Tag Archives: ideologues

Comment Of The Day: “KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial”

The recent post about Madison Avenue continuing its effort to coarsen the popular culture and society with gratuitously vulgar commercials, in this case Book-Of-The-Month Club believing that it is hilarious to fake out viewers into thinking they are watching a tampon commercial, was not one that I felt would ignite much controversy or varied comment. As is often the case, I was wrong. The essay generated several surprising threads, including a comment by prolix, controversial blog warrior Alizia, whose commentary here ranges all the way into another post, the article about a high school musical casting controversy and the school’s unethical response to it.

She also raises the question of whether Ethics Alarms should engage more frequently in meta-ethics and philosophy. One reason I selected her comment as a Comment of the Day is that I’m interested in other readers’ views on that topic, not that I’m interested in turning in that direction. My focus as an ethicist has always been practical ethics, and the posts here about grand ethics issues of the sort that have been debated to no productive end for centuries have been incidental and few. Frankly, those topics don’t interest me very much; certainly not enough to devote the blog to it. About a year ago an erudite young woman briefly submitted some provocative comments here but want to argue about competing philosophical theories. She was shocked, indignant and angered when I refused to engage, and after yelling at me for a while, left the forum.  For those seeking what she sought, I recommend going here.

Abstract and scholarly ethics have undermined the subject of ethics to the degree that it is not one  most people can tolerate or understand, effectively removing ethics from public education and general discourse, and thus undermined the goal of an ethical society as well. They are still relevant to the discussion; I just know from hard experience how philosophy tends to send normal people fleeing like the Tokyo crowds in a Godzilla movie.

Here is Alizia’s Comment of the Day on the post, KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial:

One things I noticed and have mentioned a few times in respect to the Ethics Alarms blog and, naturally, the people who participate in it, is that it often clearly distinguishes a situation or event in which an ethical issue is brought out and then it successfully and interestingly provokes an examination of the problem or issue. Yet what I notice as well is that the issue is not brought out in a larger context. Or, the larger context is rarely explored. The reason why it is not explored is more interesting and it seems to me more important than what is allowed to be explored or what is acceptable. I can think of two instances and I will mention them.

In this present instance it is noticed that advertising is incorporating vulgarity. But it is really far more than that, at least as I see things. What is the real issue? The real issue is the pornographication of culture. It is, I think this is true, coming about because this is the sort of things you-plural have allowed to go on. It is certainly true (as I have scoldingly said) that ‘it is your generation that has allowed these levels of moral and ethical corruption to creep in’ and I think that this is a necessary stance to take. In my view, though it is not appreciated much here, ‘the pornographication of culture’ connects to sexual expression of many sorts and also extends to ‘the homosexualization of culture’.

There is an active agent, either in the business culture itself, or perhaps in academic culture, that has set in motion these pornographic processes. And just as media culture and Hollywood has gotten continuingly infected with this material (which I assume *you* find titillating and exciting and do not oppose), similarly one can now notice the insinuation of homosexuality into the culture-productions. It becomes visible, included, and influential thereby. Normalized. But behind these appearances, behind this increasing in-flux, stands something far more raw, far more brutal, far more elemental, far more powerful and influential, and that is ‘the pornographic’, a truly ugly and vile *world*. And what *you* do has world-scale ramifications. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/2018: Something In This Post Is Guaranteed To Send You Screaming Into The Streets

Good Morning!

1 Oh no! Not my permanent record! My wife gave a small contribution to Mitt  Romney’s campaign, and has been hounded by RNC robocalls and mailings ever since. GOP fundraising started getting really slimy under the indefensible Michael Steele’s leadership, and continued to use unethical methods after Steele went on to job at a bait shop or something. Last week my wife got an envelope in the mail with a block red DELINQUENCY NOTICE! printed on it. A lie, straight up: there was no delinquency, just a my wife’s decision that she would rather burn a C-note than give it to the fools and knaves running the Republican Party. She registered an official complaint with the RNC, and received this response from Dana Klein, NRCC Deputy Finance Director:

“My job as the Deputy Finance Director is to communicate with supporters to let them know the status of their NRCC Sustaining Membership. Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. As of right now, you have a delinquency mark on your record for your failure to renew your membership. But, I have some good news. You can remove this delinquency mark if you renew by the FEC deadline on Wednesday.”

Both my wife and I were professional fundraisers for many years. This is deceptive and coercive fundraising, and anyone who voluntarily supports an organization that uses such tactics is a victim or an idiot.

Or, I suppose, a Republican.

2. Another one…This is another one of the statements that I am pledged to expose every time I read or hear it: a Maryland legislator, enthusing over the likelihood that a ballot initiative will result in legalizing pot in the state, ran off the usual invalid, disingenuous and foolish rationalizations for supporting measure. (Don’t worry, pot-lovers: I’m resigned to this happening, not just in Maryland, but nation wide. As with the state lotteries, our elected officials will trade the public health and welfare for easy revenue every time. Minorities and the poor will be the most hurt, and the brie and pot set couldn’t care less.) Only one of his familiar bad arguments triggered my mandatory response pledge: ” to legalize a drug that is less harmful than alcohol.”

This is the bottom of the rationalization barrel, “it’s not the worst thing.” Alcohol is a scourge of society, killing thousands upon thousands every year, ruining families and lives, wrecking businesses, costing the economy millions of dollars. Just yesterday there was a report that fetal alcohol syndrome was far more common that previously believed. There is no question, none, that U.S. society would be healthier and safer without this poison accepted in the culture: unfortunately, it was too deeply embedded before serious efforts were made to remove it. Now pot advocates want to inflict another damaging recreational drug on society, using the argument that it’s not as terrible as the ones we’re already stuck with. Stipulated: it’s not as harmful as alcohol. It’s not as harmful as Russian Roulette or eating Tidepods either. I have a bias against taking seriously advocates who use arguments like this; it means they re either liars, and know their logic is absurd, or idiots, and don’t.

3. Riddle me this: What do you get when you cross casting ethics, weak and lazy school administrators, political-correctness bullies-in-training with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”?

Answer: a cancelled high school musical, and per se racism supported by the school.

New York’s Ithaca High School was beginning production of the Disney film-based musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” but made the unforgivable error, in the eyes of student activists,  of casting of a white student as a Romani heroine Esmeralda, played in the classic film by that gypsy wench, Maureen O’Hara, and in the Disney version by a Toon.  Several students quit the show in protest,  and formed an activist group to reverse the decision. It sent a letter calling the casting “cultural appropriation” and “whitewashing,” calling the student the “epitome of whiteness.” The letter admitted that she was also “a stellar actor, singer and dancer” that any stage would be “lucky to have,” but what is the talent, skill and competence required for a role compared to what really matters, her skin color? The students demanded that the school either choose a different show or recast Esmeralda a black and brown actress. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

The End Of Chief Wahoo

The Cleveland Indians will yield to political correctness and ditch the team’s 70 year-old logo, Chief Wahoo. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred pressured Indians chair Paul Dolan into making the change, which had been demanded by Native American activists for decades. A version of the red-skinned, hook-nosed caricature of a Native American first appeared on the Indians’ uniforms in 1948, when the team won its first American League pennant after many frustrating years. The logo caught on in part because the team’s fans had good associations with the image—the cognitive dissonance scale strikes again!—and then grinning indian became part of team tradition.The various groups that bullied other teams to change or eliminate names or logos with any hint of ethnicity on spurious grounds made banning Wahoo a priority, along with the Atlanta Braves “tomahawk chop” and especially the Washington Redskins nickname.

Apparently Manfred used the 2019 MLB All-Star Game as leverage, telling the club that either Chief Wahoo goes or the All-Star Game would end up somewhere else.

I have no affection for the logo, which is grotesque and anachronistic, but as with the Redskins, the protests were part of a power play by the Left and not the result of genuine, widespread offense affecting Native Americans. Nobody was made into a racist or caused to hate Native Americans because of Chief Wahoo, and sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon. There was no racist intent: people do not associate names and images that represent what they hate with teams they love. (The cognitive dissonance scale again. Is there anything it can’t explain?) As with the Redskins name, I feel as if the Cleveland Indians logo needed to stay as a matter of principle. Again, the attack on team names and symbols is about power, and bending others to their will.  Polls and surveys showed that most Native Americans didn’t care. But this is just another brick in the wall, and the censors of art, history, tradition, thought and language will never stop. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, History, Humor and Satire, Sports, U.S. Society

How Conservatives Make Themselves Untrustworthy: A Case Study Starring Brent Bozell

Brent-Bozell-SC

Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, is one of the heroes of the hard right. Joined by  reporter Tim Graham on Bozell’s media watchdog website ( it only bites liberal media, but that’s still a mouthful) Newsbusters,  he provides a depressing example of how conservatives sabotage their credibility and end up crippling their ability to persuade even when they are right, which is frequently.

In a column called “America’s Wrong To Love Football?,” Bozell and Graham complain about an NPR segment that makes the exact same point Ethics Alarms has made many times.[ You want one? Here’s one.]  After citing just some of the waves of evidence that professional football (and probably college football too) is maiming and, in slow motion, killing a large percentage of its players, they write one dishonest, irrelevant, fallacious and rationalized argument after another:

“Count on flower children at NPR to go over the edge with this issue..”

Conservatives used to use the ad hominem tactic of denigrating all liberals as hippies–drugged out, long hair, unwashed, funny clothes, pacifists, Communist sympathizers–in the Nixon era. It was a cheap shot even then—Counter their positions, don’t make fun of their haircuts!—but 50 years later it’s pathetic, and screams “I’m estranged from reality!” How many people under the age of 60 even know what “flower children” were?

Bozell and Graham continue..

“The problem isn’t the size and strength, and therefore power of professional football players. No, it’s — ready? — the evil game of football itself…”

This is devoid of logic. If the huge athletes and the way the game of football is played maim human beings, then the sport—game, sport, sport, game– of professional football maims human beings. No, Brent, it’s true, the rule book never hurt anyone. Nevertheless, the sport of pro football, as it is played, results in a large number of young men losing their minds before they are sixty. That doesn’t make the game of football “evil,” it makes the sport unacceptably dangerous. No, that doesn’t make the game “evil”—Deford never says it was “evil.” It makes people–like you, in fact—who pretend the game isn’t unreasonably dangerous and misrepresent the arguments that it is—complicit. It corrupts them. It corrupts society to have the culture spend so much money, passion and time on a sport once we know it kills people and ruins lives.

“Commentator Frank Deford used to love football, but now he just drops bombs on it. On Wednesday’s Morning Edition on National Public Radio, Deford’s weekly commentary was titled “What Is Football Doing to Us as a People?” He asked on air “So what is football doing to us as a people? How do we explain an America that, alone in the world, so loves this savage sport?…”

It is a legitimate and revealing question. Bozell and Graham just don’t like the answer. Yes, Deford loved football, until he learned that it was turning healthy young men into sad, tortured, middle-aged dementia victims while the NFL’s  leadership tried to cover up that fact. Like any decent, ethical person, he changed his mind according to new information, something conservatives like Brent Bozell often regard as heresy. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Sports, U.S. Society

The Redskins Native American Poll: Integrity Check For Progressives And Race-Baiters

Washington-Redskins

My Washington Post is filled with articles and columns reacting to the “surprising” poll results released yesterday—a poll taken by the Post itself— that appears to settle a manufactured controversy of long-standing. If it doesn’t, that will tell us more about those who resist than it does about the merits of the controversy itself.

The Washington Post-commissioned poll shows that 9 in 10 Native Americans are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, despite a steady tom-tom beat of complaints and insults from activists, pandering politicians, cultural bullies and politically correct journalists insisting otherwise. The poll, which was analyzed by age, income, education, political party or proximity to reservation, shows that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the same result. (Actually,  Native Americans are somewhat less offended by the name than twelve years ago.)

The immediate question that the poll raises is one that Ethics Alarms has raised repeatedly as a rhetorical one. As the Post wrote today, speaking specifically of the segment of the sports media that had been so doctrinaire in attacking the name, even to the point of censoring it:

“Can they be offended on behalf of a group that they’re not part of, especially a group that appears, overwhelmingly, not to be offended by the word media figures object to?”

To ask the question is to answer it.  If the name in fact isn’t offensive to the group it is claimed to offend, then it is ridiculous for non-Native American to continue to be offended on their behalf.

Thus the poll results pose an excellent test of integrity and honesty for all of the liberals, politicians, political correctness junkies, pundits, social justice warriors and fringe Native American activists who have been so insulting and shrill to supporters of the name. Do they have the courage and fairness to admit they were wrong? Can the ideologically programmed ever do this: do facts matter, or is it essential for them to interpret the world according to cant rather than bend, adapt and compromise to inconvenient, messy reality?

Well, we shall see. The Post’s early results do not speak well for the anti-Redskins zealots. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Race, Rights, Sports

LEGO Ethics: When Political Correctness Doesn’t Hold Up To Reality

LEGO is under fire from gender equality activists for offering a feminine-oriented version of the brightly-colored construction blocks, dubbed the Friends line, that is aimed to appeal to the tastes of little girls. This special  version of plastic bricks and mini-figures was launched in 2011:

“Unlike the bright primary colors of the regular Lego sets, the Friends colors tend toward pink and purple and soft pastels. The comical mini-figures of the regular Lego lines have been replaced by five slender and stylish plastic tweens of various ethnicities, each with her own narrative story, along with puppies, kitties, “My Little Pony”-style horsies and baby animals ranging from penguins to lions. Little girls are encouraged to build things, all right: patios, cozy kitchens, cafes, beauty shops, doghouses for the puppies, stalls for the horses, all characterized by a level of decorative detail unknown in the regular Lego universe.”

And guess what? Girls like it! LEGO had found that its market was 90% male, so it came up with LEGOS that indeed do engage little girls more than the traditional sets.  Friends ended 2012 as LEGO’s fourth-best-selling product line. The number of girls playing with and enjoying LEGOs tripled. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Jeff Shesol

“Berg is not uncritical of Wilson’s biggest lapses — his tolerance of segregation, his suppression of civil liberties and his “highly questionable” actions (or paralytic inaction) after the stroke he suffered in 1919, during his grueling campaign to win Senate approval of the League of Nations.”

—Former Clinton Speechwriter and author Jeff Shesol, in his Washington Post book review of historian Scott Berg’s new biography of Woodrow Wilson, “Wilson.”

All right, he was a racist, but he was GREAT racist, right, Jeff?

All right, he was a racist, but he was GREAT racist, right, Jeff?

There is a nasty piece of dishonesty in this quote, all the more sinister because it slides right by, altering your understanding of history and reality without you even knowing it. (Is it any surprise that Shesol wrote speeches for Bill Clinton?) Did you catch it?

It is the phrase, “[President Woodrow Wilson’s] tolerance of segregation.”] Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society