Ethics Hero: Dolly Parton

It seems that Dolly has integrity even if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does not.

Looking for publicity, or glitz, or something, the Cleveland-based Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominated Parton for the Class of 2022 even though she hasn’t ever recorded a song that could be classified as “rock” by any definition however loose. She has been, first and foremost, a country singer. She occasionally has crossed the line, whatever it is, into pop.

Parton withdrew her name from consideration, tweeting,

“Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out. I do hope that the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME will understand and be willing to consider me again – if I’m ever worthy. This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great Rock ‘N’ Roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do! My husband is a total Rock ‘N’ Roll freak, and has always encouraged me to do one. I wish all of the nominees good luck and thank you again for the compliment. Rock on!”

It’s embarrassing that a nominee is more aware of the perils of an institution’s honor being contrived than the institution itself. Barack Obama could have saved the Nobel Peace Prize from a massive reduction in prestige if he had taken the same approach as Parton when he was absurdly nominated before he had done anything but get elected President. I can think of several admittees to the Baseball Hall of Fame who should have turned down that honor—Tony Perez and Harold Baines immediately come to mind.

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Hall of Fame Ethics… Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,That Is

Cat Stevens

Conservative blogress Kathy Shaidle pleaded with voters not to enshrine Yusuf Islam, a.k.a Cat Stevens, into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and then, when they added him anyway, expressed her disgust. Her objections were not based on music criticism (as would be justified with nominees like Yes), nor on Cat’s honor blocking more worthy nominees (like, say, The Zombies). She objects to Yusuf Islam on political and ethical grounds, complaining that during his activist days and perhaps even now, he qualified as a Muslim radical.

It doesn’t matter. Cat Stevens belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of his art, not his character. His character is irrelevant to the reach, influence and value of his art, as are his politics. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes no pretense of making difficult measurements of an artist’s character, unlike the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which has come up on Ethics Alarms frequently. Baseball players are cultural icons and societal heroes, whose symbolic exploits on the field of play evoke and inspire young people as well as the rest of us, embodying positive traits like courage, perseverance, fortitude, sacrifice, team play, loyalty, honor, fairness and honesty. As derided as it is by sportswriters and jaded fans who would like to see both the baseball Hall and its rosters filled with enabled and highly paid cheaters, felons, thugs, miscreants, deadbeat dads, and worse—like those of professional football and basketball—the character clause holds baseball players, at least those who want to be remembered as great ones, to a higher standard. And that higher standard is relevant to the game they play and our appreciation of it.

The character of artists, however, are simply accompanying trivia to the artist’s contributions to society. If there was a character clause in the Crooner’s Hall of Fame, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby might be barred from entry, meaning that it would then be the Imitators of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby Hall of Fame. For entrance to the Classical Composers Hall of Fame, Mozart and Wagner (and a lot more) would need to buy a ticket. Don’t get me started on the Novelist’s Hall of Fame, or the Hall of Fame for American Playwrights. Beautiful, transcendent, moving and immortal works have issued from ugly, warped, cruel and diseased minds, and it has always been thus, in Rock and Roll as well as every other art form. Picking on Cat Stevens, among all the others, smacks of anti-Muslim bigotry to me. Sure, I hated Cat’s politics; I hated John Lennon’s politics too.

It’s the art, and only the art, that matters.

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Sources: PJ Media 1, 2

Oscar, Jean Luc-Godard, and the Ethics of Honoring Talented Creeps

The Academy of Motion Picture Sciences will be giving an honorary Oscar to French director Jean-Luc Godard, and nobody who knows anything about film can object to the award on the basis of merit. Godard is one of the most influential film makers who ever yelled “Cut!;”  there are dozens of film classes about his work in schools all over the country. He makes great movies, and has for decades. He deserves the honor.

Or does he? Mr. Godard, it seems, has also been resolutely anti-Jewish, at least in his sentiments, for almost as long as he has been making classic films. Some in the industry and without are questioning whether Hollywood should be honoring a likely Anti-Semite.

Excuse me…did I miss something? When did the rest of the Oscars get junked, leaving only the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award? Continue reading