Political Cartoon Ethics: No, There Was Nothing “Racist” About Bill Bramhall’s Andrew Yang Cartoon

Yang cartoon

Some day, in a more mature and enlightened America, we will have non-male and non-white candidates for elective office as well as elected officials whose supporters do not use the politicians’ race or gender to unethically intimidate critics by crying “Bigotry!” when there is none. Some day. Or maybe not. Right now, it is clear that such politicians and their supporters just can’t help themselves. It’s cheap, it’s unfair, it’s dishonest, but as Harry Reid ( or Niccolò Machiavelli) might say, “It works!”

It needs to stop working. I consider the routine use of that tactic to stifle legitimate criticism as an valid, if not necessarily decisive, reason not to support female or minority candidates.

The latest despicable example of the practice arrived in New York City, where a mayoral race is heating up. Evelyn Yang, wife of candidate Stephen Yang, attacked New York Daily News’ cartoonist Bill Bramhall for a characature she called a “racist disfiguration” of her husband.

Bramhall, a boringly predictable progressive cartoonist who draws Donald Trump to look like he ate Orson Welles, mocked Yang by exploiting the common complaint that he’s not a real New Yorker, but a carpetbagger who is naive about the ways of The Big Apple. Mrs. Yang, however, tweeted,

“I can’t believe my eyes. To publish this racist disfiguration of @AndrewYang as a tourist, in NYC where I was born, where Andrew has lived for 25 years, where our boys were born, where 16% of us are Asian and anti-Asian hate is up 900%.”

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Six Ethics Problems With This Picture….And You Should Be Able To Find More

“Scratch” is a New York Times cartoon feature  in the Sunday Business section. This was the most recent installment. I’ll save my (disgusted) comments for the end…

  • The breathtaking leap of logic in the introduction represents such flawed logic that the Times Business Section destroys its credibility, such as it is, by permitting such an illogical statement on its pages. ‘Since companies have been foolishly pandering to hyper-woke complaints about, for example, the picture on a box of rice and the artwork on a package of butter, and statues of important and influential historical figures who were honored in their times are being vandalized and toppled by people who barely know who they are, it’s a ‘perfect time’ time to consider dishonoring the Founders and others without whom we would have no nation at all.’

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

Good Morning!

1. Confession: I called a stranger an asshole on Facebook yesterday. I had patiently explained to a Facebook Borg-infected friend that no, the Justice Department report on Hillary’s email fiasco had not proven for all time that she hadn’t “done anything wrong,” quite the contrary. The report revealed that she was directly responsible for over 600 security breaches (after saying otherwise for more than a year). That means that she was reckless, incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest, and, since the applicable statute doesn’t require intent, could have been prosecuted. The report did find that there was no evidence that Clinton deliberately set out to endanger national security, which was never the issue.

Some clod following the thread wrote that you “could sure tell who follows Fox News talking points.” Well, I’m sick of that lazy deflection, and anyone who uses it, especially on me, is an asshole, and needs to be told.  maybe ist not too late to get treatment. It’s even more of an asshole thing to say than the reflex “But ….Trump!” retort.

2. Yes, this is unethical. Yes, it is newsworthy. No, it is receiving almost no national coverage outside of conservative news sources. Rep. Katie Hill, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has been engaged in a three-way sexual relationship involving a  staffer and her husband. This would not matter to me, and should not matter to you, except that the woman involved is Hill’s subordinate. The workplace is not a dating bar or personal harem, not in the private sector, not in Congress. In addition, close personal relationships create conflicts of interest for the supervisor in any office. I would mention the inherent imbalance of power that makes it impossible for an employee to consent to a superior’s advances in such a situation, but of course Lee knows that, being an ardent #MeToo and Time’s Up! supporter.

The hypocrisy in the Democratic Party on this issue is wide, deep, and nauseating, except, I guess, to Democrats. Last week, discussing this issue with lawyers following my ethics seminar, a usually smart, fair, male attorney actually opined that Joe Biden’s serial non-consensual groping wasn’t really a problem because “he didn’t mean it to be sexual assault.” The lawyer really said this, though “I didn’t mean anything by it” has been the reflex excuse of every sexual harasser from Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K.

3. Stipulated: President Trump’s harsh rhetoric in the aborted White House meeting with Democrats was one more stupid self-inflicted wound. Given the barrage of ad hominem attacks by the party that she leads, and the disrespect for the office that Pelosi herself has orchestrated (that mocking clap at the State of the Union speech alone was unforgivable), Trump was certainly provoked, but the President is not supposed to slide into the gutter just because his adversaries live there. It’s swell to be a “fighter”—Trump is probably correct that Mitt Romney would have been elected President in 2012 if he had a some Trump in him—but that doesn’t mean that gratuitous incivility and nastiness is a competent or responsible political strategy.

However, this image, part of a cartoon by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal earlier this year… Continue reading

Instagram Shows Us Once Again That Social Media Is Dedicated To Rigging Public Debate And Discourse To Ensure Progressive Policies

But conservatives are the autocrats and fascists.

This thoughtful and provocative cartoon by Adam Ford, the founder of the  conservative satire site, The Babylon Bee, was banned as “hate speech” by Instagram:

Observations:

1. Blaming this on a flawed algorithm won’t wash. Yes, it is difficult to write programs to identify genuine non-substantive speech designed only to insult denigrate or defend, and this means that a fair and competent social media platform must lean toward being over-permissive rather than unjustly and illogically censorious.

2. Obviously, the cartoon doesn’t qualify as hate speech even under the vaguest and most sweeping definition of a term that is too flexible anyway. The comparison between slavery and abortion isn’t new, and it keeps arising because abortion advocates have yet to rebut it. Both issues involve what one side believes is a human rights violation that is defended by denying the humanity of the victims, or arguing that the abuse of the victims is justified by the benefits to those abusing them. The analogy has been raised in films (such as “The Island”) and television (as on a memorable episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The cartoon could be and should be used in classroom discussions on the question of abortion.

3. For that to happen, however, people have to see it, and be allowed to think. Social media, when it censors speech and opinion that offend the sensibilities of the “woke” simply because such speech challenge progressive ideology and cant, isn’t “protecting its users.” It is protecting its allies from having to prevail in policy debates with facts, logic and ethics by bluntly silencing dissent. This is becoming a bad and frightening habit. In his new book “”A Thousand Small Sanities,” liberal commentator David Gropnik writes, “The contemporary left can sometimes seem to have an insufficient respect for the fragility of the very same liberal institutions that allow its views to be broadcast without impediments.” Ya think??

4. Meanwhile, the controversy isn’t being covered by the mainstream media at all, at least not yet. Thus other institutions are enabling social media’s content-based ideological censorship by not publicizing it. All the better to have the metaphorical frog of the American public boiled slowly in progressive censorship before they know what’s going on. (Yes, you pedants out there, I know that you can’t really boil a frog to death slowly, but that’s the old myth.)

5. One overly kind Christian website tried to come up with ways Instagram might have legitimately concluded that the cartoon was hate speech:

There is another possible reason Instagram flagged Ford’s post in question. Throughout the comic, which equivocates old hypothetical pro-slavery arguments with modern pro-choice rhetoric, Ford refers to black people as “blacks” — a term often flagged as offensive, though some style guides do permit “black” to be used as a noun as well as an adjective. While Instagram does not specifically forbid the use of “black” as a noun in their community guidelines, it does require users to only “post photos and videos that are appropriate for a diverse audience.”

Even accepting this theory, the censorship is unethical and ominous. So if “some people” find a term that is generally accepted elsewhere as “offensive,” that justifies banning a substantive message? It is still oppressive speech policing no matter how one looks at it.

Unethical Political Cartoon Of The Month: Barry Deutsch

 

To be fair, the Justice wasn’t much of a cartoonist…

In today’s warm-up, I briefly discussed the acquittal earlier this moth of NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs in the shooting an unarmed black motorist.  It was a weird case. Isaacs was off duty, and prompted a driver to apparent road rage by cutting him off in traffic. The motorist, according to Isaacs, walked up to his car and  struck him, and fearing that his assailant was armed, the officer drew his pistol and fired.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or by design, but on the day of the acquittal progressive cartoonist Barry Deutsch, who once did battle (and well) at Ethics Alarms, posted this cartoon at his blog:

In the same post, he also called the late Justice Rehnquist a racist, which he was not, and made the demonstrably false statement that most police shootings involve blacks, but never mind that.

You have to really detest police and the principle of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to regard such a cartoon as fair or enlightening. (Ethics Alarms is on record as declaring political cartoons an inherently unethical form of punditry.) No cop has been acquitted of shooting an unarmed  9-year-old kid in self-defense, and the cartoon is factually wrong that such a claim by a police officer would get him acquitted. Moreover, the case Barry is apparently referring to, Graham v. Connor, does not involve a shooting, and Rehnquist’s opinion for the majority doesn’t say what the cartoon says it does. In addition, the opinion in the case primarily relied upon by the majority in Graham, Tennessee v. Garner,  wasn’t written by the Rehnquist, but by Justice Byron White. It also specifically involved police shooting at fleeing suspects.

Thus the cartoonist a) doesn’t know what he’s talking about b) misleads his readers ( the blog is an echo chamber if there ever was one), and c) smears Justice Rehnquist. Continue reading

Contrarian Ethics And Ann Althouse

Ann Althouse, the now retired law professor and increasingly active bloggress, is a habitual contrarian. That’s why she is such an interesting and politically unpredictable commentator, and why, though generally left of center by instinct, she so often ends up on the opposite side from the news media. Being a contrarian can be a useful tactic for ethicists too: it provides a bias filter. Since lawyers like Ann are trained to be able to argue both sides of any argument with equal fervor and persuasiveness, picking a position you disagree with and arguing for it anyway is a wonderful way to change your own mind, or to find lines of reasoning that might never have appeared otherwise.

It can be a trap, too, especially in the blogging biz. Having an opinion that isn’t already everywhere on the web makes a blog interesting, attracts comments, and leads to increased traffic and links. Especially in areas where one doesn’t have strong opinions, the tendency to disagree with the obvious or popular opinion becomes its own bias, and undermines trust and integrity. I have my own contrarian streak (I inherited it from my father), and I have to watch it carefully. It is not ethical (it’s unkind) to say or write things primarily because you mostly want to make people’s heads explode. I’ve done it a few times on Ethics Alarms.

This is where I have seen Althouse trending, and here is a recent example. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/19/17

Yeah? What’s so “good” about it? HUH? Well?

1. In an article/discussion about the impact of George Romero, the zombie genre creator who died last week, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said, and I’m not making this up,

A few years ago, when I did a Critics’ Pick video on [Romero’s “Night of the living Dead,”], I hinted that [the film’s African-American hero’s]death could be read as a prophecy of Barack Obama’s presidency: A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity (as well as from zombies) and is destroyed. Now, of course, the prophecy seems all the more chilling. The casual, unapologetic and ultimately self-destructive violence of white supremacy is the true and enduring horror of American life.

Wait…What?

This insulting, counter-factual, absolutely crackers statement may be an opinion, but it is so stunningly biased and warped that it should have set off ethics alarms at the Times, if any exist. If the film critic could say this in print, he says it among his colleagues. If he has said it among his colleagues and no editor, pundit or colleague has grabbed him by the lapels and said, “What the hell are you talking about, man? You better keep that crap to yourself, because it embarrasses the paper. Better yet, I think you need a vacation!”, then this strongly suggests that almost everyone at the Times is marinating in a crippling fantasy culture that makes independent, objective, trustworthy reporting and punditry impossible.

A.O.’s statement self-destructs at “calm.” Obama “saved” nobody; in fact, he either deliberately or incompetently degraded the one area of our society he was elected to improve: racial harmony and respect. How does a black character’s death (the movie’s hero is shot by authorities who assume he is a zombie) “prophecy” the fate of Barack Obama, elected President twice, cheered upon his leaving office, and immediately rewarded with historical revisionism, obscene speaking fees and a book contract? [I hate to cavil, but it really needs to be pointed out that the Duane Jones character in “Night of the Living Dead,” far from saving the white characters, gets them eaten and zombified by adamantly rejecting one obnoxious white man’s insistence that they should all just lock themselves in the basement. After all those white people the Obama-like hero  “saved” according to A.O. are ambulatory brain-eaters, he survives the zombie onslaught—by locking himself in the basement! I suppose this “prophesied” leading from behind.]

The critic’s statement is thinly veiled anti-white racism, bubbling up from the concentrated anger and Trump hysteria at the Times. White supremacy. Sure, A.O. I won’t be reading any of your reviews anymore, nor your fellow critic Jason Zinoman, who either agrees with your fanciful and hateful assessment, or didn’t have the integrity to tell you that you are paranoid and nuts on the record. Either way, he is also a fool. I don’t care what either of you think about movies, since you view them through bullshit colored  glasses.

2. I have three times now prepared to write a post about what I now call Anti-Trump porn at the Times, highlighted every week by the Sunday Times “Review Section.” Last Sunday was another one. This section’s obsession is stunning: the section is loaded with unrestrained Trump hate, ad hominem insults and hysteria and  from every perspective. I would think other Times readers would be bored, not to mention alarmed, by this monotonous vive and broadcast of bias (An unbiased newspaper would not allow one topic and one point of view to monopolize its weekly commentary section), but apparently the Times readership is insatiable.

The res ipsa loquitur feature this time was an editorial cartoon by Art Spiegelman, who is a brilliant cartoonist when at his best. Like most cartoonists of a political bent, he is all ideology and advocacy, and pretty much devoid of respect for facts and balance. Here was his comment after November 8:

“I see something similar to Hitler in that it’s gone very fast to things that seem surreal to me, like Trump supporters shooting four civilians at a polling place in California – one of them died. And there’s the slide towards uncivility, from what I read on the internet. For the first time I got to see my name with three parentheses signs around it. I don’t think it was a secret that I’m Jewish, but they were making sure that the alt-right people would know that I was Jewish. That’s just something I saw a couple of days ago. ‘Oh, I see. OK, it’s a new day.’ And at this point we don’t care about refugees’ lives. They’re not white lives. So yeah, sure, I’m worried.”

Shut up and draw, Art. Trump supporters did not shoot four civilians at a polling place in California. Middle East refugees are white. And Art must not check the internet very often, if he judges any single  excess or outrage as proof of anything. His was a statement of pure intellectual laziness, bias, bigotry and hysteria—but never mind, political cartoonists don’t have to be fair, accurate or responsible. They just have to communicate what a biased paper’s editors know even its own biased pundits couldn’t get away with, and have the defense that “it was just supposed to be funny!”  Thus here was the Spiegelman cartoon featured on page two of the Times’ Review section last Sunday: Continue reading

Halloween Ethics Meets Campus Ethics Meets The First Amendment, And Stupidly, Too

costume-lunching

I didn’t want to write about this, as I am having to defend too many jerks of late,but multiple readers have flagged it, and besides, there hasn’t been a good Halloween costume controversy this year. This one isn’t good, but it will have to do.

During the University of Wisconsin football home game against Nebraska, one fan in faux prison garb wore a mask of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over his face, and a mask of Obama on the back of his head, as another person wearing a mask of Republican nominee Donald Trump held the end of a noose that was looped around the Hillary/Obama individual’s neck.

Key points:

1. It was Halloween weekend. Costumes were not out of place.

2. It was a two person costume, and an incoherent one that would support multiple interpretations. Was it an attack on Trump, accusing him of being racist or wanting to harm Hillary? Was it an endorsement of Trump, arguing that Hillary should be punished? Was it intended to evoke lynching imagery? Was it saying that Hillary was the equivalent of Obama? A sign worn by Hillary/Obama, which nobody who wasn’t close up could read, concluded, “Bernie 2016.”

3. This was unequivocally political speech, whatever it was supposed to mean.

4. The University has some discretion to forbid expression and conduct at a sporting event that risk creating violence or that are objectively uncivil .

5. Anyone who uses lynching imagery in public, in any connection to a back public figure, or any African American at all, is an asshole at best. This is a public event intended to be entertaining and a family-friendly activity. Using it for political theater is obnoxious. The civil place for this costume, if anywhere, was in front of the stadium, on the sidewalk. Continue reading

More Evidence That It Isn’t “Gun Safety” The Anti-Gun Forces Are Gunning For, But The Second Amendment Itself

anti-gun cartoon

Those who are confident that Donald Trump can’t be elected President might want to contact Hillary Clinton and advise another one of her well-timed policy position reversals. She has aligned herself with those who want nothing less than to eliminate the right of Americans to own guns and be able to defend themselves, and that means she is spitting into the gale of core American values and culture.

And the Constitution, of course.

A clear-thinking and principled United States District Court judge just condemned a sinister anti-gun law that embodies the anti- Second Amendment animus. Judge Richard J. Leon’s 46-page ruling in United States District Court declared illegal a law that gave the police the discretion to grant concealed-carry licenses only to those with “good reason” to do so, such as a specific and reasonable fear of attack  or other reasons, such as having a job in which they carried large amounts of cash or valuables. A citizen wishing to carry a pistol must demonstrate “a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life,” the law says.

Wrong. A citizen wishing to carry a gun should only have to show that he or she is a law abiding citizen, and that he or she is trained in gun safety and how to use a firearm.

Judge Leon wrote, “Given the textual and historical evidence, I have little trouble concluding that under its original meaning the Second Amendment protects a right to carry arms for self-defense in public…Given that the Second Amendment’s central purpose is self-defense and that this need arises more frequently in public, it logically follows that the right to carry arms for self-defense in public lies at the very heart of the Second Amendment.”

It also follows that the government deigning to grant the Constitutional right to those few individuals it deems worthy is a direct Second Amendment breach. It is frankly frightening that other judges have ruled differently. If ever citizen has a Constitutionally protected right, a law cannot say that the right only applies to you if the government says so. Laws restricting rights must describe legitimate circumstances that justify the restriction, not presume a restriction on everyone except a sufficiently terrified few. It is up to me to decide whether I need a gun, not D.C.’s police chief. Continue reading

And An Irrational Perspective On Gun Control In The Unethical Cartoon of the Month: “America Reacts”

America_Reacts

Since most of the news media have been making fools of themselves with their over-heated, slanted and often hysterical reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, it was predictable that the odd corner of the commentariat occupied by political cartoonists would go even farther off the rails. For one thing, exaggeration is a tool of their trade; for another, they traffic in irony, satire and humor, giving them leave to jettison fairness and balance for a good laugh. Nonetheless, political cartoons appear on editorial pages. They express opinions that should be responsible opinions, and to the extent that they purport to represent facts, they are obligated to represent them with at least a minimal level of accuracy.

“America Reacts,” the work of Chattanooga Times-Free Press cartoonist Clay Bennett, appeared on December 18. I missed it; a letter to the Washington Post today complained about the Post re-printing it, which is how it finally came to my attention. I have admired Bennett’s work for a long time— I am critical of editorial cartoonists, but I respect and enjoy the good ones—-but this particular cartoon crosses ethical lines right, left and center:

1. As the Post’s critic pointed out, it unfairly deals in gross stereotypes. “Bennett makes assumptions that guns are more important than kids to men while only women care about children. My husband has guns and loves to go shooting, but no way would he choose guns over his children,” Marie Miller wrote. The cartoon also suggests that only men appreciate guns, and that all men are irrational gun nuts. Adding gender bigotry to the gun debate is not a constructive contribution.

2. The cartoon dishonestly frames the issue at hand as a culture having to choose between children or guns. Plenty of talking heads have made the same false representation, and it is intentional distortion for the purpose of appealing to emotions over rational thought. Or it is evidence of brain damage or progressive dementia.

3. The cartoon is incompetent. What is the point that the cartoonist is trying to make? That women are ruled by maternal-instinct and men are gun happy, rendering both stupid and useless? That women’s values are spot on, and men are mad fools? That every family’s children are really at risk because of guns? Is he advocating gun bans? The message is completely incoherent. It’s just a bad cartoon….on a serious and complex subject that could benefit from a good one.

If all a political cartoonist can contribute to an important national debate is the equivalent of a stink bomb tossed into a room, he should resist the urge.

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Pointer: Marie Miller

Source: Times-Free Press