“Bewitched” Ethics: A Startling Lesson In How Increased Sensitivity To Other Cultures Constitutes Progress

The Sixties witchery sitcom “Bewitched” is a guilty pleasure, mostly because of the superb cast and unabashed silliness of the enterprise. (I do avoid the episodes with Darrin 2, Dick Sergeant, who took over the role of Samantha’s befuddled mortal husband—without any explanation in the series—after the Definitive Darrin, Dick York, became unable to perform.) A new cable channel is running the series in the morning, and today I saw an episode that delivered a series of shocks that never would have registered in 1968, when it first aired. Some of them should have, though.

The episode, “A Majority of Two” (the title evokes the stage and film comedy “A Majority of One,” about a romance between a middle-aged Japanese man and a Jewish widow from Brooklyn)  involves Darrin’s boss, the weaselly Larry Tate, conning Samantha into hosting a dinner for important advertising client Kensu Mishimoto, who is flying in from Japan. Sam agrees—after all, a nose twitch or two is all it takes—but asks Larry what to serve, Japanese or Western cuisine. Larry is prepared: he gives Samantha a note with the name of what Mishimoto’s secretary told Tate was the businessman’s favorite  dish: Hung Ai Wan Goo Rash. There being no internet, Sam worries about how she will get the recipe.

Let’s count the insensitivity jolts here: Continue reading

“When The Ethics Alarms Don’t Sound” Files: Auschwitz


From The Jerusalem Post:

Israeli tourists who arrived at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland on Sunday expressed shock and outrage over what appeared to be the placement of showers near the entrance to the site. Asked about the outcry, a spokesman for the Auschwitz memorial told The Jerusalem Post that “no showers were placed at the parking lot of the museum.” “Because of the heat wave in Poland, sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the museum. They are located near the area where – in the open sun and without any possibility of hiding in the shade – a queue of people who collect the entry cards to the memorial site is formed. “Among visitors there are many people who come from countries where such high temperatures as we have this summer in Poland do not occur. We have noticed cases of fainting among people. Therefore we must do everything possible to minimize the risks connected with the heat and high temperatures and take care of the safety of health of our visitors. The sprinklers are installed on the days of highest temperatures and removed with the temperature drops.”

“As a Jew who has lost so many relatives in the Holocaust, they looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers,” Meir Bulka, 48, told the Post . According to Bulka, he was not the only one deeply disturbed by this unusual scene. “All the Israelis felt this was very distasteful,” he said. “Someone called it a ‘Holocaust gimmick.’” Bulka decided to do something proactive about the situation rather than let it go. He went to the main office and asked the management for an explanation to the strange scene.

“The management decided that it was a good way to cool people off on a very hot day,” Bulka said.

There is something very wrong when those in charge of the Auschwitz historical site decide to erect nozzles misting water downwards at visitors outside the notorious death camp and nobody in involved in the decision detects the obvious problem. Whether the problem is with the administrators, the post-WWII generations, non-Jews, or something else, like Europe and the world, I am not sure. I do know that ethics alarms should have been ringing loudly. Did they malfunction? Or are they not installed?

Clues to what is wrong are suggested by the comments made by Ann Althouse’s readers to this story. I’m still trying to figure them out. Her audience is, I presume, ideologically-mixed, tilting to the left, and on the young side, since she is a law professor and many students read her posts. Is the utter insensitivity bordering on hostility to Jewish sensitivity on the little, insignificant matter of the Holocaust displayed here  attributable to ignorance (an excuse the Polish curators of the museum cannot claim), callousness, distance from the events memorialized, antipathy to Israel or anti-Semitism?

Here are 17 out of the 20 comments so far: Continue reading

Now THIS Is Insensitive!


Yes, you read right: “Fat Girl Costumes.”

I don’t care for euphemisms generally, but there is no way “fat girl’ can be excused as anything but denigrating and disrespectful.

Once Walmart was deluged with protests and slams via social media after this appeared on its website this morning, it edited the page, now re-worded  to “Women’s Plus Size Halloween Costumes,” and announced,

‘This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize.”

Unaddressed are  body-image issues. Most of the models shown in costume are indeed on the endomorphic side, but if Walmart calls this a fat girl…


…who isn’t?


Source: Daily Mail


Ethics Dunce: Francesca Eastwood

“Go ahead, make me ashamed I spawned you.”

Stipulated: you have every right in the world to dispose of of your personal belongings as you see fit.

Also stipulated: if you intentionally buy a steak dinner, eat half of it in front of a homeless woman and her infant, and feed what you didn’t finish to a stray dog as she looks on, salivating, you are a cruel, unsympathetic, sadistic creep.

With so many Americans  jobless or in financial distress, with charities short of funds and government social services facing budget cut-backs, to buy a $100,000 alligator handbag and then destroy it for “art”—-as Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s daughter, recently did—is hardly better than the steak dinner stunt. It’s even an insult to the alligator. Essentially this was an eloquent statement that Francesca would prefer to throw her money away than help people with it, people for whom a hundred grand is three years of family income.

That tells us all we need or want to know about Clint’s spoiled little girl.


Facts: Telegraph

Graphic: Wn

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

Patrick B. Pexton: Worst Ombudsman Ever

Interestingly, you can find Patrick B. Pexton's picture in the dictionary under both "bad ombudsman" and "bad hair."

Well, at least we know that the Washington Post’s new ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton (who apparently escaped from a Charles Dickens novel) is a dud. That’s one good thing that came out of his column about his employer’s unethical coverage of the “Niggerhead” rock, otherwise known as “Let’s smear that scary Republican, Rick Perry, so he’ll never come close to being President.” Other than that useful but unfortunate fact, however, Pexton’s piece represents the most incompetent and ethically clueless analysis by a media ombudsman that I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them.

Pexton, who is supposed to present an objective and critical response to ethical issues in Post reporting and editing, instead adopts the stance of its partisan defender. Wrong. That’s not his job. His job is to keep his paper honest and to reinforce stringent journalistic ethical standards. Continue reading

The Washington Post, Rick Perry, and “Niggerhead”: A Confirmation Bias Conundrum

I'm bending over backwards trying to be fair about this...

The Washington Post splashed a strange front page story across its paper face on Sunday. I have no idea what to make of it, because I am trying as hard as I can to be objective, and the story repels objectivity like my cousin repels women. It is shot through with confirmation bias: what you think of it is hard to separate from what you already believe.

It appears that Rick Perry, early in his career (when he was a Democrat), used to host events at a hunting camp where there was a large boulder that had the word “Niggerhead” painted on it. Ranchers called the camp by that name—-once a common one for rock formations and creeks in Texas and other parts of the country—long before Perry and his father, Ray, began hunting there in the early 1980s. Perry’s father leased the property in 1983, and according to Perry, the first thing he did was to paint over the word on the rock.  Perry says that when he first saw the rock, it was already painted over. But the Post found seven individuals who say they remember seeing the name on the rock during the time when Perry’s father’s name was on the lease. Apparently the old name is still visible through the paint. Eventually, Perry’s family paid to have the boulder flipped over so it couldn’t be read. Meanwhile, the Post says,  “Longtime hunters, cowboys and ranchers said this particular place was known by that name as long as they could remember, and still is.”

What are we supposed to take away from all this? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Flying the Confederate Flag…”

Blogger Edward Carney, who writes about the revelations of daily life (check out his blog here) put his finger on a central issue in the Confederate flag debate in his Comment of the Day.  Flying or displaying the provocative banner sends multiple messages simultaneously, and the individual responsible for the flag  is also responsible for the consequence of all of them. Claiming that one means no offense while knowing that one of the messages is unequivocally offensive is disingenuous,  naive, or willfully rude.

Here is the Comment of the Day on the post, “Flying the Confederate Flag..”:

“I’ll say this for those citizens and politicians who insist on flying the Confederate flag at local monuments and public events: at least they can make the argument that it represents history and a set of values that is still acceptable, even laudable, today. They can make that argument, however disingenuous it may be. The same cannot be said of everyone. Continue reading

Headline Deceit, the N-Word, and Dr. Laura

Curse you, Gawker, for making me defend Laura Schlesinger!

Radio talk show host/advisor/scold Laura Schlesinger, a.k.a. “Dr. Laura,” has a target on her back for liberal sharpshooters, thanks to her persistent demonization of gays and her advocacy of female subjugation in marriage. Outside of those two areas (“And aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”), Schlesinger’s ethical instincts are usually sound, and her advice to troubled callers is usually good. But she has a lot of enemies, and proof of that is today’s eye-catching headline on the gossip website Gawker, which can fairly be described as “ethics-free.”

The headline:

Dr. Laura Apologizes for Shocking, N-Word Filled Radio Rant Continue reading

Gov. McDonnell’s Confederate History Month: The Musical

“Confederate History Month.” That title should be sufficient to have any semi-conscious American’s ethics alarms ringing, like “Dina Lohan, Mother of the Year.” That it didn’t for Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, at least until furious critics rang it for him, tells us something disturbing about the Republican’s ethical blind spots, and perhaps other things as well. Perhaps we can truly get through to Bob with a song…sung to the tune of that traditional Virginia favorite, Dixie.  All together, now: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh… Continue reading