1. Well, you can’t accuse satellite radio of being politically correct…the Comedy Legend Sirius channel is a welcome oasis in the woke era humor desert, with routines old enough to remind one what it was like when comedians only had to worry about being funny to the audience at hand—and yet there are limits. At least, there should be. Today I heard an old Louis C.K. routine about his childhood. You recall how C.K. became a #MeToo arch-villain, costing him his show, bookings, and essentially his career, don’t you? He set a new low for celebrity sexual harassment by masturbating in front of non-consenting female visitors to his hotel room, and on more than one occasion. Ick. Also sick. In the routine featured on Sirius-XM, the comedian was reminiscing, to audience hilarity, how he showed his penis to a girl with Down Syndrome when he was nine. I don’t know that I would have ever found that story funny, but hearing C.K. tell it in light of his later revealed proclivities was an experience I could have lived my whole life without having. Since it is now clear to me that whoever programs that channel can’t be trusted to apply any discretion or common sense at all, I’m not sure it is safe for me to drive with it playing…
Back before it was all discarded to elect a serial harasser and accused rapist President, #MeToo saw to it that comic Louis C.K. was condemned to wander in the metaphorical wilderness for a particularly disgusting variety of harassment. He is indeed what is clinically defined as a “sick fuck,” but C.K. is intelligent and perceptive too. If anyone is listening, he is capable of conveying wisdom beyond “don’t masturbate in front of female colleagues who you have invited up to your hotel room.”
The clip above is from 2018, I think, when a post-cancellation Louis extolled in grand (if vulgar) terms the wonder of life, and how even the worst lives were a marvel. (The Thornton Wilder classic “Our Town” carries the same message, and I’m sure it is on the verge of being cancelled too, since it is about, yechh, white people. Actually it is about all people, but never mind, that won’t save it.)
And I found myself thinking, as I listened to C.K.’s routine on the radio yesterday by purest happenstance, how can anyone ethically deny life, this gift, this wonder, to another human being who would have it without outside interference, for any reason other than literal survival. Those invalid reasons include, “I have a legal right to do it,” as well as “that future life will interfere with my career,” and “it’s just not convenient right now.”
Yes, happy 2019.
Thanks to all the readers, many commenting for the first time, who send reassuring and kind words in response to my musings last night. I wasn’t fishing for them, I swear.
1. Maybe this is why I’m in a bad mood…Here is the beginning of the 70 page (!) appellate brief I’m having to waste today answering, the work of the angry Ethics Alarms commenter whom I banned more than a year ago, and who apparently has nothing better to do than to file frivolous lawsuits:
Jack Marshall, the Defendant, is a craven, venal LIAR. What he did to Plaintiff …in this case was intentional/focused/targeted/defamatory lying, through-and-through. “Toxic mendacity” is a fair/appropriate characterization (“Orwellian psychosis” may possibly overstate the case). There was nothing legitimately/honestly “opinionated” about any of Marshall’s cynical noxious LIES, in any sensible sense (despite what the Judge pretended), as (re-)proven herein. Amongst the 575 defamatory acts pled/ alleged in our Comp (and supported in Opp, and at Oral Argument, and now repeated/proved yet again here in tabular
format in TblDefam), Marshall outright factually LIED ~29 times; while another ~32 times he uttered/wrote “materially false” pseudo-“opinions” based upon (hence implying) his earlier lies. Yet, the lower Judge’s grant of Rule 12(b)(6) Motion-to-Dismiss (“failure to state a claim”) falsely/blindly pretended Marshall’s publications were “pure opinions, innocent as the driven snow, grounded solely upon true facts.”6 That was a blatantly false/wrongful breach of good-faith judging….
2. The nauseating virtue-signaling championship goes to…Barack Obama. How gullible and starry-eyed does someone have to be not to find this transparent and manipulative? The ex-President published his favorite movies, novels and songs of the year on Instagram. To my surprise, they reveal him to be woke! Intellectual! Devoted to the right social causes! Cool! And Black!
And if, say, one of his actual favorite movies this year was porn, or a slasher flick, do you really think he would include it? How about a Mickey Spillane novel, or a book by Bill Cosby? Call me cynical, but I assume that the list was devised by his PR staff, with his input. The list essentially tells us that Obama thinks most Americans are stupid saps, and the news media’s reaction to it—Isn’t he wonderful???—-shows that he’s probably right. Continue reading
1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…
The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also in the photograph, whose story is that “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.
2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading
Reading the news media and entertainment websites, one would think that Louis C.K.’s return to stand-up comedy after nearly a year in exile or rehab or something raises ethics conundrums that would stump Plato, Kant and Mill. It’s not that hard. The fact that everyone, especially those in the entertainment field, are displaying such confusion and angst just tells us something useful about them. They don’t know how to figure out what’s right and wrong.
In case you have forgotten, cult comedy star Louis C.K. admitted last November at the peak of the #MeToo rush that he had masturbed in front of at least five women without their consent. Ick. His cable show and other projects were cancelled, and he disappeared from the public eye. Then, last weekend, he returned to the stage at the Comedy Cellar in New York, performed for about 15 minutes, and received a standing ovation. This apparently alternately shocked or confused people. I’ll make it simple.
Does the comedian have a right to practice his art after the revelation of his disgusting conduct?
Of course he does. He wasn’t sentenced to prison. He has a right to try to make a living at what he does well. In fact, he has a First Amendment right to tell jokes any where others will listen to him.
OK, he technically has a right. But is it right for him to come back like nothing has happened?
What? The man was publicly shamed and humiliated. He can’t come back as if nothing has happened, because everyone knows that something has happened. Nevertheless, his art does not require the public trust. It does not demand good character, or even the absence of a criminal record. Does a great singer sound worse because he was abusive to women? No. Is there a law that says men who are abusive to women should never be able to work again? No, and there shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t hire C.K. to work in an office, because I see no reason to trust him around others. But he’s not a worker, he’s an artist. He never engaged in inappropriate conduct on stage. He can be trusted as an artist,at least when he’s performing solo.
Comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted regarding Louis C.K.that “Will take heat for this, but people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives.I don’t know if it’s been long enough, or his career will recover, or if people will have him back, but I’m happy to see him try.” For this he apologized, saying this position was “ultimately, not defensible.” after he was broiled on social media. Should he have apologized? Continue reading
I’m thinking about it.
Harvey Weinstein, you recall, announced that he would devote himself to crushing the NRA. Analysis: Desperate deflection and virtue-signalling.
Kevin Spacey decided to finally announce that he was gay. Analysis: Appeal for support and sympathy from a minority group he had spurned for decades
Bill O’Reilly continues to insist that he never did anything wrong, and that it was all a partisan hit job. Analysis: Deny, deny, deny.
Louis C.K. explained that he misread signals—as if there is any signal from a woman that says, “I want to see a chubby, homely, middles aged guy masturbate nude.” Analysis: Ridiculous and pathetic.
George H.W. Bush sought sympathy—he’s old and in a wheelchair—and anyway, it was all in good fun. Analysis: Generational ignorance
Al Franken gave an apology that said that female accusers should be believed, though he didn’t agree with his female accusers account, and that there was no excuse for his conduct, though he was just joking and jokes sometimes look bad in retrospect. Analysis: Cynical double-talk
One common thread that cannot be missed is that all of these men are assholes. Their words brand them as such. This figures, since only assholes harass women in the workplace, or anywhere else. I think this is why Charlie Rose’s statement angers me so much, specifically when he said,
“I have learned a great deal as a result of these events, and I hope others will too. All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and have come to a profound new respect for women and their lives.”
Don’t drag me into this, Rose, or any of the millions of men who always treat women as equals, respectfully, and fairly, both socially and professionally. I don’t need any “newer and deeper” recognition, you fecal creep, that putting hands on women’s upper thighs uninvited, parading naked, groping butts, making lewd phone calls to co-workers and making young interns watch sexually explicit films are all unambiguously wrong and intolerable. I didn’t need it 40 years ago, and I don’t now. Continue reading
“I love Louie, but Louie did these things. Both of those statements are true. So, I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them? I can mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they’re victims because of something he did.”
—Comedian Sarah Silverman, speaking of her friend and fellow comic Louis C.K., whose career is in freefall after revelations by five women that he masturbated in front of them.
I hope Sarah doesn’t have to ponder her question too hard, because the answer should be obvious.
Of course you can love someone who did bad things. Everyone of us has, and probably does. Good people do bad things. Loving and lovable people do bad things, even terrible things. Being loved is one of the crucial life experiences that makes people better.
There are limits, of course. Still, at the root of Silverman’s question is the narrow intolerance and self-righteousness that are polarizing and fracturing our society. I find it ominous that she would ask the question.
There were two Comments of the Day on this post.
The first is a lovely and compassionate one from Charlie Green regarding Louis C.K.’s eloquent admission of misconduct and appeal for forgiveness; the second, a reminder of the importance of forgiveness from Zoltar Speaks!, often at sword-points with Charles on other issues. Both are worthy of separate posts, and I hope Charles and Zoltar don’t feel slighted by being asked to share. In this case, I felt that the pairing was complementary.
First, here is the Comment of the Day by Charles Green on the post, Desperate Ethics Quote Of The Week: Louis C.K.
A friend said, and it rings true, “to be a comedian, you have to be afraid, confused, and conflicted; and all of them are very angry.” Indeed, it’s their confusion and anguished conflict that makes them so interesting to us.
The best thing Louis CK said in his response was, “It’s now time for me to listen.” Contrast that with Michael Richards’ anguished attempt to continually go public with his attempts at self-analysis and self-justification – an abject failure. When “there’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is…” – apparently the case in for Louis CK – the one smart thing for him to do is shut up and listen. Deeply.
When you’re faced with a situation you honestly don’t understand, and your career depends on your continued inability to make sense of it, the dumbest thing you can do is to suddenly attempt public self-psychoanalysis.
Most comedians – think Joan Rivers, or Redd Foxx, Kathy Griffin or Sarah Silverman – have crossed the line a few times, and not just in jokes falling flat. That’s why they work out material in small late-night dive joints. We depend on, thrive on, their ability to walk just up to the line, and not cross over it. And some of them cross the line in their lives off-stage as well.
There’s no excuse for Louis CK doing what he did, and talented friends like Pamela Adlon will suffer collateral damage. He couldn’t see where the line was, and now he’ll bring down still more victims with him.
Among other things, it’s a shame.
Now Comment of the Day #2 on the same post, this time authored by Zoltar Speaks! Continue reading
Comedian/actor Louis C.K. has taken the high road in responding to his share of the wave of accusations coming at various show business and pop culture figures following the launch of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck with its Kevin Spacey caboose. The New York Times recently revealed the certifiably awful stories of C.K.’s disgusting conduct toward five women, and subsequent show business sources have confirmed that “everybody knew” Louis was abusing his influence and power to harass women. Now the often thoughtful and provocative comic is fighting for his professional life, and has evidently decided that the wisest course is to be accountable, remorseful and contrite. Here is his statement:
I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.
These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.
I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.
I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.
I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.
The Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke Ethics Train Wreck is over at last, but unlike with many such debacles, something positive occurred. I believe that an emphatic cultural standard was established that calling a woman—any woman, famous or not, liberal or conservative—a derogatory term designed purely to denigrate her by denigrating her gender will not be considered acceptable in political, quasi-political or arguably-political commentary henceforward. If such rhetoric occurs in a comic or entertainment context, no politician or elected official can appear to endorse the individual who utters the offensive words.
I’m not arguing right now whether this is a good or a bad development, but merely that it happened, and that it is a real change. For this to happen, a conservative radio talk show host had to use the terms “slut’ and “prostitute” to make the botched satirical point that a feminist law student activist who argued that free contraceptives were a woman’s right was the equivalent of women who wanted to be “paid for sex.” If pundits and bloggers had merely declared this statement uncivil and cruel, nothing more would have happened, and the incident would have been quickly forgotten. But sensing political points to be scored in an election year, and with the added incentive of being handed what was seen as powerful ammunition to attempt a frontal attack against a detested partisan critic, Democrats, progressives, feminists, activists, Obama strategists and left-biased journalists decided to cast the Limbaugh’s poor judgment in extreme terms. Continue reading