Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/2019: No Birthday For Frederick Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

Back last night from a whirlwind day of ethics in NYC, and leaving today on an auto safari to Washington County, Pennsylvania, where I will address bar members to kick off their annual meeting. See Facebook? THEY don’t think I should be muzzled! Meanwhile, I will be celebrating the non-birthday of the pirate apprentice hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” who was, you recall, indentured to a pirate band until his 2ist birthday, and since he was born on Leap Year, legally committed to a life of crime until he was 84 years old.

1. Nah, Democrats don’t automatically default to race-baiting… Well this was certainly ugly and embarrassing. During  House Oversight Committee hearing with Michael Cohen, the fallen Trump fixer accused the President of making racist comments about African Americans. Let me interject here that this was obvious pandering to Cohen’s new pals in “the resistance.” It would have no probative value as hearsay even if the speaker wasn’t testifying with his pants on fire. Thus there was no need for Rep. Mark Meadows to try to rebut Cohen by asking Housing and Urban Development staffer Lynne Patton, who is black, to silently stand before the committee to (somehow) disprove that Trump is racist. Meadows (R-N.C.) said that Patton had told him there was “no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.”

Then Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) characterized Meadow’s stunt as racist, saying, “Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaib said. “And it is insensitive that some would even say — the fact that some would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber in this committee is alone racist in itself.”

“You’re one of my best friends,” Cummings said to Meadows. “And I can see and I feel your pain, and I don’t think Ms. Tlaib intended to cause you that, that kind of pain.”

Tlaib then apologized to Meadows, saying it wasn’t her intention to call him racist. She just said that what he did was racist.

Oh.

2. Stop making me defend the Northam family! Gotcha! Just as Virginia Governor Northam was beginning to extract himself from the embarrassment of having to confess to being a Michael Jackson imitator via shoe polish, an enterprising black legislative page decided to nab her 15 minutes of fame by accusing Mrs. Northam of the dreaded “racial insensitivity.” It appears that Virginia’s First Lady, while narrating a tour of the Governor, triggered her my alluding to slavery.

“When in the cottage house you were speaking about cotton, and how the slaves had to pick it,” the teenaged page’s letter says. “There are only three Black pages in the page class of 2019. When you went to hand out the cotton you handed it straight to another African American page, then you proceeded to hand it to me, I did not take it. The other page took the cotton, but it made her very uncomfortable. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because you gave it to some other pages. But you followed this up by asking: ‘Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?'”

“The comments and just the way you carried yourself during this time was beyond inappropriate, especially considering recent events with the Governor. From the time we walked into the mansion to the time in the cottage house, I did not receive a welcoming vibe.”

Ah. Now we see why Bernie Sanders was attacked by Democrats for saying that race shouldn’t matter. Mrs. Northam treated the black pages like she treated the rest, and that made this page feel unwelcome. And if Virginia’s First Lady had only given the cotton to the white pages? That would have been insensitive too, I’m sure.

To her credit, the Governor’s wife has not apologized. She responded that she has given “the same educational tour to Executive Mansion visitors over the last few months and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops.” Her intent is to illustrate “a painful period of Virginia history.” She said that she began last year to tell the “full story” of the governor’s mansion, including the Historic Kitchen. “I believe it does a disservice to Virginians to omit the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked there — that’s why I have been engaged in an effort to thoughtfully and honestly share this important story since I arrived in Richmond. I regret that I have upset anyone,” she wrote, but she reiterated that she is  still committed to chronicling the history of the Historic Kitchen, and “will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future.”

Now, if she had given the tour made up as Janet Jackson, that would have been inappropriate.

3. My own private boycott: I will not buy products that continue the coarsening of our culture by employing juvenile references to gutter language to sell their wares. Now Mr. Clean joins the list, with the ad for “his” Clean Freak Mist. Today’s TV ad screamed out “Big freaking news!” As with Booking.com’s evocation of “fucking” its ads, this is neither clever nor novel. Shrug it off if you like. Continue reading

Why I Won’t Be Using Frank’s Red Hot No Matter How Good It Is

I know, I know. I’m like King Canute trying to command the seas, or Grandpa Simpson, shaking his fist and shouting at clouds.  I don’t care. If the culture and societyare going to allow America to be coarsened beyond all reason, at least I’ll be able to say that I wasn’t complicit.

All of my posts on this topic are basically the same; I know it. Here are a few…

[T]he Kraft Heinz Company’s newest frozen meals brand, Devour, has been advertising its products with a TV ad in which a boss catches his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, to which he applies a sexy spank with his fork. The ad’s tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.”

Kraft says the ad is aimed at men aged 25-35, so I guess that’s okay then. Everyone knows that demographic is made up of assholes—is that the theory?—and the best way to please them is to make the kind of juvenile sexual innuendo that we had in naughty songs like “Shaving Cream” about when I was 12. It’s so hilarious when people use a word that sounds like a dirty word in a context where it is obviously intentional, but don’t really say the word, because, see, its, like, not polite.  Got it. My sides are splitting.

…Here is what Ethics Alarms said in response to Heineken’s gay-themed vulgar ad about “flipping another man’s meat”:

‘There is no justification for polluting television and the culture with such ick, and it is irresponsible and disrespectful to TV audiences to do it…the useful and natural filter we used to have on language has been shot full of holes by too many high profile boors to mention, although the fact that one Presidential candidate is one of them doesn’t help.”

On the general topic of giving up any efforts to keep public discourse within civil boundaries, a January 2016 post concluded,

Does everybody want to live in a society where everyone from executives, pundits and actors to nannies, athletes and bank tellers are routinely spewing cunt,fuck, suck and motherfucker like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day? That’s where we’re heading, That’s where we’re heading, if enough people don’t have the guts and common sense to say, and fast,”Oh, stop it. Learn to speak like an adult.”

Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as a sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” to code “fucking,” and K-Mart thinks it’s funny to use “ship” to suggest “shit,” because who doesn’t want to think about shit? We make our own culture in the end, and if we want to live in a cultural pig sty, then that’s where we will live. Apparently no one cares, or not enough of us, anyway.

In 2015,  a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial featured the tags “Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  I wrote,

“Who decided that gratuitous sexual innuendo is inherently hilarious and appropriate in every context, at every moment? Well, no one yet. Again, it is the boors in ad agencies and clods in corporate boardrooms who are pushing us down this uncivil, impolite, needlessly sleazy path.  We can remind them that there are limits dictated by taste and decorum, or we can just shrug it off, part of the irreversible ratchet process called “defining deviancy down.”

Two years later, Volkswagen has Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees” (Dean’s version above is better, a joy)  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples who own it engage in vigorous sexual intercourse.

Now Frank’s Red Hot is being praised for it’s new, catchy slogan, originally uttered by an elderly actress (because old people being vulgar is always hilarious, for some reason): “I put that [shit} on everything.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Gillette Ad”

As Ethics Alarms struggles to regain even the wan level of traffic it had before the holidays hit with their deplorable priorities of family and reflection over ethics commentary, let us hail today’s Comment of the Day creator, Tim LeVier, as well as Glenn Logan and, for he still surfaces now and then, King Kool, all of whom have remained steadfast not only from the beginning of Ethics Alarms in 2010, but on The Ethics Scoreboard, its less active predecessor, before that.

Here is Tim’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Gillette Ad:

We live in interesting times. I see both sides of it. Part of my wants to say that this is no different than when a man tells a woman to smile. This is women saying “calm down” or “be more sensitive and peaceable”.

I don’t believe for a second that this message wasn’t crafted by people I don’t want the message to come from…but that’s just negative confirmation bias, right?

In fairness, it’s not a bad message, if taken as honest, straight forward, with no ulterior motives….but there’s the rub. We’re convinced there’s bad intent here. Continue reading

The Gillette Ad

“Everyone” is talking about the new Gillette ad above. It is cynical, manipulative in sinister ways, unfair, insincere, divisive, unfair, and wrong. Over at Reason, the usually rational Robby Soave was sucked in (as was Ann Althouse, who said the little boys at the end moved her to tears—Awwwww!) defending the ad:

But the ad never said that all men are bad. It never argued that masculinity is always and everywhere a dangerous ideal. It made a very modest statement—treat people better—in hopes of selling more razors to people who agree. Again, why is this bad?…Young guys need to learn from men who treat women well and act as protectors rather than victimizers, which…is exactly what the Gillette ad called on men to do. People are free to associate with whatever brand they want, so if Gillette’s so-called virtue signaling bothers someone that much, that person may go ahead and buy razors elsewhere. But it would be a shame if the right started boycotting companies for taking the position that maybe hurting people is bad. Is owning the libs really that important?

Sucker! I am heartened that the ad has generated overwhelmingly negative responses, and while I would never call for a boycott (I use electric razors, thanks), I would still love to see Gillette suffer for this naked virtue-signaling and insulting stereotype mongering, all while pretending to “care,” when in fact it is just a cynical tactic to create buzz. I hope the eventual buzz is the sound of Remington electric razors.

Jon Gabriel’s reaction was similar to mine:

Gillette has had a rough few years. The former shaving hegemon has seen its market share plummet due to a resurgence in classic “wet shaving,” online razor subscription services, and the popularity of beards. Gillette’s obvious options are to lower their artificially high price or drastically improve their quality. Instead, they’ve decided to make their remaining customers feel bad about themselves through an expensive new ad campaign…. “You’re a very bad person, give us money” is an odd marketing pitch, especially from a company that’s used sex to sell its product for decades…Gillette has now declared war on its customer base. [Quoting the Wall Street Journal]

Gillette parent Procter & Gamble Co. is among companies that in recent years have used advertising as a platform to promote their stance on social issues such as gender equality, and polarizing political topics such as immigration and gun control. P&G is perhaps best known for its lauded “Like a Girl” ad campaign for feminine-care brand Always and “Stress test” for deodorant brand Secret.

Promoting social issues can be effective marketing, but notice the difference. P&G’s female-directed ads make women feel better about themselves. The company tells women “you’re great just as you are” and tells men “you’re bad and need to change.”

“Why is this bad?” asks sensitive Robby. Ah, let me count the ways: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/18: It’s Video Thursday!

Happy inevitably confusing and disorienting period between Christmas and New Years!

1.. Is this a racially problematic TV ad, or an encouraging one that signals progress?

For me, the commercial raises the question: Have we reached a point when depicting an entire black family acting as moronic as white people are routinely depicted on TV is permissible and white people are allowed to laugh at it?

It made me uncomfortable. Am I alone?

2. Charley Parkhurst. The New York Times project to catch up on all the significant and remarkable women who never received the recognition of an obituary in its pages has been fascinating, and there has been no more interesting entry than this month’s remembrance of Charley Parkhurst, 1812-1879. Parkhurst was a famous driver of six-horse stagecoaches during California’s Gold Rush, a challenging job requiring strength, skill, and unusual honesty. Parkhurst was described as “short and stocky,” a hard-living whiskey drinker, cigar smoker and tobacco chewer, who wore  a patch  over the empty eye-socket where a horse had kicked out the eyeball. Charley was also universally regarded as male until a doctor discovered, post mortem, that she wasn’t. At a time when a women’s options  were severely limited, Parkhurst decided at a young age to live as a man, and was mighty good at it. She even registered to vote in 1868, and some give her the distinction as the first woman to vote in a Presidential election, though there is scant proof of it.

Looking at and thinking about a women “identifying a male” in a different cultural context is fascinating. Was Charley a woman, a male, trans, gay, a fraud, a hero (a heroine?), or just an opportunist and a gutsy realist who did what she wanted to do the only way it was possible for her to do it?

And does it matter? Should it matter?

We are told that Charley also was a lumberjack for a time. I wonder what she would have thought of the Monty Python song?

3. An Althouse quote: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 11, 2018: Ethics Flotsam and Jetsam

Hello, I must be going…

Ugh! Big seminar to teach at a downtown D.C. law firm and no time to linger! Some quick ethics notes…

1. The Nike pander. Can a TV commercial be pandering to one side of the political spectrum and dubious ethical conduct more? In the new Adidas ad, Colin Kaepernick, grandstanding boob, is treated like a cultural hero. So is one of the most abrasive of the Parkland shooting anti-gun kids, and Serena Williams. It made me wonder what was the matter with the other pseudo-celebrities who quickly crossed my vision: I assume that they are ethics corrupters too. Like Nike…

2. So much for Plan E. Plan E is the 25th Amendment impeachment plot (the whole list of Democratic and “resistance” plans to undo the election is here.) President Trump gave Fox and Friends another of his hyper-energized monologues today, over 45 minutes-worth. He still sounds like Trump, but anyone listening to that who wants to claim the man is disabled will have a lot of explaining to do. I dare Nancy Pelosi to free-style for 45 minutes without crashing and burning.

3. Maybe this will be Plan O: After the President’s rant, Fox and Friends’  co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked the President to wish her father a happy birthday over the air, which he graciously did. I’m not sure what was horrible about that, but I’m sure someone will claim that it is a dangerous breach of some “norm” or other.

4. Now, impeaching Fox talking heads is another story. The K-pop group NCT 127 appeared on Fox’s Good Day L.A. yesterday.  Following their performance, band member Mark Lee told  co-host Megan Colarossi—guess what color her hair is? Come on, guess!— that he is from Vancouver. She responded with, “Very cool, your English is awesome. I love it.”

Asked one Twitter wag…“I mean he’s from Canada, what is he supposed to speak, moose?”

Why should the public trust the news media when so many of them regularly expose themselves as idiots? Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Jolt, 8/3/2018: A Lawyer Finds A New Way To Be Unethical, Verizon Makes Our Kids Obnoxious And Ignorant, And The Times Decides To Show Its Colors…

 

Good…afternoon.

Yes, I couldn’t get this up before noon again. Mornings have been crazy lately. And no, I’m not at the beach…I just WISH I was at the beach.

1. A legal ethics “Kaboom! From the New York Times account of the litigation surrounding New York Yankee great Thurmon Munson’s death when his private plane crashed in 1979:

James Wiles, one of FlightSafety International’s lawyers at the time, still contends there was no culpability in Munson’s death on the part of either company. But a trial, he said, was just too risky…. Wiles, who was present for all the depositions…said that when Yogi Berra testified, he put a box of 24 baseballs in front of him and requested he sign them. Berra, who was a Yankees coach when Munson died, grudgingly obliged, but at one point asked if Wiles was authorized to make such a demand.

“It’s my deposition,” Wiles said he told Berra.

My head exploded after reading that. There is no rule I can find that declares such a blatant professional abuse unethical, unless it is the deceitful “It’s my deposition” response, which is literally true but falsely implies that the lawyer has the power to force a witness in a deposition to do something completely unrelated to the case for the lawyer’s personal benefit. Rule or no rule, this was incredibly unethical, and a perfect example of how lawyers will come up with ways to be unethical that they can’t be sanctioned for.

2. More on the New York Times’ new editor: Yesterday, I covered the astounding—but maybe not so astounding—appointment of far-left journalist Sarah Jeong as its technology editor despite a huge archive of explicitly racist and sexist tweets. The Times’ defiant explanation, a rationalization, really, stated:

“We hired Sarah Jeong because of the exceptional work she has done … her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She regrets it, and The Times does not condone it.”

Jeong’s statement was simply dishonest:

“I engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter-trolling. While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers. These comments were not aimed at a general audience, because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns. I can understand how hurtful these posts are out of context, and would not do it again.”

The issue is not whether she will “do it again”—presumably even the Times wouldn’t stand for that, but whether her many racist outbursts online do not raise the rebuttable presumption that she is, in fact, a racist. Nothing in her statement tells us that she doesn’t believe such things as “white men are fucking bullshit,” only that she didn’t aim these comments at the general public.

I find it hard to believe that the even Times is so stupid and arrogant that it will dig in its metaphorical heels and refuse to admit its gross mistake. As Glenn Reynolds writes today, Continue reading