movie-theater

I am compiling a new list of great ethics movies to help those troubled by the recently completed Presidential campaign, the election and its aftermath. I haven’t decided whether to reveal it piecemeal, or collectively as I have before, but I do need to begin by presenting the previous list of 25, actually the combination of several previous posts. Ethics films I have covered individually since those lists debuted, like Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, will eventually be added.

For now, here’s the top 25. Don’t pay attention to the order.

1Spartacus (196o)

The raw history is inspiring enough: an escaped gladiator led an army of slaves to multiple victories over the Roman legions in one of the greatest underdog triumphs ever recorded. Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal classic has many inspiring sequences, none more so than the moment when Spartacus’s defeated army chooses death rather than to allow him to identify himself to their Roman captors (“I am Spartacus!”)

Ethical issues highlighted: Liberty, slavery, sacrifice, trust, politics, courage, determination, the duty to resist abusive power, revolution, love, loyalty.

Favorite quote: “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” [Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)]

2.  Hoosiers (1986)

“Hoosiers” is loosely based on true story, but its strength is the way it combines classic sports movie clichés—the win-at-all-costs coach down on his luck, the remote superstar, over-achieving team—into a powerful lesson: it isn’t the final victory that matters most, but the journey to achieving it.

Ethical issues highlighted: Forgiveness, generosity, leadership, kindness, courage, loyalty, diligence, redemption.

Favorite quote: “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” [ Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)]

3. Babe (1995)

A wonderful movie about the virtues of being nice, the greatest civility film of all time. Second place: “Harvey.”

Ethical issues highlighted: Civility, kindness, reciprocity, loyalty, courage, love, friendship, bigotry, bias.

Favorite quote: “Fly decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that sheep were stupid, and there was nothing that could convince her otherwise…The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise”  The Narrator (Roscoe Lee Browne) Continue reading

Ten More Hollywood Ethics Cures For A Post-Election Hangover (Part I)

A year ago, the combination of the erupting Penn State scandal (and Penn State’s students’ scandalous reaction to it) and our dysfunctional government led me to list my “15 Hollywood Cures…,” my favorite movies dealing with ethics themes that I reflexively turn to when the world’s ethics alarms look frozen and broken. I had to leave some of the best ethics films off that list (Part I is here; Part II is here), and this seems like a good time to remedy that injustice. Here are ten more excellent films to prime our ethics alarms with minimal preaching and maximum entertainment value, bringing the Ethics Alarms movie list to 25. It will get larger, I’m sure:

1. The Magnificent  Seven (196o)

Ethics Bob Stone’s favorite ethics movie, and he has a good case. A group of seven hired gunslingers help an impoverished Mexican town fight off looting bandits, each of the seven for a different reason, facing their own ethical dilemmas and contradictions.

Ethical issues highlightedaltruism, bullying, charity, courage, integrity, teamwork and the importance of prioritizing values.

Favorite quote:

Harry (Brad Dexter): “There comes a time to turn mother’s picture to the wall and get out. The village will be no worse off than it was before we came.”

Chris (Yul Brenner): “You forget one thing — we took a contract.”

Vin (Steve McQueen): “It’s not the kind any court would enforce.”

Chris: “That’s just the kind you’ve got to keep.” Continue reading