The Sestak-White House “Please Force Pennsylvanians to Keep Arlen Specter as Senator” story has officially cracked wide open, and reports are coming out fast and furious while the White House is spinning faster than Kristi Yamaguchi on speed. It began with Rep. Sestak making himself look determined and incorruptible by telling a radio talk show host on the air that the White House had promised him a plum job if he didn’t challenge Specter in the primary. Once Sesatk won, Rep. Issa of the Republican Truth Squad began demanding that Sestak reveal who made the offer, since it would be a Federal crime (as Sestak had described it) and another Federal law requires Sestak to report Federal crimes committed by government employees. The details will be clarified, corrected and spun some more over the next few days, but the following is clear: Continue reading
Comedy Ethics, Censorship, and Culture
(The current uproar over the use of various versions of the word “retarded” by Rahm Emanuel and Rush Limbaugh seems to warrant a reprint, slightly revised, of the following essay on ethics and comedy, a January 2008 post on The Ethics Scoreboard. The word “retard” also came in for criticism in a comic context last year, with its use in the Ben Stiller comedy “Tropic Thunder.” Of course, comedy is one thing, and gratuitous cruelty is another. In either case, the issue is the use of a word, not the word itself. As discussed in the previous post, it is appropriate for any group to promote sensitivity and to encourage civility. It is unethical to try to bully others into censoring their speech by trying to “ban” words, phrases or ideas. )
Here is the essay:
“Saturday Night Live” has, not for the first time in its three decade run, ignited an ethics controversy with politically incorrect humor. Was SNL ensemble member Fred Armison’s impression of New York Governor David Paterson, who is blind, including as it did a wandering eye and featuring slapstick disorientation, legitimate satire or, as Paterson and advocates for the blind have claimed, a cruel catalyst for discrimination against the sight-challenged?
It is not an easy call, though the opposing sides of the argument probably think it should be. And it raises long-standing questions about the balance between ethics and humor. Continue reading
Unethical Website: www.r-word.org
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, criticized for using the word “retarded’ during a private meeting last summer, has told advocates for the mentally disabled that he will join their campaign to help end the use of the word.
I’m sure he will. Emanuel, like too many politicians, is willing to throw Freedom of Speech and thought under the bus if it gets him out of hot water with the politically correct. But while the efforts of the Special Olympics to “end the r-word,” as its website http://www.r-word.org puts it, are understandable and well-intentioned, they couldn’t be more wrong. Or dangerous. Continue reading