Tag Archives: PBS

Cutting Government Support Of The Arts

Among the productions I was most proud of during the 20 year run of The American Century Theater: June Havoc’s “Marathon’33”, brilliantly produced by Rebecca Christy with negligible government funding…

 President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year includes deep cuts to public arts and media funding.

Good.

Perhaps my reaction surprises you, given that I co-founded and for 20 years helped run a non-profit professional theater company.

The proposal cuts the Institute of Museum and Library Services and reduces the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget from $445 million to $15 million. It also cuts the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by almost 80 percent as prelude to phasing them out. As an aside, it will be interesting to see those suddenly emergent national debt hawks who were in cryogenic sleep during the Obama administration manage the trick of bemoaning the deficit created by the GOP tax cuts while fighting to the death for the superfluous federal expenditures on the arts. If we can’t cut these programs, we literally can’t cut anything.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, if it was ever necessary, is no longer. There were just three TV channels when it was launched: there are now hundreds. PBS is no longer commercial-free television: have you watched it lately? That doesn’t even take into consideration the constant fundraising. It is true that the commercial network fare  now completely eschews any but the lowest culture, but increasingly so does PBS. The theory, as it has been for years, is that if a TV show is British, it is high culture. It isn’t. “Father Brown” is junk. There are better mysteries on CBS.  “Midsummer Murders” is so slow you want to rend your garments. “Downton Abbey” was fun, but it was a soap opera. Taxpayers should not have to underwrite shows like this.

I confess to enjoying NPR, and it has been good to me professionally and personally. But it is partisan, and a publicly funded news station should not be. It is also flagrantly elitist to its core. If NPR is really popular, then some foundations and its wealthy listeners should be able to fund it.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson, a rich kid himself, has called arts spending “welfare for rich, liberal elites.” I agree in the sense that the government is paying for what the wealthy in a community should devote more of their own funds to pay for. The performing arts are now too expensive for anyone but the wealthy. Movies are half the price of a typical community theater show, and movies are seeing their box office numbers dropping. Opera? How many middle class Americans go to the opera? Symphonies? Ballets? Same thing. The entertainment industry doesn’t even pretend to care about keeping their product affordable for anyone not driving a Lexus. Look at the prices to see “Hamilton” or Bette Midler as Dolly on Broadway.

The New York Times unwittingly gives away the real reason they feel we need the government funding the arts, however. It’s indoctrination and propaganda:

[T]he National Endowment for the Arts  amplifies the voices of Americans who aren’t the so-called coastal elite, or the aristocratic, or the advantaged. It seeks to diversify the stories we tell and the lives we see. This diversity can take many forms. It can be seen in racial difference and regional difference, in terms of gender and in terms of class…. Over the last 50 years, through Creative Writing Fellowships alone, the endowment funded the work of Tillie Olsen, who wrote stories about the deep fatigue of working-class mothers; Philip Levine, a Detroit-born poet and the “Whitman of the industrial heartland”; Ernest J. Gaines, the descendant of sharecroppers who wrote fiction about rural Louisiana; and Bobbie Ann Mason, a short-story writer from rural Kentucky who, along with Carver, brought “dirty realism” into vogue — a working-class counterpoint to the fictional worlds populated by rich, liberal elites.

Bingo. When the government funds the arts, it cannot help itself from funding artists and art that advance the government’s agenda and those of its agency administrators. What this means, and what honest artists will admit, is that artists change their projects and messages to attract dollars, not to express themselves. My theater company encountered this constantly. It was made clear that we would have a better chance at grants if we did more works by women, about minorities, and exploring gay issues. I am proud of our eclectic and diverse choice of seasons, projects and artists.We also kept our ticket prices lower than almost all of the other small professional theaters. Indeed, we suffered for that: since we charged about what the amateur theaters did, a lot of people assumed we weren’t a professional company. As a company run by straight, white lawyers that attracted older citizens with advanced degrees and explored American stage works 25 years old or older, government funders had steadily decreasing interest in our work, even though it was the only professional theater in the area that admitted children free of charge.  What mattered most was whether our art supported the government’s objectives. The quality of the art was secondary.

I don’t fault them for that: they were  giving out money, after all, Nonetheless, the power to fund is the power to control, warp and destroy.

Artists will always be with us. So will the performing arts, but new structures, systems and funding needs to be found that does not involve the government, whose participation pollutes art and make integrity impossible and innovation difficult.

Trump may not be seeking to cut government funding of the arts for the right reasons, but it’s still the right thing to do.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/18: “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” The Institution Of The Presidency, And Thought Control

Good Morning, Ethics World!

1 “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” Yesterday, finding myself in desperate straits thanks to our recent decision that premium cable TV stations were not worth the money, I watched the film version of “Murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” How time flies! The always excellent Diane Lane was still playing ingenues, instead of the unusually lovely mothers she plays now. Wesley Snipes still had a career.

And this: after a bloodily murdered young woman is discovered in a White House bathroom, the head of security explains to the police why it is crucial to shield the President from any speculation or hint of scandal, saying,

“You won’t question the President! The Presidency is an institution, not a person.  And that institution will be protected at all costs.”

Gee, how old IS that movie? I just checked: it’s 20 years old. The novel was written by one-time first daughter Margaret Truman, who once lived at at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with her Democratic President father. The quote wasn’t considered remarkable at the time: it didn’t even make it into the IMDB’s quotes page for the film. The quote is certainly striking today. All it took was 20 years, a shocking upset and a President who “breaches norms” to make the Democrats, Republicans, the news media and much of the public forget that is in our interests as a nation to protect and respect the institution, and that the person occupying it is secondary.

I knew there was a reason I liked that movie, other than Diane Lane.

There’s another interesting quote from the film too:

“I think President Teddy Roosevelt said it best: ‘If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.'” 

Continue reading

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Plan J From Outer Space, And Related Scary Tales

All right, all right, “Plan J” is not really from outer space.  It’s really from the ever fertile mind of Democrats and the resistance, who are now dedicating their efforts on a new, weird, cultural theory to get rid of Donald Trump, one that has its dark routes in Salem, Massachusetts. Plan J—that’s my name for it, not theirs, as I explained here—isn’t quite as bizarre as the Ed Wood camp classic the headline evokes, “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” (If you’ve never seen it, shame on you: you can become culturally literate here) but it’s a lot scarier.

As it has been recently defined, Plan J holds that if  women, who must be believed, accuses a man of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, no matter how long ago the alleged offense occurred, whether or not it relates to the accused individual’s current psoition,  whether there is any supporting evidence, whether the alleged incident or incidents were a criminal or a civil violation, regardless of how serious they were and regardless of whether the alleged offender denies the allegations or whether the accusations were known to those who placed him or her in their current position, the targeted individuals must be shunned, punished, and forced into virtual exile, if not erased from the culture entirely.

By establishing the new due process-bypassing, proportion-defying and fairness-erasing  social norm, those who have seen their Plans A through I (also enumerated here) either fail miserably or founder have new hope that they may  yet force the President of The United States to resign, thus bypassing those messy and inconvenient things called “elections.”  In order to set this bold new social norm, every celebrity or powerful person who even vaguely fits a Trumpish template regarding accusations of sexual misconduct must be hounded, attacked, derided or shamed.

It’s really remarkable. Of course, Plan J only became feasible as a result of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the subsequent rush of #MeToo-ers to see who they could take down, rightly or wrongly.

There is a certain perverted brilliance to Plan J. Sexual harassment is a filthy, unethical perk of the powerful that had been allowed to harm too many for too long, and was an accepted feature of too many cultures, like government, business, and show business.  Thus the pent-up fury sparked by the revelations about Weinstein was justified. But as with The Terror that followed the French Revolution, the legitimate anger and determination to reform the culture also created a different kind of power that corrupted the reformers. The ability to destroy with a pointed finger is intoxicating.

In many cases, the results have been beneficial: the identification of corrupt cultures and the unmasking of genuine workplace predators like Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer. In other cases, the fates of the accused have seemed wildly disproportionate to the offenses, although often the reaction of the accused have hastened their demise. The tally of individuals taken down by this frenzy now totals 97 men and one woman—Wait! Make that 98 men: Jerry Richardson, the owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, announced that he was selling his team hours after the NFL announced that it would be investigation sexual misconduct claims against him.  Thus Plan J was born: Hey! Why not President Trump?

If due process and sufficient evidence weren’t required to destroy so many others who once had power and influence, surely Sen Kristin Gillibrand’s insistence that as long as she and enough Trump-hating journalists found his accusers “credible,” the fact that none of the alleged acts were criminal, that they did not occur while he was in office and could not possibly be impeachable, and the fact that he was elected with the public’s full knowledge of the allegations were no longer a bar to an effort to force him to resign.

Plan J!

It

Just

Might

WORK!

There are logical and ethical problems that have to be steamrolled in the process, however, if “the resistance’s” dream is to come true. For the principle that any alleged sexual misconduct that a elected official may have engaged in before being elected to become the rule, a lot of lesser figures have to be sacrificed, along with a lot of tenets of basic fairness. For example: Continue reading

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ARGHH! Why Didn’t I See This Earlier? (Slaps Forehead)The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Demonstrates Why We Cannot And Must Not Trust The Mainstream News Media…

This is the revolting, understated, under-reported truth that the still rockin’ Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck has made explicit and beyond dispute. Journalists don’t report the news we need to know. They report the news they choose to allow us to know, when they choose to allow us to know it, in the form that serves their interests. This can no longer be denied by its enablers, who mostly look down on us from the Left.

Daniel Greenfield—yeah, yeah, he’s a conservative and this is on a conservative website—shut up and don’t play that game. He’s spot on—wrote in part..,

“Everybody f____g knew,” a top Hollywood screenwriter wrote of Harvey Weinstein. “Everybody knew” about Matt Lauer at NBC, Variety reports, and it “wasn’t even considered a secret.” “Every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him,” ABC’s Cokie Roberts said of Rep. Conyers.

Everybody knew.

The #MeToo sexual harassment scandals have hit CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR, PBS, Vox, New Republic, Mother Jones. Forget Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. They were just the talent. Their big decisions were limited to which hairpiece looked best in all three mirrors and which naïve intern to prey on this month. The heads of the men who actually make the news are rolling left and right.

NPR lost its Chief News Editor and its Senior VP of News. Vox lost its Editorial Director. The New York Times lost its White House Correspondent and Mother Jones lost its D.C. Bureau Chief. MSNBC lost two prominent contributors who had done much to shape the political landscape, Mark Halperin, who had written the definitive media account of the ’08 election, and David Corn, who had debuted the 47% attack on Romney and got the first look at Hillary’s Trump dossier.

The massive media machine built to smear and steamroll Republicans never bothered to report what everybody on the inside already knew. The wannabe Woodwards and Bernsteins in every paper, news bureau and explainer site weren’t investigating the scandals they already knew about. Those weren’t the scandals they were looking for.

That’s why no one trusts them. Hollywood, the media and the Democrats have been preaching to us about sexism and feminism for generations. Meanwhile behind the cameras and the chambers, an assault spree was in progress. And everybody knew.”

Well, that’s one of the myriad reasons nobody should trust them. I don’t think the causal connection between the #MeToo eruptions and the biased. partisan, ideologically driven manipulation of the news by our unethical, incompetent journalists has permeated the public consciousness yet—it took too long  to permeate mine—but I’ll do my part to help, now that my brain has finally has engaged. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2017: Oh, Lots Of Stuff…

Let’s clear the runway; flights are being delayed…

1 Please, somebody do me a favor and read Fattymoon’s Medium piece  on why he doesn’t comment here any more. Let me know what it says. I don’t know if it’s another “I hate Jack” web piece, but I have feelings too, and miles to go before I sleep. He should have posted it here, and assuming it is as quirky and thoughtful as many of Fatty’s posts were, I might have made it a Comment of the Day. Posting it elsewhere without a heads up is a Golden Rule breach.

2. Jamelle Bouie’s racialist demagoguery in Slate is an ongoing embarrassment to the once readable web-mag, and in a recent exchange on Twitter, he showed that he’s not too quick on the uptake either.  Tweeting about the planned hit job on the President plotted by Rep. Wilson and an angry, grieving anti-Trump Gold Star wife. Bouie wrote,

“Trump and the White House have an unmistakable pattern of going after prominent black women.”

Quick! Hands: who believes that if the Democratic Representative who accused the President of being  insulting on his condolence call had been a white male, Trump would have behaved any different? Anybody? This is Bouie personified: he will engage in race-baiting no matter how forced, unfair and absurd it is.

I’m not a Ben Shapiro fan, but the conservative pundit knows a hanging curveball in his wheelhouse when  he sees one. He responded,

“Yes, McCain, Hillary, Barack Obama, Cruz, Jeb!, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Jung Un are all black women”

And he didn’t even mention Bob Corker!

Exposed, owned, embarrassed and squashed, a wiser, smarter progressive would know enough to shut up and allow his idiocy to be gently wiped from cultural memory by the sands of time…like in about ten minutes. But no, Bouie shoots back,

“Nice. A retweet from Honest Conservative Ben “The genocide of Native people’s was Actually Good” Shapiro”

YES! A perfect example of a real, genuine, ad hominem attack, the kind that says, “I have no rebuttal for your devastating argument, so I’m just going to say that you’re personally horrible, so your arguments don’t count.” I’ve gotten so sick of explaining to commenters that their accusations of ad hominem are mistaken and ignorant that I put a warning in the Comments guidelines. “Your argument is idiotic, so I think you are an idiot” is not ad hominem (not nice, but not ad hominem). “You’re an idiot, so your argument must be idiotic” is ad hominem. Now I have a perfect example–from an editor at Slate! (If you think ad hominem  is logical, then you are unqualified to be an editor, even if you aren’t a race-baiting anti-white bigot.)

Not surprisingly, Shapiro knocked this one out of the park too, tweeting,

“Thanks for the ad hominem non sequitur, guy who says every Trump voter is an evil racist”

3. If there was any doubt that John McCain’s recent escalation of his anti-Trump, burr-under-the-saddle, “I’m going to make you rue the day your denigrated my prisoner-of-war heroism” campaign is personal and motivated by revenge, his gratuitous swipe at the President’s deferment from the draft almost 50 years ago should eliminate it.  That is personal, it is a cheap shot, it is intentionally disrespectful, and it is deliberately throwing raw meat to the President’s enemies.

It is also a Golden Rule breach: how would McCain react if Trump referenced the Keating Five scandal just to impugn McCain?

A lame duck who may well be dying, McCain has apparently decided that he can misbehave, settle scores, and undermine his party’s President with impunity. Somebody should tell him that he is dismantling his own reputation and legacy in the process, revealing himself as petty, vindictive, and willing to place his own vendetta over national interests and his duty as a U.S. Senator.

This is one more reason that he should resign.

4. While we are mentioning embarrassment, it appears that the news media is not yet embarrassed by treating as substantive news the self-evident set-up and subsequent escalation of a non-incident into another manufactured anti-Trump race scandal . It should be.  Imagine: yesterday all of the Sunday talking head shows gave far more time to this transparent hit-job than to the revived Russian influence allegations involving the Clintons. ABC and NBC have yet to mention that story at all; CBS, five days after it broke, gave a few seconds to it on “Face the Nation.” The excuses for this from journalists sound an awful lot like “Hey! We buried this story once; she shouldn’t have to report on it now.” FACT: As of this moment, there is more public evidence suggesting that Hillary Clinton was colluding to help the Russians than there is to suggest that President Trump did anything improper in that regard.

Back to the Rep. Frederica Wilson smear-job: The Congressional Black Caucus  called for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize for his remarks defending the President.  “We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the female lawmakers said in a statement.

The wife of the late La David Johnson, meanwhile, has been making the rounds of talk shows. To recap: a woman who was determined to hurt Trump made sure that a Congressional Black Caucus member who had boycotted the President’s Inauguration was listening in on his condolence call, then collaborated on accusations of disrespect. When Trump denied their characterization–at best an example of likely confirmation bias if there ever was one —he was accused of racism, since both women are black. Then other members of the Caucus expanded the attack to Trump’s Chief of Staff, implying that he is racist as well.

This might have been a bit more convincing if the entire Caucus hadn’t declared their revulsion at Trump before he took office. Who believes that any criticism from this quarter is anything but cynical, political, and unfair? Meanwhile, as this was going on, esteemed CBC member Maxine Waters declared that she was going to “take out” the President, presumably not meaning that they were going on a date.

I note that even many of my Democratic, anti-Trump Facebook friends are rolling their metaphorical eyes at this one. Some of them—many, in fact— are still capable of feeling sympathy when a President is being mistreated.

5. I’ve been getting better at suppressing my head explosions, and just in time: Harvey Weinstein has supposedly completed rehab for his sex addiction already. What was that, less than a week? What an insult to everyone’s intelligence for Weinstein to say he was getting “help” for his “problem.” It couldn’t have been too much of a problem if it could be fixed in few days. The other side of the ethics coin is this: going into rehab has been the routine PR response whenever a Hollywood figure misbehaves. We should thank Harvey for making it clear for all time that this is often, perhaps usually, a cynical sham. Continue reading

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This Just In From PBS: Ethical Journalism Is STILL Dead, And Unethical Journalism Is Being Funded By Your Tax Dollars

To be fair, this photo should only show about 40% of Jill Stein's face...

(To be fair, this photo should only show about 40% of Jill Stein’s face…)

Last week, PBS featured an interview with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. It began as a live interview on Facebook, but what was broadcast on the PBS’s NewsHour was significantly different from the actual interview. Here. courtesy of Newsbusters, are Stein’s missing comments, in bold:

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS: You’ve made it clear you think both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be terrible presidents for the country. So are you saying that literally that Hillary Clinton is every bit as bad for the country as Donald Trump?

GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JILL STEIN: I wouldn’t say there are no differences, but the differences are not enough to save your job, because Hillary Clinton, you know, and now her transition director Ken Salazar, y’know, they’re big proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is basically NAFTA on steroids. And, uh, most observers believe that it will send our jobs overseas, as well as undermine American sovereignty by bringing in these international tribunals that get to pass judgment on our laws, on our public health protections, on our worker protections.

So we, you know, we can’t count on saving our jobs, saving our lives — 1 in 3 Americans now cannot afford health care under Obamacare — or saving the planet, because Hillary has been a big proponent of fracking, as is Ken Salazar, her transition director.

So we feel that in this election, we’re not just deciding what kind of a world we’re going to have, but whether we’re going to have a world or not going forward, and knowing that the majority of Americans is unhappy with these two party choices, this is the time for us to open up.

Americans have not only a right to vote, but a right to know who we can vote for.

So we’re pushing for opening up the debates, and then let’s see how the chips fall.

WOODRUFF: Dr. Jill Stein, with the Green Party. We thank you.

STEIN: Thank you, Judy.

You can watch the unedited version of Stein’s answer on a PBS livestreamed Facebook clip, beginning after the 6:40 mark. On  the PBS website and on PBS’ YouTube clip, however, all you’ll find is the edited answer. Even if Woodruff says, “You can hear the entire interview at…,” it doesn’t undo the damage. When an interviewer says this, do you assume that the “entire interview” means “the internal sentences and paragraphs we cut out to completely misrepresent what the actual answers were”? I don’t. Why don’t I, by now? Boy, am I an idiot.

Idiot or not, I am still the victim of an ethics foul, and disgustingly so. If the NewsHour has to cut some of the interview for time, fine: cut a question and its answer, don’t distort the answers by cutting out the middle of them, and the parts which just happen to be critical of—SURPRISE!—Hillary Clinton. If PBS does this, it is also ethically obligated to tell viewers that it has cut her answers, and where they can find what she really said. It didn’t do this.

It is absolutely unethical to distort the answer to a question in an interview by redacting it like that, and the fact that the whole interview is available intact on another medium—one could only find Stein’s unedited answers on Facebook if one knew where to look even as one was being deceived on TV—is no defense, and no more of one more than if the unmanipulated interview could be found buried under a rock with a map to it available online.

I apologize for the high dudgeon, but how dare PBS do this? How dare a publicly funded news source so blatantly play Pravda for the party in the White House? Continue reading

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More Fourth Of July Ethics: PBS Deceives Its Audience, And Calls It A “Patriotic Thing To Do”

a-capitol-fourth-concert-fireworks03

I hate writing posts like this. I hate the fact that the culture’s appreciation of the importance of integrity, honesty and transparency has declined so much during the Obama Administration that I have to write posts like this.

PBS’s annual coverage of the nation’s Capital’s Independence Day celebration from U.S. Capitol was handicapped by the overcast and drizzly weather in the area.  At the point in the show where the National Symphony Orchestra plays the 1812 Overture’s finale while a spectacular fireworks display explodes over the Capitol dome, someone in authority decided that the obscured fireworks  partially blocked by clouds weren’t good enough, so  a video compilation of previous years fireworks were interspersed with them without any disclosure.

To be clear, what happened was this: PBS intentionally deceived its audience, and presented old footage while representing what was on the screen as live.

Social media noticed immediately. “PBS Aired Old Fireworks Footage This Year. Did It Make A Difference?” asked various media commentators, in various forms. Gee, that’s a head-scratcher!  Huh. Tough one! Does it make a difference when a government-funded station deliberately sets out to deceive its viewers? Do lies matter? Is it okay for a broadcast of a live event to be secretly altered with film from a different time and event? Does it make a difference if the news media lies to the public?

Of course it makes a difference. It’s wrong. It’s a lie. It makes public trust impossible. What’s the difference between faking a moon landing and faking a fireworks display? Ethically, they are exactly the same, what we in the ethics field refer to as lies. Continue reading

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