Comment Of The Day: “Waning Sunday Ethics Reveries, 7/12/2020: You Know, Ethics Isn’t Fun For Me When Everyone’s Acting Irrationally”

I have a couple of Comments of the Day on the runway and a guest column too, but when Steve-O-in-NJ delivered one of his epic epistles—I think they transcend “comments”—of Alizia Tyler length, I had to choose it to end the day. The topic is one Ethics Alarms has discussed in recent week: the disturbing similarities between the Red Scare and McCarthyism and the current George Floyd Freakout.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Waning Sunday Ethics Reveries, 7/12/2020: You Know, Ethics Isn’t Fun For Me When Everyone’s Acting Irrationally”:

I dub this the White Scare.

No doubt there are still a few people who have nightmares of the living nightmare of sitting uncomfortable and squirming in the lowest seat in the Senate chamber. You sit alone before an intimidating array of microphones, all eyes on you, questions being fired at you like crossbow bolts from every angle about anything and everything. You don’t exactly know how you got there, maybe someone said your name was mentioned in connection with some gathering or that you said or wrote something that concerned them. Your finances, your job, your friendships, your family, nothing is off-limits. Question after question, hour after hour, it drags on until you forget when it began and have no idea when it will end. Letters you wrote years ago, conversations you barely remember having, meetings you remember attending, but can’t remember who else was there, leave alone the subject, the questions keep coming. As you shake inwardly, your shirt soaked from the stress of the interrogation and the fear of its consequences, the stern-faced Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin fixes you with a glare like God throwing the Egyptian host into a panic and thunders possibly the most dreaded question in history, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Refuse to answer, give the wrong answer, claim not to remember, or equivocate, and you are finished, tarred as a “Red,” a Communist, someone in league with the most evil regime then in the world, and the second or third worst ever, against America, the Constitution, and everything that was good.

If you have few friends when you sit down in this loneliest chair in the world, you could well have none when you leave it. There’s a very good chance that if you held a security clearance it will be revoked, because there are just too many maybes for you to be trusted. There’s a good chance that you will lose your job as you can’t hide or scrub off the red stain. There’s a very good chance your life and your family’s life will collapse or be greatly damaged or diminished. Continue reading

What A Difference A Month Makes: Re-Watching “Trumbo”

It was only in May that I had a quick note in a morning warm-up declaring the 2015 film “Trumbo” an ethics movie. That it is, but subsequent developments have made me realize it is much more, including frightening.

The film, starring Brian Cranston as the most famous member of the “Hollywood Ten,” now is a glass of ice water recieved full in the face, shocking viewers into the realization that the George Floyd Freakout is the catalyst for a second wave of McCarthyism. This one varies from the first in that the current version is being fueled by the Left rather than conservatives, and that it is far more violent, and potentially more dangerous.

After watching the film again and reviewing the history, for “Trumbo” is easily the best film about the blacklist, there is no question in my mind that this is true. Previously, I regarded the use of “McCarthyism” as a useful if over-used metaphor, like “witch-hunt.” (“McCarthyism” usually refers to the oppression and intimidation of the entire “Red Scare” period, including the blacklist, which was Fifties for “cancelled.” The “Hollywood Ten” were victims of the fascist House Un-American Activities  Committee, which was separate from the vicious Wisconsin GOP Senator, but “House Un-American Activities  Committee-ism” doesn’t roll off the tongue well.) Now it is evident that we are witnessing  in the United States  a mutated clone of what occurred across the country in the beginning of the 1950’s, with “racist” the current label being used to bully, silence, and ruin careers and lives, rather than “Communist.” Continue reading

The New McCarthyism Of The Left And The Destruction Of Hartley Sawyer

Hartley Sawyer is, or was, a Hollywood actor. 35 years old with many credits, he had hit the big time, and big money, with a regular role on the CW series “The Flash.” He played the superhero “The Elongated Man.” Today he’s unemployed, and likely to remain so. He was fired from the series yesterday.

Was he hard to work with? No. Did he harass cast members? No.  Did he come to the set drunk, or masturbate in front of  female crew members, or attack a writer, like Thomas Gibson did on “Criminal Minds”?  No, no and no. Sawyer wasn’t fired for doing anything illegal, disruptive or even recent. He was fired because someone searched his social media record, and released tweets he made between 2009 and 2014. All the stories about his firing reference “racist tweets,” but the only ones published have been…

  •  “The only thing keeping me from doing mildly racist tweets is the knowledge that Al Sharpton would never stop complaining about me.”
  • “Enjoyed a secret boob viewing at an audition today.”
  • “Date rape myself so I don’t have to masturbate.”

The first isn’t racist, or even legitimately offensive. To claim the second would be taboo in Hollywood is so ridiculous it boggles the mind. The third, described in various accounts as being about sexual assault, is an obvious joke. Saying you “date rape” yourself is not advocating sexual assault.

Never mind. In the crazed grip of George Floyd mania, people with empty lives and cruel dispositions are itching to show their power to destroy others by crying “Witch!,” knowing that most of those in authority, any authority, lack backbone, integrity or a working knowledge of the Golden Rule. Continue reading

“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART II: Papa John’s Pizza Founder And Chairman John Schnatter

What befell Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter is even a more  direct example of current day McCarthyism and Salem’s “He’s a witch!” method of personal destruction than the fate of James Gunn, discussed in Part I.

Schnatter was already on the progressive hit list because he had been openly critical of the NFL’s addled kneelers–you know, those astute social justice athlete-activists who honest-to-Pete weren’t protesting the National Anthem when they protested during the National Anthem and never have been able to clarify what exactly they are protesting, unless it was kind of everything, and who were exercising their sacred First Amendment free speech rights, but really weren’t, though they don’t understand that, not being familiar with the nation’s founding documents? Those guys—and was ripe for race-baiting. Then he had a fateful conference call with the chain’s marketing agency Laundry Service—That’s funny: I have a laundry service called “Marketing Agency”!— that wanted to hire rapper Kanye West to represent Papa John’s in ads. The call was also intended, reportedly,  as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to deal with sensitive race issues and to learn how to avoid future public-relations botches.

In the course of explaining that he wasn’t a racist, Schlatter told the tale of  how KFC’s Colonel Sanders reportedly used the slur “nigger” often. Schnatter said he never would use that word — but GOTCHA! He had, in order to tell the Col. Sanders story!

WIIIIITCH!!!

Although Schnatter says he intended  to convey his antipathy to racism, some on the call found his language ” offensive,” and reported that he had “used” the taboo word. Nobody, apparently, claimed he had used the word as a slur; he just refused to use the baby-talk code “N-word,” which, you may have already noticed, is an example of particularly idiotic political correctness that impedes education, journalism, public debate and competent communication that I emphatically reject in writing this blog. Talking or writing about the word “nigger” is not using the word “nigger” in the fashion that makes it rationally offensive. If anyone finds using the word to discuss the word itself offensive, that person has a problem, and it is between his or her ears.

Schnatter, who was already in trouble at his company and had stepped down as CEO in the wake of his criticism of the knee-happy NFL players, initially capitulated to the latest barrage of criticism. “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” he said in a statement. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.” Then he resigned from the company board. Here is the infantile way Forbes announced the news:

“John Schnatter—the founder and public face of pizza chain Papa John’s—used the N-word on a conference call in May. Schnatter confirmed the incident in an emailed statement to Forbes on Wednesday. He resigned as chairman of Papa John’s on Wednesday evening.”

Now Schnatter is fighting his exile, gathering a legal team and sending the following letter: Continue reading

“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART I: Director James Gunn

I don’t care to live in a culture where law-abiding citizens can have their reputations and careers destroyed by people maliciously publicizing old or private communications to make them hated or distrusted, or worse, a culture where doing this to people is deemed virtuous. Such a culture is one based on perpetual fear, where individuals cannot express an opinion that they may change later, or make a joke to a select audience, or have a conversation expressing strong but spontaneous and transient feelings without risking personal destruction at the hands of someone who wishes them ill.

That is the U.S. culture, however, that extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are successfully constructing,  unles we stop them. Their tools are political correctness, invasions of privacy, abuse of technology, social media and its attendant mobs, and an utter disregard of fairness, decency and ethics.

Two recent example illustrate how serious the problem is. This post is about one of them.

Talented writer-director James Gunn, the creative force behind the  delightful  Guardians of the Galaxy movies was fired by Disney after his old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered and circulated on social media and the web. The tweets were deliberately sought by conservative blogger and activist Mike Cernovich,  to intentionally wreck Gunn’s career. Gunn’s real offense was that he has been a vocal “resistance” recruit and a prominent conservative-hater, so once Cernovich had the goods on him, the Right was happy to use them.

No doubt, Gunn’s old tweets included jokes that many would consider worthy of Roseanne Barr on a careless day, like

  • “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
  • “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
  • “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Gunn, realizing that joking about pederasty, rape and AIDS was sufficient to get him Kevin Spaceyed for life, tried to explain:

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

I believe him. I believe him, though something nasty in me would love to know if he was telling friends that the Milwaukee Brewers should punish Josh Hader for the racist tweets he made in high school, because this whole phenomenon is a Golden Rule matter. That has been the Ethics Alarms position forever, including during the 2014 Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck, in which an NBA owner lost his team, millions in fines, and his reputation after his mistress taped an ugly conversation they had in his bedroom and circulated it. I reiterated this position most recently in May of this year:

The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s coarse rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words are unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

And yes, to anticipate the objection, I do not regard social media posts by non-public persons who later become celebrities to be truly public communications. They are, in the minds of the foolish individuals who send them, personal messages aimed at friendly audiences, and not intended for public circulation. In reaching this position I am influenced by the legal ethics and judicial rule regarding what is public knowledge regarding a former client that can be used by a lawyer . Simply because information is included in a public document that anyone can access doesn’t mean it is considered public enough for a lawyer to reveal it if the information involves a client. Most people don’t know about those facts because they don’t know how to find them, where to look, or whether the information even exists. Information doesn’t become truly public until it is widely accessible and disseminated. Once Gunn (and Hader) became celebrities, their social media presence was public, but not before. True, both Gunn and Hader should have realized that what they posted when they were nobody special had suddenly become a matter of public interest, and true, people need to start thinking that way, but most of our newly famous just don’t. Continue reading