Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/23/2019: Post Emmys Edition [UPDATED]

I’m kidding; I  didn’t watch the Emmys, have not watched a second of the Emmys in decades, and can’t imaging a greater waste of time than watching the Emmys, and that includes the time I spent watching “Tusk,” the Kevin Smith black comedy in which a madman played by Michael Parks traps a jerk podcaster played by Justin Long and surgically transforms him into a human walrus. I kind of liked it, to be honest.

That’s Billy Porter above, by the way, the first openly gay actor to win a performing Emmy, after the many, many non-openly gay actors who have won over all these years. Making a big deal out of this diminishes his honor, since it suggests that his sexual orientation had something to do with his winning the award. I don’t see any reason why who an actor chooses to have sex with should have any relevance to an acting honor.

[UPDATE: Not that it matters, but the Emmy broadcast ratings hit an all-time low. What? People voluntarily passed up a chance to see actresses use their podium time to lecture about acceptance of trans individuals, and basing industry pay levels on gender  equity rather than value?]

1. Country music’s Jackie Robinson. Ken Burns’ documentary “Country Music,” on PBS now, convinced me that Charlie Pride, the first black country music star, deserves more accolades than he has received, as do the white producers and allies, like Chet Akins, Jack D. Johnson, and Louis Allen “Al” Donohue, who made it possible for him to break that culture’s color barrier.

Inspired by Robinson, Pride resolved as a teen to escape the cotton fields. He played minor league baseball, and sang in bars to make extra cash. Then he was “discovered” by two country music figures and advised to go to Nashville.

It’s an amazing story (why Pride’s life hasn’t been made into a movie, I don’t know). Apparently at the beginning of his career, stations played his records without noting his race. In the documentary, Pride describes a Detroit concert where he was introduced to an all-white audience of nearly 20,000 that roared and applauded when he walked out, and then suddenly became silent when they saw his skin color. Do you think that scene might have inspired Richard Pryor to write this one?

2.  Jerk of the Year? Just being the NFL Jerk of the Year is an achievement (there is so much competition), but Antonio Brown, the star receiver signed by the New England Patriots (in their own bid for NFL Jerks of the Year) after he had jerked his way off his previous two teams, then released after two sexual misconduct allegations against him surfaced, went out in a blaze of jerkness.

Immediately after being ditched by the embarrassed Pats, Brown unleashed a torrent of attack tweets, attempting to position himself as a victim. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/19: September 11, 2001, And Other Cataclysms

The flag is still there…

Good morning.

1. A question that shouldn’t even have to be asked.  The New York Times asks if the “right thing to do” is for films and TV shows to edit out the Twin Towers in pre-2001 productions so as not to “trigger” sensitive audience members. Productions debuting in 2002, soon after the 9/11 attacks, are a special case: several films re-shot scenes to avoid references to the disaster, and that was just common sense. The suggestion that historical airbrushing is appropriate for works release before 2001 is disturbing, however, and symptomatic of the current belief that historical records cand and should be manipulated and censored for “the greater good.” Taking out the Twin Towers is a close unethical cousin of removing Robert E. Lee statues and references to slavery.

Director Michael Bay, who had a shot of one of the towers burning (from a meteor strike) in “Armageddon,” made an appropriate “slippery-slope” argument to  the Times, saying,

“Movies are shot, edited and finished for the world to see. They don’t get re-edited because history changes. If we go there, that means every movie must change. Every book, every short story, every painting of New York in the past 30 years. It would never end.”

I would add that it will be difficult to remember the September 11. 2001 attacks if we try to eliminate visual records of the Twin Towers.

2. Meanwhile, here’s how the New York Times wants us to remember the attackers: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?

Good Morning!

(Nothing better than waking up to a light dusting of snow!)

1 When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat and legal expert who has prominently avoided the ravages of anti-Trump mania that have crippled so many of his distinguished colleagues, tried to clarify several issues in the Mueller investigation on Fox News.

On Special Prosecutor Mueller personally and professionally: “I don’t think he’s partisan, I don’t think he cares whether the Democrats or the Republicans benefit from this.I think he’s a zealous prosecutor and if he were going after Hillary Clinton, he’d be going after her with as much zeal.”

On his investigative team: “Now that’s not true for some of the people on his staff. He should never have allowed these people to serve on this investigative staff, if they had the points of view that they’ve had towards Hillary Clinton and towards Donald Trump. That was a mistake…when you’re going after a president or a presidential candidate, you have to be ‘Caesar’s wife,’ you have to be above reproach, and he didn’t do a good enough job in vetting the people that he brought on to the prosecution and the investigative team, and that hurts his credibility.”

Correct, and obviously correct. So why is the White House and Fox News being criticized daily for questioning the legitimacy, fairness, objectivity, and independence of the investigation? It doesn’t matter if Mueller is personally fair and objective if he appoints biased and conflicted lawyers to do the work. That still means the investigation is compromised and untrustworthy. It also means that Mueller undermined the investigation exactly the way he could not afford to if he wanted its results to be accepted.

There is nothing inappropriate about those being investigated pointing out bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest by the investigators. Criticism of a legitimate complaint, backed up by facts, indicates that those critics  don’t care about bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest, if they lead to the result they crave.

2. Suspicion! Why would the NFL’s New England Patriots sign a washed-up, 39-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers veteran, James Harrison, with only one game left in the regular season, at a cost of about $60,000 for that game and for any play-off games the Patriots participate in? Harrison has barely played all season, is no longer a top performer, and was a discordant and disruptive presence in the locker room. Many sportswriters and fans believe that he is being paid by New England to be a turncoat, and to reveal  Steelers’ secrets that might provide an edge if the Patriots, as many expect, have to defeat Pittsburgh on the way to another Super Bowl. The Patriots have been caught cheating more than once. Would this be cheating?

I assume not, unless Harrison had an enforceable non disclosure clause that prohibited him from revealing Steelers plays and strategies even after he was no longer on the team. Indeed, it would be unethical for Harrison not to help his new team in any way possible. When New England signed him, they signed his body, mind and accumulated experience. Continue reading

Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Quote Of The Day: Professor David DeSteno

pro-brady

“It’s not about the true facts, or about how honest you believe a group is, or what the group’s past behavior is. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, or what team it is, or even if it’s sports at all. Just being a part of a group, any group, is enough to excuse moral transgressions because in some way, you’re benefiting from it. Your moral compass shifts.”

—-David DeSteno, Northeastern University Professor of psychology, explaining why Boston fans believe the New England Patriots, their coach, Bill Belichik, and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, are as pure as the driven snow, while the rest of the country sees them as detestable

The professor’s point will be familiar to any Ethics Alarms readers who have perused the various pots here regarding cognitive dissonance, or even those familiar with the mantra, “Bias makes you stupid.”  However, he has done some interesting research on the phenomenon described in the Times Sports article this morning.

In a psychological experiment, researchers separated people into two groups and offered some of them an option: Complete a fun, 10-minute task, or take on a difficult, 45-minute one. Placed in a room alone, they were told to choose which task they would have to do, or let a coin flip decide. Either way, the person entering the room next would be left with the other task.

Afterward, those people were asked to rate how fairly they had acted, and 90 percent said they had been fair. Except that they were lying. In fact, they had picked the easy task for themselves, without even flipping the coin, wrongly believing that no one was watching…

DeSteno and his former student Piercarlo Valdesolo conducted studies that showed that even strangers placed into groups quickly start favoring the people in their group, as they would favor themselves, even if that group was created randomly, and only minutes earlier. Morality, as it turns out, can change by the second, and for no good reason.

Professor DeSteno told the Times that this isn’t a conscious decision, but an innate survival reaction…. Continue reading

A Federal Court Reinstates Tom Brady’s Suspension For Cheating

Good.

What Brady doesn't get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

What Brady doesn’t get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appeals court reinstated the NFL’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady yesterday. This overturned last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who had nullified the league’s suspension of the superstar quarterback. The three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote…

“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

It is important to note that the Court only ruled on whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to suspend Brady and did not violate the player’s rights as a players union member by doing so. The NFL’s current deal with the players gives Goodell the kind of power Major League Baseball gave to its first commissioner after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, when gamblers fixed the World Series. Goodell, like Landis, can use his discretion to punish a player for “conduct detrimental” to the game and the NFL. They did this because a disturbing number of NFL players were getting headlines for doing things that don’t comport with what the public expects of its paid heroes, like sucker-punching women, shooting people, getting in bar fights, and engaging in assorted felonies. The game also has a very successful coach, Brady’s coach, in fact, who has made it very clear that he will cheat whenever he can get away with it..

I’m not going to rehash the “Deflategate” incident: I wrote enough about it when it occurred. Nobody knows for certain if Tom Brady in fact did conspire with Patriots employees to cheat when his team was behind in a crucial play-off game, but we know this: Continue reading

The Unethical Tom Brady Conduct He Isn’t Being Punished For

This isn't the graphic for this post for the reason you think it is...

This isn’t the graphic for this post for the reason you think it is…

The NFL surprised me a little yesterday—but pleasantly— by hitting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his team with something approaching an appropriately tough penalty for cheating in a playoff game, lying about it, obstructing the NFL’s investigations, and then acting as if the whole mess was a joke. The NFL suspended Brady for four games, stripped the Patriots of their first-round draft pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick as well, and fined the team $1 million for Brady’s  “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL” and for “failure to cooperate in the subsequent investigation.”

Exactly. It wasn’t the infraction alone that made this serious; it was the suggestion, magnified by Brady’s smug attitude, that cheating in an NFL play-off game is no big deal and nothing to be upset or ashamed about. The team also had to be punished, in part because cheating has long been the Patriots’ MO, and the team’s continued success at winning championships, without some negative consequences, is a neon sign advertisement for cheating in games, in school, in business, in life.

Finally, the draft choices were a crucial element, because taking away those really hurt the team. Otherwise it would have been just an affordable fine: Brady doesn’t need the millions he’ll lose by not playing four games, and the Patriots are more than a one-man team; they might still win all four. As for team owner Robert Kraft, he won’t even notice that the million dollars is missing. The draft choices the team will notice. Good.

But there is another injustice here that isn’t getting as much attention as the suspending of New England’s smirking, cheating star. Continue reading

Beware of Heroes: Why Tom Brady Is An Ethics Corrupter

fallen heroAs a born Bostonian, proud of the Hub’s tradition of elevating the nation’s ethical sensitivities, the spectacle of the old city’s football fans embarrassing themselves out of loyalty to a home town quarterback who doesn’t deserve it is nauseating. As a recent New York Times feature gruesomely illustrates, Tom Brady’s complicity in a successful cheat to get the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl has corrupted the usually reliable ethical values of this iconic city.

The information coming out of the NFL is that Brady’s cheating, lying about it, refusing to cooperate with the league’s investigation and—I hope this is taken into consideration—his smirking attitude about the incident since the results of the investigation were announced will get him suspended for 6-8 games. Think of it: Boston has been so corrupted by its sports star that it is now less ethically sensitive than Roger Goodell.

Now that’s corruption. Continue reading