Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/30/2019: The Hit On Biden, The Bulwark Shows Its Stripes, I Told You So, And Deceit

Finally, it feels like Spring!

I swear this would have been a morning warm-up if my computer hadn’t crashed. For several months now, the now 9 year -old PC I inherited new from my Dad has been either freezing or shutting itself off for no apparent reason and with no warning, sometimes up to five or six times a day. This is what working with narcolepsy must be like…I am always typing or researching with the possibility in the back of my mind that everything could just stop. Sometimes I just have to reboot the computer, and sometimes it takes me multiple tries, sometimes I get it running only to have it crash again almost immediately, and sometimes I have to unplug everything from the tower and try all sorts of diagnostics. The latter is what happened this time.

1. A new way to illustrate “deceit!” for many years I have been telling the story illustrated by this movie clip to explain to classes what deceit is.

An attorney came up to me after a seminar this week and told this story from a recent experience. He and his wife had met another couple at an event, and socialized for the evening, The man was a lawyer, and told them that he had never had his Bar Mitzvah, but on that very day had finally gone through the ceremony, at the age of 50. Weeks after the encounter, the attorney said that he received a letter from the man, asking if he would serve as a reference. He wrote back, he said, to decline, explaining that he had only met the man once, and couldn’t credibly vouch for his character or any professional skills or abilities.

Then, he told me, he had an inspiration. “I could write a letter truthfully saying, “I’ve known this man since his Bar Mitzvah!”

2. I could see this coming. Why couldn’t Joe Biden see this coming? Way back in 2015, when Biden was trying to decide whether to throw his metaphorical hat into the ring for the 2016 election, his creepy Dirty Old Uncle act was a matter of record, and concern, to Democrats and others who were paying attention…and that was before the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck started rolling. When the 2020 Presidential sweepstakes opened for business, Ethics Alarms pointed out many times that no white male candidate would survive the process, because the feminist end of the party would either find an old episode  of sexual misconduct, abuse or harassment to disqualify him ( “The Al Franken” ) or manufacture one (The Kavanaugh), making that male candidate radioactive. I also noted that this especially made Joe Biden’s candidacy a pipe dream, because there are already ample examples of photographic evidence of Biden’s handsiness like this…

…and what are the odds that Joe only engages in unwanted touching when the cameras aren’t clicking? But the biased mainstream news media dutifully presented Biden as formidable candidate, never mentioning this ticking time bomb, even as #MeToo hung the scalps of other one-time liberal heroes on its belt, most recently Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees. Why would they do this? Maybe they recognized how objectively horribly unqualified and unelectable the women running so far are. Most likely the memo from the Democratic High Command hadn’t arrived yet. Whatever the reason, it should now be clear that Joe is no longer welcome in the race. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Actress Emma Thompson’s Resignation Letter

British acting grande dame Emma Thompson dropped out of the voice cast of Skydance Animation’s upcoming film “Luck.” The reason was  ex-Pixar creative force John Lasseter being hired to lead animation at David Ellison’s studio; Ethics Alarms wrote about his new job here. A quote from that post…

The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug?

Thompson’s reps released her letter on last week, first published in the Los Angeles Times, that Thompson had sent to Skydance management. Here it is:

As you know, I have pulled out of the production of “Luck” — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.

I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:

If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?

If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”

Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?

If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Yours most sincerely,

Emma Thompson

Observations: Continue reading

The Gillette Ad

“Everyone” is talking about the new Gillette ad above. It is cynical, manipulative in sinister ways, unfair, insincere, divisive, unfair, and wrong. Over at Reason, the usually rational Robby Soave was sucked in (as was Ann Althouse, who said the little boys at the end moved her to tears—Awwwww!) defending the ad:

But the ad never said that all men are bad. It never argued that masculinity is always and everywhere a dangerous ideal. It made a very modest statement—treat people better—in hopes of selling more razors to people who agree. Again, why is this bad?…Young guys need to learn from men who treat women well and act as protectors rather than victimizers, which…is exactly what the Gillette ad called on men to do. People are free to associate with whatever brand they want, so if Gillette’s so-called virtue signaling bothers someone that much, that person may go ahead and buy razors elsewhere. But it would be a shame if the right started boycotting companies for taking the position that maybe hurting people is bad. Is owning the libs really that important?

Sucker! I am heartened that the ad has generated overwhelmingly negative responses, and while I would never call for a boycott (I use electric razors, thanks), I would still love to see Gillette suffer for this naked virtue-signaling and insulting stereotype mongering, all while pretending to “care,” when in fact it is just a cynical tactic to create buzz. I hope the eventual buzz is the sound of Remington electric razors.

Jon Gabriel’s reaction was similar to mine:

Gillette has had a rough few years. The former shaving hegemon has seen its market share plummet due to a resurgence in classic “wet shaving,” online razor subscription services, and the popularity of beards. Gillette’s obvious options are to lower their artificially high price or drastically improve their quality. Instead, they’ve decided to make their remaining customers feel bad about themselves through an expensive new ad campaign…. “You’re a very bad person, give us money” is an odd marketing pitch, especially from a company that’s used sex to sell its product for decades…Gillette has now declared war on its customer base. [Quoting the Wall Street Journal]

Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.

Promoting social issues can be effective marketing, but notice the difference. P&G’s female-directed ads make women feel better about themselves. The company tells women “you’re great just as you are” and tells men “you’re bad and need to change.”

“Why is this bad?” asks sensitive Robby. Ah, let me count the ways: Continue reading

The John Lasseter #MeToo Conundrum

What is the appropriate treatment for a leader, executive or artist who has been dismissed, disgraced, and exiled because of credible or proven instances of workplace sexual misconduct?

John Lasseter, the genius Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints that he engaged in unwanted “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes” suddenly raises the question, because he is all of these, and now is one of the first men facing ruin in the #MeToo era to find a new position as impressive and lucrative—seven figures—as his old one.

David Ellison,  “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a newish production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, announced this week that Lasseter would become Skydance’s head of  animation and will start this month. “John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”

BUT, he  continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

On his own behalf, Lasseter, who was the moving creative force behind multiple Pixar classics like “Toy Story” as well as Disney’s “Frozen,” said that he that he had engaged in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, but with renewed dedication to the need for “safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Good enough? No, #MeToo is not pleased. Time’s Up, the #MeToo-spawned political group founded by Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes among others, protested in response to the announcement that offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to show true remorse, work to reform their behavior and provide restitution to those harmed is condoning abuse.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug? Continue reading

2018 Ethics Retrospective Poll #4: The Ethics Train Wrecks!

Nominations for “Ethics Train Wreck Of The Year”

This one is self-explanatory, I think. Don’t automatically default to the obvious choice.

(Still rolling and still being used illicitly to exert gender-based power while undermining civil rights.

(which encompasses “the resistance,” the “Get Trump” campaign by the news media, and the ongoing effort to concoct a justification for impeachment)

(The Parkland shooting aftermath was nothing but a resuscitated and refueled version, with different demagogues, and the same lies)

(Statues are still falling, universities are still purging their histories, and “The Sound of Music” can’t mention Nazis…)

(An offshoot of the Harvey Weinstein express,  and perhaps the canary dying in the mine…)

(So long-running and constant that I forgot to call it one, with the “Think of the Children! caboose.)

The Big Tech Social Media Ethics Train Wreck, which has pulled out of the station, will have to wait a few months before we can assess it…

The poll:

 

Christmas Questions For A Thoroughly Confused Culture

In “A Christmas Kiss,” the 2011 Hallmark-style Christmas movie (that premiered on the Ion channel, but really would have been right at home on the Hallmark channel, or for that matter, the Crap Channel), Wendy Walton is an aspiring interior designer. One night, while preparing to go out with her roommates in glitter makeup,  she encounters an impossibly handsome, formally-dressed stranger in the elevator. When the elevator stalls and seems unstable, Wendy is thrown into the stranger’s arms….or perhaps grabs him for support, or in fear.  The elevator starts moving again, and he impulsively embraces her and gives  her a passionate, romantic kiss.  They part without her learning his name, and Wendy breathlessly tells her roommates about her magical encounter with the handsome stranger.

2018 questions:

1 Was the kiss sexual assault? Wendy did not consent to it. Continue reading

On Political Correctness, Eye Candy, And “Deal Or No Deal”

Where are the hunchbacks? Where are the amputees? Where are the burn victims?

A friend of mine—a real one– on Facebook, in a pathetically desperate exercise in virtue-signaling to his leftist hive-mind lawyer friends, issued a naive or disingenuous post making the claim that all “political correctness” was about was “not being an asshole.” This factually and historically false assertion naturally was met with unanimous likes until I again played the skunk at the picnic by pointing out that his comment was utter fantasy. The directive from the British college that laid out guidelines for comedians was classic political correctness, and it was the guidelines-peddlers, not the comedians or those who mocked the restrictions, who were being assholes. Those who persist in calling illegal immigrants illegal immigrants (and not “undocumented immigrants” or just “immigrants”), for that, Virginia, is what they are, are not the assholes, but they are “politically incorrect.” The assholes who go searching through the Twitter feeds of young celebrities searching for politically incorrect words about gays, women or minorities are wielding politically correctness as a weapon of personal destruction. And so on. I could write volumes on similar or more nauseating examples. Maybe I have.

So I pointed out, correctly and undeniably, that political correctness has been used for decades by one side of the political spectrum—guess which!—as a tool to manipulate public discourse and hobble the expression of ideas and attitudes that end doesn’t like, while relieving them of the obligation of making a substantive argument. The immediate attack on this retort came from someone I don’t even know, who wrote, “You are so tiresome.” Yes, I’m quite aware that doctrinaire progressives find ethics, facts and logic tiresome, but there it is. That is what passed for an argument in Facebook’s hive: “Shut up.” I haven’t bothered to respond to the other attacks on me on that thread; it’s not worth my time. If you defend a manifestly false characterization of political correctness, then you are either not being honest, you have an agenda, or are no longer thinking objectively and clearly. Either way, I’d rather debate my dog.

This was a roundabout way of introducing a classic example of political correctness silliness, attacks on the appropriateness of “Deal or No Deal” returning with the same bevy of beauties whose job it is to hold and open suitcases, a job that could be performed with equal competence by the homeless, paraplegics, 9-year-olds, or robots. Writes the Times, metaphorical brow furrowed,

CNBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” which returned for a new season on Wednesday after a nearly 10-year hiatus, and features 26 female models in matching high heels and short, skintight dresses. It’s a formula that helped make “Deal” a prime-time hit when it debuted on NBC in 2005.

That was 13 years ago. But in 2018, as the culture continues to grapple with the way women have been disregarded and sometimes abused by Hollywood and its machers, “Deal” and shows like it raise an awkward question: Is this a convention whose time is up?

Series like “Deal” encapsulate the paradox of the modern game-show modeling gig: On one hand, it offers a stiletto-heeled foot in the door for many young women who aspire to careers in entertainment — Meghan Markle and Chrissy Teigen, among others, got their starts on “Deal or No Deal.” On the other hand, it is unclear whether those advantages are worth the broader message it may communicate in the #MeToo era…

“I do feel it’s a bit tone deaf,” said Nicole Martins, a professor at Indiana University Bloomington, who focuses on media and body image. “These women are used as eye candy, and it reinforces the idea that these women should be appreciated for how they look.”

Yes, Professor, that’s because THESE women are being appreciated for how they look, and for no other reason, because they aren’t doing a job that couldn’t be handled by a well-trained ape. So what? “Deal of No Deal” is moronic, but there is nothing whatsoever unethical, sexist or “tone deaf,” now or ever, about employing attractive people in an entertainment context as “eye candy,” meaning “employing attractive people to be attractive.”

Attractive women are attractive. People like to look at them. People would rather look at them than look at average, typical people they can see every day on the street, or by looking in the mirror. Is there anything wrong with enhancing a stupefyingly repetitive and boring game show with beautiful women? There is not. Nor is there anything wrong with women who are gorgeous while having no other areas in which they excel making a living based entirely on that one asset. Continue reading