No Professor, You Must NOT Apologize For Showing Students Laurence Olivier Playing “Othello” [Corrected]

Olivier Othello

Oh, great: a fake blackface controversy again.

Composer and musician Bright Sheng, is the Chinese-born Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan. When he received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2001, the Foundation described him as “an innovative composer whose skillful orchestrations bridge East and West, lyrical and dissonant styles, and historical and contemporary themes to create compositions that resonate with audiences around the world.”

Sheng screened the 1965 film version of Shakespeare’s “Othello” in his class as part of a lesson about how the tragedy was adapted for the opera. It stars the late Sir Laurence Olivier, widely regarded as the greatest living English actor of his day and a definitive interpreter of Shakespeare, as the tragic hero Othello, a Moor. Some students who saw the film—hell, maybe all of them: they’ve all been indoctrinated into knee-jerk progressive conformity– were upset that Olivier’s face was covered in black make-up, though he was white and the character he was playing is black, so such a disguise would seem to be obligatory. This is the function of what actors call “make-up.”

Students complained to the administration that Olivier’s make-up made them feel “unsafe.” Unsafe from what? From the make-up? From Olivier, who is long-dead? From Iago, the white villain of the play?

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No, Gene Weingarten, YOU Are The Poopyface, But Not For The Reason You Confessed To

Weingarten cartoon2

Harry Truman liked to say “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” That applies in a lot of fields, but perhaps nowhere more than in the field of humor and satire in these days where would-be censors and race-baiters slither across the landscape. If you are going to venture into these dangerous environs (what they endanger is free speech, expression, and freedom itself), you better have the courage of conviction and willingness to fight the adventure requires. If not, you will make things worse. You will become part of the problem, and it is a big problem.

Gene Weingarten is a longtime columnist for the Washington Post, I’ve written about one of his serious pieces here (also here) and had debates with him via email on occasion. He often writes humorous columns, and it was one of those that unjustly made him the target of the social media mobs.

I assume Gene was a little stuck for a topic, because his theme, foods he won’t eat, is a pretty hoary one. I have read very similar joke essays by other writers, going back to Robert Benchley. Clarence Darrow used to riff on foods he didn’t like: he once said, “I don’t like spinach, and I’m glad I don’t, because if I liked it I’d eat it, and I’d just hate it.“ Another of Darrow’s was “I don’t like turnips, and I don’t like anyone who does.”

So Weingarten whipped off a lazy column joking about all the foods he says he hates; remember, actually hating them isn’t an ethical requirement. The idea is just a platform to justify snarkiness and to make silly comments like ” Balsamic vinegar likely broke up the Beatles.” Among his targets: Old Bay seasoning (hate it), hazelnut (I agree), anchovies (it depends), blue cheese (yecchh), pizza with more than two toppings (I think that’s about right), “garbage sushi,” meaning junk like California rolls (not worth hating) and sweet pickles (absolutely). It should be obvious to a spaniel that all of his laments are tongue in cheek, but that spaniel might object to “Drowning good food in wildly disparate other tastes is — I do not mean to exaggerate — like drowning puppies in a toilet.”

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The Eastman Kodak Affair’s Lesson: Corporations Only Signal Their Imaginary Virtue When It Doesn’t Cost Anything

Wack

Eastman Kodak issued an Instagram post featuring images of Xinjiang, a western Chinese region where the government of China has committed horrific human rights violations

The post promoted the work of French photographer Patrick Wack, who made several trips to Xinjiang in recent years and has collected his damning images—all shot on Kodak film— into a book. Kodak shared 10 of his images with its 839,000 Instagram followers. In the Kodak post and on his own Instagram account, Wack described his images as a visual narrative of Xinjiang’s “abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia” over the past five years.

Oh-oh! As the disgraceful U.S. complicity in China’s Wuhan virus cover-up (also Orwellian) has shown, you don’t dare call China’s brutal regime what it is or demand accountability. Chinese social media users attacked Kodak, but Kodak, staying true to American principles of freedom of expression and refusing to bend a knee to tyranny, held its ground as it continued to support Wack and his work.

KIDDING!

I was just messing with you…of course Kodak deleted the post and grovelled an apology for “any misunderstanding or offense” that it might have caused. China, you see, is a big market.

So while our corporate giants have no hesitation in bombarding the gullible with nostrums during “these difficult times,” and announce their fealty to #MeToo, “antiracism,” and Black Lives Matter to pander to various consumers, never think that they really care about anything but their global profits.

Capitalism confers many benefits on society, but courage, integrity, and ethical values are not among them, and never have been.

“Systemic Racism” Update

I need a graphic for “The Great Stupid,” but until I get one, that clip above from Ed Wood’s masterpiece, “Plan Nine From Outer Space,” will have to do. I have to check back and find out which generous reader sent me this after I asked if there was a “Stupid, stupid!” equivalent of the “Madness! Madness!” clip from “Bridge Over The River Kwai.” That’s the immortal Dudley Manlove uttering those words, by the way. And that was his real name!

Update: Commenter Wallphone found the “Plan Nine” clip, and has my enduring gratitude.

Here are some especially annoying recent developments on the incoherent “systemic racism” front.

1. Philonase Floyd, the brother of the late, great,George Floyd, said, following the sentencing of Derek Chauvin, “I just want to reiterate: not just black lives matter, all lives matter.” Strangely, he was not immediately condemned as a racist or racially insensitive and forced to apologize like so many others who were hounded mercilessly for saying “all lives matter.” Of course, the explanation is that Floyd’s skin shade gives him license to say “all lives matter.”

I only want to know the rules, that’s all. That seems like a reasonable request. But the systemic racism scam is truly Calvinball.The rules are made up and changed according to whatever is expedient at the time. Incidentally, there is a politician named Calvin Ball who is the county executive of Howard County, Maryland. Guess his party and race. [Hint: He’s allowed to say “All lives matter.”]

2. There has to be some designation for the cowards and enablers of rising totalitarianism that accurately describes sniveling traitors to democracy like Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson, the directors of Capitol Hill Pride in Seattle. I was considering the “Winston Smith Award,” but that seems unfair to Orwell’s tragic hero.

The two sent a letter to the Seattle Human Rights Commission that said,

“It has come to our attention that an event called ‘Take B(l)ack Pride’ at the Jimi Hendrix public park June 26th is charging Whites only admission as reparations. We consider this reverse discrimination in its worse form and we feel we are being attacked for not supporting due to disparaging and hostile e-mails. We will never charge admission over the color of a person’s skin and we resent being attacked for standing in those values.”

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Tuesday Afternoon Ethics Tunes, 6/8/21: The Mean Fundraiser, And More

Quite a while ago—I’m afraid to check—I asked readers to submit nominees for popular songs with an ethics theme or lesson. Lorne Greene’s one hit recording ( his vocal version of the “Bonanza” song did not fly off the shelves) was “Ringo,” a pretty blatant rip-off of Jimmy Dean’s “Big John,” was one of the first on the list. I received quite a few suggested songs but events overtook me, and I never finished the project. It is in a growing list of promised future content that I have yet to deliver, including missing parts to multi-part posts. I apologize to readers for all of them, but I also intend to make good on all of them, though the ethics songs compilation is understandably low priority. I was happy to finally finish the Ethics Guide to “Miracle on 34th Street” after it languished for a year. The top priorities on the catch-up list right now are Part II of Three Ethics Metaphors: The Rise, The Presidency And The Fall Of Donald J. Trump—that will be on the “Animal House” parade plot metaphor for Trump’s election—and, of course, the long-delayed Part III of The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear.

Back to Lorne: I met him once, on a Santa Monica beach. He was in swimming trunks, and with his family, extremely friendly, tanned and wearing his hairpiece, which was fantastic. Like several other stars I have met in person, Greene was so strikingly attractive that he would make anyone turn their heads on a street even if you had no idea who he was. Unlike most of the others, he appeared to be a genuinely nice guy.

1. Proud to be off Twitter, Reason #569: After Twitter received notice of its noncompliance with India’s information technology laws, demanding that the company remove content critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic and about farmers’ protests, including tweets by journalists, activists and politicians, Twitter pulled itself up to its full metaphorical height, puffed itself up like blowfish, and protested in part, “We are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve.”

Twitter actually said that it cares about freedom of expression! Then, last week, after Nigeria blocked Twitter, it had the gall to tweet…

Twitter Nigeria

This, from the platform that censored the Hunter Biden laptop story and banned President Trump. The Hanlon’s Razor question of whether these are bad people or just stupid people now becomes irrelevant. It’s unethical to operate a powerful communications platform when you are so stupid.

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Saturday Afternoon Ethics Picnic, 6/5/2020

Giant ants

And what’s a picnic without ants?

June 5, the day before D-Day, is another date chock full of ethics history. It doesn’t count, but Ronald Reagan died on this date in 2004: I was just thinking that the Great Stupid would have killed him. In Presidential history, this was the day, in 1888, President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have given a pension to war widow Johanna Loewinger, whose Civil War vet husband died 14 years after being discharged from the army. He was discharged a little less than a year after enlisting for what the army surgeon’s certificate called chronic diarrhea. Loewinger received his pension until he cut his throat in 1876. When Johanna applied for a widow’s pension it was denied; his suicide was not considered to be caused by his military service. Johanna argued that the death was part of the insanity triggered by his war service, and appealed to a member of Congress to petition Cleveland with a bill. But the President declared all previous inquests into the former soldier’s unfortunate death to be satisfactory. Mrs. Loewinger got no pension.

I always thought this was gutsy of Cleveland (or something), since he had paid someone to serve in the Union army for him after he was drafted. But there were bigger ethics landmarks on June 5:

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Introducing The Ethics Alarms “Weenie Of The Week”! The First Recipient: Jay Leno

edible dogs

“The Weenie of the Week” will recognize those who enable censors, political correctness mobs, totalitarians, cancel culture terrorists and the rising fascist tide in America by prostrating themselves and groveling for forgiveness when in truth they have done nothing wrong.

Although the term “weenie” is light-hearted in its terminology, the conduct earning the title is serious and despicable. These are not only pathetic cowards, though they are certainly that. They are the modern, domestic versions of “good Germans,” who, for their own self-interests and nothing more, are willing to reject our nation’s core rights and liberties, weaken them, and indeed join the increasingly ominous effort to suffocate free expression, dissent, creativity and humor.

Comedian and former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno begins what I fear will be a long line.

Yesterday he issued an apology for making jokes in the past about Koreans eating dog meat after a 15-year campaign by the activist group Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA).

“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” Leno said in a joint press release with MANAA leader Guy Aoki: “I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”

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Question: Should Ethics Alarms Develop An Official “Groveling Weenie” List?

Apology Adams

The above was authored by Scott Adams, the “Dilbert” cartoonist, who has also gained fame (or notoriety) as a “Trump whisperer.” He recently composed this “preemptive apology” for when the Cancel Mob comes for him, as it surely will. Reader Richard Marr, who pointed EA to this, asks where it fits on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale. He’s joking, of course: it’s a gag apology, and there is no category for that. It’s also a terrific grovel, which is what so many apologies from those accused of being “insensitive” or otherwise speaking or behaving contrary to mandated opinions and values from the increasingly dictatorial and threatening Left.

The Adams satire moves me to ask a serious question: Should Ethics Alarms add a page listing the revolting grovelers that have marked The Great Stupid, Americans who in fact did nothing wrong, but to keep their jobs, or status, or please demanding and arrogant peers, have prostrated themselves with statements that sound like excerpts from “The Manchurian Candidate” screenplay? The Ethics Alarms term for them is “Weenies”—weak, cowardly, venal or desperate people and entities who are content to have speech censors and ideological bullies gain power and slowly crush the spirit of liberty that has defined the United States of America. The Weenies lack the character and fortitude to stand up for the nation and its values, and would rather signal phony virtue as it is being defined by the cultural wrecking crew than display the real, more difficult virtues these times demand.

The Weenies include sports organizations like the NBA, entertainment companies like Turner Classic Movies, consumer companies like Brigham’s, journalism organizations like ESPN, and many more. They include celebrities like Sharon Osbourne, athletes like the recently retired Drew Brees, performers like Lady Antebellum, journalists like fired New York Times science and health reporter Donald McNeil, as well as professors like Matthew Mayhew and other teachers and academics too numerous to mention here. And, of course, politicians.

I will have to create a clear definition to distinguish the Weenies from the totalitarians, who they aid and enable with their groveling and virtue signaling. Georgetown Law Center, for example, is a genuine engine of totalitarianism; the two professors who meekly left its faculty because they were caught on Zoom explaining the realities of affirmative action are Weenies.

I envision this list as a group project, something like the “hate group” lists compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, except that it will be honest and fair.

Your opinion is officially sought.

Yet Another Update On“Introducing The ‘Technologically Inept Adjunct Professor With Politically Incorrect Opinions Principle’”…Ethics Dunce: Professor David Batson

weenie

When we last left furiously virtue-signaling Georgetown University Law Center it had fired veteran adjunct professor Sandra Sellers last week for discussing frankly but inadvertently over Zoom a situation that everyone connected with the Law Center knows to be real. GULC had also suspended her co-instructor David Batson for barely nodding his head during Sellers’ statement of frustration that black students too often end up at the bottom of her grading curve. Dean Treanor, in his statement declaring the intended private discussion as “reprehensible,” darkly insinuated that Batson had failed a “bystander responsibility.”

Now Batson has also resigned, in a letter sent to the Washington Post, saying,

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Sunset Ethics Round-Up, 2/2/2021: The Narrative That Refuses To Die, The Weenie Who Whines From A Safe Distance, And Other Tales

setting sun

Pop quiz! What’s the significance of the photo above?

It’s official: last month, February 2021 was the worst in Ethics Alarms traffic in five years, and last week was the worst non-holiday week in longer than that. I am at a loss to explain it, and I am going to stop obsessing about it. The comments are among the best and most erudite on the web, and I am confident that the quality and variety of content remains as high as ever.

1. Never give up that narrative! Over the weekend the Times had a puzzling news article telling us that the FBI had “zeroed in” on a suspect in the death of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol police officer who was falsely and repeatedly cited by mainstream media sources and the Trump prosecution in the impeachment trial as being “killed” in the riot or by rioters. The great discovery was that of a video showing someone in the crowd spraying pepper spray or bear spray on officers during the melee. However, as the article itself states, neither irritant is known to be fatal, and both the officers and the crazies were using it that day. Sicknick died of a stroke after the riot, and no link between his death and what occurred while he was trying to control the crowd has been established.

The usual course is to first establish that there has been a homicide, then to look for suspects. “Let’s see if we can pin this on someone” is not considered ethical. I predict that no one will be prosecuted for Sicknick’s death—not ethically, anyway.

2. Speaking of predictions: In yesterday’s post about Governor Cuomo’s apology, I wrote,

[T]he acid test for sexual harassment (and worse) is whether there are additional victims who come forward after the first one breaks the silence. Cuomo is now up to two. It’s a safe bet there are more.

Yesterday a third accuser came forward. Three usually is the tipping point at which even the most protective mainstream media hacks will finally turn on a Democrat. For example, I doubt that Justin Fairfax, the Lt Governor of Virginia, would have survived three rape accusers, but he’s a black Democrat, so the formula is a bit different. The Babylon Bee has it exactly right. Meanwhile, Jim Treacher writes,

Late night liberal “comedians” are finally jumping on the bandwagon to criticize formerly beloved New York governor, Andrew Cuomo. Taking the media’s lead, “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert suddenly found the scandal-embroiled Democrat was an easy target, after several women came forward alleging sexual harassment from the governor.

On his Monday night show, Colbert spent roughly three minutes mocking Cuomo as an “old man” pervert for his alleged creepy comments and behavior towards young women. This after, he spent 2020 grossly promoting the Democrat’s leadership and sex appeal.

These are awful people. They were prepared to ignore the thousands of nursing home deaths Cuomo caused and covered up while praising him as a brilliant pandemic leader (unlike President Trump.) Indulging in the kind of sexual harassment and assault that Joe Biden engaged in regularly while cameras were shooting is too much to bear, however. Now Cuomo is a monster.

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