Tag Archives: propaganda

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.


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.


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/12/18: The Media’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale Debacle

Good morning!

It’s  a Cognitive Dissonance Scale (CDS) fiasco! I know I’ve been flogging the scale recently, but it’s not my fault widespread ignorance of Dr. Festinger’s invention is running amuck. Here is the scale (again)…

Remember, the theory, born out daily in practice, is that we subconsciously move people, things and ideas up and down the preference scale according to their connections to other people, things and ideas with strong positive or negative scale scores. This was the theory behind Ram Trucks using Martin Luther King Jr. as a pitch man in the much-reviled Super Bowl ad, which we discussed in the post From The Scary Tales Of The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Files: The Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial.  [Incidentally, those Ram ad writers weren’t quite as dumb as I thought. While the response to the ad over-all indicated that the Mad Men miscalculated regarding the Scale, some data showed that they were right about the black audience, just not right enough. A Morning Consult survey of 1,579 U.S. adults who viewed the ad indicated that 48%  of African-Americans said the ad gave them a more favorable view of Ram, while 17% said it gave them a less favorable view of the bran,  and 30% said it made no difference. That means that MLK was so high on the African-American scale that his positive value even overcame the negative value of shameless exploitation, and that attaching King to the trucks did, in fact, elevate the product’s scale value.]

Looking again at the scale, let us assume that most rational Americans place North Korea very low. How low? How low can can you go? The poverty-stricken Asian nation is dragged down by the fact that it was (and technically still is) a hostile enemy of the U.S. in the Korean War It is a Communist nation, a dictatorship, a brutal dictatorship, a human rights criminal, and most Americans have “being threatened with nuclear weapons” quite low on their personal scales as well.

For the sake of argument, let’s say North Korea’s CDS value is -100. (Imagine there is a zero after all of the numbers on the scale; the N/S is really of infinite length in both directions.)

Now, what would you say is the scale’s value for the U.S. news media? Journalists are under the delusion that their positive numbers are high. They should be high, and they have always been high before, but the last several years of blatant bias and incompetence have lowered them considerably. For me, the news media is in negative numbers already, but just for the sake of the exercise, let’s say that the news media has a faintly positive public scale score of +20.

How about the Olympics? For some reason the Olympics still have a positive rating on the scale, though nowhere near where it once was. That positive rating is why NBC paid a fortune for the broadcasting rights, hoping for big viewer ratings, but also assuming that the high Olympics Cognitive Dissonance Scale score would yank the network’s own score up the scale.

I’ll peg the Olympics scale rating at +50. I don’t really believe it’s that high, especially the Winter version.

Finally, the last ingredient of this complex Cognitive Dissonance Scale excursion is President Trump. There is no way that the President of the United Sates is in scale negative numbers, which are distinct from poll approval ratings.  If he were a Pet Rock, the office, the history, and the symbolic nature of his role would take any President over the mid-line.  If the Olympics audience were entirely made up of “the resistance,” this would be another matter, but it is not. If anything, I would guess, though I don’t know, that the 30% or so  bitter Trump-haters among the public would tend to be less interested in the national pride orgy the Olympics typically presents than the less-deranged portion of the public. Again, for the sake of the exercise, I’ll put President Trump at -0-, neutral territory.

What has happened since the Olympics began is that the mainstream media has been gushing approval over the North Koreans–their athletes, their creepy cheerleading squad, and most of all, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong–all propaganda tools— while sneering disapproval at the President’s representative at the Games, Mike Pence. As some wags on social media have pointed out, this is roughly the equivalent of swooning over Eva Braun during the 1936 Munich Olympics. Wrote the Daily Caller, fairly and accurately, Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Sports

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/11/2018: Of Slave Cheerleading, Fake Degrees, And The Death of Pebbles

Good Morning!

(That’s the Kentucky All-State Choir serenading the hotel where they were staying last night, in observation of an annual tradition. I’m sure guests were kneeling everywhere in protest….)

1 Winter Olympics Ethics: You are all going to have to help me keep up with this, since I regard the whole enterprise as corrupt and cynical. How many of the competitors are doping? How many little girls are being molested by their coaches? How much gauging by local businesses is going on? Why are American citizens marching under flags of foreign nations? How many athletes are going to exploit the opportunity for political grandstanding? I’m dedicated to following cultural ethics, but as my terse and eloquent friend is prone to say in such situations, “There is some shit I won’t eat.”

So far, I note…

  • Vice President Mike Pence is getting roundly criticized for not being properly diplomatic regarding the North Koreans, refusing to shake hands with officials, and not standing when the unified Korean team entered the stadium during opening ceremonies. I would not criticized the Veep if he had behaved otherwise, but I won’t fault Pence for his choice, which I  assume were signed off on  by the President. Cognitive dissonance—my, this has been relevant lately!—applies. North Korea is a brutal regime that savages its people, spends money on weaponry while the public is malnourished, and has devoted a year threatening to nuke us.

They and their leader have earned contempt, not respect. The degree of criticism Pence is receiving from the news media shows how many journalists viscerally prefer North Korea to the Trump Presidency.

  • On that score, the gushing of NBC, ABC and CNN over the North Korean synchronized cheerleading squad is bizarre, dumb and tasteless. The 200+ team is propaganda for totalitarianism, and the less praise it receives from useful idiots, the better.  At one point, NBC tweeted “This is so satisfying” with a video of the beaming slave squad, then quickly deleted the tweet after a faint ethics alarm sounded.

This is one of those times we should be grateful for social media, as the Twitter assassins had their knives out, and appropriately so. My favorite of the many appropriate tweets collected here,

“Look happy or your little sister gets fed to a pack of dogs.”

  • And speaking of idiots, NBC Sports had to apologize after Asian correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo told the Opening Ceremony TV audience  that “every Korean” respected Japan. This demonstrates astounding ignorance of culture and history, and stunning incompetence by NBC in preparing its broadcasters for covering an international event in South Korea.

2. Animal Ethics: Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Social Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/18/2018: Enemies Of The People [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I can say “good morning,” can’t I? Can I tweet it? Is it moderate enough?

About calling the news media “the enemy of the people”...Foolishly, people are cheering Senator Jeff Flake’s dishonest and cheap characterization of President Trump’s description of the news media as “words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies.” They were also words used by playwright Henrik Ibsen about 70 years before Stalin used them.  The device of finding the most revolting person ever to use a phrase and then connect a current speaker to that person is an unethical abuse of the cognitive dissonance scale, and as low a political tactic as I can think of right now, but I’m sure “the resistance” will come up with a lower one.

Flake’s entire speech was below the belt demagoguery. By what measure, for example, is a Presidential aide’s ad lib comment on cable TV about “alternative facts” “enshrining “alternative facts” into the American lexicon.” The news media did the enshrining, Senator. The White House never mentioned the term, not even once. “2017 was a year which saw the truth — objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government” is simply a lie. 2017 was a year which saw the truth battered and abused by the one profession whose job and duty it is not to abuse the truth: journalists. Worse, the did much of it to create fear, disrespect and distrust of the elected President of the United States, because they wanted someone else to win.

Flake reminds us that the press is protected by the Constitution, and he seems to believe, as the news media does, that this special status that they abuse daily, hourly, by the minute, should insulate them from deserved criticism and distrust no matter how they misinform and the degree of harm they do in the process. Let’s take just a single cable anchor: Chris Cuomo. He told the public that they could not legally read the Wikileaks leaks, but the news media could. He tweeted that “hate speech” was not protected by the First Amendment. He sid last week that the President’s alleged use of “shithole” irresponsibly polluted the minds of children, when if he spoke that word at all, he spoke it behind closed doors, with the understanding that he was dealing with responsible professionals who would not intentionally breach their implied promise that the meeting was private and confidential. Those are three flagrant examples of journalism malpractice, and off the top of my head. If I chose to, I could find dozens more, and that’s only one “respected journalist.”

The resistance to the President’s description is in some cases denial, and in more cases a deliberate deception to allow wrongdoing to continue. I am cross-posting the following from my comments today on another post: Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Pssst! Climate Change Activists? This Is Why Nobody Trusts You…

Here is Houdini showing the Scientific American panel how spiritualists and mediums made bells ring. See his foot?

I once subscribed to Scientific American. We had to read it in high school, and I often used articles from the magazine in research projects. I also was a fan of its history, which intersected with my long-time love of magic and magic history. It was Scientific American, back in the 1920s, that created the special cash prize for anyone who could prove they had supernatural powers, or that paranormal phenomena was real. After a while psychics and other miracle workers stopped applying for the prize, because SA’s panel of experts always exposed them as frauds. The star member of that panel was Harry Houdini, in his post-performing second career as the enemy of charlatans and frauds

Thus it pains me to see the once great, dumbed-down vestige of Scientific American publish an article with this unforgivable headline, in front of content that is little better:

Climate Change May Have Helped Spark Iran’s Protests

And space aliens may have built the pyramids.

Actually, the article still has educational value, though no teacher is likely to use it properly. It is a wonderful example of poor critical thinking, bad science, the result of mixing science with politics, and how bias makes you stupid.  The author, Scott Waldman, doesn’t even try to hide the article’s weak logic and lame premise, beginning it with this:

The impacts of climate change are among the environmental challenges facing Iran that helped spark protests in dozens of cities across the Islamic republic.At least 20 people have died in the uprising, driven by the sudden collapse of financial institutions, low wages and mistrust of national leaders. Rising temperatures are seen by some experts as an underlying condition for the economic hardships that led to the unrest. A severe drought, mismanaged water resources and dust storms diminished Iran’s economy in recent years, according to experts who study the region. While the protests are largely driven by resistance to the country’s hardline conservative government, such environmental factors might have contributed to the largest protests inside Iran in years.

That tells any objective reader all he needs to know: junk ahead.  The old “some experts” ploy, eh? You can find “some experts” who will say anything, especially on TV. We just went through weeks of unethical speculation on whether the President was suffering from dementia based on “some expert,” a Yale professor of psychiatry who breached the American Psychiatric Association (APA) ethics protocols and was revealed as not to be licensed to practice anymore.You know. An expert.

Waldman himself isn’t an expert on climatology or even science: he’s a reporter, and his degree was in journalism. Funny, I’m so old, I remember when the articles in Scientific American were written by scientists. How quaint. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Unethical Quote Of The Week: “Fire And Fury” Author Michael Wolff

“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book. Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in the accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”

Michael Wolff, author of the soon-to-be-released “Fire and Fury,” which the news media, cable news, and the internet has been quoting, reporting on and fulminating over for days, in an interview about his soon-to-be best seller.

This is an admission that the book–-his own book— is not a reliable or trustworthy source. What an author, especially one conflicted with the desire to make a fortune on a book, “believes to be true” are not facts. Woolf is saying that his book is an undifferentiated melange of likely lies, distortions, hearsay, rumors, and accounts that can’t be verified, as well as some truth, leaving it to readers to determine which is which according to what they want to believe. At least he’s honest about that.

That anything in such a book would be treated as news by any allegedly respectable news organization is as damning an indictment of the state of U.S. journalism as anything this rotting pillar of democracy has done in the last decade. Readers and viewers who treat these reports as more than gossip should be ashamed of themselves. They are contributing to the civic de-education of the American public by making unethical journalism profitable.

The news media works overtime to create contempt and disrespect for the elected President. As a result, it conditions its converts to accept fake news, half-news, and speculative news as fact, thus adding to that contempt and disrespect. Pseudo journalists like Wolff predictably seek to profit from this toxic, trust- and democracy-rotting cycle.

A twitterer with six-figures of followers sent this parody of Wolff’s book into social media:

Continue reading


Filed under U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2018: Cheaters, Stoners And Head Explosions

good morning

(i lived in e e cummings’ old dorm room as a college freshman. never got him at all, but it would be great not to have to worry about the shift key)

1 Three wrongs don’t make a right. They track baseball’s Hall of Fame votes as they come in now, using those ballots that the baseball writers make public (not all of them do). It looks like neither Barry Bonds, nor Roger Clemens, the all-time “greats”—cheaters cannot be fairly considered great—who sullied the game and its records by using performance enhancing drugs, are not gaining support to the extent than many predicted, and will fall short again.

Good. That makes six years down and only four more to go before the two are no longer eligible for this method of entering Cooperstown. Not so good is the development that the newer and younger voters tend to support Barry and the Rocket while the older sportswriters they replace as voters did not. Why is this? Well, the young Turks don’t see anything wrong with illegal drugs, for one thing: they probably used–use?— them themselves. Next, they have been hearing the routine rationalizations and flawed arguments defending Bonds for 20 years, which can rot one’s brain—I know they have nearly rotted mine, and I know they are worthless. Mostly, I think, each succeeding American generation has less ethical literacy and competence than the one before. The field isn’t taught in grade school, is barely mentioned in the media, and unlike the good ol’ days of “The Lone Ranger,” “Father Knows Best”  and “The Defenders,” popular culture undermines an ethical culture more than it nurtures one.

There is also a new bad argument for letting in Bonds and Clemens, which would then open the floodgates for arguably worse baseball deplorables like Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez—who knows? Maybe even Pete Rose. That line of reasoning  is that since the Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, who averted his gaze while the steroid epidemic was infecting every team and the evidence was undeniable, was admitted to the Hall last year by his complicit cronies, the cheating players he enabled should be forgiven too.

That this is increasingly being cited a justification by the younger writers tells us that mothers aren’t teaching their kids that two wrongs don’t make a right any more.

2.Three wrongs don’t make a right, Part II. In related news, California went all-pot-head at midnight New Years Eve. My conviction that legalizing marijuana is an abdication of government’s responsibility to protect society, a leap down a deadly slippery slope, and the product of greed and cowardice hasn’t abated one iota, but I’m happy to have a large-scale experiment to prove me wrong—or right. Now we can expect a wave of stoners as well as illegal immigrants into the Golden State—ah, what a paradise it will be! This creeping crud in U.S. culture is also in part the result of a terrible example of “two wrongs make a right” fallacy—I’m sure you have either heard it or—yecchh—used it yourself. “Alcohol and tobacco are worse than marijuana, and they are legal!”

Yes, about that: guess what is on the rise and killing more people? From the New York Times a few days ago:

[A]lcohol overuse remains a persistent public health problem and is responsible for more deaths, as many as 88,000 per year. … [T]here has been about a 50 percent uptick in emergency room visits related to heavy drinking. After declining for three decades, deaths from cirrhosis, often linked to alcohol consumption, have been on the rise since 2006….[B]inge drinking — often defined as five per day for men and four per day for women — is on the rise among women, older Americans and minorities. Behind those figures there’s the personal toll — measured in relationships strained or broken, career goals not met and the many nights that college students can’t remember.

3. Gee, thanks, David, I love starting a new year with my brains on the ceiling...David Leonhardt, one of the many Democratic operatives with press credentials (Instapundit calls them)  writing for New York Times, exploded my head with his New Years column, “7 Wishes for 2018.” His wishes 1, 2, 6 and 7 each would have done the trick by themselves, but collectively it was Krakatoa all over again.

Here are David’s four wishes: Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Sports, U.S. Society