Morning Ethics Warm-Up, June 4, 2019: The All-Jerk Edition

You may notice that it’s no longer morning. This was begun at 7 am. Can it ever be a good morning that begins with a dentist appointment a likely root canal? Never mind that: my car broke down—transmission failure, and had just had the thing repaired—right in front of the dentist’s office, and after the appointment, I had to wait another hour to be towed home.

1. The end of the spelling bee. It seems clear that sick parental obsession with success has killed the spelling,  or should, as soon as possible. Just after midnight last week, the Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned eight contestants  co-champions after the competition ran out of challenging words. Why did these kids successfully spell auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, and aiguillette, while previous winners had triumphed by spelling word like  croissant in 1970, incisor in 1975, and luge in 1984 ?

The primary reason is SpellPundit, a coaching company started last year by two former competitive spellers. For an annual subscription of $600, SpellPundit sends a huge list of words ,  sorted by difficulty level, for potential spelling champions to study. The company guarantees that it includes all words used in the spelling competitions.

Thirty-eight  of  this year’s top fifty spellers were provided the service by their proud parents. One of the this years champions, Sohum Sukhatankar, 13, of Dallas said he had spent about 30 hours a week studying the 120,000 words SpellPundit had selected from the 472,000 words in the dictionary.

Yechh. What a wonderful use of a 13-year-old’s time. When he’s on his deathbed, he’ll wihs he had those hours back.

So now the spelling bee stands for a combination of child abuse, unhealthy obsession, parental interference and rich, hyper-competitive  families buying an edge that normal families either can’t or have the sense not to. Such fun. In case you are in doubt, the jerks here are the parents.

As for the once fun and innocent national spelling bee: Kill it.

2. Soviet-style society creeps ever closer, thanks to political correctness. Dr Sandra Thomas, an associate medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Decatur, was moved to make a spontaneous joke while performing an autopsy. Thomas asked another doctor at the GBI’s morgue if she knew how to do a ‘Muslim autopsy’, and then lifted the neck of the dead woman and made the unique sound known as an ululation, which is commonly used in Islamic cultures at weddings and funerals.

 

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Eisenstat reported the incident to internal affairs, and Thomas was suspended for two weeks. Of course, she apologized profusely. The deceased person was not a Muslim. Continue reading

And Another One BitesThe Dust: Bowling Green State’s Unethical Slap At Lillian Gish [UPDATED]

The problem with so many of the statue-toppling/ renaming debacles at U.S. universities isn’t just that they are  transparent grandstanding, virtue-signalling and pandering to power-seeking black activists. The more disturbing problem is the intellectual vacuousness and lack of critical thought that school administrators display in the process of their grovels. The recent action of Bowling Green State University in Ohio is a particularly noxious example.

[Correction notice: the post originally had the university in Virginia, perhaps because I was once pulled over for reckless driving in Bowling Green, Virginia. Anyway, that was wrong. My apologies.]

Lillian Gish ( 1893-1993) had an epic  film career spanning 75 years, from 1912, in silent films,  to 1987. She was frequently  called the “First Lady of American Cinema,” and film historians credit her with introducing basic movie performing techniques to her craft. The PBS series, American Masters devoted an episode to Gish’s life and achievements; Turner Classics Movies observes,

Having pioneered screen acting from vaudeville entertainment into a form of artistic expression, actress Lillian Gish forged a new creative path at a time when more serious thespians regarded motion pictures as a rather base form of employment. Gish brought to her roles a sense of craft substantially different from that practiced by her theatrical colleagues. In time, her sensitive performances elevated not only her stature as an actress, but also the reputation of movies themselves. 

She had 120 film and TV credits before she was done, including “Night of the Hunter,” an enduring classic. In short, she was important. She enhanced the culture and her industry, and she earned her honors. She should be remembered.

Bowling Green State University has honored  Lillian Gish (and her less-celebrated acting sister Dorothy) for more than 40 years. But members of the college’s Black Student Union objected the theater’s name, on the grounds that in 1915, when she was 22 years old, she was one of the stars in D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” a seminal work in the U.S. film canon by one of its most talented and influential directors. The film, despite its artistic merits and importance to the development of the movies, is widely regarded as racist in content and purpose, celebrating as it does the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. The film is also blamed in part for the rise of Jim Crow in the South, also aided by President Woodrow Wilson’s open promotion of the movie as well as Griffith’s political views.

None of which has anything to do with Lillian Gish. Actors don’t write scripts or control a movie’s message, nor are they responsible for how audiences perceive a film beyond their own performances. D.W. Griffith was not only the early 20th Century’s equivalent of a Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, he was young Lillian’s patron and metor. She had literally no choice other than to accept his decision to cast her in his Reconstruction opus; to rebuff him would have risked ending her career. Nor was there any way, in 1915, for Gish to know what the impact of “Birth of a Nation” might be, or to know, while she was being filmed, what the director would do with the footage.

Gish was not responsible for the movie, and holding that she was is as ignorant and indefensible as it is unfair. Continue reading

Tim Conway Died Just In Time

Tim Conway, the gentle, bumbling comedian whose comedy skills formed the backbone of “McHale’s Navy” and “The Carol Burnett Show,”  died this week. As various publications were celebrating his long career, they also made it clear to me that he would have had no career at all if he had been born a few decades later.

The obituaries focused on three of Conway’s most best known and most popular characters. . One was Mr. Tudball, the inept middle manager in a bad toupee who spoke in a funny Scandinavian accent of indeterminate origin.

Accents, however, cannot be laughed at  today: it has been decreed by the political correctness police that using exaggerated accents to make people laugh is really encouraging hate, racism and xenophobia. All of the great dialect comics and comic actors of the past, such as Sid Ceasar, Arte Johnson, Danny Kaye, Bill Dana, Jonathan Winters and more: they weren’t really funny. They were hate-mongers.

Then there was the Oldest Man, whom Tim played in a white fright wig. He barely could walk, you see—just inched along in absurdly small steps. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Pete Buttigieg

The competition for the worst Democratic Presidential nominee hopeful just got a bit more interesting when one of the media darlings among the 24 (24!) hopefuls made an Ethics Dunce of himself (in an interview with Hugh Hewitt) in a manner that is disqualifying for the Presidency by Ethics Alarms standards. Here’s the relevant section:

HH: … A very blunt question, because you talk about going to every Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Indiana when you were running statewide. Should Jefferson-Jackson dinners be renamed everywhere because both were holders of slaves?

Buttigieg: Yeah, we’re doing that in Indiana. I think it’s the right thing to do. You know, over time, you develop and evolve on the things you choose to honor. And I think we know enough, especially Jackson, you know, you just look at what basically amounts to genocide that happened here. Jefferson’s more problematic. You know, there’s a lot to, of course, admire in his thinking and his philosophy. Then again, as you plunge into his writings, especially the notes on the state of Virginia, you know that he knew that slavery was wrong…. And yet, he did it. Now we’re all morally conflicted human beings. And it’s not like we’re blotting him out of the history books, or deleting him from being the Found[ing] Fathers. But you know, naming something after somebody confers a certain amount of honor. And at a time, I mean, the real reason I think there’s a lot of pressure on this is the relationship between the past and the present, that we’re finding in a million different ways that racism isn’t some curiosity out of the past that we’re embarrassed about but moved on from. It’s alive, it’s well, it’s hurting people. And it’s one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse the harms that went along with that. Then, we’d better look for ways to live out and honor that principle, even in a symbolic thing.

Even before this fatuous statement, my Presidential history, common sense and current day political analysis led me to conclude that the South Bend mayor has no chance of being nominated, and if by some miracle of convention deadlock deal he was, no chance of being elected. He is 1) gay, 2) white, 3) male, 4) way too young, and 5) too much immersed  the Democratic Socialist camp. I don’t have to get to some of his other problems, like the fact that he is infuriatingly smug. However, the statement to Hewitt would disqualify him for me even if I were a Democrat, and should make all thinking and ethical Democrats—you know, the ones that aren’t nascent totalitarians, look elsewhere, though good luck with that. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Stephen Fry

“I really will not allow the simple 👌 gesture to belong to the moronic dogwhistling catfishing foghorning frogmarching pigsticking dickwaving few who attempt to appropriate it for their own fatuous fantasies.”

—–British actor, writer, wit and all-around smart person Stephen Fry upon being warned that some people may think that he’s a white supremacist because he flashed the “OK” sign on Twitter.

Good for him.  He didn’t grovel. He didn’t apologize. He simply said, in essence, “Oh, sod off, you fools,” and that was that.  He rejected the right-wing trolls and the leftist speech police simultaneously, with open contempt. And that’s how to deal with political correctness bullying. Someone put him in touch with Harvard College.

On the down side, he’ll probably never be able to see the Cubs play in Wrigley Field.

_________________________

Pointer: Jim Treacher

 

Poll: The Feel-Bad Compliment

“Different? No, you look the same as ever to me! Did you change your hair?”

Phillip Galanes’ “Social Q’s” column in the Sunday Times had what I thought was a strange complaint. A woman who had a long history of yo-yo weight loss said that when she was losing weight, she found the typical compliments she received from friends and co-workers offensive:

“You look so great!” “I hardly recognized you!” I hate these remarks. I’d like to respond: “Thank God I’m not so fat and ugly and gross anymore, right?” Or: “My body is none of your business.”

She said that she was currently in a weight-losing phase and responding to the well-intentioned comments with a simple “thanks,” but asked for advice from Gallanes regarding a better response. I was astounded to find that he sympathized:

Better to ignore the comments, or change the subject, than endorse them with gratitude.

I don’t think a reasonable person would be offended, though, if you said: “I know you mean well, but your comments about my body and weight bother me. I wish you wouldn’t make them.” Or even more directly: “Let’s skip my body as a subject for conversation. It makes me uncomfortable.” You’re allowed to be straight with people, Heather. And your feelings are justified.

Now, to the scores of letter writers who will complain that my ridiculous political correctness is getting in the way of giving simple compliments: Dudes, your “compliments” are hurting people’s feelings! So, maybe, back off your impulse and consider the unintended consequences of your so-called flattering remarks.

Continue reading

The Kate Smith Ban, Chapter II: Oops! Kate Was Actually An Important Voice AGAINST Racial Prejudice! Now Can We Put Her Statue Back Up And Listen To Her Recordings Again?

Oh, how I love this development!

As Ethics Alarms discussed last week, The New York Yankees banned singer Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” at their games after some individuals claimed she was a racist because of the lyrics of two songs she recorded in the 30s. This was a stupid complaint, and the Yankees were cowardly to react to it as they did, but you know, the Yankees. (I kid: my Boston Red Sox were even more craven for  removing the name of their most essential owner, Tom Yawkee, from the street bordering Fenway Park as a virtue-signaling  surrender to Boston progressives.)

The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers had  more reason to be loyal to Smith’s memory than the Yankees, for the singer was the team’s good luck charm, singing “God Bless America” at crucial Stanley Cup home games in the early 1970s. Not only did  the Flyers ban Kate’s rendition of the Irving Berlin patriotic anthem, it covered Smith’s statue in front of the team’s arena with a tarp, then took it down completely.

Nice. I wonder why they didn’t renounce their Stanley Cup victories, since now they are tainted.

Now it appears that Kate was falsely smeared, misrepresented, misunderstood and mistreated.  Continue reading