Tag Archives: taboos

More Blackface Ethics From The Ethics Alarms Double Standards Files: The Zulu Club Parade

In other threads around the blog, I have argued that the politically correct position against black make-up on a non-black individual, which is that it is the equivalent of “blackface” and thus racist per se regardless of the intent or purpose of the wearer or how it is reasonable perceived by others, is the declaration of a taboo rather than a logical argument. We have reached a similar taboo state with the use of the term “nigger” (and I have just violated that taboo by printing the word.) Teachers and professors have been punished for expressly employing the word to discuss racist uses of the word in other contexts. This is obviously bats—such instructors are not engaging in racist speech or intending to do so—but that is how taboos work. It’s like saying “Niagara Falls” in the old vaudeville skit.

Amusingly—hypocritical searches for secret exits when one is hoisted on one’s own petard amuses me—the fact that two Democrats in Virginia were found to have once worn black make-up has set off new safaris on the Left to find  a way to define blackface so the taboo approach doesn’t hurt the good people—you know, anyone who isn’t a conservative or a Republican. Now harsh focus has fallen on a black group that has used blackface for over a century.

The Zulu parade is staged on Mardi Gras by the New Orleans African-American philanthropic and social club. The Zulu Club’s paraders, both black and white, wear blackface and grass skirts, a tradition that began in 1909. How is the Zulu Club’s fun and games different from Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface to imitate Michael Jackson—in a nice way, of course?

As far back as 1956, when an NAACP officer criticized the parade’s dress-up,  the Zulu tradition has been controversial.  “It’s always made me cringe,” wrote Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist with the Times-Picayune newspaper on Twitter. “That said, they swear it’s satire.” What? How is THAT a defense? The original blackface was satire, and it was satirizing blacks. Kim Coleman, an African-American woman who is curator of the city’s McKenna Museum of African-American Art, was interviewed by the New York Times and told the paper that she was  offended by “the sight of white people in blackface.” Does that mean black people wearing blackface is OK, because it satirizes white racists satirizing blacks? I presume she knows that black performers during Jim Crow sometimes had to wear blackface to be allowed on stage. That image isn’t disgusting? Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up: On Bans, Taboos, And Dreams

 

Good afternoon!

1. Answer: I’m thinking about it. A kind commenter asks when I am going to put up a full post about Facebook’s censorship of Ethics Alarms, which had harmed the blog’s traffic and, what is worse, made it increasingly difficult to carry the message of ethics over bias and rationalizations to the greater public.  One reason I haven’t made a bigger deal about this is that I am still unsure what’s going on, and why. Another is that this  all came down on me at the same time as this lingering cold/flu thing  that has required more rest and sapped more energy than is convenient, and in the grand triage of life, fighting with Facebook has had to yield to other priorities. I’m considering putting up a supplemental site to share Ethics Alarms essays. I’m thinking about launching an Ethics Alarms Facebook site. As I have said before, suggestions are welcome.

2.Happy Birthday, Tom! This is Thomas Edison’s (1847-1931) birthday, and celebrating it in the wake of the deranged “Green New Deal’s” plan to take us back to the Stone Age while financing the needs of those “unwilling” to work would be prudent. Edison personified the kind of creativity, industry, and risk-taking that America’s core values are designed to foster. He derided the label of scientist, insisting that he was “only” an inventor, meaning that his mission was to develop commercially viable advances in technology that made human lives better, richer, and more productive. Do they teach kids about inventors any more? My father made sure that I watched both “Edison the Man,” Hollywood’s biopic starring Spencer Tracy, and “Young Tom Edison,” starring Mickey Rooney, before I was twelve. I found the films inspirational then, and I find them inspirational now.

3. Another canary dies in the mine. Columbia University, long ago one of the cauldrons of student protest and defiant expression, followed the rest of academia by taking another alarming step toward constraining non-conforming student speech. It has substantially defunded the student band for defying the administration’s ban on “Orgo Night,”a Sixties tradition in which the students disrupted the sanctity of the library to lampoon the school’s oppressively serious culture. By itself, this is trivial. As part of a trend in American colleges, it is not. Many feel, I would say with justification, that the sudden squashing of the band’s irreverence  was sparked because it was “a liability in an age of heightened political sensibilities.” In other words, thoughts and ideas that the Left can’t control threaten the cause of enforced consensus. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media

Comment Of The Day: “The Jehovah Paradox Strikes Again!”

I confess, I’m stalling.  I’m really sick of writing about the oozing unethical pustule that is the assault on Brett Kavanaugh, and I’m just as sick of reading wildly irrational justifications for it from once-intelligent and fair people who once were capable of better. It is times like these where I regret my relative insignificance in the nation and the culture. It’s like seeing a crime being committed right in front of me, and knowing that no matter how much I jump up and down, point, yell, and call for assistance, nothing will happen. I know lotsof American feel this way.

I felt like that through all of 2016, now that I think about it.

Luckily,  Ethics Alarms has a backlog of excellent Comments of the Day, including this effort from Steve-O-in NJ, who was writing about  the cnstriction of language and thought in an era where verbal and conceptual taboos are proliferating.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Jehovah Paradox Strikes Again!:

When sports mascots are considered insulting, and seeing a statue is considered harmful, the idea that even speaking a word is an unforgivable sin is the next logical, or illogical step. Presumably all who are enlightened know which words are considered taboo, and, even when discussing them, know appropriate alternatives. If you know them, you need to use them, or risk being labeled someone who is unenlightened. “Nigger” is simply a word that’s not permitted under any circumstances.

The ancient Greeks referred to the mythical god of the dead as Plouton (the rich one) or Clymenus (the notorious one) because they feared that if they actually spoke his given name of Hades they might attract his attention and he might send for them. In one city the fire department’s engine companies are odd numbered by battalion, so in the Second Battalion you have Engine 21, 23, etc. up to 27, but in the First it goes Engine 11, Engine 15, etc., because 13 is considered bad luck. Growing up I bet many of us begged off the dare to light a candle before a mirror and say “Bloody Mary” three times, because the thought of the consequences was just too awful.

Come on here. Objectively almost nobody believes in the Greek gods anymore, the idea that a fire engine would be in greater danger simply because of the number it bore is pretty silly, and no evil ghost is going to leap out of a mirror no matter what we do. Yet we have to actually think about this, because we learned these superstitions as kids. We got brainwashed, and now its hard to get it out of our systems. Continue reading

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The Hitler Joke, Our Rights, And Our Nation

Prologue

When I was a junior in high school, I played Ko-Ko in  the Gilbert and Sullivan Club’s production of “The Mikado.” The head of the music department directed, a Jewish teacher named Mr. Einsig. He had the staging notes for all of the Gilbert and Sullivan works from the director who had gained great acclaim from his work with the Boston Light Opera Company, and I must admit, I cribbed many of that director’s ideas myself, through Mr. Einsig.One effective  staging concept was for the encores to “The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring.” Each one was performed as a different ethnic parody, with Ko-Ko singing translated lyrics. It began with Japanese, of course, then French, a Brooklyn dialect, and the biggest hoot of them all, German. I performed it, in my kimono, with an over-the-top Hitler imitation, complete with mustache, ending with an emphatic “Heil” gesture.

It brought down the house. Ten years later, at Georgetown University Law Center, I played Ko-Ko again, did the same Hitler parody again, and brought down the house again. Nobody complained. My late father, crippled for life in the fight against Hitler, detected nothing wrong with the routine. He also loved “Hogan’s Heroes,” with the show’s reluctant, inept, heiling Nazis, and the other Heil-filled spoofs of Hitler by Chaplin, Mel Brooks, and even the Three Stooges.

Now here is what happened to a private school teacher: read the whole, awful thing here. The short version: he was gesturing while explaining something in class, and noticed that his arm was raised Nazi-style, and said, “Heil Hitler,” jokingly. There was no question whether he was serious or not: everyone knew he was joking, and why he was joking. He even stopped and explained to the class that Once Upon A Time, in less enlightened eras, it was considered amusing to mock Hitler and the Nazis.

Ben Frisch, the teacher, a practicing Quaker  whose father was Jewish and who had two great-grandmothers  killed at Auschwitz, was fired by the private school anyway. The school principal who fired him explained his reason to the New York Times magazine  by saying, “One of our pledges is to make all of our students feel safe. And that is something that I take very, very seriously.”

Says the Times reporter in part in reaction to this: Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

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The Jehovah Paradox Strikes Again!

Even I get sick of repeating myself, and there is not a lot new to say since the last individual was punished for saying the word nigger in order to discuss the ethical problem with the word nigger. Still, this episode deserves special attention, because the utterer herself, Galileo-style,  capitulated to this lunacy,

Mary Beth Maxwell, the head of the Human Rights Campaign’s educational arm, has resigned after a colleague revealed that she spoke the word nigger twice, in both cases not to refer to an African-American, but to describe a situation in which the denigrating term was used by others. And yet she resigned anyway. Read the story here, but to summarize from an ethics perspective:

  • Maxwell is an idiot and a coward to allow herself to be forced out like this. She has had her brain washed to believe that there are such things as magic taboo words that do tangible and real harm no matter how or where they are used.
  • Apparently this is one more growing malady in Crazy Left World. It needs to be eradicated by the concerted efforts of all free speech embracing citizens regardless of party or belief.
  • HRC President Chad Griffin’s official statement said in part,

“As an organization devoted to achieving equality and stamping out bigotry, we are confronted with hate speech on a daily basis,” Griffin wrote in the memo. “But it’s our job to respond to these incidents in ways that are appropriate and don’t compound the harms done. This situation has crystallized the need for a formal policy on our expectations and requirements of staff in responding to or discussing hate speech.”

What to do? How does one discuss “hate speech” without using “hate speech”? It’s the Jehovah Paradox!!!

The Jehovah Paradox:When one must clearly or graphically reference something offensive in order to explain why it is offensive (or not), thereby risking being accused of the same offense that one is trying to analyze.

Gee, I wonder if the new policy will allow using the word “hate” to discuss hate speech? Griffin is also an idiot. That is not an ad hominem attack, but a fair diagnosis based on his words and conduct. I wonder how he got this way? Whose anti-speech, thought-control propaganda rotted his brains?  Continue reading

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The President Says “Nigger,” And Good For Him!

Wheel of Fortune

On a podcast with comic Marc Maron—because comedians ask such probing questions and have such high journalistic standards—President Barack Obama, while musing on the topic of race, said, among other things:

“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination — in in almost every institution of our lives — that casts a long shadow, that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say “nigger” in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.” 

Whatever the pros and cons of that statement—and it really isn’t especially remarkable—, it is Obama’s use of the word “nigger” that has cable news and the internet buzzing, fainting and drooling. To take some media idiots at random…oh, let’s say, the Fox and Friends crew, along with some commentators Fox dug up someplace. you would think that Obama was doing a Samuel L.Jackson imitation.

If a President is going to talk about racism and raise the perfectly relevant issue of racial epithets such as nigger, it is reasonable, competent, civil and appropriate for him to speak the word he is talking about. Of course it is. No, “Fox contributor David Webb,” whoever you are, it is NOT “beneath the office of the president” to say the words that express the idea you intend to express. It would be beneath the office of the Presidency” for the grown man in that office to use juvenile code-words like “N-word,” which is the way my wife and I talk around our dog, since Rugby goes ballistic if we say “walk,” “outside,” “nap.” “treat, “cheese,” “food,” or “The Adventures of Lassie” out loud. Someone tell various news outlets that the undignified, foolish ones are all of them, treating their audiences or readers like children (or Jack Russell Terriers) and playing hangman and “Wheel of Fortune”—“He said n- – – – -!” I’ll buy a vowel, Pat!”—when they should be telling us exactly what the President said.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you! Now maybe if people are talking about the word nigger, they will use the word they are talking about, because that’s how human beings communicate.

Except on Fox news. I swear, sometimes, I don’t know what the hell they are doing.

 

 

 

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