How To Kill The American Musical

I have directed musicals professionally in regional and amateur theater, and the shows were a great love of mine growing up. Sadly, the American musical genre is becoming increasingly isolated from the mainstream culture for many reasons, among them the death of the movie musical, the pop-infection of the music and its singing styles, making most Broadway scores (and all of the women) sound the same, the inflated price of professional theater tickets, and production costs and effects that put most modern shows outside the realm of possibility for high schools and colleges.

Another factor,  which it is impolitic to discuss, is that the male gay community has decided to make musicals its own special genre, has been discouraging any talented straight performers from venturing into the field, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not.

Emblematic of this trend is the Sirius -XM Broadway Channel, which is the only way any kids are likely to hear an excerpt from a cast recording other than buying the song online. The nearly exclusive host is Seth Rudetsky, a writer/performer of some note and obvious talent. To say that he is openly gay is an understatement. Rudetsky’s delivery, speech patterns and preferred subject matter would have once been criticized as evoking cruel anti-gay stereotypes. He’s an actor; Rudetsky could butch up he chose to, and if he cared about musicals continuing as an art form participated in and enjoyed by the whole society and not just a small segment of it, he would. Continue reading

The Sudden Fall Of Milo Yiannopoulos: An Ethics Cautionary Tale

milo-y

Wow.

Frank Sinatra would have recognized this tale…

That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May

But will Milo Yiannopoulos, the deliberately offensive Breitbart editor,  alt-right cheer-leader, misogynist and professional  troll be able to emulate Ol’ Blue Eyes and be back on top, back on top in June?

Uh, no.

Good.

In case you missed it, Milo had this very month soared higher than any vile, bigoted, uncivil loudmouth without any talent other than being vile, bigoted, and uncivil—are those really talents?—had soared before. Thanks to the fact that his threatened presence as an invited campus speaker had exposed the deep, anti-speech, totalitarian strain in U.S. higher education, and that the currently super-charged Leftist hypocrites who were already playing Brown shirts in response to the Presidential election smoothly transitioned to rioting at Berkeley because of the alleged threat posed by this silly, self-important jerk, Milo had become a genuine celebrity, thus ruining the name of Milo, maybe forever, which had previously evoked…

milo-oshea

…late Irish character actor Milo O’Shea

milo-m

…”Catch 22″ con man Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight played him in the film), and…

milo-and-otis

…nauseating Japanese puppy and kitten-pal flick “Milo and Otis” (that’s Milo on the right).

But I digress.

Milo’s infamy  had snagged a book deal that would guarantee him millions. He scored a high profile interview on HBO with fellow troll, misogynist and jerk-in-arms Bill Maher, who is as much of an asshole as Milo but never gets shouted down when he appears on college campuses because he aims his vile words at conservative values, icons and figures, and most conservatives believe in free speech. Best of all, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, debased itself by inviting him to speak, on the theory that the enemy of their enemies is their friend, or something like that.

Milo had hit the celebrity jackpot! Rich! Famous! Influential!

…Shunned. Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical IRS Employee…Howard Stern Too, But We Knew HE Was Unethical

[There is supposed to be a photo of Howard Stern here, but WordPress keeps refusing to embed it, thus showing the software’s admirable good taste.]

In May of 2015, Judith Barrigas of Sandwich, Massachusetts called the IRS service center  with a question about her tax refund. She reached IRS agent Jimmy Forsythe, who was goofing off on the job, on hold after a call to Howard Stern’s radio show on satellite radio. Forsythe, still on hold (or so he thought) took the taxpayer’s call, and when the Stern show took reconnected, Stern’s listeners somehow heard Forsythe’s conversation with Barrigas.  Stern and paid sycophant Robin Quivers then joked about the call, which concerned Barrigas’s payment plan: the IRS had applied Barrigas’s tax refund to pay her outstanding debts from 2011 and 2012, even though she complained she already had a repayment plan set up with the  IRS. Her call, which she assumed was private, should have assumed was private and was guranteed by federal law to BE private, was on the airwaves for nearly an hour.

“I’m learning so much,” said Stern at the time, before he finally cut off the surreptitious eavesdropping. “I feel like I’m in math class and I’m flunking because I don’t know one thing he’s saying. I think I’m going to bail on this guy. By the way, this is the most boring job ever. I’d rather live in my parent’s basement if I had to do that. I’d give out all the wrong information. All right, dude, later!”

Barrigas  has just sued  the IRS, the Howard Stern Production Company, and Stern individually for violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act,  unlawful disclosure of tax returns and personal information, and just the for the Stern side,  negligence, invasion of privacy, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

From The “American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes” Files: Unethical Quote Of The Month: CBS Radio]

“The viral video of a beating and knife attack in Chicago suggests the assault had racial overtones. CBS’s Dean Reynolds tells us the victim is described as a mentally-challenged teenager.

In the video he is choked and repeatedly called the n-word. His clothes are slashed and he is terrorized with a knife. His alleged captors repeatedly reference Donald Trump. Police are holding four people in connection with the attack.”

—–From the CBS Radio News report on the horrific crime streamed on Facebook, where four young blacks  tortured a mentally teen, forcing him to say “Fuck Trump” and “Fuck white people.”

Time to roll over, Ed. Again.

Time to roll over, Ed. Again.

Fake news. The intent of the report is obviously to make a listener believe that four whites attacked a black teen. Mediaite, in its piece about the deceitful report, calls it “technically correct.” Wrong. A technically correct work of journalism does not intentionally mislead its readers. A technically correct work of journalism does not suggest an incident has “racial  overtones” but omit the material information that the attackers were black and the victim was white, while suggesting that the opposite was true.

The story was intentionally, not accidentally, presented as another “pro-Trump” hate crime: the attackers “referenced Donald Trump,” CBS claimed, which is a long, long way from “forced their bound victim to say ‘Fuck Donald Trump,'” so far away that the difference cannot be plausibly be explained as benign. The news writers couldn’t find a way to spin “Fuck white people” so the story could be falsely reported as white on black violence, so they omitted it from the account altogether.

Now, this was CBS. CBS! The proud U.S news pioneer, home of Edward R. Murrow,  Eric Severeid, Robert Trout, William Shirer,Walter Cronkite, Dan R…okay, okay, let’s stick with Edward R. Murrow,  Eric Severeid, Robert Trout, William Shirer, and Walter. This wasn’t Fake News Tonight, or BLMN, the Black Lives Matter Network. This was CBS, a trusted name in broadcasting since 1927, and it deliberately allowed a false and misleading story to go out under its call letters to inflame anti-white racial tensions and distort the truth of what occurred.

It is a major journalism scandal, and one that should be followed by investigations, firings, a corporate apology, and reform.

Observe with me and see if it is.

Any bets?

It’s Corporation For Public Broadcasting Fundraising Time, Which Means Deception At NPR And PBS

The "Car Talk" brothers today, or so we are told.

The “Car Talk” brothers today, or so we are told.

It is fundraising time for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, and once again, perhaps more than ever, NPR and PBS are lying to you. If you watch the PBS broadcast of “Downton Abbey” this weekend, for example, you will find the show introduced by a series of promotions for such companies as Viking Cruise Lines. These spots look, feel, sound and smell like commercials, but because PBS describes them with the euphemism “promotional considerations,” it thinks it can magically make them non-commercial, and thus, within seconds of running these ads, and while making its audience wait fifteen minutes to actually see the programming, describes PBS as “commercial-free television.”

If you can sell commercials, guys, don’t tell me that the survival of Western civilization depends on my tax-payer dollars going into your pockets.

Over at National Public Radio, it’s also deception and hypocrisy, but worse. I just turned on WMAU, a local NPR affiliate, and heard the familiar strains of Boston townie accents talking about automotive issues on “Car Talk,” where  the Tappet Brothers made the banter between Cliff and Norm sound pedestrian by comparison. After the last segment, in which “Click and Clack” answered a query from an LA area student about whether he should buy a car (Their answer, after much foolery: “No.”) Tom Tappet came on and explained that if this were commercial radio and they were sponsored by an auto manufacturer, the bothers might have felt pressured to give a different answer, or perhaps been fired for giving the honest one they did. And this is what is so important about NPR being listener-funded, he explained. It is independent radio. NPR is only interested in the objective truth, and isn’t swayed by conflict of interest.

Right, Tom! Ask Juan Williams about how independent NPR is. Continue reading

Christmas Music Blues

Who are those guys?

Who are those guys?

At the rate things are going, I am certain that before long no pop vocal interpretations of traditional Christmas music will be easily accessible on the radio. This is a cultural loss—it’s a large body of beautiful and evocative music—and someone should have, one would think, the obligation of preventing it. But I have no idea who.

I realized this when I felt myself getting nostalgic and sad as I listened to a series of “Christmas classics.” For one thing, they all reminded me of my parents, whose absence beginning in 2011 permanently kicked my enjoyment of the season in the groin. For another, all the artists were dead. Bing: dead. Frank: dead. Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, The Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Elvis, John Denver–dead. Long dead, in most cases. Christmas has become a serenade of dead artists. Except for the narrow range of country music stars for those who enjoy “O Holy Night” with a twang, living pop artists don’t sing these songs. OK, Mariah Carey and Michael Buble. Not many others. Sirius-AM was desperate to find living artists that it has been playing the Seth McFarland Christmas album. Seth can sing, but I’m sorry, but it’s hard to enjoy “Silent Night” while picturing “The Family Guy.”

Current pop stars are, understandably, looking for new Christmas hits that will be identified with them, and those have always been hard to come by. Bing Crosby made annual recordings of terrible entries in the Christmas song market—I just heard a station play a few of them. Gene Autry too: many of his efforts were bombs, though I rather like this weird one:

Continue reading

Dishonest Headline and Story Of The Month: Breitbart And Reporter John Nolte

"Trump Telling The Truth" is about as believable...

“Trump Telling The Truth” is about as believable…

When Andrew Breibart died, the conservative punditry world befouled it self with weepy odes to his bravery and dedication to right’s mission, whatever it is. In fact, he was a sloppy and unethical ideologically biased pseudo journalist, who made Fox News really look fair and balanced and MSNBC seem like the epitome of professionalism. Journalism with an agenda isn’t journalism, and Breitbart’s website never let nuances like facts get in the way of a good smear or a dubious accusation.

Earlier this week I read for the first time—since I avoid Breitbart like I avoid centipedes—that there were rumors that The Donald was sending favors the way of the website, and in return, it had grabbed the niche of pro-Trump media mouthpiece, thus setting itself up to run the Ministry of Truth when he gains power and begins rounding up the Unsuitables. THere’s no proof of this, but it could explain articles like this one today, titled Trump 100% Vindicated: CBS Reports ‘Swarm’ On Rooftops Celebrating 9/11.

To cut to the chase, nothing in the article vindicates  or supports Trump in any way, and certainly not “100%.” That’s pure linkbait, though the disgraceful story holds on to the like like grim death, tossing excuses, equivocations, deceits and logical fallacies at it as if this junk can turn lead into gold. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms On The Air!

onair

I have been on the radio a lot recently. The opinions expressed there will not surprise anyone who is a regular reader of Ethics Alarms, but for those curious about whether I speak with a British accent or a bi-lateral lisp, or those who are aurally inclined, below are links to three radio shows that had me as a guest of late, and one that interviewed me as background, and included some of my comments.

Here you go:

1. This is WGAN’s examination of the Hillary Clinton e-mails scandal, delivered by me while in shock after listening to Karen Finney spin herself sick on CNN, ably hosted as always by Arthur King…

2. Here is national host for the Local Job Network, Tim Muma, a terrific interviewer, on a podcast chatting with me about the “Ick!” and “Awww!” Factors and their relationship to ethics.

3. Tim again, this time cross-examining me about the Brian Williams mess and related issues.

4. Finally, NPR reporter Hawes Spencer’s report on the Sweet Briar closing.

The Michel Martin Question I Didn’t Answer This Morning, and More On The Bill Cosby Scandal

On pointIn the segment on “Beverly Johnson And The Bill Cosby Scandal” I just completed for NPR’s “On Point” program, out of Boston with the magnificent Michel Martin hosting, I emulated the Sunday morning talk show guests I so revile for answering questions by making their own points that have little or no relevance to what was asked. Michel asked me, as the time left in the hour-long program was ticking down, what ethical obligations consumers—that is, the audience for his concerts, TV shows and albums—have regarding Cosby, in light of the rape allegations against him.

I was still stunned by the comments made by three callers, encompassing several ethically confused assertions that you know I would find annoying:

  • That the victims should not be coming forward so late;
  • That Cosby is “innocent until proven guilty” (GRRRRR…);
  • That it’s “easy” for women to make unsubstantiated allegations against celebrities, and
  • That there is a parallel between the allegations against Cosby and the Rolling Stone campus rape story.

That last one especially had my head threatening to explode, which would not be good for my relationship with NPR, so I think I can be forgiven for missing Michel’s query. Yes, the UVA rape allegation is exactly like the Cosby scandal, other than the fact that the accusers in Cosby’s case have come forward publicly while “Jackie” has not; that its two dozen (so far) alleged victims for Cosby and one in the UVA case; that one situation is a classic example of abuse of power, wealth and influence and the other is not; that Cosby settled one claim rather than air the allegations in a court of law; and that virtually every part of “Jackie” claim has failed to hold  up under scrutiny and investigation, whereas Cosby, the one individual who could offer evidence to counter the allegations against him, has done nothing but have spokesmen and lawyers issue blanket protests and denials.

Yup. Identical.

My answer to Michel should have been this:

“It’s up to Cosby fans, If they still can still laugh and cheer at Cosby’s nice guy schtick and “America’s Dad” persona knowing that he’s a serial rapist, fine: laughter is good, get it where you can. Personally, I can’t laugh at someone whom I know has engaged in horrific acts, hurt women who admired and trusted them, and by his own conduct left another cultural hero lying face-down in the mud. I can’t forgive it, I can’t get past it, and I’m certainly not going to keep laughing. this is no different from the NFL fans who keep wearing Ray Rice jerseys, or for that matter, Democratic women who continue to swoon over Bill Clinton. If they do, they either:

  • Can’t get over their cognitive dissonance, and at some level refuse to believe what cannot be rationally denied, or…
  • Don’t think the conduct involved—punching women, exploiting women, raping women—is worth getting upset about, or…
  • Buy the absurd personal/public dichotomy, and can still cheer wife-beatering athletes, star-struck intern-exploiting leaders, and raping comedians.

All of these are sad and impossible to justify, but they are common. Does the continued support of a Cosby ratify his conduct? Not in the eyes of his undeterred fans, but in the culture? Of course it does. If Bill Cosby’s career escapes relatively unscathed by this, and he is not held accountable by society, the verdict of the culture will be a particularly extreme version of The King’s Pass: if you are rich enough, powerful enough and seen as contributing enough to society, then you will be held to a lower standard, and can get away with, if not murder, serial rape.”

Continue reading