Trans Activist Ethics Train Wreck Update: The Dave Chappelle “Hate Speech” Hypocrisy

From the New York Times front page today:

“Netflix…the tech company that revolutionized Hollywood, is now in an uproar as employees challenge the executives responsible for its success and accuse the streaming service of facilitating the spread of hate speech and perhaps inciting violence.”

Observations:

1. It’s time—way past time, in fact—to emphatically define what “hate speech” is. First of all, hate speech, whatever it is, is 100% protected speech. It is Constitutional, First Amendment, lawful, beyond all argument speech. Second, I use “whatever it is” because the phase is deliberately vague and subjective so those seeking to censor discourse, advocacy, non-conforming points of view, satire and insults can place the expression of ideas by someone else into a category that suggests malign agency and intent.Then, those crying “hate speech” can advocate silencing whatever it was they are labeling.

We’re on to them, or should be by now. Calling something “hate speech” is like the Southern Poverty Law Center’s dishonest “hate group” label. It’s a cheat.

2. Hate is not a good thing in human relations (there are exceptions), but it is legal and, like all emotions, not unethical. Acting on the hate may be unethical, but not hate itself.

3. I have watched “The Closer,”Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special now under fire, twice. There is nothing hateful in it, unless one thinks that all mockery, satire and jokes with an edge are hate.

I don’t think “The Closer” is very good, especially by Chappelle’s standards. It’s not especially funny, for instance. It’s also not very smart, and Chappelle, if nothing else, is smart and usually shows it. It’s not smart because the controversy over how society should regard transgender individuals is interesting, perhaps difficult, raises interesting ethical and practical issues, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not as important as the attention paid to it makes it seem. This is a tiny minority: yes, these issues are important to them. But Chappelle’s show is like a deliberate employment of the Streisand Effect: he’s obviously annoyed about having to deal with trans issues, so he spends a whole, high-profile special complaining, explaining, and riffing regarding it. Since he’s a comedian, this could be justified if he mined it for comedy gold, but he doesn’t.

If he isn’t going to be funny, then he has to be profound, or he’s wasting our time. Not only is the thing not profound, it’s barely coherent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: stand-up is a high wire act, and the best comics sometimes fall hard. But the contrived controversy over “The Closer” is giving the performance more significance than it deserves, and allowing Chappelle to accept accolades for a performance that was really subpar.

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Ethics Alarms Officially Designates Trangender Activism An Ethics Train Wreck [Updated And Expanded]

dc-dave-chappelle-closer

An ethics train wreck is an ethics-fraught situation or event that manages to make virtually everyone involved, on all sides of the issues, behave unethically or express unethical positions. I should have identified the Transgender Activism Ethics Train Wreck much earlier, of course: I was asleep at the switch.

The tipping point that prompted this is the Dave Chappelle Netflix special, “The Closer,” the latest in a series of stand-up concerts by the talented, often perceptive and intentionally politically incorrect comedian. (I haven’t watched it yet, but I will, possibly tonight.) The show is under attack by LGTBQ activists because Chappelle jokes at the expense of transgender individuals, and this is, they say, hate speech. As I said, I haven’t seen this concert, but I have seen others, and Chappelle has targeted trans people before. I can’t say his anti-trans material isn’t sometimes funny: a lot of his jokes provoke the dual “I can’t believe he said that!”/ “Ha! Oh, no, I hate myself for laughing!” response. This is because he is good at what he does. Nevertheless, I regard such jokes as punching down. Chappelle should be better than that.

I also have two transsexual friends, one a former neighbor, the other a young man I have known since he was a child. I find nothing funny or ridiculous about either of them.

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Ethics Agenda, 10/1/2021: Netflix Edition

I am finally ready to set up the first Ethics Alarms Zoom meeting. The topic will be the Netflix series “Clickbait,” which is an ethics cornucopia. I am looking at the period of October 7-21, in the evening, and need to know which days and times are preferred, as well as who and how many visitors here are interested. I’d prefer to facilitate discussion rather than have to dominate it, so I would also like to hear from you if there is a particular ethics issue raised by the story about which you would like to present your views to kick off discussion. I’m envisioning a 90 minute session, but it could be longer. You can respond on this post, or to me via email, jamproethics@verizon.net.

1. Great moments in “It isn’t what it is”…This week, a student attending an event with Vice President Harris opined that Israel was conducting “ethnic genocide” in Palestine. Harris responded, “Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard.” For some strange reason, Israel’s press had a problem with this, and so did many American Jews and supporters of Israel. “VP Harris to student who accused Israel of ‘genocide’: Your truth must be heard,” was the headline in The Jerusalem Post. The Times of Israel said: “Kamala Harris doesn’t reject US student’s ‘ethnic genocide’ claim against Israel.” Harris’s flacks represented the episode as one big misunderstanding. Her office assured critics that the Veep’s “commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering” and that she “strongly disagrees with the George Mason student’s characterization of Israel.”

Of course she does! I know I always describe statements that I strongly disagree with as “the truth.”

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“The Queen’s Gambit” Gambit

the-queens-gambit-8b97b1d

In the final episode (mercifully) of the inexplicably popular Netflix series“The Queen’s Gambit,” an announcer delivering chess commentary while the show’s annoying fictional heroine, portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy (above right), competes in a climactic tournament in Moscow says,“The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia.There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

That wasn’t true. Nona Gaprindashvili, the first woman to be named a grandmaster, faced and defeated many male players. Now 80 years old and living in Tbilisi, Georgia, Nona is furious about the false representation of her career. She’s suing Netflix in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, seeking millions of dollars in damages for what her lawyers claim is a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions.”

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Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 9/16/2021: On Idiots, The Donner Party, Statistical Reparations And The Evil NFL

Frozen Statue

I had to get out of bed to write this; I’ve been exhausted all day. I better not be getting old. That will really tick me off…

***

I’m working on a post called “Cannibal Ethics,” and this obviously led me to the Donner Party, the group of doomed pioneers who had to eat each other to survive when they were caught in a storm in the Sierra Nevadas in 1846. If I knew that they had come to their fate because of a negligent author, I had forgotten it: a fake expert named Lansford Hastings had written “The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California” recommending a short-cut (which actually increased the trip’s mileage) to the Promised Land (this was before the two areas were ruined by reality-free politics)He had never actually traveled the new trail when he published the book. He did finally do it shortly before the Donner party set out, and helped sealed its fate by leaving paper notes along the way that further misled them. One told the already desperate wagon train they could cross Utah’s Great Salt Lake desert in a faction of the time it actually took. The group ran out of water in the middle of the salt plain about half-way across.

If I compiled a list of U.S. Ethics Villains throughout history—I’ve considered it—Hastings would be on it. After he left the U.S. for Brazil following the Civil War, he wrote a sequel of sorts to the book that killed so many of the Donner Party: “The Emigrant’s Guide to Brazil.” (1867).

1. Tales of The Great Stupid, Headline Division. From the Boston Globe: “How did Boston miss its moment to elect a Black leader?” The reporter, Stephanie Ebert just can’t imagine why he three Black candidates in the mayoral primary were eliminated in favor of Michelle Wu, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and Annissa Essaibi George, whose father was a Tunisian Arab Muslim. But, Ebert complains, there won’t be “any candidate who knows the weight of being Black in a city with deep racial scars.”

Maybe the three black candidates were not seen as skilled, experienced, or qualified as the primary’s winners. Or is Ebert saying that being black should be enough to qualify someone to be mayor?

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The Ethics Dilemma That Has No Solution: We Can’t Trust Police, But We Have To

Ellis arrest

A Netflix documentary that debuted last year crystallized my conclusions about the current attack on police, policing, and the justice system as a part of “white supremacy,” and the so far successful effort by Black Lives Matter and its allies among progressives and the Democratic Party to unravel the core values of American society as part of the “solution.”

The documentary is “Trial 4,” and it tells the disturbing story of how a black Boston teenager named Sean Ellis was railroaded into serving 22 years in prison for the 1993 execution-style murder of a Boston cop. Yes, it’s a documentary, so it is hardly objective, but it is even-handed for the genre, and to this long-time Boston native, it rings true in most respects. It also brought back memories of my U.S. race relations course in college, taught by the estimable Thomas Pettigrew, which convinced me that the plight of the black community in the U.S. was probably beyond repairing.

Ellis was finally exonerated just last month, as all of his convictions were either reversed or thrown out, with prosecutors (finally) deciding not to pursue any further action against him. Presumably he will get a large settlement from the city. He deserves one.

The details of the story are best followed by seeing the program, but key points are these;

  • The murdered officer, a white, Irish veteran officer, was a corrupt cop who was known on the force to be corrupt, but he was nonetheless honored in death as a paradigm of law enforcement virtue. Thousands of police officers, even from other states, came to his public funeral. The determination by his peers to find and punished the assassin who shot him five times in the face was intense.
  • The law-abiding police who knew the truth about the deceased officer, John Mulligan, never made any official complaints, hewing to the so-called “blue line.” In this they mirror all professional groups: doctors, lawyers, politicians, elected officials, and of course the clergy are all reluctant to blow the whistle even though basic ethical values require it.
  • Two of Mulligan’s fellow officers were running a series of illegal activities that Mulligan either was involved in or knew about, including overtime scams, planting evidence, arresting innocent black citizens and pressuring them into giving false evidence, and stealing drug money in legal and illegal searches.
  • These same officers (they flank Ellis in the photo above) took control of the investigation of Mulligan’s murder, and one of them manipulated his own relative to falsely identify Ellis as being at the scene of the murder. They also intimidated Ellis’s uncle, who was on parole and was threatened with being sent back to prison, to implicate his nephew.
  • Despite what looks in hindsight like huge, neon-flashing signs reading “Frame up! Frame up!,” the justice system lined up against Ellis and with the cops, even a supposedly reform-minded black District Attorney (who insisted of retrying the murder charges against Ellis after two hung juries mostly favoring acquittal) and the African American judge in the trials.

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Ethics Warm-Up, 12/8/2020: Yet Another Date That Lives in Infamy

It’s not Pearl Harbor, but the assassination of John Lennon in Central Park 40 years ago today by a deranged fan is one of the saddest days in popular music history, on the level of the premature deaths of George Gershwin and Buddy Holly.

I really don’t want to talk about it.

1. Scary. The New Yorker’s Steve Coll wrote that”Those of us in journalism have to come to terms with the fact that free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principles of journalism.” David Harsanyi writes at The National Review,

If you believe Americans are too stupid to hear wrongthink, transgressive ideas, and, yes, fake news, you’re not a fan of the small-l liberal conception of free expression. That’s fine. Those ideas seem to be falling into disfavor with many. But the sanctity of free speech isn’t predicated on making sure people hear the right things, it’s predicated on letting everyone have their say. Because as always, the question becomes who decides what expression is acceptable. I’m not keen on having the fatuous media reporters at CNN or activist “fact-checkers” at the Washington Post adjudicating what is and isn’t permissible for mass consumption…this kind of selective esteem for sacred ideals is becoming popular on the contemporary Left. Religious freedom is wonderful when the government protects Native Americans who want to smoke peyote, but it is “weaponized” when an order of nuns decides it’s not interested in chipping in for condoms or an Evangelical business owner decides he’d rather not participate in a gay marriage. Due-process rights are foundational to American life, unless they are being “weaponized” by college students accused of sexual assault….For four years, journalists acted as if Donald Trump was an existential threat to free expression because he berated and insulted reporters. Trump’s tone was certainly unpresidential, but it needs to be said that he did absolutely nothing to hinder anyone from criticizing him or reporting about him. Contra the self-canonized Jim Acosta, it was not a particularly dangerous time to tell the truth. Indeed, reporters were not only free to accuse the president of being a fascist, they could concoct entire fake scandals surrounding the Russians, and Trump was powerless to stop them….

As I will be saying for the next four years as often as possible: This is what those who voted for Joe Biden have endorsed in their determination to express their tantrum over a President whose style they found obnoxious. I really don’t know how they will be able to live with themselves.

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“Abducted In Plain Sight”: Maybe People Really Are Too Stupid To Be Trusted With Democracy

Abducted

If that title sounds harsh, by all means watch the Netflix true crime documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight.” Otherwise, I’m not sure the ordeal is worth it, since it may throw you into a depression from which you never recover. That’s where I am now.

With the nation facing what might be—“I do believe in people, I do believe in people,” he says in his best Cowardly Lion imitation—an existential election, I really did not need any more reason to despair of the life competency deficit and declining mental state of the nation’s voters. In fact, I decided to watch “Abducted in Plain Sight” to take my mind off of The Big Stupid, with its ongoing efforts by the news media to keep Americans ignorant of the Biden scandal, the brain-melting tale of the Zoom adventures of He Who Must Not Be Named, and polls that seem to show that most of the American public is incapable of paying attention to matters that will effect their lives, family and nation.

Big mistake. What watching the 2017 award-winning documentary did was vividly remind me that normal, decent, religious middle-class Americans like those you live and work with may well be too moronic and irresponsible to be entrusted with children, never mind make decisions about leadership and public policy that will affect the rest of us.

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Now I’ve Actually SEEN “Cuties,”So I know What I’m Writing About…

What does Barbara Streisand have to do with “Cuties,” you ask?

And, from my perspective, I have been taught, once again, that I should not rely on the opinions of others. Why is that such a difficult lesson to process? I bet I’ve “learned” it a thousand times, and yet here we are.

I initially wrote about pundit Rod Dreher’s angry assessment of the Netflix hit (it is one of the most streamed productions in its history) in this post. I think it was clear that I hadn’t seen “Cuties” myself, but I should not have written that he was disgusted “with good reason.” Veteran commenter Humble Talent provided Ethics Alarms with his critical assessment of “Cuties” in his Comment of the Day; it was negative as well. Having now watched the film with my wife last night (I regarded the session as work, not recreation), I understand what Dreher’s perspective was, and  I cannot say that Humble’s critique is “wrong.”

I disagree with both of them, however.

My thoughts on “Cuties”:

1.  I did not enjoy the movie. I would not watch it again. I would watch “1918,” “Parasite,”The Circle“…even “JFK,” “Ghost” and “La La Land,’  all movies I felt were at best disappointing and at worst ridiculously over-hyped, before I would sit through “Cuties” again. (I would rather watch “Cuties” than revisit “The Deer Hunter,” but then I would rather have my fingernails  pulled out than revisit “The Deer Hunter.”)

2. That doesn’t not mean I think “Cuties” is a bad movie. It’s a very good movie, for the audience it was made for. (“Ghost” is not a good movie, and anyone who thinks so is a tasteless sap.) This isn’t just a “chick flick,” it is a flick that men should be warned not to see, and possibly banned from trying.

3. As a man, I felt like a voyeur watching these semi-pubescent girls try to navigate their emerging sexuality and the corrosive influence of the culture. It’s not that I’m uninterested in this aspect of a reality I didn’t experience, it’s just that…ick. My wife, on the other hand, who grew up with three sisters, kept asking, “So what was supposed to be so objectionable about this?”

4. If art is supposed to convey truth, “Cuties” succeeds, I suspect. Of course, just because a story is true or embodies truth doesn’t mean it needs to be made into a movie. This precise topic has been dealt with before, but never so directly, at least in any movie that has been widely publicized.

5. I agree with Humble’s complaint that the director—a woman, of course—focused the camera on the girl’s bodies as they gyrated and twerked to the verge of salaciousness. I’m sure she would have a good answer for why she made this choice, and why it was artistically valid, but it was still a troubling choice.

6. I thought the girls were all excellent, and several were remarkable. That does not mitigate one of my ethical objections to the film, which is that juveniles were given this kind of material to absorb and experience. It doesn’t matter that they performed it well, and it doesn’t matter that the movie could only be made with pre-teen actresses. Nor will it change my view if they all grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults: that’s moral luck. The actresses were below the age of consent, and should not be asked to/ compelled to perform such material. The parents who consented for them are irresponsible and unethical, just as Dakota Fanning’s parents were unethical to allow her to be in a  graphic rape scene in “Hounddog,” just as Brooke Shields’ parents were unethical to allow her to appear as a pre-teen prostitute in “Pretty Baby,” just as Linda Blair’s parents were unethical to allow her to play the possessed girl in “The Exorcist.” I  may ask child performer advocate Paul Peterson to author a guest column on his view of “Cuties.” I think I know what he will say.

7. One of the major complaints about the film is that it will appeal to pedophiles. That’s an unfair reason to criticize a movie: the fact that sick people will like it for the wrong reasons. I refuse to believe that pedophiles are the intended audience, nor that either the director or Netflix were seeking to entertain men who have a sexual fixation on little girls. I’m sure “Seabiscuit” titillated some people who fantasize about having sex with horses.

8. The runaway success of “Cuties” is as fine an example of “The Streisand Effect” as we are likely to find. The only reason a film like this, focusing on a Muslim pre-teen coping with her family stresses by becoming obsessed with sexually provocative dancing that is rampant among girls just slightly older, becomes an cultural phenomenon is if it is controversial. Critics like Dreher guaranteed that many more people would watch “Cuties” than the subject matter would normally draw. It’s not titillating or enjoyable to watch 11-year-olds get into sexually provocative costumes and make-up and act like go-go dancers in a cage. It’s creepy, and it’s supposed to be creepy. But Dreher and the other would-be conservative cultural gate-keepers made sure that the pervs would find “Cuties” and settle down to watch with their lotion handy. Good job, everybody!

Comment Of The Day: “Thursday Ethics Thirst-quencher, 8/20/2020: Actually, This Doesn’t Taste So Good….”

Well this is confusing: Humble Talent appended his Comment of the Day, a timely review of the controversial Netflix film “Cuties,” to yesterday’s ethics warm-up, even though that post contained nothing even vaguely related to “Cuties.” It was really a comment on the post above from August, though you won’t find it there.

In that post, I noted that conservative pundit Rod Dreher  had written, before the Netflix production was available to subscribers,

“Twerking their way to stardom. Eleven years old….These are little girls, and this Netflix show has the acting like strippers as a way of finding their way to liberation. What is wrong with these Netflix people? Do they not have children? Do they think our daughters are only valuable insofar as they can cosplay as sluts who are sexually available to men? ….There is nothing politicians can do about this…I hope sometime this fall a Senate committee calls Netflix CEO Reed Hastings] to Capitol Hill and forces him to talk about how proud he is that he has 11 year olds twerking on his degenerate network.”

Now the film is available, and here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day, as he watched it so you don’t have to:

We talked about this back in August, but it released today, and the responses [ on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes] are…. predictable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a drastic reviewer/viewer ratio. It’s heartening, maybe that the top reviewers are much more mixed than the (in my opinion) ideologically driven proletariat reviewers, but not by much. Continue reading