Tag Archives: humor

Oh, NO!!! “The Mikado” Ethics Again (Political Correctness Division)!

[Here…listen to this while you read the post.]

I am apparently the official protector of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” from ridiculous accusations of ethics offenses, so once again, I will charge into the breach. No thanks needed, Mr. Gilbert, Sir Arthur—I owe you debts that can never be repaid.

In a brain-endangering op-ed for the Seattle Times, expresses the opinion that the operetta is a “racial caricature,” and thus “every snap of the fan was a slap in the face.” The nature of the complaint has old origins: the original show in 1885 nearly caused an international incident, as Japan registered an official complaint to Great Britain claiming a grievous insult to its people. W.S. Gilbert, who was skilled at such things (a few years later he stifled French indignation over a song in “Ruddigore” that pretended to make fun of the French while actually ridiculing British bravado), explained that “The Mikado” in no way ridicules anything about Japan or its people, but is entirely a witty and original satire on everything British. This was true then, and is true now. Then, however, people, including the Victorian era Japanese, were able to see distinctions, and were not seeking victim status and leave to play public censor under the authority conferred by political correctness. Today, people like Ms. Chan are not so easily calmed.

Thus is art harmed, entertainment stifled, laughter stilled and music forgotten. A good argument could be made that “The Mikado” is the greatest musical comedy entertainment ever written.* It certainly caused the biggest international sensation (the closest rival is another Gilbert and Sullivan classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore”): it is estimated that by the end of 1885, at least 150 companies in Europe and the U.S. were producing the satire. As recently as the 1960s, it was credibly claimed that a “Mikado” was going on somewhere in the world every minute of the day.

The show is fun in every respect: comedy, music, lyrics, satire, characters. It is also fun to act in and produce, for children as well as adults. Unfortunately, several factors have led to the gradual scarcity of productions in recent years, from the cyclical (Gilbert and Sullivan go out of style, but always come back) to the ridiculous ( it seems like every production has to cope with some absurd controversy, like the 2011 Montana production that was accused of threatening Sarah Palin’s life). Political correctness aversion has been the biggest factor in making the very best G&S show rare while productions of Broadway musical junk flourish, however. Since the characters are supposedly “Japanese,” shouldn’t all the singers be Asian? Isn’t Asian make-up offensive like blackface? Oh, hell, let’s just do “The Pirates of Penzance.”

From Ms. Chan: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, History, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Howard Kurtz…One Way Or The Other

Radner as "Baba Wawa." Walters, oddly, never felt the need to respond...

Radner as “Baba Wawa.” Walters, oddly, never felt the need to respond…

Maybe the ethics component in the title is gilding the lily in this case. Fox’s Kurtz, in attacking what he perceives as the unfairness of Stephen Colbert’s barbs, certainly misunderstands the ethics of Colbert’s craft, but what he primarily proves is that he’s a dunce…what kind of dunce, it’s difficult to tell. Is he the kind of dunce who can’t take a joke? Or is he the kind of  dunce who doesn’t realize he should leave the gags to professionals?

The former media ethics watchdog for the Washington Post, CNN and the Daily Beast, now playing that role for Fox News (all oxymoron jokes gratefully accepted), says that he has finally had his fill of being mocked by Colbert, the Comedy Central satirist whose gimmick is playing a conservative fool in order to ridicule real ones.

“It’s about time someone took on Stephen Colbert,” Kurtz wrote in what is either  serious piece on Fox News Insider, or a criminally inept attempt at ironic humor. “This guy—a fake anchor if ever there was one—has been maligning hard-working journalists for too long. Journalists like me. In an effort to get a few cheap laughs, this Comedy Central clown took my work out of context and, worse, engaged in selective editing. It was nothing less than a deliberate attempt to mislead viewers.”

Uh, Howie? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media

Cartoon Ethics: The New York Times “Eliminationist” Joke

The New York Times is taking fire from diverse commentators on the Right for publishing a political satire cartoon that includes this panel:

KillingPeopleWhoDisagreeIsFunny

It is part of a larger cartoon japing at the supposed aftermath of a harsh winter:

see-something-say-slide-F2R2-jumbo

Among the ethics complaints against the drawing:

  • “Aside from its patently offensive notion that those holding different political views don’t deserve to live, the panel in question also lacks a key element in political cartoons that aim to be tongue in cheek — it isn’t funny. Imagine the outrage at the Times if Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al., suggested that liberals should die for not agreeing with them. Yes, things would get nasty in a hurry. Has it really been that long since the Tucson massacre and the left’s demand for more civility, at least from conservatives?”Newsbusters
  • “Global warming has made much of the country so cold that the Times is instructing its readers to use giant icicles to bludgeon the non-believers to death.”Ed Driscoll
  • “NY Times Suggests Killing “Climate Change Deniers”Weasel Zippers
  • “So, as WUWT readers well know, I have a different opinion about global warming.Do you think the New York Times  should endorse stabbing me (and others with similar opinions) through the heart like a vampire because I hold that opinion?”Anthony Watts Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Environment, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Literature

Cartoon Ethics: The Washington Post’s Stupid Elephant Trick

Trainwreck Cartoon

The above cartoon, by reliably liberal op-ed cartoonist Mike Luckovich, who draws cartoons for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was run in the Washington Post this Saturday. It immediately reminded me of why, in a previous post, I suggested that the simple-minded, factually misleading art of editorial cartoonists needed to be retired. I wrote:

“Cartoons, by their very nature, deal in caricature, exaggeration and extremes for metaphorical and humorous effect. The practical effect of this, however, is that the opinions expressed through cartoons are also “supported” in a manner that would be outrageous in a written opinion piece. I know: you can’t hold a cartoon to the same standard as an op-ed. Fine—then don’t put it on the editorial pages.”

This, if anything, was worse than the Tom Toles cartoon that provoked that commentary. This Democratic talking point—more like ducking point–got graphic representation the day following another wave of bad news about the dysfunctional Affordable Care Act and how thoroughly it has been botched by the Administration. Right before Christmas, the Post’s front page carried an infuriating story about how, after waiting two years before considering how to set up the Obamacare website, the Administration chose a company that even cursory due diligence would have revealed as untrustworthy and incompetent:

“Not considered in the 2011 selection process was the history of numerous executives at CGI Federal, who had come from another company that had mishandled at least 20 other government ­information technology projects more than a decade ago. But federal officials were not required to examine that long-term track record, which included a highly publicized failure to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers.”

Republicans caused that trainwreck? The same day the cartoon ran, this was in the news:

The Iowa Department of Human Services says problems with the federal healthcare website has led to a delay in processing policyholder information and is asking 16,000 Iowans to reapply for Obamacare using the state website or call center.”

And did Republicans force the President to lie repeatedly about how the law wouldn’t take away anyone’s current plan or doctor? Indeed, they warned that what happened would happen, and were attacked and ridiculed while the media bolstered the President’s disinformation campaign. That, as much as the website, has made the public perceive Obamacare as a trainwreck. The mean old GOP elephant is to blame for that? As I noted in the earlier post, an editorial cartoon shouldn’t be permitted to spread falsehood and misunderstanding, and a respectable newspaper shouldn’t actively engage in the blame-shifting and denial process, which is the full-time occupation of Affordable Care Act defenders these days.

Then I searched for the cartoon on line, to determine who drew it (his signature was illegible in the size published), and for the first time, was able to read the date. The cartoon was drawn on July 29, 2013! This was after the “trainwreck” label was being wielded by Republicans because Democratic Senator Max Baucus used that term to describe his—as it turned out, accurate—assessment of how the Administration’s public information campaign was going, not the law itself. Yes, the Republicans were working to impede the progress of the ACA then, because they were convinced the law would lead to disaster. Still, Luckovich’s cartoon, while partisan, was hardly unfair or misleading—in July.

Now, however, it assumed a different meaning. The date wasn’t noted by the Post: I thought it was a new cartoon, which means I thought Luckovich was engaging in MSMNC-style historical air-brushing. The cartoonist wasn’t, however.

Was the Post? Was it deliberately using Luckovich’s dated cartoon to bolster its desperate Obama-defending readership with the baseless accusation that the GOP was really behind the law’s current travails? Or was it just being careless, reckless, inattentive and unprofessional–you know, like most of the news media. most of the time?

I don’t know. I do know that the Post owes its readers and Luckovich an apology, the former for treating them like idiots, and the latter for making him look like one.

___________________________________________

Sources: Opposing Views, Washington Post

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media

Most Entertaining Ethics Alarms Discussion Ever: A Salute

Ethics Alarms now pauses in gratitude to give a stunned and admiration-filled salute to all the participants in the still perking comment donnybrook that has followed what I thought initially would be a minor, fairly obvious post about the ethics of vegetarians hosting a wedding reception and imposing a strict vegetarian menu despite the protests of their parents that some guests would be uncomfortable. Triggered by a first-time visitor, her unique perspective and her sometimes  cloying way of expressing it, what erupted has been a 375+ comment multi-party debate that had everything: wild analogies, accusations, counter-accusations, common sense, enlightenment, gibberish, creativity, hypocrisy, Eastern philosophy, tangents, 60’s nostalgia, humor (intentional and not), at least two terms I had never encountered before but will cherish forever—“deepity” and “wackaloon” —-and even some ethics. In addition to provocateur livvy1234, who has registered more than80  comments so far and enough words to comprise a novella, key combatants include Joe Fowler, Karla Marie Robinette, Brian, deery, Elizabeth I, Michael, Libby Torgeson, Joy, Jan Chapman…but especially tgt, the Ethics Alarms 2011 Commenter of the Year, who really has justified his title with gusto this time.

Thanks, everybody. What fun.

46 Comments

Filed under Etiquette and manners, The Internet

Comment of the Day: Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude

Cartoonist and frequent combatant on Ethics Alarms Barry Deutsch did not disappoint—I was counting on a strong reply from him—in commenting on my post about political cartoonists. And I think he has me convinced. I think what I should have suggested, rather than advocating sending newspaper political cartoonists to the trash bin of history (soon to be followed by newspapers themselves), is that editors exercise some discretion over when an editorial cartoon, even by a respected cartoonist, just doesn’t meet editorial standards.

Here is Barry’s persuasive and educational Comment of the Day on the post Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude:

“Oh, how could I possibly resist this thread?

“1) At his best, Tom Toles is a wonderful cartoonist, elegant and with an incredibly distinctive style. But he hasn’t been at his best for years. The particular cartoon you’re talking about — which can be seen here, if anyone’s curious — is an embarrassment.

“The problem with that Toles cartoon isn’t that it takes a side, or that it paints with a broad brush; many good cartoons do both those things. The problem is, it’s painfully stupid.

“2) There are good political cartoonists doing interesting work, but they’re mostly not found in mainstream newspapers.

“3) Even the best political cartoonists tend to produce more mediocre than great cartoons.

“4) It’s a very, very rare reader who can recognize the artistic merit of a political cartoon that they strongly disagree with politically.

“5) The economic base has fallen out from under political cartooning; every year, fewer and fewer newspapers support a staff cartoonist, and those that remain are seeing their incomes and outlets shrinking. And no one’s yet found a business model for political cartooning to thrive on the web.

“As a result, the most talented new cartoonists usually aren’t going into political cartooning, because they want to be able to eat and pay rent.

“6) Some of the most interesting political cartoonists have gone so far away from traditional political cartooning that no one even recognizes what they’re doing as political cartooning. See, for instance, Joe Sacco, who does journalism in comics form; his second book on Palestine, “Footnotes In Gaza,” is one of the best books about life in Gaza anyone’s done, in prose or comics.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions

Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons, With Gratitude

The nuanced subtlety of Pulitzer Prize winning Herb Block. Translation: "Nixon's a crook." Brilliant!!!

All right, hear me out. I love cartoons. I used to aspire to being a cartoonist. I have good friends who are cartoonists, and I know there are cartoonists who are strong contributors to Ethics Alarms. But for many years it has appeared to me that editorial cartoons have become an increasingly archaic form of commentary, one that misinforms the public and contributes to the venom and lack of nuance in public discourse.

Cartoons, by their very nature, deal in caricature, exaggeration and extremes for metaphorical and humorous effect. The practical effect of this, however, is that the opinions expressed through cartoons are also “supported” in a manner that would be outrageous in a written opinion piece. I know: you can’t hold a cartoon to the same standard as an op-ed. Fine—then don’t put it on the editorial pages. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Environment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media