Thursday, November 9, 2017

Michael Schur is a hypocrite

Television sitcom producer and former baseball blogger Michael Schur currently splits his time between working on The Good Place and Brooklyn 99, as well as criticizing every Republican politician in America on Twitter (@kentremendous).

I'll admit to being the biggest Fire Joe Morgan fan on the internet. The now-defunct site ran back in the mid-to-late 2000s and was an incisive and often hilarious look at sportswriting, with an emphasis on baseball. I am also a big fan of his TV works, most notably The Office and Parks and Recreation. Despite his genuinely grating persona on Twitter, I continue to follow him because I've read and watched his work for over a decade now.

Over the past year, Schur has become much more vocal about his disdain for the GOP. Frankly, I cannot blame him in the slightest. Donald Trump is ignorant filth who is below the office he holds both morally and intellectually. Democrats of all stripes have had an understandably difficult year. I'll give him a pass on Trump criticism.

Much of his criticism, however, is also aimed at GOP legislators like Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. The general criticism is that they "don't do enough" to stop Trump. What he would like them to do is anyone's guess. Run into the nearest intersection holding up a cardboard sign reading "IMPEACH TRUMP"? Would he like them to, like, tweet more? Become Democrats and call for the repeal of the 2nd amendment? I'm not sure, but the gist of much of this criticism is that Trump is a cancer, and GOP leaders are enablers.

The New York Times report detailing comedian Louis C.K.'s history of predatory sexual behavior is the latest in a long line of scandals to come out of Hollywood. Combined with the Roy Moore allegations of child sexual abuse, there was plenty to discuss.

The juxtaposition of these two ugly stories created something of a hurricane for Schur, who did not hold back in his criticism of the GOP as an institution...

He had words for Paul Ryan specifically...

 He assumed the GOP would support Moore, incorrectly...

Which he admirably backtracked...

And he topped it off with a weirdly bigoted comment about people in the South...

So with this in context, I was curious to see how he would respond when the Louis C.K. news dropped a short time later. C.K. had a recurring role on Parks and Rec back when Schur was showrunner.
I would qualify this as a disappointment. Schur, partisan crusader for all that is good and right, admits to enabling the career of a man he knew to be a sexual predator. Actions speak louder than tweets, and when he had the opportunity to shun a man accused of the kind of filth Schur rails against so often, he cowered. C.K. was at the height of his popularity when he guest-starred on Parks and Rec in 2009 and then again in 2012. C.K. was a big name and he helped lift the show's profile in its second season. Schur admits to being aware of C.K.'s past transgressions, but he was too afraid to ostracize the high-profile C.K., or (more likely) simply didn't care because C.K. was a big name and he'd help with the show's ratings.

Much has been written about the hypocrisy of Hollywood as an institution in light of the Weinstein revelations. If you follow any notable comedic writers on Twitter, it becomes obvious that every writers' room in LA contains more sexual predators or enablers than it does people who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. You don't need to look any further than Weinstein's own statement from the day the accusations were made public, in which he took swipes at Trump and the NRA. When the entertainment industry is made to look in the mirror, the strategy has always been to deflect that gaze to the political right as quickly as possible. Schur's two-tweet response amid the dozens of tweets about Moore illustrate this phenomenon.

Perhaps Schur's feckless words made after allegations were made public are a far more flagrant transgression than any boilerplate response Paul Ryan gives to whatever nonsense Donald Trump said.

The best thing for a powerful man like Schur to do in this situation is not to spend time on Twitter, lobbing criticism at a political party in a state in which he does not reside. The best thing for him to do is to change the very sick culture that he is very much a part of. That means doing the right thing even when it might hurt your pocketbook, or your show's ratings. It means doing the right thing before the social media mob aims its focus at you. Schur admits to having the opportunity to do the right thing regarding C.K., and he failed, and he should not get a pass.

The way forward for Hollywood is not for men like Schur to "be better". It's for them to leave. Schur is a pious coward, a hypocrite, and an enabler. If the commanding heights of culture are to change, willful ignorance cannot be accepted from men in Schur's position. If he really wants to make a positive change, perhaps he should start in his own backyard. At the very least, he should get off his high horse.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bill Nye Has Had Enough Of Your 'Extra Kids'

The Internet is rightly mocking the complete disaster that is the Rachel Bloom "My Sex Junk" video that was part of the new Netflix series, "Bill Nye Saves the World." As bad as that is (it is BAD), there was another portion of the series that was even worse.

The 13th and final installment of the series was titled "Earth's People Problem", and with a name like that, you know we could be in for some ideas that border on eugenics.

The 26-minute episode starts off in fairly inoffensive fashion. Following an intro that demonstrates how human consumption is like sponges soaking up water, Nye explains how women who have access to educational and professional opportunities tend to have fewer children. This is true, and he illustrates his point by telling the story of his mother, who developed technology for the United States during World War II and went on to earn her master's degree and doctorate. Inspiring!

Nye says that when women are in power, they have fewer children, and more resources can be devoted to those children. "It's not rocket surgery. It's science!" he coyly explains. Sure, it's not science in the same way that a Punnet square is science, but there is certainly a correlation there and the overall goal of providing equal opportunity to women is noble enough. So let's just indulge him and call his observation "science." Close enough.

Noting that the population density is highest in India, Nye's correspondent Emily Calandrelli went off to India to deliver a report on population growth in the country. It is followed by a brief chat between Nye and Calandrelli which quickly devolves into a lecture on how America's maternity leave policy is an example of our patriarchal society or whatever. She says that women in India get sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave, a fact that is "unheard of in the United States." Nevermind that here in California (home to roughly 20% of Americans), we have sixteen weeks of guaranteed maternity leave as well. Also disregard the fact that the absence of a federal requirement for maternity leave does not mean maternity leave is nonexistent in the United States. Calandrelli is rolling, so let's leave her alone. Instructively, she approvingly lists China when she rattles off some of the countries that do have required paid maternity leave policies.

So then we get to the rancid meat and soggy potatoes of this whole spectacle: the panel segment. On the panel are: Dr. Rachel Snow, chief of Population Development at the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Travis Rieder, ethicist at the Berman Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and finally Dr. Nerys Benfield, director of Family Planning Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Benfield is an abortionist, so you may know where we are headed here.

Nye starts off the panel by asking "what should we be doing?" Dr. Benfield immediately jumps in and says that as a physician, she feels access to healthcare and family planning is important. She avoids the A-word. Repeating the observation that women's education levels and fertility rates are inversely related, Benfield says that the reason is either women are having less sex (Nye, redblooded horndog that he is, howls "I hope that's not true!!!" with a quasi-sheepish grin), or that women are using contraception.

The panel notes the importance of contraceptive access. Then Snow jumps in and says "we need justice and we need education." What "justice" means in this context is anybody's guess. My personal guess is that she is referring to abortion. But, again, the panel dances around use of the word.

How do we create and export this justice, Nye asks. Snow responds with vague concepts like "excellent education systems" (you heard her, everyone! Make them excellent!), and "family planning" she says as she nods in the direction of the abortion doctor two seats to her left. Family planning, meaning abortion, a word that is again avoided.

The fight against climate change, Nye's most passionate cause, is brought up by Rieder, who notes that children in developed countries use 160x more resources than children in the developing world. This is where the wheels fall off. This is where the creepy totalitarianism of the environmental movement starts to show itself. Nye asks, bluntly, "should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?"

Extra kids. These damn people and their existence, am I right? Bill Nye (who, again, decided we all needed to see that abomination from Rachel Bloom) is wise enough to set limits on humanity. This whole concept and the ease with which he discusses it is so frightening and evil that I am genuinely appalled at Netflix's decision to air it.

Rieder says we should "at least consider" a form of punishment for people who have these Extra Kids (tm). Nye impatiently responds that "consider means do it."

Snow, to her credit, jumps in and takes issue with the idea that "we do anything to incentivize fewer children or more children." Benfield notes the history of compulsory sterilization in America, a practice that was in place as recently as the 1970s. The issue was not come at from a position of justice in the past, she adds. But this time will be different, I guess?

So, if you're scoring at home, that leaves China's maternity laws and their recently-ended one child policy as the key points from this half hour or science televangelism. As Calandrelli says, it's time for America to "catch up." With China.

Yeesh. There was another eight minutes left in the program that I couldn't watch even if I tried.

Extra kids.