Lazy Saturday Afternoon Ethics Meander: 6/27/2020: Blank Slate, Mis-Handler, Pandering Chicken (Corrected)

Lately I’ve been having an especially tough time finding some genuine ethics outrages on the Right, since the Left has been going, you know, nuts.

Now that gonzo Ethics Alarms commenter Alizia has pronounced me “a radical progressive,” however, I guess I needn’t worry about balance so much.

1. Fake news, headline division. Yesterday and today I saw several headlines with some version of “D.C. Statehood Takes A Step Forward.”  That’s flagrant clickbait, and false. The House used its Democratic majority to pass a D.C. statehood bill, which is guaranteed the same fate as dozens of other grandstanding bills Pelosi’s minions have sent to the GOP controlled Senate.  It’s not a step forward, because there is no actual progress toward statehood at all. (I was surprised to learn that the House hasn’t passed such a bill in 25 years. Democrats hadn’t because it was futile.) The GOP Senate will reject the bill, and if some kind of brain disease struck and they passed it, the President would veto. To have D.C. make it to statehood would require the Democrats to  control the House, the Senate, the White House and have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

2. Sheep see, sheep do! Actress Jenny Slate was so impressed with Kristen Bell’s ridiculous stunt of quitting her gig as a voice actress for a mixed race animated character (see, Kristen is white, see, so she can’t really express the essence of a mixed race character even though the show’s producers said her performance was “brilliant,” but a black actress told that she couldn’t voice a white animated character would be screaming “Systemmic racism!” so fast it would make your head spin. This is what they’re toppling statues for, folks! ) that she decided to duplicate the virtue-signal, quitting her role on the animated show “Big Mouth”  because she’s white and her character is b-iracial. (Well, really the character is not even a human being and just colored sort of brownish, and  her lines are written by a man, but..oh, never mind. Why would I try to make sense out of this?)

Slate said,

“I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed and that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy … Ending my portrayal of “Missy” is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions…”

If this reminds you of the scripted confessions of brainwashed American pilots held as North Korean prisoners of war, it should. Writes Andrew Sullivan, dissecting Slate’s mindless cant,

“It’s a classic confession of counterrevolutionary error… The word “racist,” which was widely understood quite recently to be prejudicial treatment of an individual based on the color of their skin, now requires no intent to be racist in the former sense, just acquiescence in something called “structural racism,’ which can mean any difference in outcomes among racial groupings. Being color-blind is therefore now being racist. And there is no escaping this. The woke shift their language all the time, so that words that were one day fine are now utterly reprehensible. You can’t keep up — which is the point…. So, yes, this is an Orwellian moment. It’s not a moment of reform but of a revolutionary break, sustained in part by much of the liberal Establishment.”

3. What do you say, most ridiculous corporate white guy pandering yet, or what? Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy took part in a televised discussion at Atlanta’s Passion City Church last week with Pastor Louie Giglio and rapper Lecrae  in what the church called “an open and honest conversation around how racism has plagued our city for generations, and the steps we can all take to confront it head-on in our church, our neighborhoods, and our hearts.” This was sparked, of course, by the police shooting of Rayshard Johnson, about which there is no evidence indicating that it was based on racism at all.

But the company’s CEO, who is trying to get past being labeled as a homophobe for opposing same sex marriage, seized the opportunity to be “woke.” He  shared a story told to him (meaning that it may be made up) about a small town revival meeting  in Texas. A young man at the service  was “gripped with conviction about the racism that was happening” and responded by kneeling down before an elderly African American man and shining the his shoes. “So I invite folks to just put some words to action here,” Cathy said, standing up and carrying a shoe brush over to the black rapper.

Then he knelt down in shoe-shining position, and said, “If we need to find somebody [ that is, somebody black) that needs to have their shoes shined, we just need to go right on over and shine their shoes and whether they got tennis shoes on or not, maybe they got sandals on, it really doesn’t matter. But there’s a time at which we need to have, you know, some personal action here. Maybe we need to give them a hug, too.”

4. And this is why performers should shut up about politics and stay off Twitter. Chelsea Handler, the female, B-version of Bill Maher, posted a video of racist, homophobic,  anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan to her 3.9 million followers on Instagram, writing that she “learned a lot” from watching Farrakhan debate audience members on whether racial prejudice would ever be eradicated. Handler, who is Jewish, was apparently unaware that Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam is generally regarded as a hate group–against whites, gays and Jews. (Apparently fellow celebrities Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Aniston and Michelle Pfieffer, who liked Handler’s choice of a messenger, were similarly ignorant.)Initially Handler doubled-down, saying on her podcast that she…

“…wasn’t thinking about the anti-Semitic thing, but I don’t want to take down the post because I felt the message was powerful and a lot of people did. It was powerful for me the way he spelled it out,” That black people don’t have a history of killing white power. White people have a history of killing black people, for hundreds of years. Over and over again, we kill black people in this country. So everyone needs to remember where the violence came from. It’s not from the black people, it’s from the white people. So I thought it was powerful. So whatever, you know, everybody can fuck themselves.”

Yes, Chelsea Handler thought Farrakhan’s  standard  racist “white devils” riff was “powerful.” It’s not just that Farrakhan is such a repulsive messenger that nobody should trust anything he says, it’s also that his message is a hate screed and based on a biased and deliberately distorted reading of history.

Then social media told Handler to shape up, so, lacking any integrity and courage herself, she took down the post and grovelled to  the Daily Beast:

“I want to sincerely apologize for posting the video of Louis Farrakhan. I didn’t consider the context of his anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric,\ that is of course contrary to my own beliefs and values. Part of the process of educating ourselves during this pivotal time is recognizing and working through our mistakes.This was definitely one of mine. I was wrong. It was offensive, and I apologize.

No, you didn’t know who Louis Farrakhan was before you endorsed him. [Pointer: Other Bill]

 

Actress Kristen Bell Confesses To Engaging In Animated Mixed-Raceface

This is how cultures become insane, make terrible decisions, and destroy themselves: prominent people say stupefyingly stupid things that would have been mocked mercilessly in rational times, and everyone nods and says, “Wow. Cool.”

Actress Kristen Bell announced that she would be stepping down from doing the voice  of a mixed race character, she says, it was wrong for her, as a white woman, to take the role. As an established star for whom such a gig is minor supplementary income, this is cheap, if idiotic, virtue-signaling by Bell, but she has made the statement that a struggling white actor—but not a black one, I’m sure—is a selfish racism enabler to take such a role.

Bell was voicing the character of “Molly” on the animated show “Central Park” on Apple TV+. Here is her statement. Grab the Dramamine. Continue reading

Rating Jimmy Kimmel’s Terrible Blackface Apology

It should surprise no one that ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel’s apology, issued in a statement released today, is wretched, because Kimmel himself lacks character or an ethical compass. Ethics Alarms has pointed this out before.

I will not hold you in unnecessary suspense: his apology is an unequivocal Level 10 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale. If I ever get around to adding real apology examples to each of the ten levels, his would be a perfect one to place under this description:

10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

Considerately, Kimmel places his apology in the bottom of the barrel in his very first paragraph:

I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us. That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.

Somebody explain to Jimmy, if he or she can stand being in the same space with such a creep, that you can’t be defiant in an apology. It’s one or the other. He makes it clear, by putting an admission of the error of not apologizing sooner before what he is allegedly apologizing for, that this statement is strategic, as #10 apologies always are. He’s “apologizing,” not because he is genuinely remorseful, but because he wants to be respected. Hilariously, but characteristically, Kimmel doesn’t even know what human beings respect.

Finally, if there was any doubt what this is, he adds the watermark of a fake apology: “I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.” That takes him to  at least Level #9 right off the bat: Continue reading

Statue-Toppling, The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, And Calvin Griffith, Part One.

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle, a core concept on Ethics Alarms, holds that even the most convincing ethics rules, moral codes, laws and principles have exceptions. The inspiration for this observation was the work of Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel, whose two Incompleteness Theorems, which relate to mathematical proofs, are his most famous contribution to civilization and science. A linguist as well as a scientist,  Gödel unintentionally delivered an essential blow against the ethics absolutism of Kant and rigid morality when he proved that human language is not sufficiently precise to define rules that will work as designed in every instance. The logical extension of Gödel’s theorems, which he applied only to mathematics and, by extension, physics, tells us that there will always be anomalies on the periphery of every normative system, no matter how sound or well articulated it is. If one responds to an anomaly by trying to amend the rule or system to accommodate it, the integrity of the rule or system is disturbed, and perhaps ruined. Yet if one stubbornly applies the rule or system without amendment to the anomaly anyway, one may reach an absurd conclusion or an unjust result. [ Here is an online discussion of the application of Gödel to ethics, which appeared years after the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem was posited on Ethics Alarms.]

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle suggests that when a system or rule doesn’t seem to work well when applied to an unexpected or unusual situation, the wise response is to abandon the system or rule—in that one anomalous case only— and use  basic ethics principles and analysis to find the best solution. Then return to the system and rules as they were, without altering them to make the treatment of the anomalous situation “consistent.”

Much as we would like it to be otherwise, for life would be so much simpler if it were so, no system or rule is going to work equally well with every possible scenario. This is why is why committing to a single ethical system is folly, and why it is important to keep basic ethical values in mind in case a pre-determined formula for determining what is right breaks down.

When a reader and frequent commenter sent me this announcement from the Minnesota Twins a few days ago, my reflex reaction was as you would expect: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes” [Item #4]

The poll on #4 among yesterday’s “ethics grab bag” is running strongly in favor of leaving up statues of Juan de Oñate, a particularly nasty Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain. [Aside: I was going to link to the article on the Britannica site, but as soon as I whitelisted it, I was bombarded with pop-up ads, drop-in ads, slide-over ads and more that shifted the text and  made it nearly impossible to read. They are morons, and screw them, to be blunt. I’ll allow a site’s ads if the site is smart and considerate enough to format them so that they don’t make using the site  infuriating. I will not be visiting again.]  Only 11% of voters so far think that there needs to be some limit on how horrible a historical figure can be to have a community decide that they don’t want to be reminded of him and her every day. Voting is still open:

Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day on Item 4 in the post, “Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes”:

In general, I am not one calling for removing art from the public square. That smacks too much of Soviet Russia, Chairman Mao, and the Taliban. Perhaps a more complete history can be shown on the monument discussing the controversies.

The Oñate statue is one of those monuments that maybe should not have been dedicated, even if he founded or claimed the region for the Spanish crown over 400 years ago. Apparently, the statue’s foot amputation was in response to Juan de Oñate’s brutal repression of the Acoma Puebla after the Acoma rebelled in October, 1598, because the Acoma refused to pay a food tax to the Spanish crown, which had been implemented by Oñate. Oñate had claimed the region for Spain in March 1598, and instituted a food tax, which hacked the Acoma off – why wouldn’t it? – so they rebelled. The Acoma killing 11 Spaniards/Mexicans, including Oñate’s nephew, In response, Oñate ordered the burning of the town and the slaughter of almost the entirety of the 2,000 Acoma, leaving some 200 alive, including children. Oñate had his troops amputate a foot of each of the surviving males of fighting age and sent the children to “missions” in Mexico. The revolt has been referred to as the Acoma Massacre. Not sure that is something Spain is proud of. Continue reading

Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes

1. Oh, I’m sure that will help a lot. Quaker announced yesterday that the Aunt Jemima brand would be rebranded and renamed “to make progress toward racial equality.” Yeah, I’m sure the pancake box design and hearing that demon name “Jemima” has retarded the progress of racial justice for decades.  I couldn’t care less what pancake mix is called and I doubt that anyone else does, but  if any portion of the market claims to find the logo offensive, that’s a good reason to ditch it, which I assume means that Uncle Ben’s Rice will be called “U.B.R.” soon. Nonetheless, Quaker’s move isn’t substantive. It’s virtue signaling, and at this point, more historical airbrushing. Getting rid of Aunt Jemima will cost Quaker millions of dollars, and probably raise the price of the product. It won’t affect racial equality one iota.

Meanwhile, cultural context and history is lost. The R. T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890, and she continued in that role  until her death in 1923. Green appeared as Jemima beside the “world’s largest flour barrel” while operating a pancake-cooking display at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After the Expo, Green was given a lifetime contract to  promote the pancake mix. Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green’s one link to immortality.

2. Today’s SCOTUS decision on DACA. Here’s how NPR put it: “A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court extended a life-support line to some 650,000 so-called DREAMers on Thursday, allowing them to remain safe from deportation for now, while the Trump administration jumps through the administrative hoops that the court said are required before ending the program.”

The President called this a political decision in his inimitable, meat-axe way:

This is an especially stupid tweet. Every time SCOTUS doesn’t back the administration isn’t a political decision, and lumping apples and kumquats together, which is what generalizing about decisions as diverse as the gay discrimination decision and this one is, just shows that the President doesn’t read the opinions he’s complaining about, and only cares about the results. (Of course, in this he is like most Americans, sad to say.)

After wading through as much of the assorted opinions in the case as I can stand (Great thanks, once again, to valkygrrl for sending me the link), I think that’s unfair.

Chief Justice Roberts, again the swing man, joined with the four liberal Justices and authored the majority opinion. This sentence says it all: “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” That means that the decision isn’t about substance or policy, but rather process. Process decisions are not, or shouldn’t be, political. This note also undermines the idea that the Justices were just acting in partisan lockstep:

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV. GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to all but Part IV. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part anddissenting in part, in which ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., and KAVANAUGH, J., filed opinions concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part.

If the President paid attention, he would see that a majority of the Court found that his actions regarding DACA were not motivated by “animus,” thus denying Big Lie #4.

I am unalterably opposed to DACA, for reasons stated frequently here. The short version: it is incompetent and irresponsible law-making to provide an incentive for people to break the law. DACA is fueled by emotion and sentimentality (“Think if the children!”) and is an incremental step toward open borders. However, other than some dicta among the concurrences and dissents, there is no reason to see the decision as either favoring or disfavoring the law. Continue reading

Mid-Friday Ethics, 6/12/2020: The Fame Edition

Good afternoon!

1. On Fame. One of my pet peeves is the pursuit of fame as a life objective. It is inherently unethical, because fame itself is unrelated to good or evil; it is a neutral value, and its pursuit is pure self-interest mixed with ignorance.

First, as too many celebrities to count have informed us, fame is at least as much of a burden as a boon, and second, there is no such thing as “immortality” through fame. As Shelley wrote,

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

The lyrics of the theme song from the movie and TV series “Fame” so annoyed me that I refused to view either:

Remember my name, fame
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly, high

I feel it comin’ together
People will see me and cry, fame
I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name!

Yeah, good luck with that life plan. Who remembers Irene Cara, the star of the film who sang the song? If you enter the field of performing, or any field, to become famous rather than to contribute something of value to society, you’re an asshole.

Chasing it is a fool’s pursuit, but sometimes fame finds you. I just read that former MLB baseball player Claudell Washington died. I remember him, but few do: he arrived heralded as a future superstar, but never reached that status. He is famous, however, because a foul ball he hit in a game of no importance is “immortalized” in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a cult classic, as the ball Ferris (Matthew Broderick) catches in the stands while playing hookie.

It’s more immortality than most of us get. Continue reading

Zoom Ethics: And You Thought The School Board President Who Had To Resign Because He Drank A Beer In His Home During An Online Meeting Was Crazy…

This is even worse.

The post about the scandalous swig of beer was less than a month ago, but in comparison to the events of the last couple weeks, the Covina, California story doesn’t seem anywhere near as nuts as as it did at the time. Then, Ethics Alarms was concerned with privacy and officious inter-meddlers dictating how citizens get to behave in their own homes. I even called the incident a “freakout”! Now we know what a real freakout looks like.

The poll on whether poor Brian Akers, the ex-president of the Charter Oak Unified School Board who impulsively guzzled a beer while on camera during a remote board meeting was unfairly maligned was pretty decisive:

I won’t bother to poll today’s Zoom ethics story. If I did, my question might be, “How could you justify continuing to let your child go to a school with employees like this?”

In Baltimore County Maryland, a 5th grade teacher at the Seneca School saw a BB gun hanging on the wall in an 11-year-old student’s bedroom.  The Horror. She notified the principal, who alerted the school safety officer, who then called the police, who made an unannounced visit to the student’s home.

The child’s mother, Courtney Lancaster, a military veteran, has extensive knowledge of guns, how to use them and how to store them, and she is ticked-off. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-U…OH MY GOD I JUST SAW THE “I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY” VIDEO AND MY BRAIN IS CRAWLING OUT OF MY SKULL!!!!!

1. This thing above. How can anyone take these people, or the entire industry they represent, seriously? Was someone challenged to come up with the most nauseating, self-indicting example of narcissistic grandstanding and virtue-signalling imaginable? Among the more recognizable celebrities are Kristen Bell, Kesha, Aaron Paul, Stanley Tucci, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Debra Messing, though I’m sure I would have recognized more if I hadn’t been retching so violently. This PSA is supposed to launch  a new project by entertainment production company Confluential Content, in partnership with the NAACP. So earnest (and as performed, manifestly phony) that it hurts, the stars—I’m assuming they are all stars—take turns reading a wildly hyperbolic and deceitful script:

“I take responsibility for every unchecked moment, for every time it was easier to ignore than to call it out for what it was. Every not-so-funny joke. Every unfair stereotype. Every blatant injustice no matter how big or small. Every time I remained silent. Every time I explained away police brutality or turned a blind eye. I take responsibility. Black people are being slaughtered in the streets. Killed in their own homes. These are our brothers and sisters. Our friends. Our family. We are done watching them die. We are no longer bystanders; we will not be idle. Enough is enough.”

Who is it who will decide what’s a stereotype, an unfunny joke (what if the joke is funny?), or a blatant injustice? You silly people? Right. Continue reading