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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

Ethics Dunce: Skechers

Do you know who the very first Ethics Dunce was? It was Pete Rose. This was in January of 2004, on the newly launched Ethics Scoreboard, and Pete had just admitted that he did indeed bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds, even though he had been loudly denying it (and smearing the reputation of Bart Giamatti, the baseball commissioner who banned him from baseball and entry into the Hall of Fame for it) for 10 years.

Now another decade has past, and Pete still doesn’t really get it. Helping him make money for not getting it is the “relaxed fit footwear” people, Skechers, with  jaw-dropping TV spot showing Pete in his own home (supposedly), padding down a hallway festooned with his many trophies, Silver Bats and other symbols of his days as “Charley Hustle,” as he revels in the comfort of his Skechers and the joys of being in “the hall.” Then his wife or girlfriend (with Pete, it’s hard to keep up…if she’s his wife now, then someone else is his girlfriend)) sticks her head out of a doorway and tells him, “Pete, you know you’re not supposed to be in the hall!”

HAR! What a hoot it is, being disgraced in your own sport for undermining its integrity! Pete has never quite comprehended what all the fuss is about—after all, his bets were always in favor of his team, never against it, and never affected his management decisions! He says. And why wouldn’t everyone believe him about that, just because he knowingly broke baseball’s biggest taboo (Pete can tell you Shoeless Joe’s batting average down to the 5th decimal: believe me, he knows all about the Black Sox), lied about it everywhere and often, and got himself thrown in jail for cheating on his taxes?

What would make anyone, in any company, think that an unapologetic lifetime sleaze like Pete Rose being associated with their product would make people run out and buy it? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: Peeps Ethics”

Peeps Last Supper by Leonardo DiPeepchi

Peeps Last Supper by Leonardo DiPeepchi

Extradimensional Cephalopod’s thoughtful answer to today’s ethics quiz was instantly recognizable as a Comment of the Day, so here it is, EC’s musings on the ethical limits on peeps art, as posed by the post, Ethics Quiz: Peeps Ethics:

Full disclosure: I identify as a freethinker, which in my case means my opinions are informed by this idea: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” –Aristotle (or so the Internet tells me)

With that in mind, offhand I’d say anyone who can’t handle the juxtaposition of a serious scene with a cutesy or comical medium is not emotionally mature enough to be trusted to react appropriately in today’s complex and nuanced culture, and their reverence is likely to be taken to unhealthy levels. I think it is not only ethical, but a requirement for intellectual health to be able to entertain different perspectives and styles of presenting even the most serious subjects. Before someone asks, yes, that includes depictions of the prophet Muhammad, along with all other historical figures on pedestals. I think taboos are unhealthy for a society because they limit critical thinking and creative free thought, both of which are necessary (yet seldom employed) to resolve social issues and differences in perspective.

Bad taste is still a valid concept, but it is context-dependent. It is possible that a subject is not appropriate for most contexts because it leads people to feel bad, but it is imperative that there be some place where it can be discussed, even if it is only under the Jester’s Privilege. My subjective judgment rules that depicting the Civil Rights Movement with marshmallows in this case is not intended with disrespect: the contest stipulated that the medium be marshmallows, and the artist chose a powerful scene without regard for the medium, as is the artist’s prerogative. I personally think the marshmallow scene is quite dignified, but then I am a bit out of sync with humanity as to what I take at face value and what I don’t. I form opinions of peeps by their actions, not by their countenance. It’s unethical for an artist to deliberately spread misconceptions about history, and it may be unethical for an artist to deliberately show disrespect to powerful agents of good. Disrespect is usually unethical because it causes so many problems. However, I’m not sure a sincerely respectful artist can be unethical in their art, unless they simply fail to do the research on the facts they depict and the cultural context for showing respect.

If depicting scenes from the Civil Rights Movement with marshmallows (and putting a good deal of effort into it) is wrong, though, what else is wrong? Crayon drawings by kids? Macaroni? Charcoal? Embroidery? Spray paint? Etch-A-Sketch? Is anything that looks insufficiently grandiose for depicting humanity’s legendary heroes an affront upon their memories? Are scenes of historical importance off-limits to mediocre artists, for fear the general public will lose respect for heroes drawn with funny expressions and ridiculous poses? What if an artist is deliberately depicting a heroic person comically, but without telling lies? Why can’t we be mature, and tell the history with respect while artists do their best in sincerity or spite? Why not simply say, “Well, it’s nice, but it really doesn’t do it justice,” and walk away?

Continue reading

More Evidence That Word Banning Is Unethical

WHAT did you say?

WHAT did you say?

There is more to discuss, a lot more, regarding what I will now call “The Klosterman Apology,” because it sounds like  a Robert Ludlum novel. For now, however, since it is fresh in my jet-lagged mind, I’d like to focus on the inevitable result of declaring certain words and phrases so objectionable, hurtful, uncivil or politically incorrect that extraordinary means are employed to eliminate them. In the case of The Klosterman Apology, the words were “retard” and “retard,” and a Mom with a blog threatened “The Ethicist” from the New York Times magazine with an onslaught of political correctness bullies if he didn’t immediately express his abject contrition for having used these words in a harsh way a decade ago, in another job that didn’t directly involve ethics. Chuck capitulated, gracefully and well. As I will discuss in another post, I don’t think he had much choice. Still, word-banning is an ugly, and ultimately unethical business. Continue reading

America Is Severely Confused About Domestic Abuse

John Wayne paddling his wife (Maureen O'Hara) in "McClintock!" I love ya, Duke, but this isn't funny any more....if it ever was.

Violence inflicted by one partner in a relationship upon another is absolutely unethical, yet it is one of those embedded cultural habits from the bad old days that still flourishes. Over at the Whitney Houston post, where I am being over-run by the drug-legalization zealots, sicced on me by a sad website where people indulge their dreams of legally de-braining themselves on a regular basis, there is widespread contempt for the concept  that cultural norms of what is right, wrong and worthy of shame controls our worst impulses. That contempt is as crippling as it is ignorant, for controlling behavior is what cultures do, and why they are essential. And our culture is still giving confusing signals about domestic abuse. Two recent examples: Continue reading