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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/19/2017: Gwyneth’s Mom, Harvard’s Airbrush, Salon’s Favorite Conservatives

Yes, I KNOW it’s Thursday, but I meant to use this song yesterday, but didn’t, because I thought it was Tuesday…

GOOD MORNING!

1 We have several Ethics Train Wrecks barrelling along. The Harvey Weinstein Express is still picking up expected passengers, like Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The Executive Committee unanimously voted to award Weinstein the 2014 W.E.B Du Bois medal for contributions to African and African-American culture. In the midst of complaints by the African American community that Hollywood was slighting black artists and themes in its films, Weinstein’s Miramax studio had stood out as a notable exception.

The same professors voted Tuesday night to rescind the honor in the wake of the Weinstein’s (long-known but only recently publicly exposed) sexual predator proclivities, announcing in a statement: “We have voted unanimously to rescind the Du Bois Medal awarded to Mr. Weinstein in 2014. We stand with the women who have courageously come forward to fight for themselves and indeed for all of those who have experienced similar abuse.”

Wrong, and cowardly. What does sexual harassment have to do with African American culture? The mania among progressive missions groups to insist that only those who satisfy all broad progressive agenda mandates are worthy of any honor is why the nation’s continued celebration of Jefferson, Washington and other founders is hanging by a thread. Did Weinstein deserve the award in 2014? Yes, I assume. Has anything changed regarding the producer’s contributions to black culture through his movies? No.

I covered this substantially identical situation here, in 2015. Continue reading

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Unethical …And Really, Really Dumb…Tweet Of The Month: Actor Seth Rogen

Maurice Switzer said (no, not Mark Twain or Abe Lincoln), “Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” This goes double, triple even, for celebrities in Twitter. The platform is a sinister cultural trap to expose the ignorance, stupidity, nastiness and bad judgment of famous people who have no idea just how foolish they are.

Hence the above jaw-dropping tweet by Seth Rogen, an occasionally amusing comic actor with dubious self-awareness. (He allowed himself to be cast as the Green Hornet, for example.)

Just how bad is the tweet? Let us count the ways: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading

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An Ethics Alarms First! Ethics Hero/Ethics Dunce,Tennessee Titans Player Rishard Matthews

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews tweeted today that he’ll quit the NFL if it follows through on  a rule  forbidding players from kneeling in protest of…something…during the National Anthem.

“No I will be done playing football,” Matthews wrote.

Confusingly, he later deleted the tweet.

So here are the possibilities;

  • Matthews is willing to give up millions of dollars a year as a matter of principle, however misguided.

Now that’s integrity!

Verdict: Ethics Hero.

  • Matthews is bluffing, as in lying. He would never quit the only lucrative profession  he is qualified for to continue a pointless protest that literally none of the players can consistently explain.

Making a promise that you know you have no intention of keeping is dishonest. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2017: Ben Affleck Is Called A Liar, A Blind Man Wants to See Websites, The Boy Scouts Want Girls, And More…

Good Morning!

1 Tales of Moral Luck: Yankee manager Joe Girardi was facing a possible post-season firing for an embarrassing  botch during the second game of the American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians. NY had lost the second game, putting them in an 0-2 hole in a best of 5 series, after an Indian batter’s foul tip into the catcher’s glove for strike three and the inning’s final out was mistakenly ruled a hit by pitch, loading the bases. Replay showed that the ball had hit the knob of the bat, not the batter’s hand, but Girardi didn’t call for a replay review even though his catcher demanding one.  The HBP loaded the bases, and the next batter hit a decisive grand slam. Girardi made things worse in his post-game comments by spinning and rationalizing, then finally took responsibility the next day. He also admitted that he didn’t realize that managers had two challenges in the play-offs, when they had only one a game during the regular season.

Yesterday, the Yankees completed a remarkable comeback, winning three straight games to defeat the odds-on favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. Girardi’s bad judgment, poor preparation and immediate resort to excuses when he undermined his team’s chances no longer matters. He was saved by moral luck, just as earlier he had been slammed by moral luck. After all, if the next batter in Game 2 has popped up harmlessly, ending the inning without any damage, Girardi’s terrible mistake would have been a footnote to a Yankee victory.

Now it’s a footnote again.

Moral Luck.

2. WHOA!  Didn’t see THAT coming! TWITTER just boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s victims who reached a $100,000 settlement with the Hollywood serial harasser 20 years ago and  who is now on the attack having decided that she doesn’t want to be a Hollywood actress any more, has been using social media to condemn actors and executives who enabled Weinstein, writing in one tweet, “you all knew.” Recently, after Ben Affleck  tweeted that the allegations against  Weinstein “made him sick,” McGowan called him out on Twitter.:

@benaffleck “GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT” you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.

Twitter suspended her account. In response, McGowran wrote on Instagram.

TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE. #ROSEARMY #whywomendontreport

These social media platforms are untrustworthy. All of them.

McGowan, meanwhile, is fast approaching Ethics Hero territory. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 10, 2017: Post-Columbus Day Edition

Good Morning.

1 The rhetoric against celebrating Columbus Day is at bottom an attack on American values and the nation itself,  making the case that the culture should bask in eternal guilt and shame for the crime of existing. It has always been thus: I heard the counter-Columbus claims when I was a kid and living in Boston, where you can’t throw a spitball without hitting an Italian or a Catholic. Then, however, there were sufficient numbers of responsible elected officials who put those ignorant and warped arguments in their place—the trash. Now, the path of least resistance reigns.

We celebrate Columbus because he brought European culture and civilization to the New World, making our nation possible. He was the butterfly flapping his wings in the Amazon, in Chaos terms: without Columbus, everything might be different. One thing that would not be different, however, is that the stone age cultures that lived in the Americas would not have prevailed, thrived and survived. Blaming Chis for the inevitable destruction of primitive cultures when more advanced and ambitious ones arrived, as they were going to with or without Columbus, is scapegoating of the worst kind.

We also celebrate Columbus because of the good and important things his first voyage symbolizes: mankind’s constant search for knowledge; the bravery of explorers; the visionary who dares to challenge conventional wisdom.

We have not, so far at least, renamed Martin Luther King Day as Victims of Adultery Day. Columbus was a man of his time, working for a brutal regime. He did many things that were wrong even by the standards of the time. Irrelevant. He opened the door  from the Old World to the New, and made the United States of America possible.

That’s worth celebrating.

2. Robert E. Lee  High School in San Antonio wins some kind of weasel award for responding to pressure to de-honor that racist slave-owner Robert E. Lee by renaming it LEE High School, with LEE being an acronym meaning Legacy of Educational Excellence High School. Pretty impressive, that: managing to be cowardly, irresponsible, and deceitful, all at once. Capitulating to the Left’s statue-toppling, historical airbrushing mania is wrong; doing so while not really doing it is worse. Keep recognizing the General, or don’t.

Who wants people like this teaching their children?

3.  ESPN  didn’t think it was necessary to suspend  anchor Jemele Hill  for tweeting that the President of the United States was a white supremacist, but when she dared to suggest that advertisers boycott NFL teams that forbade the kneeling stunt currently killing NFL  fan loyalty, ratings, ticket sales and popularity, that really crossed some lines. The network suspended Weeks after she expressed outrage at the ownership of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins for making a “No-knee” policy for its players.

“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” ESPN said in a statement. “In the aftermath all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”

Ethics Alarms is on record as holding that Hill should have been disciplined for the anti-Trump tweet, but I sympathize with her here. She had every reason to believe that she had received special dispensation to air her progressive, resistance, Black Lives Matter advocacy using her ESPN visibility as a platform, especially after Disney’s CEO admitted that she hadn’t been disciplined because she was black.

ESPN’s standards are as incoherent as the cause of the kneeling players. They send mixed signals to employees and viewers, satisfying no one, and creating a chaotic culture undermining their own business, which is, remember, covering sports. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/9/2017: Inadvertent Confessions And Admissions

Good Morning, Columbus!

So glad you came!

1 Yesterday, on “Face the Nation,” Senator Diane Feinstein was continuing the Democratic Party’s latest use of a gun tragedy to see if the American public can be frightened, shamed, deceived or panicked into giving up one of the core individual rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The host asked her whether there were any proposed regulations that would have stopped Stephen Paddock or someone like him from committing mass murder.

Her answer, “No.”

Well there you have it, right? This tragedy has nothing to do with honest, good faith gun reform, and everything to do with the anti-gun left wanting to begin eroding the Second Amendment, until the right of law-abiding citizens to arm themselves to the extent they believe is necessary shrinks to insignificance.

I salute the Senator in one respect: at least she’s honest about the fact that the use of the Vegas Strip shooting by the anti-gun left is entirely cynical and exploitative. Contrast her blunt “no’ with the demagoguery of her fellow Congressional Democrat, civil rights icon John Lewis. (The news media always describes him that way, because “race-baiting, hyper-partisan  hack John Lewis” would offend African-Americans.). As I discussed earlier, Lewis erupted last week with this call to no-arms:

“The American people will not stand to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because the lack of action on the part of the Congress…We have to do something…The time is always right to do what is right. We waited too long. How many more people will die? Would it be a few hundred? A few thousand? Several thousand? We have to act. We cannot wait.”

The complete Feinstein-Lewis thought, then: “The American people will not stand to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because of the lack of action on the part of the Congress to pass laws that would do nothing to stop their fellow citizens from being mowed down in a massacre like the one we are demanding action in response to!”

In one of the many threads following the Vegas Strip shooting, commenter Charles Green asked me,

“Let me ask my basic question again: are there any constructive suggestions (hopefully a tad beyond outlawing bump stocks) that can be offered by the principled defenders of the Second Amendment to find common ground? Any? I for one am all ears.”

Continue reading

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