And Another One BitesThe Dust: Bowling Green State’s Unethical Slap At Lillian Gish [UPDATED]

The problem with so many of the statue-toppling/ renaming debacles at U.S. universities isn’t just that they are  transparent grandstanding, virtue-signalling and pandering to power-seeking black activists. The more disturbing problem is the intellectual vacuousness and lack of critical thought that school administrators display in the process of their grovels. The recent action of Bowling Green State University in Ohio is a particularly noxious example.

[Correction notice: the post originally had the university in Virginia, perhaps because I was once pulled over for reckless driving in Bowling Green, Virginia. Anyway, that was wrong. My apologies.]

Lillian Gish ( 1893-1993) had an epic  film career spanning 75 years, from 1912, in silent films,  to 1987. She was frequently  called the “First Lady of American Cinema,” and film historians credit her with introducing basic movie performing techniques to her craft. The PBS series, American Masters devoted an episode to Gish’s life and achievements; Turner Classics Movies observes,

Having pioneered screen acting from vaudeville entertainment into a form of artistic expression, actress Lillian Gish forged a new creative path at a time when more serious thespians regarded motion pictures as a rather base form of employment. Gish brought to her roles a sense of craft substantially different from that practiced by her theatrical colleagues. In time, her sensitive performances elevated not only her stature as an actress, but also the reputation of movies themselves. 

She had 120 film and TV credits before she was done, including “Night of the Hunter,” an enduring classic. In short, she was important. She enhanced the culture and her industry, and she earned her honors. She should be remembered.

Bowling Green State University has honored  Lillian Gish (and her less-celebrated acting sister Dorothy) for more than 40 years. But members of the college’s Black Student Union objected the theater’s name, on the grounds that in 1915, when she was 22 years old, she was one of the stars in D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” a seminal work in the U.S. film canon by one of its most talented and influential directors. The film, despite its artistic merits and importance to the development of the movies, is widely regarded as racist in content and purpose, celebrating as it does the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. The film is also blamed in part for the rise of Jim Crow in the South, also aided by President Woodrow Wilson’s open promotion of the movie as well as Griffith’s political views.

None of which has anything to do with Lillian Gish. Actors don’t write scripts or control a movie’s message, nor are they responsible for how audiences perceive a film beyond their own performances. D.W. Griffith was not only the early 20th Century’s equivalent of a Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, he was young Lillian’s patron and metor. She had literally no choice other than to accept his decision to cast her in his Reconstruction opus; to rebuff him would have risked ending her career. Nor was there any way, in 1915, for Gish to know what the impact of “Birth of a Nation” might be, or to know, while she was being filmed, what the director would do with the footage.

Gish was not responsible for the movie, and holding that she was is as ignorant and indefensible as it is unfair. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 5/5/2019: Whew! Barely Got Three Items In Before My Head Exploded…

 

I’m writing this bleary-eyed, in large part because our 15-year-old Jack Russell Terrier chose 3 am  to demand that we play what we call “The Bisky Game” –I don’t know what he calls it—a diversion of his own invention that involves tossing or nosing a dog biscuit at the nearest human, barking sharply two to four times, and demanding that the treat be flipped back to him, whereupon he will reject it by growling, barking, and tossing it back, until some mysterious force tells him that the game is over, whereupon he eats the damn thing. Usually this takes between five and ten tosses, but last night Rugby went for a record, and rejected his biscuit at least 15 times. Finally he ate it, licked my arm for about five minutes–a pre-bedtime tradition— and  went to sleep.  I did not.

1.  Live by bigotry, die by bigotry. “Captain Marvel” star Brie Larson, who got her big break in part because Marvel decided to turn a traditionally male superhero into a female, has pandered to social justice warriors and progressive bigotry in just about every way possible.  During the promotion of the hit film,  she said wanted more people of color to review her films, not white men. [ The ethical position would be to want competent reviewers to review the film, recognizing the competence is color-blind.) She that she doesn’t care what old white men thought of films that weren’t made for  them. She has said that we need more gay superheroes. Funny: as long as I’m being rescued and the world is being saved, I don’t care what the color, gender or sexual orientation of my hero is. How old white man of me.

Now, taking the grandstanding, virtue-signaling actress at her word—almost always an unwise thing to do when dealing with performers, someone has launched a  petition demanding,  “We need Brie Larson to step down from her role to prove she is an ally of social justice and ensure a gay woman of color plays the role.”

As of this writing, the petition currently has nearly tripled  its 3,000 signature goal. Good. Heck, I might sign it . Everyone should be required to abide by their publicly proclaimed principles, though such a rule would mean that Joe Biden would vanish from the face of the Earth. [Pointer: RedState ]

2. From the Ethics Alarms “Denial” and ” What is this ‘Accountability’ thing of which you speak?” files: professors Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Thomas J. Wood of Ohio State University have determined that when comedian Jon Stewart departed “The Daily Show,” its ratings fell, and this, they say, “spurred a 1.1% increase in Trump’s county-level vote share.” This from what passes today for a scholarly  paper, “Did Jon Stewart Elect Donald Trump? Evidence From Television Ratings Data” published in the journal Electoral Studies.

Kyle Smith of “The National Review” points out what should be obvious about this junk science… Continue reading

Dead Ethics Alarms+Blackface+Social Media+Spineless School Administrators= One Hopeless Ethics Train Wreck

Constant reader/commenter/master provocateur Michael Ejercito flagged this story for us, and it had already garnered some interesting commentary before I spotted it.  Michael has a distinct style here and is always asking questions that are the equivalent of firecrackers thrown into a wake. He’s one the longest-enduring participants here, and I haven’t let him know sufficiently how much I appreciate what he contributes.Thanks, Michael.

This is a hopeless ethics train wreck at this point, screwed up beyond all repair. I will note the points at which it all could have been avoided, but really, as it is now, it can only get worse. The thing unfolded like contemporary Shakespeare tragedy, in five acts.

ACT I: In Illinois, photos and video  posted to Snapchat, showed a group of white males wearing blackface pulling up to a fast food drive-thru and making denigrating comments about African-American girls. One of the boys is wearing a sweatshirt from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where all of them were students.

Morons with dead ethics alarms. No high school student in the United States should be unaware that such a prank/stunt/ unbelievably stupid act and self-publishing the evidence of it is almost—but not quite!—the equivalent of maliciously shouting fire in a crowded theater, and thus deliberately tempting others to react emotionally and destructively. I know, teenage boys are too close to sociopaths for comfort, but conduct  like this indicts their parents, their teachers, and the community, as well as them.

Just to be clear, the reason why this is not quite like shouting fire in a crowded theater is that doing that is deliberately inciting a riot, and thus not legal and protected speech. Blackface is offensive speech, but still legal.

ACT II: A former student of the school re-posted the content to her Facebook page, thus ensuring as much damage as possible.  Over a thousand students and others now knew about the blackface episode, and so did the school district.

This is like someone hearing someone whisper fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire, and then shouting what was whispered to maximize the damage. If the student wanted to alert school officials, then she should have done this responsibly and quietly. Doing what she did was intentionally creating an online mob and inciting as much anger and irrationality as possible. The student was virtue-signaling, while magnifying  the harm done by the original jerks. That is malicious.

ACT III: District 233 superintendent Von Mansfield and Homewood-Flossmoor High School principal Jerry Anderson sent out a letter to parents denouncing the “highly offensive and culturally insensitive” posts, saying,

“The social media postings that were seen and heard were not representative of the high expectations we have for all students that attend our school.This type of behavior is contrary to our expectations, is being addressed quickly and appropriately and will not be tolerated.”

What students do and post to social media off campus and unrelated to school personnel and activities is none of the school’s business. They have no obligation to comment on it or disclaim it.  Let me repeat that: What students do and post to social media off campus and unrelated to school personnel and activities is none of the school’s business. Just because school activists, social justice warriors, busy-bodies, victim-mongers and trouble makers want to start shaking their fists and screaming at clouds over what someone else does, student or not doesn’t mean that the school should take the bait. Wearing blackface is 100% legal, in fact, it is Constitutionally protected. So is saying mean things about black girls, Asian girls, white girls, or Martian girls. The letter from the administrators made a tricky problem worse, and that’s not the moronic boys’ fault, nor the trouble-making ex-student’s fault. It’s their fault. They are supposed to be adults, and more competent, responsible, and reasonable than this.

[No, I do not think the fact that one of the students was wearing a school T-shirt made this a school-related act. If one of the students was wearing a Union Jack T-shirt, I would not assume that Great Britain was behind the episode.]

ACT IV: In an effort to urge administrators to take harsh discipline against the students in the blackface episode, nearly 1,000 of the uninvolved students participated in a walkout,  “chanting their demands for justice.” I assume this means that hackneyed “No justice, no peace” chant that I have come to loathe as much as “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”Students don’t get to dictate discipline to administrators. That is known as “letting the inmates running the asylum.” Every one of the students participating in the protest should have been suspended. The parties responsible for students acting like this are the dim-witted and unethical educators who have allowed and even encouraged student holidays to protest gun control and climate policies. Protesting is not part of high school; it isn’t even a valid component of college.

ACT V: The president and vice president of the district’s board of education reacted by sending  out a letter following the walkout, where they condemned the blackfaced students’ conduct  and praising the “speedy response” from Homewood-Flossmoor administrators, which allegedly includes an investigation. The administrators have no right to investigate legal actions engaged in outside of school not involving other students. The parents of the students should tell the school to back off, and hire some tough lawyers to make the point as vividly as possible. “Our children misbehaved, and this is our job, not yours. You worry about education in the school, we’ll worry about how our kids act out of it.”

The letter read,

“The District 233 Board of Education will be revisiting and moving forward with the diversity and inclusion aspects of our new strategic plan, as they relate to cultural awareness and cultural competency training. Homewood-Flossmoor High School will continue to stand against racism, and against insensitive and disrespectful behavior of any kind, and will take the appropriate and necessary actions to ensure that all students are respected, that our differences are embraced and that our unity is celebrated.”

Oh, ugh, yechh, blechh. More posturing and virtue-signaling out of abject cowardice. “Cultural awareness and cultural competency training” sounds like, and almost certainly will be, political indoctrination. I’d like to see 1000 students walk out over that. You can’t dictate that “all students are respected,” and wearing blackface off school grounds isn’t a show of disrespect for students, since it didn’t involve students other than the jerks in blackface. Nor can students be compelled to embrace differences or to celebrate unity, especially when there is only one kind of unity that Big Brother School District will allow to be celebrated, and because you can’t encourage “differences” while demanding unity.

My review of the play? Everybody involved screwed up, acted without considering consequences or proper boundaries. At this point, this mess can not be fixed. If my son was one of the idiots who wore blackface, I would consider,

  • My own protest to the school and the school district, as well as a law suit for demonizing and endangering my son based on his non-school related conduct.
  • Meeting with every administrator involved and explaining in great detail why they are incompetent fools unqualified to train goats, much less educate children.
  • Taking my son out of the school, and either hone schooling him or shipping him off to military school.
  • Making him regret the day he donned blackface for the rest of his youth, telling him that such privileges as driving, having an email account, using social media or having a cell phone would cease until he was living elsewhere and over 18.

Good job, everybody!

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2019: No Trump, No “Resistance.” Enjoy!

Good Morning!

This song, the only “hit” (kind of) by “The Carpenters” sung by Karen’s brother Richard, matches my conflicted mood today. Richard’s teasing and criticism played a part in killing his sister, who possessed one of the most wonderful voices of any popular female vocalist in U.S. history, but who was doomed by anorexia. I am also both perplexed and amused that someone with a lisp would choose a song that repeats “Saturday” as his break-out solo. I wonder if Karen teased him about that?

1.  More on high-testosterone competitors in women’s sports. As I recently wrote here, I am floating in an uncharted sea of uncertainty on this issue, especially regarding Caster Semenya, the intersex South African track star. I do know, however, that I applaud her defiance of the recent court order dictating that she will have to take testosterone-lowing medication if she wants to compete. After a race this week, which she won, as usual, Semenya was asked if she would take the drug. Her answer:  “Hell no.”

Athletic organizations are treading through a mine field here. If they regard taking performance enhancing drugs as cheating, as they should, demanding that certain competitors with natural physical and genetic advantages should take performance-handicapping drugs seems like a double standard.

2. Stop making me defend Woody Allen! I have been unable to watch an Allen movie, even old favorites like “Bananas,” “What’s Up. Tiger Lilly?,” and “Annie Hall,” without gagging since the comic/director cheated on Mia Farrow with her adopted teen-aged daughter, to whom he was a virtual father, and then married her. Thus I have watched none of his films at all. I didn’t need to make a judgment about his daughter’s claims that he sexually molested her, which Allen denies, and since I have no more evidence than the she said/he said (and my certainty that Allen is a certifiable creep), I can’t. However, once Dylan Farrow and her vengeful mother Mia renewed their accusations against Allen while #MeToo was raging,  virtually all of Hollywood turned on Woody, even actors who had worked with him well after Dylan first made her claims. What changed? Nothing, really, except that now they are afraid of social media retribution, so they are pretending to be horrified at what didn’t bother them previously and assuming Woody’s guilt because “believe all women” is the “woke” place to be.

Well, Woody is a creature of Hollywood: this is unethical and unfair, but as Hymen Roth would tell him, “This is the life you have chosen.” Translation: if you voluntarily spend your career in (and benefiting from, and contributing too) an ethically warped culture, don’t expect a lot of sympathy when it turns on you.

This is more troubling: apparently Woody has a completed manuscript of his memoirs, which would have once sparked a publishers auction and an eventual multi-million dollar advance. Now, however, no publisher will pay a cent for it, because “while he remains a significant cultural figure, the commercial risks of releasing a memoir by him were too daunting.”

That means that the publishers are afraid of boycotts. How courageous. Allen is a significant cultural figure as well as a talented humorist. His memoirs have cultural importance, and they belong in the historical record, loathsome as find the man. Easily as loathsome are William Jefferson Clinton and his wife, yet both of them managed to score 7 figure book advances for memoirs they didn’t even write themselves.

Essentially what is happening to Woody is human statue-toppling. He is being erased from the culture despite never having been charged with or tried for a crime (unlike Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson) because it is a sign of virtue among sufficient numbers of people with social media access to assume he is guilty. The boycott and progressive bully culture is a direct threat to basic freedoms. I’d regain some respect for Woody Allen if he would say so. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/10/2019: Ethics Savings Time Edition!

It’s still morning according to MY watch…

1. When ethics alarms don’t ring...How could Philadelphia’s retailers and stores not have seen this problem? The city of Philadelphia has passed a law that will requiring retailers to accept cash, responding to increasing numbers that have gone “cashless.”The new law was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney last week and takes effect on July 1 . Violations could bring  fines of up to $2,000.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee co-sponsored  the bill. “It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not,” he explained.

Good. Serving only people with credit cards is obviously discriminatory.

2.  More on the robocalling experiment. I previously noted that MLB is using the independent Atlantic League to try out some new rules, innovations, and suggested “fixes” for baseball. Only one is of obvious ethics interest: the electronic calling of pitches, which is a matter of integrity. Games should not be warped by crucial decisions that are obviously erroneous and that the game now has the technological tools to prevent. The rest of the measures being tested raise issues of their own:

  • The mound will be moved back two feet to 62’6″. Comment: I assume this is an effort to make hitting easier and pitching harder. I find it difficult to believe that anything this radical has a chance of being adopted.
  • Larger bases will be used (18″ instead of 15″). Comment: Okaaaay…
  • Defensive shifts will be banned. Comment: A terrible idea, constraining defensive creativity and the constant back-and forth change-and-response that has kept baseball dynamic. Let batters figure out how to beat shifts. They have the ability to do it.
  • A radar-enabled strike zone will be employed. Comment: It’s about damned time!
  • Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45. Comment: Good.
  • Three batter minimum for pitchers entering a game. Comment: This is to eliminate the single pitcher-per-batter trend in late innings that slows down the game with minimal benefits. I see no reason not to do it; there are similar rules already, such as requirements that a pitcher must pitch to at least one batter.
  • There will be no mound visits unless a pitcher is removed from the game or for medical issues. Comment: NO visits is draconian. All this will do is speed the intrusion of electronic communications between catcher and pitcher and pitcher and manager. Yechhh!

3. When lawyers should just shut-up. ABA Model Rule Of Professional Conduct 3.6 says in part:

a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

It also says,

c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

The rule, which has substantially identical versions in all jurisdictions, needs to be enforced more stringently. It isn’t, I assume, because the bar associations are worried about a court striking down the rule as a First Amendment violation.

Here’s Jussie Smollett’s lawyer, media hound Mark Geragos, on the charges against his client.:

“This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records. Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”

ALL the publicity was initiated by Gallegos’s client! His crime was designed to get publicity!

Shut up, Mark. This is the kind of statement that does your client no good, and adds to the public’s distrust of lawyers.

I do give him credit for one thing, though: note that he says, “Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence,” and not “Jussie is innocent,” which he knows is a lie.

4. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

  • Headline (NYT):Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month.” Quote:”More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.”

Gee, sounds like a national emergency to me! Nope: it’s Trump’s fault: “the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States.”

  • Because the Democrat’s watered down “anti-hate” resolution did nothing to condemn the anti-Semitic statements by Rep. Omar, some Republicans withheld their votes for it in protest. Here was how Politico spun it: “Republican leadership splits, and party splinters over hate resolution.”

5. I suppose this should be a stand-alone post, but I don’t want to write about Michel Jackson any more than I have to. It is now official [Pointer: JutGory]: “The Simpsons” is airbrushing away the classic 1991 episode “Stark Raving Dad,” because a key character was voiced by Michael Jackson. James L. Brooks, co-creator of the show, says that the 1991 episode guest-starring Michael Jackson will be pulled out of its archives, permanently, and will be removed from all platforms including DVD sets and streaming services. “It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Brooks says. “The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this.”  He added, “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

Sure it’s book burning, and  “the guys Brooks works with” are probably all in favor of tearing down the statues of Confederate generals and monuments to slave-holding Founders, too. Brooks’ ideological clones are suddenly fans of censorship and hiding history when it becomes uncomfortable. There is so much wrong with this decision, it boggles the mind, but a few will suffice…

  • Why now? Oh, right: a documentary made a decade after Jackson’s death suddenly proves what couldn’t be proved in court, is that the theory?
  • Is Brooks really asserting that any artist who releases his or her art to the public is justified in unilaterally destroying it because of a personal motive? The artist has the right, yes. It’s also unethical. The work is no longer the artist’s, it belongs to the culture. This is why Stephen Spielberg has regretted and reversed his politically correctness-addled decision to change the guns carried by the federal agents in “E.T.” to walkie-talkies.
  • This is a time for Kant’s Categorical Imperative. If this is the right thing to do because of Jackson’s alleged misconduct,  then it must be absolute, an unconditional requirement to be observed in all circumstances and justified as an end in itself. That means that no work by Woody Allen, Bing Crosby, Bill Cosby, Errol Flynn, Richard Pryor, John Lennon (and by extension, The Beatles), Peter, Paul and Mary, Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and too many others to list, should ever again be available for the public to view, hear, or enjoy.
  • Presumably any film that O.J. Simpson appeared in must be vaporized as well, including “The Naked Gun” films and the greatest disaster movie ever made, “The Towering Inferno.”

The main thing is that “Stark Raving Dad” is a terrific episode.

This is flagrant narcissism, virtue-signaling and grandstanding by Brooks and his colleagues.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/19: Kneeling Cub Scouts! Face-licking Politicians! Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!

Good morning from Austin!

I really woke up in the Austin Marriott feeling pretty well for the first time in over a month. The bad news is that I might just have to stay here forever…

1. Tales of the double standard. The news media almost universally thinks that Nancy Pelosi’s sarcastic applause routine at the State of the Union this week was hilarious. Let’s keep this in mind the next time these people bemoan the deterioration of civic discourse and the toxic partisanship in Washington. It’s such a cliché by now that it is useless to repeat it, but I’ll say it anyway: imagine what the media reaction would have been if John Boehner or Paul Ryan had treated Barack Obama that disrespectfully during one of his speeches. They would have been up in arms in protest, and they would have been right. Or, if you like, imagine the fury from the news media if President Trump had responded in kind to Pelosi’s affront, and raised his middle finger right in her face.

At this point, he might as well.

2. Air Travel Ethics. I usually make sure that I have an aisle seat, but this time I was stuck at a window. When the plane reached the gate, the gentleman on the aside in my row just sat there, refusing to get up and allow me and the woman in the center to begin gathering our belongings from the upper bins. The woman in the center seat did everything short of saying, “Hey, ass, get up and let us out,” but he just sat there, chatting with his friend across the aisle.  In actual time, this probably delayed my exit from the plane a minute or two, but the feeling of being trapped is not pleasant. I’ve been on hundreds of flights, and this is the first time anyone deliberately blocked me in.

3. Northam-Fairfax-Herring fiasco updates!

Continue reading

The District Of Columbia Bar’s Proposed New Anti-Discrimination And Harassment Rule

In May of 2018, I wrote about the ABA’s new anti-discrimination and harassment rule, 8.4 g, which has been heavily criticized, and, in Tennessee, declared unconstitutional. Here, again, is the text:

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to… engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules.”

Undeterred (and as I predicted), the always “woke” District of Columbia Bar is charging ahead with a version of the rule, and asking for comments from members (like me) on its proposed version, which would replace the current, much narrower anti-discrimination rule currently enforced, Rule 9.1. Here is the D.C. draft:

D.C. Rule 9.1 (Nondiscrimination and Antiharassment)

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer, with respect to the practice of law, to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family responsibility, or socioeconomic status. This Rule does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or, in accordance with Rule 1.16, withdraw from a representation. This Rule does not preclude providing legitimate advice or engaging in legitimate advocacy consistent with these Rules.

Hmmmm. Continue reading