Ethics Observations On Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Performance

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On the eve of her Super Bowl 50 half time show performance, Beyoncé released  “Formation,” a video full of references to Black Lives Matter tropes and propaganda, including “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!”  (You can view it here. The earlier version of this post had an unofficial version: I apologize for the error.) Then in her portion of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the pop star gave the sold-out stadium and world-wide audience a live version of the video, including  backup dancers wearing Black Panther berets who formed  an X, apparently alluding to black Muslim activist Malcolm X, and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. African-Americans activists wrote that they saw the performance as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary, not of the Super Bowl, but to the Black Panthers.

The halftime show was part of a marketing plan messaging across multiple platforms, from social media to mainstream media. Once the show was seen in the context of the more explicit video, a controversy emerged, just as Beyoncé ‘s marketing geniuses hoped it would. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the vocal critics, calling the show “outrageous” said telling Fox News,”This is football, it’s not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”  Protests are planned at NFL headquarters.

What’s going on here?

1. Stipulated: Beyoncé’s sole intentions are to sell, make money, and get buzz. If she has a genuine political motive, and I doubt it, it is secondary to the good ol’ profit-making motive that has made her a mega-millionaire. She and her husband Jay-Z have been linking their brand to Black Lives Matter because they see profit in it, that’s all. Is it crass and ethically inert? Sure it is…just like the music business and the rest of show business. Is it particular disgusting, at a time of dangerous racial division in this country heightened by liars, crooks, complicit activists and cynical politicians, to try to make money by glamorizing it? Yes indeed, but the Julie Principle needs to be applied here. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and if you are paying any attention to people like Beyoncé, you can’t be shocked or overly angry at them when they show that their motives are purely non-ethical at all times. Yes, Beyoncé’s conduct was culturally irresponsible and unethical. “This is my shocked face:”

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2. That said, hijacking the Super Bowl halftime show to make a race-baiting, divisive, anti-police demonstration out of what is supposed to be a unifying, fun, family-friendly cultural event, by extolling the racist Black Lives Matter, the criminal and racist Black Panthers, and destructive lies like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is indeed outrageous. The stunt deserves every bit of criticism it has recieved and more. Continue reading

Fun With Rationalizations: Considering Salon’s Attack On The New York Post

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Let me dispense with the outrage over The New York Post’s brilliant (from their perspective, which is selling newspapers) and tasteless front page covering the death of Menachem Stark, a Hasidic real estate developer ( a.k.a. “slumlord”) who was found murdered and burned in a dumpster last Friday in Long Island.

The operative principle is not, as the reader who flagged the issue suggested, the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule does not often apply to the press, which is supposed to be truthful, not kind and diplomatic. There are provisions of most journalistic codes about avoiding unnecessary harm to third parties, which is pretty much a universal ethics rule in every field, from law to the military. When, however, you operate a tabloid, and not just any tabloid but a tabloid whose brand is defined by intentionally shocking, outrageous, assaultive and controversial headlines and photos, “Unnecessary harm to third parties” is almost an impossible principle to apply.

The headline is a perfect example of the Julie Principle, which I explained back in May. The Julie Principle comes into play when an undesirable or annoying  characteristic or behavior pattern in a person or organization appears to be hard-wired and part of their essence.  In judging such a person or entity, it is useful to keep the lyrics of Julie’s song from “Show Boat” (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein Jr., music by Jerome Kern) firmly in mind, when she sings…

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…

I’ve gotta love that man til I die

Can’t help lovin’ that man of mine!  Continue reading