Tag Archives: Netflix

Recent Ethics Thoughts On The Fyre Festival Fiasco

This Instagram photo of one of the “luxury gourmet meals being served to attendees of the 2017 Fyre Music Festival has come to symbolize the whole stunning debacle.

When Ethics Alarms last posted about the ridiculous Bahamas Fyre Festival  debacle, it was this, last July: “Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud. Good!” Now more about that epic ethics fail is coming out. Two documentaries about the ridiculous scam/botch/whatever it was were released in January, one on Hulu and one on Netflix. I just saw the latter, and it’s pretty incredible. Here, to refresh your horror, was the original Ethics Alarms description:

Celebrities with ties to the organizers  tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre.  Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.” Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers.  Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival  was still ginning up anticipation.

Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had  paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.

The festival-goers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.

Subcontractors and suppliers went unpaid, Bahamian workers were stiffed, millions of dollars vanished.  The interviews with McFarland’s “team” are jaw-dropping. One fast-talking, ever-optimistic leader, McFarland, somehow convinced everyone, some who were experienced in event planning,  that he could pull off the impossible, even as the days counted down to zero hour and it was obvious that there would be no festival, just broken promised and angry rich people. There’s also an amazing coda to the Netflix documentary: while McFarland was out on bail, awaiting trial, he set up another scam, using the mailing list for the Fyre Festival to get some of the same suckers to buy phony event tickets.

Some new developments and thoughts: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading

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Demanding Blindfolds

From the New York Times:

“Netflix said on Thursday that it would not edit its movie “Bird Box” to remove footage of a disaster that killed 47 people in a Canadian town, rebuffing calls from town leaders who called the use of the video insensitive.”

Good.

This has got to stop somewhere, and “Bird Box,” the sensationally popular sci-fi horror film about Sandra Bullock and her children wandering around a forest blidfolded so they won’t see whatever it is that is driving everyone crazy and making them kill themselves, is a good a place to make a stand as anywhere.

In the movie, some things, or demons, or vibes cause insanity if they are seen: people really aren’t safe if they see them. Images that raise unpleasent thoughst and memories in real life are different, but somehow the idea was pawned that people have the right to expect to be “safe” from thoughts, memories, sights, symbols and ideas that might bother them. Thus “woke” college instructors felt compelled to give students “trigger warnings.” This principle, a really bad one that mistakes censorship for sensitivity, quickly metastasized into historical and artistic airbrushing. The National Park Service banned Confederate flags and their images from battlefield  gift shops—might remind some people of the Dylan Roof church shooting. Or slavery. Or racism.  Then the statues started coming down, because, as Carol Folt, blessedly outgoing chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explained about why the terrifying pedestal of now toppled “Silent Sam,” a campus statue of a fictional Confederate soldier, must be destroyed:

“The presence of the remaining parts of the monument on campus poses a continuing threat both to the personal safety and well-being of our community and to our ability to provide a stable, productive educational environment. No one learns at their best when they feel unsafe.”

Unsafe! Continue reading

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Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?

Yikes.

The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/17/2018: The Tragedy Of The Commons Bites Starbucks (Good!) And Other Fiascos

Are we having holiday fun yet?

Not yet…

1. ” Madness! Madness!” (Culturally literate readers will be able to name the movie.)

An 11-year-old boy named Joshua Trump has been forced to go by a different name at his Delaware middle school because he has been relentlessly bullied and punched on the a school bus because of his last name.  School officials said that as soon as they learned of the bullying they took action, including disciplining students  involved. The school should be investigating teachers, who may be signalling their biases against the President, and we should be looking at the bullies’ parents and the toxic influence of the media.

This story is just a tiny tip of a very large, very deep, very dangerous cultural iceberg.

President Trump should write the boy and his family, or better yet, call him.

2. “My Bloody Valentine” ethics. I am compiling a list of the very best horror movies for a relative who professed ignorance of the genre. I have done the same for Westerns (this became a Smithsonian program) and movie musicals. It is really annoying to hear people say that they don’t like movie musicals when they have never watched “Singin’ in the Rain” or Fred and Ginger at their best, or that they don’t like Westerns when they have never seen “Shane.” What they are really saying is “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I have strong opinions on it anyway.”

But I digress. I had remembered that the 2008 remake of “My Bloody Valentine” had impressed me with its original and gory special effects, like the maniac mine murderer jamming a shovel into a victim’s face between her nose and mouth, causing the top half of her head to sliiiide down the shovel blade, or the killer yanking another victim’s lower jaw off with a pick- axe. What fun! But when I selected the film on Netflix to see if it was list-worthy, I discovered that those moments and many others had been edited out. This effectively renders the film pointless and scare-free, but it is also a bait-and-switch. If the film isn’t really the film the director made, a notice to that effect is mandatory. I assumed that Netflix only showed the movie, the whole movie, and nothing but the movie. Guess not.

3. Tucker Carlson, boycotts, and virtue signaling. On his Fox New show, Tucker Carlson was discussing the attitude exhibited by some politicians toward illegal immigration and the economic impact it has on the United States:

“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement. Previous leaders of our country committed sins; we must pay for those sins by welcoming an endless chain of migrant caravans. That’s the argument they make. Somehow the immigration-as atonement idea has become the official position of virtually every guilty liberal in the United States. Our tech overlords, the ones always lecturing you, corporate America, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan—they all believe this, and anyone who disagrees with them is denounced as a bigot and fired.”

But how do you really feel, Tucker? I think Tucker would like to take back “dirtier”—how do illegal immigrants make the country dirtier?—but then he’s speaking extemporaneously. His overall point, while a bit inflammatory in the rhetoric used to express it, is valid. However, Pacific Life, which ran an ad on Fox right after Carlson’s rant proclaiming that the company had been “protecting generations of families for 150 years,” decided it was time to grandstand. (Carlson has also been a target of Media Matters efforts to get sponsors to abandon his show, because the best way to win arguments is to muzzle opposition, especially when your own position makes no sense.)

The company released this:

“Pacific Life’s national advertising campaign runs on numerous networks and cable stations on a variety of news, business and sports programs. One of our ads appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show last night following a segment where Mr. Carlson made a number of statements regarding immigration. As a company, we strongly disagree with Mr. Carlson’s statements. Our customer base and our workforce reflect the diversity of our great nation, something we take great pride in. We will not be advertising on Mr. Carlson’s show in the coming weeks as we reevaluate our relationship with his program.”

Carlson made it clear that he was talking about illegal immigration, though he gave those who want to misconstrue him sufficient rope for them to do so. If it is going to say it disagrees with Carlson, Pacific Life is obligated to say how. (I ding comments on posts here that just say “You are wrong,” “I disagree,” or “You’re an idiot.”) They don’t, because they can’t, and don’t have the guts to take a clear position. Do they believe that the U.S. has an obligation to take in all of the world’s poor? Do they not agree that unregulated and unrestrained immigration will make the country poorer and less united? Do they disagree that liberal guilt and race-baiting are primary tools of those pushing for open boarders? They probably haven’t thought about any of these things beyond the thought a puppy gives a biscuit. They just want to signal “Immigrants good!” and, to use Ann Althouse’s phrase, “Orange man bad!”

Are there corporations with integrity? Right now I can’t think of any. Continue reading

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 2]

[Continuing the reflections on the accusation against Kevin Spacey and its aftermath…Part One is here.]

I have always assumed that Spacey had endured some kind of serious trauma that explained his aversion to confirming that he was gay, since, really, it was so, so obvious. Many actors become actors because of familial abuse and self-loathing: if you think about it, it makes sense. They don’t like who they are and what real life has been, so they seek the fantasy life of being someone else on stage, films and TV.  Maybe Spacey’s long obsession with performer Bobby Darrin provided a clue. (Spacey eventually played Darrin in his own vanity film project. “Beyond the Sea.”) You have to be really unhappy with yourself to fantasize being in the shoes of Darrin, the talented, troubled heterosexual  actor-singer who died before he turned 40. Thus I was not surprised when Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, 62, a limo driver and professional Rod Stewart impersonator, described the home in which he, Kevin and their sister were raised as resembling the plot a  horror movie.

  • Fowler says he and his brother were both sexually abused by their father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (whom the children called “The Creature”), and that their mother knew about their treatment at his hands. Their older sister, Julie, was also abused before she fled home when she was 18. In a 2004 interview, Spacey’s brother described how their ultra-right-wing father was a member of the American Nazi Party. He was so enamored with Adolf Hitler, Fowler claimed, that he trimmed his mustache to resemble Der Fuehrer’s.

“I grew up in a living hell. There was so much darkness in our home it was beyond belief. It was absolutely miserable,” Spacey’s brother said then. “Years later, our mother actually wrote a letter to all three of us, trying to justify what had gone on by saying she was abused as a child and so was our father. Kevin tried to avoid what was going on by wrapping himself in an emotional bubble….He was so determined to try to avoid the whippings that he just minded his Ps and Qs until there was nothing inside. He had no feelings.”

Fowler described his younger brother was an “empty vessel” who had never been in a real relationship with anyone. “Neither of us had a chance growing up with two such damaged parents, ” he concluded.

No, I don’t know that what a Rod Stewart imitator and publicity-seeking sibling of a famous actor says is completely true, exaggerated, or a fabrication.  But it fits. Spacey should be given the benefit of the doubt, and accorded some compassion. We all deserve that. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/21/17

GOOOOD morning!

Ready for an ethical week?

1.  I am beginning to wonder if aimless protesting and demonstrating has become a fad. Here is one piece of evidence: over the weekend, dozens of New York City police officers held a rally in support of getting quarterback Colin Kaepernick a job in the National Football League. Among the demonstrators was Frank Serpico, made famous by Al Pacino’s portrayal (Do not watch that movie now, as it has aged horribly), who must be bored or something.

What possible good can this rally do, other than to serve as some kind of perverse virtue-signaling by police (“I support the guy who said that when I’m falsely accused of murder, I should lose my salary before there’s an investigation or a fair determination of what really happened! Love me!”)? If the rally is supposed to tell NFL teams who they should hire to play based on talent alone, no team in its right mind will or should pay attention. “Hey, a bunch of cops in Brooklyn think that Colin’s better than we think he is. What the hell: lets give him a few million bucks!” If the rally is mostly about his National Anthem-dissing stunt,  all they are doing is guaranteeing that the borderline quarterback will stay unemployed. Kaepernick, by his own actions (and routinely inarticulate and simple-minded justification of them) irreversibly made linked his political stand to his football abilities. It’s like the dilemma Michael Sam created when he made a big deal about being openly gay. Was he being drafted because he was gay and the NFL didn’t want to appear bigoted, or because he was good enough to play? When he was cut, was it really because he was gay (Naturally Sam hinted it was) or because the team’s management thought it would have a better team on the field without him? The same was true of Tim Tebow: if a team cut him, it was suspected of hating God. Who needs a constant distraction like that?

If a protest can’t accomplish anything constructive, then it’s an unethical protest.

2. Popular culture in the Age of Trump is sending even more muddled and unethical messages that it used to. I’m trying to get though Marvel’s latest for Netflix, “The Defenders”, a series based on Marvel’s second-tier super-hero team that consisted of a rotating squad of hopeless mismatches, like Dr. Strange and the Submariner. It has been recast as a group of urban misfits (Bulletproof ghetto warrior Luke Cage, depressive and cynical strong girl Jessica Jones, blind super-nimble lawyer Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) and boring young tycoon Eastern master Iron Fist, whose real name I can’t remember. Yesterday i watched, Luke, easily the most likable of the four, berate Iron Fist because we was white, rich, “privileged,” and had the cruelty and audacity to regard a young black kid who was being paid to spray acid on multiple murder victims of a sinister criminal enterprise as a criminal himself. “He just needs a job,” explains the huge, indignant, racist, classist, bullet-proof black guy.

Oh, well, that’s all right then! (Pssst! Luke! Don’t hurt me, but it’s called “accessory after the fact.”) Continue reading

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