Saturday Ethics Aftermath, 11/14/2020: Art And Ethics

Brussels statue

1. Movie plot ethics. It’s clear that I have watched far too many movie and TV programs. I am now at the point where certain routine plot and directorial devices not only annoy me, they insult me. I regard these now as disrespectful and incompetent, and in that sense, unethical. I’m not talking about the cliches that still work with the young and uninitiated, like how the apparently dead/injured/ betrayed/ rejected or abandoned character you forgot about is always the one who shows up to save the day. (Among the reasons I love the “Magnificent Seven” so much is that when the one member of the team who had quit shows up to rescue his pals in the final gun battle, he is shot and killed immediately.) I’m referring to tropes that are self-evidently stupid and should seem so for any viewer over the age of 12.

For example,  if there’s a vicious, murdering psychopath chasing you, and you knock him cold with a steel pipe or incapacitate him in other ways, you don’t assume he/she/it is dead and leave the killer there to revive and slaughter you. You make sure the manic/monster is dead. Beat his head to a pulp; heck, cut it off.  This is often paired with another idiotic scene, the ill-timed hug. The world is going to blow in seconds, zombies are coming, crazies are beating down the door: save that passionate embrace for later, you morons! The same applies to long, emotional conversations in the midst of disasters when every second counts. Which is worse, I wonder: the long debate in “Armageddon” between Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck when they have literally seconds to save the Earth from an asteroid apocalypse, or the even longer argument among three fire fighters in the middle of a burning building?  That was in “Backdraft,” and I never quite felt the same about director Ron Howard after that.

2. Statue ethics again.  A new London  sculpture dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century writer and feminist hero (and the mother of Mary Shelley) is attracting much hate from art critics and the public.

MW memorial

The work by the British artist Maggi Hambling features a small, naked woman standing on a pillar silvered bronze, set on a cube of dark granite. The overall form is just larger than an average person, and sits well with the park: “Why is Mary naked?” critics are demanding. One Twitter user said: “I had no idea Mary had shredded abs.”

Morons. Read the statue’s base: “For Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.”  This is not intended to be a likeness of, but a tribute to,Wollstonecraft, whose most famous quotation from her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” published in 1792, appears on the other side of the base:  “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

Before one starts criticizing anything, it is essential, fair and responsible to know what one is talking about. Every day I send to Spam Hell comments from Ethics Alarms critics who obviously didn’t read the post they are commenting on. I once went to great lengths to get a local theater critic fired who reviewed a show I directed after I saw her walk out before the second act.

On the other side, as a stage director who made being clear my prime directive, I hold the artist partially responsible when a large proportion of viewers don’t understand what is being communicated.

3. Then there is this:

Continue reading

“Is This Funny, Sir?” “No, It Isn’t. It’s Tragic..”

Oh all right, it’s kind of funny…

But it’s also tragic. Tragic, in that any elementary school is run by administrators and teachers who think such facile slogans as “no human is illegal” and “kindness is everything” are anything but evidence of weak minds and lazy logic; tragic, that such people would publicly display what proclaims their incompetence; tragic, in that sentiments that make Hallmark card inscriptions  seem like “Crime and Punishment” are regarded as profound by in this institution, which is charged with the enrichment of young minds.

Mostly, however, the sign is tragic because the parent who posted this photo wasted time taking it, rather than instantly removing her child from the clutches of indoctrination-bent fools who should not be trusted to educate a marmot, since, among other things, they don’t know how to spell “kindness.”

Comment Of The Day: “Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme”

Not for the first time, a commenter has done a more thorough job fisking a problematical statement that I have. Actually, I didn’t even try to dissect the memed screed below…

…I  asked whether it was truly unethical, or just signature significance for an arrogant political correctness junkie.  Ryan Harkins took on the greater challenge, and as usual, did a superb job.

Here is Ryan’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme…

Today I am wearing a shirt that reads:

Inconceivable. Adj.
1. Not capable of being imagined or grasped.
2. Not what you think it means.

The problem with memes like the above is that it is disingenuous. What do you mean by love? Do you mean philia? Eros? Caritas? Squishy feel-goodness, for which I don’t know a Latin equivalent? In general, especially given what I’ve observed of the people who post such memes, I don’t think “love” means what they think it means. I certainly don’t think they see love as selflessly willing the good of the other, but maybe that’s because I’m cynical and see this meme as not willing the good of someone else, but trying to proclaim one’s own virtue.

What is meant by inclusion? Is there nothing someone could ever do to warrant exclusion? Or is there a little asterisk pointing one to the fine print, where we don’t include the scum of the earth, like religious white men, sex offenders, and Trump supporters?

I don’t have much to say about empathy or compassion. Equality always begs the question: “Equal how?” Because again, people keep using that word, and I do not think it means what they think it means. Equal before the law? Equal in dignity? Equal in socioeconomic status? Equal in success? Or how about created equally, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including (but not limited to) life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

I have no problem with dignity, but what about diversity and community? There is unavoidable tension in the community when there is diversity. We might not like that fact, but it is there. As soon as you have two people of different opinions in the room, there is tension, and by and large what we’ve seen is that people are less and less tolerant of tension. I wouldn’t say they are less tolerant of differences of opinion, as long as those opinions keep to themselves and don’t bother other people. It is the tension that people are finding unbearable. Maybe it is because we are no longer equipped to have our opinions or viewpoints challenged. But I also have a hard time believing anyone believes in community, when so many are nose down I electronics (as I am as I write this) and all my friends belong to the same echo chamber as myself. Continue reading

Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme

I have a long-time friend whose spouse has the above Facebook meme as a social media avatar. As a result, I have serious reservations about having any further interaction with either of them.

Once again, I am bedeviled by the phenomenon of public virtue-signaling, a non-virus epidemic that mostly manifests itself among smug progressives. There is no question in my mind that such ostentatious declarations are obnoxious and nausea-inducing, and thus offensive. But are they unethical?

The last time I addressed this issue was when these signs, mercifully short-lived, starting popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.

Then, I see that I was adamant, writing in part, Continue reading

The Sequel To The “It’s OK To Be White” Stickers: “Islam Is Right About Women” Flyers

In Winchester, Massachusetts (right next to my old home town of Arlington!)  flyers reading “Islam is RIGHT About Women” suddenly appeared around the town, fastened to trees, utility polls and street signs in the familiar manner of those “lost cat” notices.

An “alarmed” woman brought two flyers to the Winchester Police Department, and officers subsequently found eight more, including one that was posted outside of an elementary school. The flyer presented multiple dilemmas. Police said the signs were not threatening and considered free speech. But because they were placed on town property, the flyers technically violated town ordinances. Yet those lost cat flyers were always allowed to remain.

Some residents were adamant that the signs should come down: one who spoke to a local TV station, Jim Leary, said, “Putting signs up that make people feel uncomfortable is unfortunate, particularly in this time and age.”

Really? Sounds like you’re not too fond of free speech, Jim!

The police took the flyers down. Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh wrote, citing Members of the City Council v. Taxpayers for Vincent (1984), that the content of the flyers’ message  is constitutionally protected, but that the city could take down the ones that violated town law  so long as it wasn’t discriminating based on the viewpoint of the signs.  But of course it was, since the lost cat flyers were never taken down.

What’s going on here? The Professor played dumb, writing, Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

Those “Dissent Is Patriotic” Signs

My Alexandria, Virginia neighbors are fond of simple-minded and obnoxious virtue-signalling signs, as I discussed here.

Another one has started popping up, this one proclaiming “Dissent is Patriotic.” As a general proposition, little of value can be stated in three words, especially those with “is” in the middle. “Dissent is Patriotic” is a gross generality, and a sign like this bolsters the delusions of smug absolutists and the historically ignorant.

The ACLU has been pushing this slogan (to sell T-shirts, it seems), and it had a re-birth thanks to the NFL kneelers, who are in truth a perfect example of when dissent isn’t patriotic. Incoherent dissent isn’t patriotic: it makes all dissent look bad. Dissent based on hate, lies, or a desire to divide isn’t patriotic: it’s hateful, dishonest and divisive, which is to say harmful, and thus unethical.

Speaking of dishonesty, many of these signs use the phrasing you see on the left, which is a fake quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Attaching a dubious assertion to a much-admired historical figure is an unethical propaganda tactic employing a dishonest appeal to authority.  (This is a famous example.)

As Ethan Epstein wrote in The Weekly Standard,

Few if any Americans are associated with more apocryphal quotes than Thomas Jefferson, but the false notion that he said, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” is among the easiest to dispel. Because Jefferson never would have said something so idiotic. Of course dissent can be patriotic, but it isn’t inherently so. What one is dissenting from matters. Were members of the German American Bund, who protested the U.S.’s anti-Nazi policies in the 1930s and ‘40s, enacting the “highest form of patriotism?”

Continue reading

Illegal Immigrant Ethics Do’s And Don’ts

DON’T do this:

A customer’s cell phone video caught  a  7-Eleven clerk on Tampa, Florida screaming at a customer and asking about his immigration status after the customer used the Spanish word for ‘green’ to ask the clerk for a specific brand of cigarettes. The clerk demanded Hernandez speak English, and is is heard saying, “Are you here legally? Do you have papers? Do you have papers?”

This isn’t the clerk’s job, and if the company has not directed that all customers should not be treated with dignity, courtesy and respect, no employee should be going free-lance ICE on anyone.

A spokesman for the 7-11 owner  wrote, “Every customer is important. The statements made by the sales associate were inappropriate and offensive. We are investigating the matter and will ensure it is handled appropriately.”

“Appropriately” means firing the clerk. In addition to acting ultra vires, the clerk is also making the store unpleasant and unwelcoming for other customers, risking an escalating confrontation, and being a jerk while representing the enterprise. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

However…

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: Why That “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” Sign Is Unethical (As Well As Obnoxious)

Mrs. Q, who is keeping Ethics Alarms current on the oppressive politically correct environment slowly poisoning Portland, Oragon, was moved to issue another report in reponse to the Ethics Alarms post about a virtue-signalling sign popping up live wild-flowers on yards across America here is her Comment of the Day on the post, “Why That “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” Sign Is Unethical (As Well As Obnoxious)”…(I’ll be back at the end.)

This yard sign is just about everywhere in the city including businesses, churches, schools, and city offices.

 

This one is also popular. I love how the “Science is real” part is in green.

Black Lives Matters signs often accompany the 2 above. Also on businesses, schools, etc.

This one is mostly on businesses/community centers but some residents have this sign taped to their living room windows.

What’s most interesting is that all the problems this town suddenly has with “hate” came after the anti-Trumpers started putting these signs up. I told a (former) friend that I thought these signs were virtue signaling and devisive and smug I didn’t appreciate that every day everywhere an average citizen can’t take a walk or go to the gym without knowing the political opinions of the home/business/agency owners.

She promptly quoted Eleanor Roosevelt’s “No one can make you feel inferior” mantra. Funny enough she’s white, I’m not, and instead of actually listening to me, you know as a special downtrodden minority, she dismissed my concerns altogether about how such signs may negatively affect a community (and then she cut me out of her life. Yep, so tolerant). Continue reading

Why That “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” Sign Is Unethical (As Well As Obnoxious)

NPR claims that people get teary-eyed viewing this supposedly viral sign in front of houses across the country. I’ve only seen two in my neighborhood, thank goodness, and they irritate me no end. Why? The sign is dishonest, unfair and divisive. It is also political, while pretending not to be.

First, the sign is not what it represents itself as being. It is not written for an actual neighbor. If it were, the sign would be remote and rude. I welcome new neighbors personally, not by putting garish signs on my lawn.  The sign is blatant virtue-signalling, telling the neighborhood that this household is in favor of diversity, love, and immigration…as if lots of other people are not. If it is not a public sign designed to rebuke those people, whoever they are, then why the sign? If everyone in the neighborhood welcomes Americans of all colors and origins—and I know of no Klan chapter in Northern Virginia—then the sign is a straw man. I’m sure, however, that Hispanic-Americans or Muslim-Americans who see these signs on lawns might be moved to think: Wait, does this mean that many people in this community DON’T welcome us as neighbors? How are we to recognize them?

That’s not a healthy or welcoming message, but hey, if it makes the homeowner seem enlightened and virtuous, it’s a net win. Continue reading