I’m Furious With A Fictional Character, Which Is Ridiculous.

the-bay

It’s not even an American fictional character, but I can’t help myself. In the British procedural “The Bay,” now on BritBox, the first season tells the ugly story of a police detective investigating the death of a teenage twin and the disappearance of his sister. Like so many TV shows today here and ‘across the pond,’ everybody portrayed is corrupt or otherwise deplorable, even the show’s protagonist. She is a single mother who is so obsessed with her career that her neglected children are falling into crime and ethics rot. The opening scene shows her having drunken sex in an alley outside a pub, being slammed into the wall by a scruffy local. Later she discovers that her spontaneous sex partner of the moment is the brutish married father of the missing twins, and a prime suspect in his disappearance.

Does she immediately recuse herself from the case, since her liaison took place the night of their disappearance and during the crucial hour when he claims he was with his “mates” and couldn’t have been involved in his children’s fate? No, she just counts on the fact that he’ll never tell, erases the CCTV tape that shows her in the bar, and proves that he wasn’t involved, at least in that crime. (Later she arrests him for another.)

The detective isn’t even the fictional character I’m furious with. That distinction goes to the twins’ mother, who flies into fury or hysteria at every development. Like the key figures in all procedurals, she withholds crucial information “she didn’t think was important,” constantly accuses the police of not doing enough because her kids haven’t been found ( post hoc ergo propter hoc, or consequentialism) and demands that they promise her future results beyond their control: “Promise me that you’ll find them!” Yet even these exhibitions didn’t make me want to strangle her.

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/2020, As If Anyone Needs To be Warmed Up Today…

Hot enough for ya?

1. False narrative, bad analogy. The popular media narrative is that President Trump is in a similar position to George H.W. Bush in 1988, when polls at this point showed him trailing Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis by a large margin. Conservative media had cited the comparison earlier this summer to make the simple point that being behind in the polls in July is relatively meaningless. Lately the mainstream media has been flogging the analogy in order to continue its doomsday prediction for the Trump campaign.

“Bush ’88 rally could be map for Trump ’20” is somehow deemed worthy of a front page spot in the Sunday Times. To begin with, that’s fake news of the “future news” variety. (“…or, it might not be.”) More importantly, it’s straw man: the article exists to to show that President Trump may not be able to prevail, because, you see, having begun with the false assertion that his situation is similar to Bush’s, the Times explains that the situations aren’t that similar at all. The bad analogy is created to rebut it.

In fact, the differences between the Bush challenge in 1988 and Trump’s in 2020 mostly favor the President. Bush was never a popular figure; he was distrusted by conservatives, and only was nominated because an epicly popular President, Ronald Reagan, anointed him as his approved successor. (Barack Obama, in contrast, avoided “anointing” Biden.) A strong Democratic opponent would have beaten Bush; Dukakis was weak. He was ahead in the polls when nobody outside of Massachusetts knew what  he was like. Trump has a large base of passionate supporters, something Bush never had. He is an incumbant (Bush was not), and if they run, incumbents almost always win. Bush was an awful debater; Trump has proven effective in debates. And while Dukakis was completely supported by the liberal wing of the party, Biden has critics on the hard left, among feminists (the non-hypocrite faction), and African Americans. The Democratic party of the 1980s had not spent four years trying to overturn an election. Moreover, polls are less reliable now than they were before news media bias began warping them, and Trump’s support, as the last election showed,  is especially hard to measure. Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Overview, 10/24/2019: TV Ethics, Theater Ethics, Negotiation Ethics…You Know. Ethics.

This song is about ethics, right?

Well, to me it is…

1. Unethical non-traditional casting.  Harvey Fierstein is playing Bella Abzug on Broadway. I know that Harvey, being a very large, undisguisably gay, 65-year old actor with a voice that sounds like he gargles piranha, has a tough time finding outlets for his acting and comic ability (he can be terrific, as he was in his Emmy-winning performance in “Torch Song Trilogy”), but that’s no reason to take it out on the late New York Congresswoman. Abzug was a woman, and being a woman was central to her career, appeal, legend, and legacy. She was not, to say the least, an attractive woman, but that does not mean that it is fair or respectful to cast a 275 pound unattarctive MAN to play her on Broadway. Feirstein is an LGBTQ activist and icon, but he’s ethically confused here.

2. Trump shouldn’t have backed down from holding the Group of 7 Summit at the Trump luxery golf club in Miami. Apparently he did so because Republican members of Congress complained about it, and they complained about it because they knew it would spark more bogus accusations of Emoluments Clause violations (Impeachment Plan C).

Any and every negotiations specialist will tell you that holding a meeting of adversaries in your own territory is a massive advantage. That is why such meetings are often held in Switzerland, or other neutral sites. Holding the Summit at a Trump property makes the President stronger at the meeting, and that benefits the country.

It would have been nice—responsible, educational, fair, honest—if the news media explained this basic principle to the public, but it doesn’t want to justify the President’s decisions or find benign reasons for them. It is in thrall to “the resistance,” and doing a complete analysis of factors involved in a decision like where to hold the Summit just detracts from the effort to undermine President Trump and characterize him as a corrupt and crooked fascist who must be removed from office at all costs.

Republican joined the ignorant stampede because, unfortunately, they aren’t very bright, or very brave. Thus the U.S. voluntarily forfeited a diplomatic advantage because Republicans couldn’t articulate why there was nothing sinister, and much advantageous,  about a world leader holding a meeting at a property that bears his name. Continue reading

The Ethics From U.N.C.L.E.

U_N_C_L_E_-logo-symbol-The-Man-From-UNCLE-TV-show

There’s nothing that can be done about this, but I’m going to complain about it anyway.

When I was a sprout, one of my favorite TV shows, indeed among my top 20 shows of all time, was “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”  At least for its first few seasons—that balance between satire, intentional silliness, cool and plots worth paying attention to was hard to hold—the show simultaneously kidded the James Bond craze and delivered an hour of thrills and intrigue. It was a period piece, to be sure, of its time as much as “Perry Mason,” which is why, I assumed, that it wasn’t in syndication any more.

When I heard that it was getting the Hollywood reboot treatment, I knew what was in store, and it was. The movie, which came out last week, is an unremarkable meh, and the middling to sneering reviews, by people less than half my age and who never saw the original, are taking cheap shots at Robert Vaughn (the first Napoleon Solo) and David McCallum (the only Illya Kuyakin) and the original as if it were crap too.  As has happened so many times before, a careless and disrespectful movie exploiting all the good will created by an older work of art—yes, art, dammit—is burying its better model and has effectively poisoned it in the culture. Ultimately, the loss is ours. Continue reading