Tag Archives: virtue-signalling

Franken’s Resignation Speech: The Lost Opportunity

Senator Al Franken took to the Senate floor to announce that he would be resigning his seat.  It was Harry Truman who said,

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.” 

What did we learn about Franken’s character today?

Part of me feels that we shouldn’t be too hard on Franken. He is a human being, and this entire scenario for him must be humiliating, frustrating, and infuriating. Yet he is also a U.S. Senator, and knew that he had, perhaps for the only time in his life and professional career, an opportunity to talk when everyone would be listening, or at least interested in what he had to say. Under these circumstances, and in his high elected position, Senator Franken had a unique opportunity to accomplish great things. He had the bully pulpit, essentially, with nothing to lose except the opportunity before him. Nathan Hale had that opportunity minutes before he died, and found the character to make a statement that has rung out in the minds of patriots ever since. Even Richard Nixon, who had blown such an opportunity 12 years earlier when he thought his political career was over, made the best ethics statement of his life when all eyes were on him as he prepared to leave the White House forever. He said in part,

“Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”
Al Franken couldn’t muster the character to say something memorable, inspiring, beneficial or important. He couldn’t even bring himself to apologize: there was no apology anywhere to be found. Given the opportunity to be a statesman, an ethics leader, a role model, Al could only show us the real Al, a petty, small, angry little man. Good to know, I guess, though we already knew it.The Washington Post mercilessly handed the job of annotating the Senator’s speech to Amber Phillips, who could reliably be expected to give no quarter, and she didn’t. She was fair, however, and Al deserved what she gave him.

Franken began by virtue-signalling, saying that he had been excited that

“We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.”

Then the first accusation came his way, and Franken, despite his supposedly sincere statement at the time, didn’t say he was “embarrassed,” or “sorry,” or that there “was no excuse,” that he was “disgusted with himself,”  or that his conduct was “completely inappropriate.” He says he was upset. Says Phillips in her notes,

“Upset” is a pretty strong word to use on the Senate floor, suggesting he was really angry that these women would accuse him of sexual misconduct.”

Franken’s whole demeanor today was angry.  Next he went off the ethics rails:

“But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”

We have talked about this before. Franken had smugly joined his progressive colleagues in promoting the unethical, dangerous, irrational concept that any woman who accuses a man of sexual assault must be believed, even without evidence. It was this anti-American radical feminist claptrap that had led the Obama administration to issue the vile “Dear Colleague” letter extorting colleges and universities into putting young men accused of sexual assault before biased and unqualified Star Chambers, to be labelled rapists without due process or representation. This was also the most hypocritical stance imaginable for the party that had rescued a President from impeachment by airily arguing that “everyone lies about sex.”

So his convoluted argument was that he chose to bolster the dangerous party cant by pretending that the accusations against him had merit–that is, not challenging whether they were true—when in fact he doesn’t believe they were true. Yes, this is what his second apology sounded like he was doing, and it was obvious: I rated it cynical doubletalk.

And today, Al literally said that cynical doubletalk was “the right thing to do.” In reality, you see, all those women that good progressives should believe were in fact shouldn’t be believed. Got it.

Bye, Al.

Then he said, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.” Phillips pounced:

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/17: An Ambush By John Oliver, An Insult From John Conyers

1 It’s a tradition, but  still an embarrassment to democracy...Why isn’t this res ipsa loquitur, as in “so indisputable it ought to be embarrassing”?  Rep. John Conyers, whose proclivity to engage in sexual harassment in full confidence that neither left-leaning reporters in the know (like Cokie Roberts ) nor his party’s leaders nor the victims themselves, would blow a whistle on a “civil rights icon” like him, is finally announcing a forced retirement. But he is attempting to anoint his oldest son, John Conyers III, as his successor. III has no special qualifications for elected office. He is a hedge fund manager and a business consultant whose  famous father is part of his appeal to clients. The original John Conyers was used  as a stepping stone to power by another unqualified family member using his name, III’s’ mother, former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for bribery. She was released in 2013.

In a profanity and vulgarity-laced video III posted last year, he said in part,

“Third and fourth generations of Conyers running for office. It’s really crazy. My grandfather did an incredible job, man. Fuck. A lot of people stand on the sidelines of their own lives. It’s like you just watch that shit go by like, no, I don’t think I’m going to get in the game – that shit is short, man. Whatever you do, make sure you vote….Voting feels so good, like even if your person doesn’t win, like, it feels good. The craziest part about it all is that my dad really walked with Martin Luther King and got arrested for this shit, like, damn this shit is deep fam. I casted my vote and I was hype as shit, like, I voted, like, this is awesome and I am really thankful for people that died for that for me. Any race, whatever, it’s important to vote but I mean, like, especially African-Americans man, go vote because people really died for this shit. If you don’t know shit about a candidate, man, and you just want to vote like you can write your own name in there, but like the action of going to vote is so important.”

Or just vote for someone with a last name you recognize! He sounds like a winner to me! One hurdle: Democratic Michigan State Sen. Ian Conyers, the congressman’s great-nephew, announced his intention to run for the open seat.

This is a long, long blight on American democracy that makes me wonder if we’re really up to it. The number of voters in both parties who are so shallow, lazy, and foolish as to assume that merely being related to a famous or popular leader is sufficient reason to elect him or her is disgraceful, but it has always been thus. Among those who never would have made it into a high office without this factor are Mary Bono, Jesse Jacskon, Jr. (currently in prison), Lindy Boggs, Lurleen Wallace, Margaret Chase Smith, Robert Taft, George W. Bush,  Bobby Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr,  Joseph Kennedy III,  Joe Kennedy II, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend—anyone named Kennedy, really—current Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Cal.), Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton. There are many, many more.

A last name is not a qualification for office. Why should that even have to be pointed out in a nation founded upon the rejection of royalty?

2. Unethical virtue-signalling via ambush. I admire John Oliver’s intellect, verbal dexterity and talent, but as with Stephen Colbert, David Letterman and others, he is so clearly a mean-spirited jerk that I find it difficult to watch him. Signature significance arrived for Oliver this week when he ambushed actor Dustin Hoffman  during a panel discussion commemorating the anniversary of the film Wag the Dog.

The topic of the evening was fake news and government manipulation of it, as the Clinton era film about a phony war being launched by a President to distract from a scandal is a fascinating one to ponder through the rear view mirror. Hoffman, one of the stars of the film, recently became one of the few dubious victims of a #MeToo-er, as he was accused of groping and sexually harassing a 17-year old woman on the set of another film in 1985. Unlike most of the celebrities and power-brokers run over by the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, Hoffman has not had other accusers surface. He denies the woman’s characterization of what happened, and so have others, like the director of the movie in question, the filmed version of Hoffman’s Broadway turn as Willie Loman in “Death of  Salesman.”

I have read fans of Oliver saying that Hoffman should have assumed that Oliver would grill him on the allegations, to which I say, “Only if Hoffman realized what a knee-jerk progressive creep Oliver is.” I think the actor assumed that Oliver was an honorable professional, and as a moderator wouldn’t hijack the discussion to embarrass Hoffman and burnish his feminist creds.

To Hoffman’s credit, he stood up to the abuse of position by Oliver and defended himself. At one point, there was this exchange:

HOFFMAN: “Do you believe this stuff you read?

OLIVER: Yes. Because there’s no point in (the accuser) lying.”

HOFFMAN: Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years.

OLIVER: Oh Dustin…

I would have said,

“Don’t “Oh, Dustin” me, you arrogant, posturing ass. The fact that a complaint isn’t made for that much time automatically makes it dubious. It places the accused in an impossible position; evidence has evaporated, and memories have faded. There are many reasons to lie. To get publicity, To get revenge for some real or imagined slight. To bring down someone famous or powerful. To join a mob—and regardless of the fact that the post-Weinstein focus on legitimate sexual misconduct in the workplace has created needed awareness and exposed long-time abusers, it is a mob, with all of the capacity a mob has to harm the innocent in its self-righteousness. You are playing to the mob right now, and willing to unjustly smear me to do it. You’re a disgrace.”

John Ziegler quoted a Hollywood writer who knows Hoffman and is convinced he is innocent, who said,

“Someone should tell John Oliver he’s the true heir to Joe McCarthy!Sex abuse baiting has replaced red-baiting. The ‘Sexual Blacklist’ reigns supreme. Guilty until ruined!”

Let me also remind readers that my hypothetical illustrating how a woman might retroactively decide that what she did not regard as sexual harassment years ago was harassment now was mocked by both the moderator and a Georgetown law professor during the NPR panel I participated in last week.

I am right, they are biased.

The more I think about that exchange, the more ticked off I get….

 

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Ethics Dunce: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Is the body of Charlie Rose’s work as a journalist less impressive, valuable, expert, enlightening and professional because we have learned that he is an abusive, sexist, gross, harassing pig? Of course not.

That being the case, why is The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication revoking the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism it bestowed on him in 2015? Let’s have the school’s explanation, shall we?

In the words of Dean Christopher Callahan:

We give the award each year based on the knowledge we have of a recipient at that time. When new information about a recipient surfaces, the question we ask is not whether the award would be given again with a new set of facts, but whether the transgressions are so egregious that they demand nothing less than a reversal of history.

I believe Mr. Rose’s actions of sexual misconduct reported by The Washington Post and other media outlets, which are largely unrefuted, rise to that level. The damage caused by Mr. Rose’s actions extends far beyond the news organizations for which he worked. The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable, and that such behavior – far too common in not just media companies but many organizations – must stop.

So now you know why. The school, and its dean, and everyone else involved in this decision, is craven, hell-bent on virtue-signalling, bereft of integrity, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest. The school has never withdrawn an award or honor: are we really supposed to believe that there is an established procedure for considering whether or not one should be revoked in an instance of “new information” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason the honor was bestowed? Rose’s shame hardly did any lasting harm to the news organizations he worked for beyond the inconvenience of replacing him. He discriminated against women? Being the biggest cheese in William Paley’s all-male news room, Walter Cronkite’s treatment of women during the “Mad Men” error probably wouldn’t pass muster today, though I can’t picture Uncle Walter parading naked in front of female colleagues. (Fortunately I can’t picture Charlie doing that either). If Walter’s Juanita Broaddrick, reading about the slap-down of Rose, comes out with a credible accusation against the icon, will the Arizona State-based institution change its name to the Dan Rather sch…no, it can’t do that. Continue reading

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Further Ethics Observations On The Kevin Spacey Scandal [Part 2]

[Continuing the reflections on the accusation against Kevin Spacey and its aftermath…Part One is here.]

I have always assumed that Spacey had endured some kind of serious trauma that explained his aversion to confirming that he was gay, since, really, it was so, so obvious. Many actors become actors because of familial abuse and self-loathing: if you think about it, it makes sense. They don’t like who they are and what real life has been, so they seek the fantasy life of being someone else on stage, films and TV.  Maybe Spacey’s long obsession with performer Bobby Darrin provided a clue. (Spacey eventually played Darrin in his own vanity film project. “Beyond the Sea.”) You have to be really unhappy with yourself to fantasize being in the shoes of Darrin, the talented, troubled heterosexual  actor-singer who died before he turned 40. Thus I was not surprised when Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, 62, a limo driver and professional Rod Stewart impersonator, described the home in which he, Kevin and their sister were raised as resembling the plot a  horror movie.

  • Fowler says he and his brother were both sexually abused by their father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (whom the children called “The Creature”), and that their mother knew about their treatment at his hands. Their older sister, Julie, was also abused before she fled home when she was 18. In a 2004 interview, Spacey’s brother described how their ultra-right-wing father was a member of the American Nazi Party. He was so enamored with Adolf Hitler, Fowler claimed, that he trimmed his mustache to resemble Der Fuehrer’s.

“I grew up in a living hell. There was so much darkness in our home it was beyond belief. It was absolutely miserable,” Spacey’s brother said then. “Years later, our mother actually wrote a letter to all three of us, trying to justify what had gone on by saying she was abused as a child and so was our father. Kevin tried to avoid what was going on by wrapping himself in an emotional bubble….He was so determined to try to avoid the whippings that he just minded his Ps and Qs until there was nothing inside. He had no feelings.”

Fowler described his younger brother was an “empty vessel” who had never been in a real relationship with anyone. “Neither of us had a chance growing up with two such damaged parents, ” he concluded.

No, I don’t know that what a Rod Stewart imitator and publicity-seeking sibling of a famous actor says is completely true, exaggerated, or a fabrication.  But it fits. Spacey should be given the benefit of the doubt, and accorded some compassion. We all deserve that. Continue reading

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Abashed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/28/17 [Updated]

Good Morning!

1 Following a day in which various exigencies and responsibilities, plus fatigue and distraction, caused me to whiff on getting up at least three posts I thought were worthy of consideration, yesterday I failed to get any up at all. This makes me very unhappy, and I apologize. A fly-in, fly-out assignment in New York City had me up early and back late, whereupon I had my son’s birthday to acknowledge, the World Series to scrutinize and some aching feet to attend to. Priorities can’t be ignored, and being able to recognize when something you want to do and are devoted to doing just cannot be done well in the time allowed is a matter of life competence. Yet I hate failing loyal readers who care about ethics issues and rely on Ethics Alarms to explore them, and feel negligent when this occurs…fortunately, not very often.

Still too often, however.

2. The emergence of Hollywood director James Toback as a serial sexual harasser (at least) had me preparing a post about why theatrical directors are especially prone to this conduct. The gist of it was that in college, where participation in theater is often more social than aesthetic, directors forming romantic relationships with their cast members is neither taboo nor typically exploitative. Similarly, in community theater such relationships are not unusual or unethical, unless they interfere with a director’s artistic duties: casting an inferior performer because she’s your girl friend or because you want her to be is per se unethical. These are the cultures that produce many directors, and they enter professional theater, and later films, with bad habits that cannot be tolerated or continued in a professional context. Similarly, performers also come out of that culture. It may be difficult for some of them to comprehend that what is arguably acceptable in amateur settings is becomes unconscionable in a professional one.

However, this cannot explain Toback’s conduct. An astounding 200 plus women now say they were harassed or assaulted by him, and the list filled up in less than week. Compared to Toback, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby seem restrained.

Actress Selma Blair, for example, says her agent arranged for her to meet Toback for a possible role in one of his films after her career had begun with promise. Blair says the meeting was scheduled at a hotel restaurant, but  when she arrived the hostess told her that Toback wanted to meet in his hotel room. There, Toback asked her to perform a monologue nude, directed her to have sex with him, and said he would not let her leave until he “had release.” Then the actress says, he simulated sexual intercourse on her leg. 

I begin my sexual harassment seminars by stating that the problem is one of ethics. If you have respect for human beings regardless of gender, if you are fair to people you interact with, if you are caring toward them and obey the Golden Rule, if you apply the three basic ethics alarms checks (“Does this seem right? Could I tell my mother about this? Would I want this on the front page of my local newspaper?”), then you won’t be a harasser. But I can’t begin to explain how someone reaches the point of depravity and utter contempt for women that he would behave the way Blair describes Toback behaving. This is, to understate it, uncivilized. Was he raised by wolves? I suspect even wolves would be horrified by his behavior. My father never had to sit me down at 13 and say, “Jack, it’s time for a talk. It’s never right to simulate sexual intercourse on a woman’s leg when she has come to interview for a job.” I didn’t need to be told this. Who needs to be told this who isn’t already a dangerous sociopath?

Somehow, the culture of Hollywood devolved to such a state that abuse of power and women became a social norm, and even conventionally acculturated adults had their values erased and replaced. That is the only way the Tobacks and Weinsteins could come to exist. That culture is now too sick and entrenched to be wiped clean by a few scandals. It is going to take a long time to change it, if indeed it can be changed. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/21/17: Fake Bravery, Mysterious Hate Speech, Vindictive Ex-Presidents, And The Trans Fold-Out

I confess: I miss New England…

Good Morning.

Thank God it’s Saturday.

1 The definition of “courage” being used to describe some of the late-to-the-party revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s victims is more than a bit off.  For example, Academy Award  winner Lupita Nyong’o’s op-ed, in which she talked about her own harassment by Weinstein, was hailed by Kerry Washington, Ellen DeGeneris and others, including singer Janelle Monae, who wrote, “My hero. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for using your voice.”

Bravery? Nyong’o’s piece could be fairly described as kicking a dead horse when he’s down. There is no danger to Nyong’o now in joining the throng accusing and exposing Weinstein, whose head is on a metaphorical pike in Hollywood. Indeed, claiming victimhood now acquires sympathy and declares that one is joining one’s peers in a virtuous quest. There is nothing wrong with her op-ed or the fact that she wrote it, but it isn’t brave. It would have been brave if she had written it while Weinstein had power…and was still using that power to intimidate and exploit actresses

2.  A recent quiz in the New York Times threw some light, or maybe ice water, on the concept of “hate speech.” The quiz asked Times readers to judge whether a statement was hate speech, and contrasted the results with Facebook’s hate speech policy, and the kind of statement would be removed from the social media platform as violating its standards. Facebook defines hate speech as:

  1. An attack, such as a degrading generalization or slur.
  2. Targeting a “protected category” of people, including one based on sex, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.

Here were the samples; Times readers were asked to vote yes or no to the question, “Would this statement meet Facebook’s criteria for hate speech?”

A. “Why do Indians always smell like curry?! They stink!”

B. “Poor black people should still sit at the back of the bus.”

C. “White men are assholes.”

D. “Keep ‘trans’ men out of girls bathrooms!”

E. “Female sports reporters need to be hit in the head with hockey pucks.”

F. I’ll never trust a Muslim immigrant… they’re all thieves and robbers.”

The Answers:

A. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 75% yes, 25% no.

B. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 92% yes, 8% no.

C. Facebook: Hate speech. Times readers: 48% yes, 52% no.

D. Facebook: It depends on the context. Times readers: 57% yes, 43% no.

E. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 80% yes, 20% no.

F. Facebook: Not hate speech. Times readers: 91% yes, 9% no.

Ethics Alarms: the concept of hate speech is a dangerous, intentionally vague, manufactured category of speech pointing to restrictions of free expression. There is hateful speech, insulting speech, bigoted speech, biased speech, cruel speech, uncivil speech and rude speech, but all of it is still protected speech.

The tell is C. Times readers only voted that one statement wasn’t hate speech, the one that denigrated all white men. Of course they did. By Facebook standards, that vote is hate speech. I think.

Facebook can ban whatever speech it chooses, of course. The fact that it engages in this kind of vague, inconsistent, bias-laden censorship, however, tells us how much we should trust it: Not at all.

3. Speaking of bias, the Trump-haters in the news media—which is to say, the news media—were thrilled that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered, on the same day, statements that were taken as rebukes to President Trump without mentioning him by name. Both Presidents were treading in serious hypocrisy mine fields, and neither were called on it sufficiently. Bush spoke of “fading confidence” in free markets: Gee, who was President when insufficiently regulated capitalists crashed the world economy? Obama, even more cynically, pointed to social, racial and economic schisms after his eight years of aggravating and exploiting them. Both Bush and Obama—and for them, this is a despicable ethics foul—conflated illegal immigration with immigration, to the seal-flipper applause of the open-border crowd.

The significance of these dual attacks is less than it appears. Bothex-POTUSes are motivated by personal animus and as well as personal bias. President Trump is doing an excellent job, as promised, of erasing Obama’s few substantive achievements and policy initiatives from the record, and he has only been at it for less than a year. Are you a a successful President if the primary lasting effect of your administration is reversal of progress in racial reconciliation? Obama’s enmity is predictable, but hardly based on objective consideration. Bush’s attack is even less so.  Candidate Trump’s attacks on President Bush’s brother were nasty and personal; the entire family has made no secret of the fact that it won’t forget, and hates the President’s guts/

The real ethics lesson, as well as a practical policy lesson is that being gratuitously mean to people isn’t just unethical, it is incompetent for a leader. This is one more area where the President shows a self-destructive lack of control and prudence as well as a flat learning curve. At a recent event, Paul Ryan, another target of Trump’s personal insults, mocked the President. John McCain has clearly decided that he will do whatever he can to undermine him until his last breath. Not only do the various public figures Trump needlessly insults and attacks occasionally have the opportunity to strike back in substantive ways, they also have supporters who will side with them even when those strikes are unfair or petty.

Deliberately making enemies is an example of life incompetence. It is so for a librarian or a short-order cook; it is even more so for a leader. It just makes it harder for you to do your job.

Why would you do that?

4. And now that Hugh Heffner is dead, Playboy is trying to make him roll over in his grave by announcing that it will have its first transgender Playmate.

Is this Ick, or ethics? Presumably, if the magazine has any integrity at all, Playboy chooses its Playmates according to their aesthetic qualities, not their medical history. These are women. Stipulated: French model Ines Rau is a woman, now.  Why is her selection focusing on how she got to be one?

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Rau wasn’t chosen because she is a beautiful woman, though I am not saying that she isn’t. She was chosen because she is transgender, and beautiful enough. This was affirmative action. Reports say she is honored. Why isn’t she insulted? If President Obama told Sonia Sotomayor that she was being nominated as a Supreme Court Justice not because she is especially qualified, but because she is Hispanic, would Sotomayor have been pleased?

Rau is being exploited, as Playboy treats the transgender social issue as a fad, to sell magazines and get publicity. Predictably, many of Playboy’s readers are objecting for the wrong reasons: they are bigots. Playboy’s social media response is telling: “Standing on the right side of history.” This is, as Ethics Alarms has pointed out before, a facile dodge and a rationalization. “We’re on the right side of history” is weak variation of the Number 1 rationalization on the list, “Everybody does it.” It means “Everybody’s going to do it, just you wait and see.”

Color me dubious. Heterosexual men who buy girlie magazines are going to find transgender women more beautiful and sexually arousing because they once were biologically male?

Sure, Playboy. Whatever you say.

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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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