I almost added the above scene from the Monty Python troupe’s masterpiece “The Life of Brian” to the previous post. Has sensitivity to the demands and travails of the LGBT community rendered this satire offensive? Should it be considered offensive? If satire targeting people who demand that they have a right to do the impossible is offensive, is satire doomed in a woke world?
Following in the tradition of this recent post, with the intent of clarifying the political correctness rules so I know what I am defying, Ethics Alarms presents the following poll based on the video clip above:
(And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brilliant, talented, always challenging, Trump-hating lawyer little sister, Edith Sophia Marshall!)
1 Quiz results: about 90% of responders found the drag Python sketch about a ladies club re-enactment of Pearl Harbor funny. Whew. As for the one voter who said that it was unfunny because it made light of human tragedy and violence, I’m glad you never attended any of the stage comedies I directed.
2. Ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrant offspring?President Trump told Axios in an interview that he was preparing to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t…You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
I have found no authorities who agree with Trump’s lawyers, if indeed they are telling him that. If they are, I don’t blame him for listening to them: if there was ever a President who was legally clueless, it’s this one. Some conservatives are livid about the suggestion (obviously all illegal immigration-boosting liberals are as well), noting that this proposal is exactly as unconstitutional as Obama’s immigration-related EOs. I tend to agree with them. Ethically, the birthright rule is an incentive to break the law and anachronistic, since it originated when there were no legal restrictions on immigration nor reasons to have any. if the question gets to the Supreme Court, however, it will pose an integrity test for the conservative justices. Their philosophy is that you can’t just re-write or ignore the Constitution when it gets in the way of desirable policy, and this is a perfect example.
It is also very possible—likely?— that the President was using this trial balloon to energize the anti-illegal immigration base as the “caravan” continued its march. Continue reading →
This is the second Comment of the Day within a week from Ethics Alarms prodigal son Curmie, a college prof, who makes the case that college education is being excessively maligned. You should probably re-read the post he’s responding , another Comment of the Day, to appreciate his argument.
This is a cogent analysis up to a point, but I must say I’m more than a little sick and tired of having people tell me what goes on in my classroom. I teach at a non-flagship state university. And the description of what happens in college classrooms simply does not match my experience of them.
(Side note to Ryan: I really do like a lot of what you’ve said here. I apologize if the succeeding sounds like a personal attack. It is not intended in that spirit. Just one too many sweeping generalizations about my profession, and the last straw happened to be yours.)
Ryan cites Thomas Aquinas. I prefer the great late-20th century philosophers known as Monty Python: “I’m not dead yet.”
I do expect students to know some objective facts: if you can’t tell me the basic tenets of neoclassical theory or who David Garrick was, you’re not going to fare well in my theatre history class. If Ryan wants to say that in this sense I insist on regurgitation, he has my permission to do so.
But to get an A on the research paper, you’d better be able to interpolate from incomplete data, and to articulate a point of view based on the facts as they are available to us. That means finding out what the facts are, but also finding context: okay, so it cost a penny to see a play at the Globe Theatre. But that’s a meaningless statistic if you don’t know what that Elizabethan spectator could have bought for a penny if he didn’t spend it on standing room in an outdoor theatre. Continue reading →
Kal Raustiala, a Professor at UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute, and Chris Sprigman, a Professor at the University of Virginia Law School, are counterfeiting and intellectual property experts who hang out at the Freakonomics blog, and their latest post discusses how the world of stand-up comedy deals with joke theft. Some of the commentary will remind you of the Monty Python sketch in which a professor dryly lectures (with demonstrations) on the art of slapstick, but their observation is important: professional comics have developed a series of standards, enforced informally by such methods as shunning, shaming, and confrontation (and the occasional punch in the face) to discourage theft of a form of intellectual property that cannot be efficiently protested by copyright or trademark law. Continue reading →
(The current uproar over the use of various versions of the word “retarded” by Rahm Emanuel and Rush Limbaugh seems to warrant a reprint, slightly revised, of the following essay on ethics and comedy, a January 2008 post on The Ethics Scoreboard. The word “retard” also came in for criticism in a comic context last year, with its use in the Ben Stiller comedy “Tropic Thunder.” Of course, comedy is one thing, and gratuitous cruelty is another. In either case, the issue is the use of a word, not the word itself. As discussed in the previous post, it is appropriate for any group to promote sensitivity and to encourage civility. It is unethical to try to bully others into censoring their speech by trying to “ban” words, phrases or ideas. )
Here is the essay:
“Saturday Night Live” has, not for the first time in its three decade run, ignited an ethics controversy with politically incorrect humor. Was SNL ensemble member Fred Armison’s impression of New York Governor David Paterson, who is blind, including as it did a wandering eye and featuring slapstick disorientation, legitimate satire or, as Paterson and advocates for the blind have claimed, a cruel catalyst for discrimination against the sight-challenged?
It is not an easy call, though the opposing sides of the argument probably think it should be. And it raises long-standing questions about the balance between ethics and humor. Continue reading →