Saturday Evening Ethics Post, 1/2/2021

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State of the Blog: Yesterday marked the 365 day low point in Ethics Alarms traffic after what was otherwise a lively year. Coincidentally, it also marked the all-time high point in Ethics Alarms followers, if you don’t count Twitter, which I do not.

I’ve got a lot of housekeeping to do on the blog, and I’m hoping the annual dead spot after New Years gives me time to do i. This includes fixing some broken links, continuing to fix typos both old and new (Pennagain and Other Bill provide a marvelous service by flagging them, and I am behind right now), taking down some pages and categories that are or will soon be out-dated in the wake of President Trump’s defeat, taking the time to see if I can master the WordPress “block” system which right now robs me of an extra 30 to 40 minutes every day, and finishing and posting several articles that have been hanging around my neck in various states of incompletion. There are a couple of rationalizations that need posting, too, and some Comments of the Day that fell through the cracks.

I always have hope that I will get up the Ethics Alarms Awards for the year, which I have failed to do now for several cycles. They are fun, but they take a lot of time, and the stats say few read them. I may try a less ambitious version

Facebook finally allows me to link to articles, though it won’t post the graphics like it will for other websites, but after two years of being blocked for violating Facebook community standards, I consider that progress.

To be honest, I’m tired, and right now I’m sick and tired. The core group of commenters here keeps me focused on the mission, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

1. I was going to devote a whole post in rant form to this, but I calmed down. In August of last year, The Robert H. Jackson Center hosted a discussion on comedian George Carlin’s “7 Dirty Words” and the 5-4 FCC v. Pacifica Foundation SCOTUS decision in 1978 upholding the broadcast restrictions on George Carlin’s “seven dirty words” routine as well as the words he discussed. Emmy-nominated producer Stephen J. Morrison, serving as moderator, was joined by comedian Lewis Black, Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin and Cornell Law professor Howard Leib. I stumbled upon a recording of the discussion on the Sirius-XM “Classic Comics” station, and my head exploded so many times that I had to clean up the car like John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction.”

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Movie Poster Ethics: Is This Good Parody, Bad Taste, Blasphemy Or Religious Discrimination?

Well, it sure isn’t religious discrimination, but that’s what some of The Offended are claiming.

This is a poster for a holiday repackaging of “Deadpool 2,” the tongue-in-cheek sequel to the previous tongue-in-cheek Marvel superhero hit, “Deadpool,” featuring the hideously scarred, invulnerable, foul-mouthed and irreverent superhero who routinely breaks the fourth wall to crack jokes.  The poster is a parody of the “The Second Coming,” a painting by Harry Anderson that is inexplicably popular among Mormons, and often hangs at meetings of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here’s the poster’s inspiration:

I

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Great, Now I Have To Defend Bill Maher…

Bill Maher (that’s alleged comic Bob Saget as his “victim”) tweeted out a perfect parody of the infamous photo that triggered the demise of Al Franken, because his own party was fully committed to a sexual misconduct witch hunt, and they thought it might even lead to a successful execution of Plan J, to cancel out the election of President Trump.

Surely you remember the photo…

If there ever was a photograph and a situation begging for satire, this was it. The original photo was a gag that unethically used a sleeping young woman as a prop. Franken handled his apology badly. Then he set himself up as fair game for mockery by weasel-wording his way through the subsequent accusations of sexual harassment and groping, some of which occurred while he was Senator. Finally, he capitulated to a due-process-defying mob led by feminist vigilante Kirsten Gillibrand, and resigned his Senate seat in a snit. Later, Democratic Senators expressed doubts about their knee-jerk attack on Franken, but it was too late. The whole scenario was ludicrous. Ludicrous public events deserve mockery. [ The original version of this sentence read “pubic.” It was a typo, I swear. Thanks to reader crella for the heads up.]

Yet Maher’s tweeted gag is being widely condemned on social media, on a variety of theories, all bad. It’s “too soon,” some say.  Maher is a current events satirist: it’s never too soon. It’s wrong to joke about sexual harassment, others say. Who makes these rules? If the target is President Trump, about seven TV comics feel that they can joke about harassment, senility, nuclear war and incest. Then the ultimate declaration: It’s not funny. No, it’s not funny to those who don’t think it’s funny. It IS funny to those who do think it’s funny, and that’s all a comic cares about. For the record, and I loathe Bill Maher, I laughed out loud. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Does “Black Olives Matter” Matter?

Black Olives matter shirtI almost made this controversy an ethics quiz in July, but decided it was a fleeting jest. Wrong, Ethics-breath! Now the story has heated up again.

Paisano’s, an Italian restaurant  in Albuquerque, New Mexico is selling ‘black olives matter” T- shirts and caps following the uproar over the phrase last month, when the restaurant placed it on a marquee outside the restaurant in July:

Black Lives Matter sign

Then, owner Rick Camuglia said he came up with the play on words to sell a new tuna dish with black olive tapenade. When Camuglia posted pictures of the dish and the sign on Facebook, he drew angry complaints that he was being insensitive and “trivializing a movement aimed at trying to stop police shootings of black residents.”

Even if they are resisting lawful arrest, threatening the officer or holding a gun. But I digress…

Camuglia protested that he was only trying to sell food. Now, after receiving unexpected support, even internationally, and with business booming, the entrepreneur has reacted to requests for souvenirs from the restaurant with his new product line.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day: 

Are the slogan, T-shirts and hats inherently disrespectful and divisive at a racially troubled time, and thus socially irresponsible, or is it a harmless play on words?

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Memorial Ethics: Under Armour’s “Disrespect”

Underarmor

The Horror…

Just in time for Memorial Day comes this depressing example of how timid and wan Americans have become when free speech and expression are under attack. This is how acceptance of the Universal Veto of the Officious Offended will reduce the U.S. to a barren, humorless, imagination-free culture dominated by political correctness bullies and exploitive self-anointed, power-seeking “victims.”

Under Armour advertised a “Band of Ballers” tee-shirt showing a silhouette of men in backwards baseball caps raising a basketball hoop in the iconic pose of the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, in which combat weary soldiers are frozen in the act of raising an American flag after the Marine’s bloody victory at Iwo Jima.

There is nothing remotely wrong with this design. It is not disrespectful It is satire. It is a parody. It is using the status of the image to extol basketball; only a fool could read the image as an effort to denigrate veterans or the American flag. Personally, I think it’s clever, just as I like Charles Addams’ cartoon showing butchers wrestling with sausages in the pose of the famous statue of Laocoon and his sons being devoured by serpents…

Addams Cartoon

…or parodies of Washington crossing the Delaware, like this ad for HBO’s “Veep”… Continue reading

SNL’s ISIS Recruitment Commercial

There is supposedly a big social media controversy over this gag SNL ad, starring Dakota Johnson, that simultaneously parodied an Army recruitment promo and satirized the disturbing trend of brainless teens running off to join that terrorist organization that has nothing to do with Islam.

It’s not a controversy when one side is ignorant, censorious, politically correctness- addled, humorless and wrong and the other side isn’t.

The ad is brilliant black comedy and satire, one of SNL’s all-time best. Those who object to it don’t get black humor and satire, which makes their objections as irrelevant as someone allergic to shellfish saying that Legal Seafoods stinks. Nobody’s making them eat there, and they don’t have to watch Saturday Night Live or think it’s funny either. But I don’t care about their opinion, which is uninformed and useless to anyone who understands and appreciates the issues.

Here’s what was good and funny—and ethical– about the parody:

1. It caught the saccharine tone of its model exactly.

2. Its ending was a surprise.

3. It ridiculed ISIS, which deserves ridicule. President Obama claims that the way to withhold respect for the group is to lie about it being a group of Islamic extremists. This is much better, ethical, and doesn’t mislead anyone.

4. Making fun of evil is a time-honored activity, healthy, useful, and effective. I don’t recall anyone saying that Spike Jones was treading on sacred ground with this song:

or that The Three Stooges were trivializing the death camps with this…

5. The satire even cuts two ways. You know, that sweet young girl is also being sent off to kill people when she’s joining the military in the real ad. Like all great satire, this one is subversive and layered. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Indiana State Senator Vaneta Becker

"All right, Jimi, you're busted. That will be $25!"

Indiana State Senator Vaneta Becker wants to establish a law that would impose a fine of $25 on any performer or citizen who significantly alters the lyrics or melody of The Star-Spangled Banner.  “I don’t think the National Anthem is something we ought to be joking around with,” she has said. “Singing our national anthem is a sign of gratitude to those who have served our country.”

One may notice a theme among those chosen here as incompetent elected officials: the complete unfamiliarity with core American values and ideals, often displayed in a misguided effort to protect those values. This is known as “ignorance,” or perhaps, in extreme cases, “utter stupidity.”  My presumption is that being ignorant or stupid renders an official incompetent to discharge the duties of lawmaking. Am I expecting too much? Continue reading

Oh, Shut Up! There Is Nothing Wrong With “Go the F*** to Sleep”

If they think "Go the F*** to Sleep" is bad....

The guilt-mongers and Child Over-Protection Patrol have set their sites on “Go the F*** to Sleep,” Adam Mansbach’s children’s book parody, a cranky, profanity and obscenity-laced release for frustrated and sleep-deprived parents of small children everywhere.

“Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos,” intones Dr. David Arredondo, quoted by CNN. He is an expert on child development and founder of The Children’s Program, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which provides consultation and training for those working with troubled youths. Yes, Dr, imagine. Then it wouldn’t be a humorous satire for the amusement of perfectly loving parents.

“Nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect,” writes Karen Spears Zacharias, whose essay suggests that there is a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect. “Still, there’s no denying the reason “Go the F*** to Sleep” should be kept out of reach of children is because of its violent language and because of the way it demeans children.”

OK, there’s a book that is an inside joke for parents that relieves their guilt over the occasional horrible thoughts they have about their children, and children shouldn’t read it, because they wouldn’t understand. So what? Since when was there something inappropriate about enjoying books that shouldn’t be shared with children? I wouldn’t let my child read Dr. Spock, either. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ronbo” on His Own Previous “Frivolous Complaint of the Month”

Ron Barbour, Tea Party warrior, has a priceless post on his website in response to Ethics Alarms’ flagging of his letter “demanding” that the Secret Service arrest the director of the Missoula “Mikado” for updating “The Lord High Executioner’s” gag list of societal irritants to include Sarah Palin.

I would normally post highlights at this point, but everyone should check out his website to see the face of hateful extremism first hand, and how it burns up IQ points like kindling. This is political activism mutated into a total war mentality, where fairness to the perceived enemy is translated as proof of alliance with the enemy. Ron thinks I am a Leftist, which is tied only with “New York Yankee fan” as the thing I have most seldom been accused of being.

Don’t miss this…you will find it here.

Frivolous Complaint of the Month: Ronald Barbour

I considered several possible titles for this: Unethical Abuse of a Government Employee’s Time of the Month, False Accusation of the Month, and the like. I considered calling it Most Unfair Attack on the Missoula Community Theater of the Week, but I’m not even sure that is true. I even considered, Document That Almost Makes Me Regret That I Ever Opposed Unfair Attacks on the Tea Party, but that is a bit off topic.

This published letter by “Ronbo” Barbour completely fooled me; I really thought it was satire,  which reveals a truth: the less one understands satire, the more likely one is to unwittingly emulate it without ever getting the joke.

I will say this: W.S. Gilbert would love this.

And now I present the actual letter sent to the Secret Service by Mr. Barbour, a Montana Tea Party official, relating to Sarah Palin’s inclusion in the classic comic song, “I’ve Got A Little List” [ Scroll to the end of the post for two versions of the song, the original and a Monty Python adaptation ] in the Missoula Community Theatre’s production of the 125 year-old operetta, “The Mikado.” I wouldn’t make this up; this is an ethics blog… Continue reading