Tag Archives: political correctness

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/17/2017: Sick Of Train Wrecks, Sick Of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!,” Sick Of Being Lied To. Merry Christmas!

Good Morning, And Merry Christmas!

(and no, my tree isn’t decorated yet. As usual, there were complications…)

1 “You’re one of THEM, aren’t you?” Curse everyone on all sides of the political spectrum who have, by shear repetition, turned the mere act of saying “Merry Christmas!” into a presumptive partisan greeting. A recent study indicates that about 90% of the public celebrates Christmas, not some amorphous holiday, either in its religious or secular form on and around December 25th. There should be nothing malign about the salutation at all, and yes, the polite and pleasant response to “Merry Christmas!” is “The same to you!” or “Merry Christmas!” Yesterday, I received a silent glare and a scowl from a merchant to whom I gave the happy wish, and he was selling Christmas tree stands!

2. Not AGAIN! This is one of those periods during a year when the same ethics issues hang around like a bad odor, and I am faced with the choice of intentionally avoiding them, even though they continue to make news and to be the topic of conversation online and on TV, or to keep covering them no matter how bored I get. In fact, all of 2017 feels that way. Every day now, I have to face a new swerve of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, and its cultural, ethical, and political implications. (Chris Matthews! Rep. Bobby Scott!). The news media disgraces itself daily in its partisan hatred of the President of the United States. “The resistance” and Democrats (but I repeat myself) continue to unethically push the nation into a constitutional crisis as their remedy for the longest loser’s tantrum in recorded history, and, yang to their yin, President Trump continues to be as unpresidential in his manner, words and actions as I thought he would, but hoped he wouldn’t, feeding the flames of division.

3. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!”  Here is an article protesting the movement to “ban” (figuratively, not literally), the seasonal duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  for “being insufficiently PC in the sexual assault/harassment realm.” Ethics Alarms called the song “date-rapey” two years ago, so while I don’t exactly want to ban the thing, I am sick of hearing it on Christmas playlists. On Sirius-XM’s “Holly” station, I’d estimate that over 50% of the “Holiday songs” have to do with sex (none have to do with the religious holiday, by design), and I blame “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which on the alternative Christmas channel, “Traditions” —where every song is sung by someone who is dead, with the exception of a few hangers-on like Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis, either of whom could drop any second—“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is played every hour, sometimes more than once. Pearl Bailey (dead), Steve and Eydie (dead and dead), Sammy Davis Jr, and Carmen MacRae (both dead), Dean Martin (dead). Writes the blogger, Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Firing And Un-Firing Of Sam Seder

Somehow I lost this one for a week, then found it today, reminding me how much it ticked me off.

Sam Seder, an MSNBC political commentator and host of the “Majority Report” podcast, had sent a tweet  in 2oo9—that’s 8 years ago, folks—obviously mocking the Hollywood supporters of fugitive film director and child rapist Roman Polanski.

The tweet said,

“Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scene.”

That is called artful satire, and if you can’t tell that, you really should restrict yourself to Nickelodeon and “Good Night Moon.”

Then Mike Cernovich, the far-right activist and conspiracy theorist, who is not an idiot, though he is many other unpleasant things, tracked down the tweet and began to complain to  MSNBC’s media relations department and other journalists about Seder using the same kind of political correctness crack-brained mania that the Left typically inflicts on the Right. Cernvich was trolling MSNBC, I assume, and maybe he was trying to accomplish what he eventually did accomplish: he got the left-wing cable channel management to fire Seder for “inappropriate and insensitive remarks.” Or maybe he was just trolling, though before the axe fell, Seder accused Cernovich of attempting to silence his criticism of President Trump and Roy Moore….you know, like the way the Seder-sympatico Media Matters has tried to silence Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Now one would think that MSNBC execs would be able to tell Seder’s tweet was witty, and also have enough faith in the brain pans of its viewers to assume they, unlike most conservatives, who for some reason don’t have much if a sense of humor, would understand that there was nothing offensive about the Polanski tweet, except to Polanski and child rape fans in France and Hollywood. But no: out he went, as Cernovich lifted a glass of Korbel somewhere with Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly.

Then thousands of people signed a petition demanding that Seder be rehired, and he was. MSNBC’s head Phil Griffin wrote: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Is the body of Charlie Rose’s work as a journalist less impressive, valuable, expert, enlightening and professional because we have learned that he is an abusive, sexist, gross, harassing pig? Of course not.

That being the case, why is The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication revoking the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism it bestowed on him in 2015? Let’s have the school’s explanation, shall we?

In the words of Dean Christopher Callahan:

We give the award each year based on the knowledge we have of a recipient at that time. When new information about a recipient surfaces, the question we ask is not whether the award would be given again with a new set of facts, but whether the transgressions are so egregious that they demand nothing less than a reversal of history.

I believe Mr. Rose’s actions of sexual misconduct reported by The Washington Post and other media outlets, which are largely unrefuted, rise to that level. The damage caused by Mr. Rose’s actions extends far beyond the news organizations for which he worked. The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable, and that such behavior – far too common in not just media companies but many organizations – must stop.

So now you know why. The school, and its dean, and everyone else involved in this decision, is craven, hell-bent on virtue-signalling, bereft of integrity, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest. The school has never withdrawn an award or honor: are we really supposed to believe that there is an established procedure for considering whether or not one should be revoked in an instance of “new information” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason the honor was bestowed? Rose’s shame hardly did any lasting harm to the news organizations he worked for beyond the inconvenience of replacing him. He discriminated against women? Being the biggest cheese in William Paley’s all-male news room, Walter Cronkite’s treatment of women during the “Mad Men” error probably wouldn’t pass muster today, though I can’t picture Uncle Walter parading naked in front of female colleagues. (Fortunately I can’t picture Charlie doing that either). If Walter’s Juanita Broaddrick, reading about the slap-down of Rose, comes out with a credible accusation against the icon, will the Arizona State-based institution change its name to the Dan Rather sch…no, it can’t do that. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm Up, 11/15/17: Rush, Creepy Joe, Fake Fake News, And Yum-Yum

Good Morning!

1 Save the “Mikado”! Yesterday I was honored to be able to participate in a Smithsonian Associates lecture on the careers and operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society was kind enough to invite me to sing “Tit Willow” as part of its segment at the event, which played to a full house. It’s a shame, and alarming for the future of live theater, operetta, and the vitality of the G$S canon, that the average age of participants appeared to be approximately 94, give or take a decade.

Before I warbled “Tit Willow,” once as well-known to the average U.S. adult as “My Way” (John Wayne sings the chorus in “The Shootist”) I went off-script to say, “As you all probably know, this song is from ‘The Mikado.’ It is a wonderful show, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.” The statement got nods and knowing looks, because they knew exactly what I was talking about.

Right now, the more than 80 Gilbert and Sullivan performance groups in the U.S., plus various opera and regional theater companies, have almost abandoned the best and most performed of the 14 sui generis shows by the great duo for fear of getting into a political correctness battle. “The Mikado,” you see, is now considered “racist,” because Gilbert had the ridiculous (and typical) idea of presenting a satire of English foibles and personalities as if Great Britain had suddenly been turned into an upside-down version of Japan. The script is self-referential on the gag (“I often wonder, in my artless Japanese way…”; “He might have had initials on his pocket handkerchief, but Japanese don’t carry pocket handkerchiefs!” ), as Gilbert was one of the fathers of post-modern humor. The show has been popular in Japan, and all over the world. A popular Broadway adaptation (“The Hot Mikado”) had an all-black cast—still in Japanese costumes—speaking and singing jive versions of the dialogue and songs. Gilbert included a song (“I’ve got a Little List”) that accommodated current events updates, so the show is arguably the most continuously topical of all the Victorian operettas—and all of them are still funny.

Never mind all that. “The Mikado” has been targeted by offense-mongering progressives, and theater companies, which are always a bad decision or two from bankruptcy, find it easier to cave and just produce “The Pirates of Penzance” instead.

“The Mikado, ” directed and performed properly, is better than 85% of all Broadway musicals. It is also cheaper, can be performed effectively by all ages, is infinitely adaptable, and is free: it’s in the public domain. It is a cultural treasure, as important to preserve as the best Shakespeare tragedies or  “David Copperfield.” The battle for “The Mikado” has to be fought, and if there is any theater company out there, amateur or professional, who has the guts to fight it, call me. I can help.

2.  Ridiculous Roy Moore defense of the week. I haven’t been listening to Rush Limbaugh for a long time: is he finally losing it? This week he appeared to be suggesting that because Roy Moore was a Democrat when he was lusting after teen-age girls, there is some kind of hypocrisy involved in the controversy over his Senate campaign, saying,

“Did you know that before 1992, when a lot of this was going on, that Judge Moore was a Democrat? Nobody said a word. When he supposedly was attracted to inappropriately aged girls — he was a Democrat.”

So what? Moore could have been a Rosicrucian when he was molesting girls, and it wouldn’t matter. He’s running for the U.S. Senate NOW, and as a Republican. Either Rush is deliberately making what he knows is a terrible argument that will confuse idiots in his audience, meaning that he is dishonest, or he really believes that it is some kind of mitigation to the GOP’s irresponsible support for Moore that he was a Democrat when he broke the Alabama child molestation law. This would mean that Rush is now an idiot himself. Continue reading

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The Problem With Apu?

Commenting on the recent attacks from progressives on the allegedly racist drawings of Dr. Seuss, I wrote,

I’ve missed it: have social justice warriors been protesting “The Simpsons”? No? Not even Apu, the Indian immigrant Springfield resident—Wait! Isn’t the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield?–who has the stereotypical ethnic occupation of a convenience food proprietor (Full disclosure: my local 7-11 is owned by an Indian American)? You know, this guy?

Apparently I inadvertently set something in motion in the zeitgeist; I’m so sorry. For the New York Times informs us that a new documentary debuting Nov. 19 on truTV  is called “The Problem with Apu,” and “wrestles with how a show praised for its incisive humor — over the years, it has explored issues like homophobia and political corruption — could resort to such a charged stereotype. Making matters worse is the fact that the Indian character is voiced by a non-Indian (albeit an Emmy-winning) actor, Hank Azaria.”

The article goes on,

“In the film, Mr. Kondabolu places Apu within the broader history of Hollywood’s depiction of Indians, including Peter Sellers’s brownface rendition of an idiot in the 1968 Blake Edwards film “The Party” and the Indians feasting on chilled monkey brains in Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” He also reached out to a who’s-who of South Asian actors to talk about their experiences in Hollywood.”

The Indian-Americans quoted in the artical are especially upset that Apu’s accent isn’t authentic; it’s just funny. Can’t have that.

Move through the muck and emerge in the b right sunlight of reality,  there is no problem with Apu. There are problems with lacking a mature reaction to humor and satire, being deliberately hyper-sensitive, power-grabbing using group-identification politics, and cynically looking for offense to justify claiming victim status,  but there is no problem with Apu.

I would love to know why Indian-Americans feel all the other characters in the show can be  outrageous stereotypes and extreme caricatures,  but Apu is unacceptably offensive and insensitive. This is contrived victimization. One cannot reasonable compare the Indians feasting on bugs and chilled monkey brains in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to Apu because 1) Apu is entirely benign: he is one of the smartest, sanest and nicest characters in “The Simpsons,” and 2) he’s a cartoon. Cartoons are always exaggerated, and if they are not, they aren’t funny. They also aren’t cartoons. Continue reading

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Integrity Check For Saturday Night Live: Time For A Mr. Mike Moment

Larry David was the darling of the left-tilting TV audience of Saturday Night Live last year when he became the lovable avatar of Bernie Sanders, a casting no-brainer which, I will remind the assembled, I predicted here well before it became reality. It was also predictable that David, the misanthrope who co-created Seinfeld, was the real life model for funny sociopath George Costanza, and who just returned to HBO playing a fictionalized version of his laughably awful self in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” would be asked to host the creaky satire show, which he did last weekend.

But THE HORROR! David’s opening monologue was genuine Larry David, as any “Seinfeld” fan would recognize. That show mocked Jews, gays, women, AIDS marches, Puerto Rican Pride Day, old people, disabled people,  ugly babies, Kosher diet restrictions,  dwarves, Kennedy’s assassination and stroke victims, among other topics…in other words, it was intentional political incorrectness as comedy. It should not have been a surprise, then, when David riffed on girl-watching in Nazi concentration camps:

“I’ve always been obsessed with women, and I’ve often wondered if I’d grown up in Poland when Hitler came to power and was sent to a concentration camp, would I be checking women out in the camp? I think I would.However, there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp.”

Then he ventured into the Harvey Weinstein minefield, noting that a lot of the executives being accused of sexual misconduct are, like him, Jews:

“I don’t like when Jews are in the headlines for notorious reasons. I want ‘Einstein discovers the theory of relativity,’ ‘Salk cures polio.’ What I don’t want? ‘Weinstein took it out.’…I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative. When people see me I want them to say, ‘Oh, there goes a fine Jew for you!'”

Either of these would have been at home on “Seinfeld,” where George once mused about Moses’ nose-picking habits, and enthused about having a prison inmate girlfriend, so he could have sex and ensure that she had to wait until he chose to come back and see her. (She escaped, though…). Ah, but 2017 isn’t the Nineties. Now delicate progressives seek safe spaces, and the only acceptable targets of humor are the rich, whites, males, straights, Christians and conservatives. And Donald Trump, of course. The rest is hate speech. Taboo. “We–the Virtuous Collective of the Left— are not amused.”

Social media erupted with condemnations of David for daring to be unfunny on Saturday Night Live. For perspective, consider that SNL has sometimes gone years without being funny. Salon pronounced him “out of his depth and out of his time.” How dare he make a Holocaust jokes “when an era when anti-Semitism is surging in the United States”? (Any guesses whether Salon would similarly object to anti-Republican jokes when GOP Senators are being shot at, and mugged by their Socialist neighbors?) He hasn’t “moved with times,” tut-tuts that arbiter of hilarity, Salon.  After all, “Blazing Saddles” isn’t funny any more. “The Producers” is offensive, with all those Hitler jokes. How dare “Airplane!”make fun of black dialect , seek (and get) laughs with a stereotypical gay character, or show African natives instinctively dunking the second they touch a basketball? That’s not funny! You aren’t allowed to laugh at that, Comrade. Watch it! Because we are watching you.

Now, calling the President of the United States a cockholder and suggesting that he wants to have sex with his daughter, THAT’S funny.

Check the rule book.

At the Washington Examiner, Tom Rogan has the right and ethical perspective:

At The Atlantic, Professor Jeremy Dauber wailed that David thought comedy was acceptable “after Charlottesville.” Dauber continued, “David’s invocation of the concentration camp on Saturday as a kind of peekaboo provocation … might ring particularly hollow in an America where neo-Nazis march openly on the streets and white-nationalist memes proliferate online.”

“Might ring particularly hollow” are the operative words there. Dauber encapsulates the Left’s new reflex that if some words might offend someone somewhere, they should not be said.

I believe the opposite is true. Humor is supposed to be unrestrained and, if a comedian so desires, uncomfortable. Whatever our particular personal views, we’re lucky to live in a society in which humor is defined by the humorist not the humorless hordes. So yes, some might be offended to see Larry David make concentration camp jokes or urinate on a picture of Jesus (that one made me uncomfortable) or have a Jewish boy knit a swastika.

I say too bad. The beauty of humor in a democracy is that it’s always those who laugh who matter most.

Bingo. I don’t care if you find something funny: if I find it funny, that’s all that matters….and vice versa. Moreover, if the Left abandons humor (unless it is politically weaponized, like the tediously redundant  all-anti-Right-hate-all-the-time  late night talk shows and  cable shows), humor is doomed. Comedians and comics have almost entirely arisen from the liberal side of the ideological spectrum. A funny conservative is as rare as a popular ethicist.

Thus the attack on David for telling the kinds of jokes Larry David tells creates an integrity test for Saturday Night Live. A commenter named Michael Bauer told  the New York Times that “Mr. David’s comments were completely unfunny and embarrassing, not only to Mr. David but also to the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, and everyone associated with ‘Saturday Night Live.'”

Really? Really? This was the show that once, in its greatest years, featured the intentionally tasteless and blackest of black humor-obsessed Michael O’Donoghue. The ultimate O’Donoghue gag was a trilogy of sick  bits he performed as “Mr. Mike” to end SNL shows spaced over several weeks. In the first of them, he announced that he would do an impression of nice guy daytime talk show host Mike Douglas, with a twist:

Michael O’Donoghue: ” We all love Mike Douglas, of course. And I was watching Mike’s show this afternoon, and  a funny thought occurred to me. I thought, what if someone took steel needles, say, um, fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points — and plunged them into Mike Douglas’s eyes. What would his reaction be? I think it might go something… like this …

Then he removed his glasses, pocketed them, and turned around, in the fashion of celebrity impressionists from time immemorial, paused, and suddenly  began screaming and writhing on the floor.

TV critics, many of them, were not happy. The show and NBC received complaints. Cruelty, after all, isn’t funny. (I loved it.)

To their undying credit, SNL, Lorne Michaels, and O’Donoghue doubled down. A couple of weeks later, “Mr. Mike” was introduced again, again at the end of the show. This time, he was ushered on  by two attractive young African-American women in gowns: Continue reading

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KABOOM! Brandeis Cancels A Play About Political Correctness Because Students And Faculty Protested That It Wasn’t Politically Correct

I do want to thank Curmie, our esteemed drop-in commenter who is a drama teacher and chronicler of ethics outrages from the world of education, for ambushing me with this head-exploding story from Brandeis University. And my head had been doing so well.

Playwright Michael Weller had received a Creative Arts Award from Brandeis, and when he wrote a  a play, “Buyer Beware,” that satirized the political climate on U.S. campuses the University scheduled it to make its premiere there. The satire concerns a student who discovers the works of  iconic 50s era comedian Lenny Bruce, and attempts to stage a  production in the spirit of the taboo-challenging comic. The production offends  students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the Brandeis-like university, which worries that the controversy will offend a crucial donor. The script, channeling Bruce (think George Carlin but more abrasive, and not as funny) called for a white character to use “nigger” in several instances. The play quotes Bruce’s famous manifesto against strictures against mere words: “Imagine if we just kept saying these words over and over again, sooner or later they’d become meaningless noise.”

Without reading the script, it appears, so many students protested that Brandeis administrators, proving that their spines and principles were noodle-flexible, capitulated and cancelled the production, when the statements of the protesters should have made it obvious that such a play was desperately needed. For example, Andrew Childs is an Undergraduate Department Representative for the Theater Arts Department and a member of the season’s play selection committee, told the student newspaper,

“The issue we all have with it is that [Weller] is an older, straight…, able-bodied and white man. [ Wait! Isn’t it okay to be white?] It isn’t his place to be stirring the pot.”

What are they teaching at Brandeis? Only certain genders and races can “stir the pot”? Continue reading

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