Unethical Quote of the Week: Adam Dachis

“All posts that belong to the Dark Side are going to feature some ideas that might be a little evil or at least require some flexible ethics. Some things will be downright horrible, and you should not do them, but are either for your information or simply for the point of interest (and will be noted as such). Your judgment and actions are your own, so think before you do anything you read here and only use your dark side for good.”

Adam Dachis, ethics corrupter, in the “Dark Side Disclaimer” that accompanies his column on the website Lifehacker, called “Secrets from the Dark Side.”

His current “Secrets from the Dark Side” column is entitled “How to Lie, Cheat, and Steal Your Way to a Perfect Flight,” which is an accurate description of its contents. Some of Dachis’s “tips” (scams? cheats?) are interesting, some are humorous, and all (well, maybe with one exception) are unethical. Dachis, for his part, doesn’t have the guts to advocate outright the conduct that he is explicitly promoting, nor does he condemn it. As his ethically incoherent ( “Only use your dark side for good”) disclaimer demonstrates, he thinks ethics is a game of some sort, and that being a “little evil” is cute, or trivial, or something.

A true ethics corrupter, Dachis wants to avoid personal accountability for the unethical acts of his readers spurred entirely by his post, while at the same time getting credit for his cleverness. This is the Richard Nixon approach to ethical corruption, planting seeds and disclaiming responsibility for the crop, telling followers, “We could do that, but it would be wrong.” Wink, wink.

Yechhh.

31 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

31 responses to “Unethical Quote of the Week: Adam Dachis

  1. tgt

    I’m normally not a heavy reader of lifehacker, but I did notice that, thought to myself “hey, it’s tips to make flight better, that’s awesome” then reread the title and intentionally skipped over it.

    He gets no page view from me.

  2. Chase Martinez

    Without Ethics Corruptors, you’d be out of a job, probably. You NEED people like Dachis so you can make money correcting the people he misinforms. Search your feelings, Jack. You know it to be true.

    Sorry, I had to post a Star Wars quote. The Dark Side compelled me.

  3. How, pray tell, can one use the “Dark Side” for good? That’s like saying, “Well… the Devil can’t be ALL bad.” Yes, he can. It’s one thing to be forced to act on the lesser of two evils- when one acknowledges it for what it is upfront. But when you try to say “evil ain’t that evil” you lie to yourself and others. You also lay the seeds for that most ruinous misvirtue of the human spirit; self-rationalization.

  4. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    Except it’s the personal responsibility of his readers we should be worried about, not his. I don’t understand how it’s unethical to advocate unethical behavior, unless people actually decide to heed your advice? An ethics “corrupter” is only so good as those around him willing to be corrupted.

    -Neil

  5. Jeff

    Did you know today is May 4, aka, “May the Fourth be with you?”

  6. Pingback: Fix Your Bad Habits, Personal Issues, and Other Stupid Brain Problems This Weekend [Weekendhacker] | My Blog

    • This post from May apparently got under Mr. Dachis’s skin, not that he ever was able to come up with a defense for his “flexible ethics,” or suggesting “evil” things while noting that of course you shouldn’t actually do them. Well, giving his readers a link to a website that doesn’t think ethics is a bid joke certainly is compensation aplenty to me for being called a person who sucks…

      • Cite? Link?
        Seems to me that you have confused some preconceived set of morals with Ethics. Breaking someone else’s rules is not necessarily unethical or immoral. Combating overarching power with deception is fair. As is ignoring liabilities imposed without consent. Strike and civil disobedience are two of few tools available to counter tyranny. Facts, knowledge have no color of morality or ethics; neither does their dissemination. To say otherwise is asking for a new Dark Age.

  7. Pingback: Fix Your Bad Habits, Personal Issues, and Other Stupid Brain Problems This Weekend [Weekendhacker] | Random Smart Stuffs

  8. Laurens Duijvesteijn

    I asked him on Lifehacker why he is an advocate of flexible ethics, this was his answer:

    “Because it’s legal to possess a gun and illegal to possess marijuana. I don’t care for either, but out of the two I’m more afraid of the gun. I think our entire world is built on a system of flexible ethics. We allow plenty of harmful things with the right justification but ban others because they might cause harm. The difference is only that the things I write and talk about aren’t currently accepted. Maybe some should be and some shouldn’t, but we’ll never know if nobody speaks up.”

    Aristotle was the first to see Ethics, not only as a thought experiment, but as a concrete system, of how man should act. He stated that everyone should list the two most extreme actions they can make in any given situation and walk the middle road. This makes an action depend on the judgement of the actor. I think this system better represents reality than Platonic ideals, which are fixed.

    Isn’t Dachis exactly acting conform this system? The most extreme actions in this case are ensuring that morality stays the same and trying to change most of it as fast as possible. He walks the middle road.

    • A cop-out. He’s not making any judgements at all—splitting the difference isn’t being ethical, it’s being lazy. Sometimes the extreme act is the most ethical. Sometimes the middle ground isn’t ethical at all.

      His answer is, in a word, idiotic; in three, ignorant and idiotic:
      1) He’s mixing up law and ethics.
      2) The fact that he happens to disagree with laws doesn’t mean they are wrong and that he is right. In the case of guns and pot, I think the law is closer to right than he is.
      3) What does what he is most afraid of have to do with ethics? I’m afraid of ethically ignorant bloggers, but I don’t propose banning them.
      4) “I think our entire world is built on a system of flexible ethics.” Yes, and the world is perfect, isn’t it? This is nothing but “Everybody does it!” the mark of an unethical rationalizer.

      I was beginning to think I was too hard on Adam, but after reading this cretinous response, I don’t think I was hard enough on him. He’s too ignorant of ethics to be allowed near a keyboard.

      I’m making a 1 in a million exception posting this despite you putting Anonymous in your screen name, which is banned. Next time, I need your name in my e–mail.

  9. Pingback: Fix Your Bad Habits, Personal Issues, and Other Stupid Brain Problems This Weekend [Weekendhacker] – VTips – Tips For Life

  10. Laurens Duijvesteijn

    First of all I’d like to mention that Anonymous is my screen-name on Lifehacker. I hadn’t read your comment policies, for which I apologize. I respect your rule, although I do not really agree with it. My name is Laurens Duijvesteijn by the way. Can you change “Inside Source” to this as well?

    Second of all, let us please have a discussion without any fallacies, such as ad hominem arguments. You are entitled to your own opinion, like I am too, but please do not loose your cool, now or in a future reply, and please bring up your own points, instead of only invalidating those of others. Because only then discussion has meaning. Maybe we’ll even reach a consensus. Anyway, allow me to start with something you pointed out already in your comment policy, which I mention for others, who might not have read it.

    The thing about morality is, though, everybody and their mother has their own special version of it. Some people are very conservative, others are more future aimed. I do not like to be trapped by dogma. Especially when it comes to morality. Change of morality is good, because we might be wrong. Change for the sake of change is bad though.

    Change of morality is like a non-spontaneous chemical reaction. It needs a reagent, which is morality, input energy and maybe a catalyst. The input energy comes from people like Dachis (and maybe even me), who continue to challenge our views on ethics. Similarly counter input can also be given. As long as those two are in balance, nothing changes. Then there is the catalyst, which consists of certain events in history, accelerating change. Some examples of this are the events surrounding Marc Dutroux, which changed morality over a period of 48 hours.

    Before I react to your reaction on Aristotle, I would like to know what your definition of ethical is, and what thought process man should follow to find out what is ethical.

    If it matters, I think following your gut, as described on your “About” page, is quite lazy too. Since you do not seem to take additional thought steps.

    I do want to react on your list for a little bit:

    1) Remember, the question asked to Dachis was a casual one, which wasn’t set in a theoretical context. It is not surprising his answer was practical.

    2) I do not want to go into prolonged discussion about pot and guns. I do want to point out that, without discussion, neither are you. I want to recall the dialectic method, that morality is involved in. Although you might not agree with Dachis, you need differences of opinion if there is to be progress, according to Hegel’s school of thought.

    3) See 1) + because some people find him unethical that does not mean he is. That is the same Argumentum ad populum as you pointed out Dachis, which you pointed out in 4).

    4) Although Dachis strictly uses a fallacious argument, which I cannot fully defend. I do want to ask you to clarify your statement of “unethical rationalizer”.

    I am tired and going to bed. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

    • …Second of all, let us please have a discussion without any fallacies, such as ad hominem arguments. You are entitled to your own opinion, like I am too, but please do not loose your cool, now or in a future reply, and please bring up your own points, instead of only invalidating those of others. Because only then discussion has meaning. Maybe we’ll even reach a consensus. Anyway, allow me to start with something you pointed out already in your comment policy, which I mention for others, who might not have read it.

      Don’t tell me how to discuss matters on my own blog, please. You are my guest, and I make the rules. I do not generally engage in ad hominem attacks, but of someone is abusive, stupid, mean or bigoted, I reserve the right to say so.

      The thing about morality is, though, everybody and their mother has their own special version of it. Some people are very conservative, others are more future aimed. I do not like to be trapped by dogma. Especially when it comes to morality. Change of morality is good, because we might be wrong. Change for the sake of change is bad though.

      This isn’t a blog about morality, so you will have to get off that track. It is about ethics, defined as the study of right and wrong, I know there are other technical definitions—this is the one used here. Morals are rules. They are involved in the equation.

      Change of morality is like a non-spontaneous chemical reaction. It needs a reagent, which is morality, input energy and maybe a catalyst. The input energy comes from people like Dachis (and maybe even me), who continue to challenge our views on ethics. Similarly counter input can also be given. As long as those two are in balance, nothing changes. Then there is the catalyst, which consists of certain events in history, accelerating change. Some examples of this are the events surrounding Marc Dutroux, which changed morality over a period of 48 hours.

      Again, morals seldom change. Perceptions of right and wrong evolve, but that is ethics. There are tipping points in cultures where there is a spontaneous, though building over a long period, point at which a culture recognizes that something it believed was right is wrong, or vice versa. Slavery, Gay marriage, The input energy rhetoric, in my opinion, is gibberish. Dachis simply denied the existence of ethical standards—his is the perfect example of ethical relativism that permits anything and allows unethical individuals to avoid self-doubt and conscience. There is no depth to his analysis at all, or validity. I don’t respect the approach of “let’s do anything and see if we can get other people to let me get away with it” as serious, productive or useful. It’s cynical and lazy.

      Before I react to your reaction on Aristotle, I would like to know what your definition of ethical is, and what thought process man should follow to find out what is ethical.

      I’m not taking your exam.. My tools and modes of analysis are on the website, Read them.

      If it matters, I think following your gut, as described on your “About” page, is quite lazy too. Since you do not seem to take additional thought steps.

      What matters to me is that you didn’t read what I wrote. Ethics Alarms is not about “following your gut,” which is NOT my approach to ethics, but about sensitizing oneself to ethical issues, conflicts and dilemmas so that when they are present or on the near horizon, an individual recognizes that ethical analysis is required. If you are going to just read things to mean what you want them to mean, this will not go well. My explanation was quite clear. An Ethics Alarm is an instinctive recognition that an ethical issue is present. It does not tell one how to deal with it.

      1) Remember, the question asked to Dachis was a casual one, which wasn’t set in a theoretical context. It is not surprising his answer was practical.

      In my view, his answer was illogical and foolish. Practical? I see nothing practical about it.

      2) I do not want to go into prolonged discussion about pot and guns. I do want to point out that, without discussion, neither are you. I want to recall the dialectic method, that morality is involved in. Although you might not agree with Dachis, you need differences of opinion if there is to be progress, according to Hegel’s school of thought.

      Sorry—I’m not going to debate philosophy, and again, this is not about morality. Philosophy is so mired in theory that for 99.9% of the population it is worthless, and if anything, counter productive, reducing the problems of living to ideologies. That’s not my approach. Philosophers have helped make the world less ethical by making ethics seem too technical and impenetrable for the typical person. It’s hard, but it’s not THAT hard.

      3) See 1) + because some people find him unethical that does not mean he is. That is the same Argumentum ad populum as you pointed out Dachis, which you pointed out in 4)

      I was not referring specifically to Dachis as an unethical blogger. He’s not, in fact. He’s a largely ethical blogger made an unethical post..

      4) Although Dachis strictly uses a fallacious argument, which I cannot fully defend. I do want to ask you to clarify your statement of “unethical rationalizer”.

      Again, you haven’t checked the blog. Rationalizations are common thought fallacies that people use to lie to themselves in order to justify unethical conduct or unethical reasoning. The most common rationalization is “Everybody does it”, reducing right and wrong to a popularity contest. The fact that “everyone” does something is irrelevant to whether it is right or not, though it has persuasive power in making people believe it’s right. Dachis’ “I think our entire world is built on a system of flexible ethics” as a defense of flexible ethics is a pure rationalization, and a variation on .”Everybody does it.”

      I am tired and going to bed. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

      Sleep tight!

  11. Devon

    Just happened across this thread by way of lifehacker….

    The following quotes are perhaps worthy of reconsideration by their author:

    “Don’t tell me how to discuss matters on my own blog, please. You are my guest, and I make the rules.”

    Persuasive indeed…

    “Sorry—I’m not going to debate philosophy, and again, this is not about morality. Philosophy is so mired in theory that for 99.9% of the population it is worthless, and if anything, counter productive….”

    Dang philosophy, critical thinking etc… never got no one no where!

    Heart pounding? Dry mouth perhaps? The keyboard is a terrible outlet for rage.

    • Good snark. Actual argument? Not in evidence. Thanks for visiting…don’t let staying on topic hit you on the way out.

    • And let me add…you comment marks you as an A-1 jerk. You believe guests on blogs have a right to start dictating the rules of discussion— I have to “persuade” you that this is incorrect? I post the conditions for participation here, and the reasons for them; I take the time to read every comment and respond to most, which is a rare courtesy indeed. And you mock my entirely appropriate response to a commenter who tells me, “This is how you must conduct this exchange”? Inexcusable.
      If a guest comes to my house and orders me to re-arrange the furniture, I have no obligation to debate his interior design choices—my proper, and likely response is “get the hell out.” That’s not persuasive; that’s authoritative.

      The ethical instincts of the lifehacker crowd that have registered comments here is more proof than I expected of what an effective ethical corrupter Adam is.

      • Laurens Duijvesteijn

        I never. Never dictated you that the discussion needs that specific form. I asked you to let us held one that way, because I would appreciate it if I would get a fair chance in a fair debate, without continuous insults to the address of Dachis.

        That is not similar to when a guest orders you to change your furniture. This is similar to “Don’t you think that the TV would give you a better viewing angle without glare in this way?”. If you find that inexcusable then you have an authority problem.

        Why do you keep approving of these comments by the way, if you rule your blog’s comment section with an iron first, like you claim to? At least I’ll know I’ve won this, still rhetorical battle, when this doesn’t show up, because I have transformed a man who only did good, into a complete unethical monster.

        But why argue over this when there is some breaking news: Ethics isn’t philosophy anymore, and morality has nothing to do with it! Actually, no.

        I do want to ask you what you did in your life to be able to be such a phlegmatic figure, to open a blog on Ethics, where he does not discuss the philosophy behind it, making it accessible to less educated minds, but who only feels comfortable when he can call out others on their mistakes, without taking a good look in the mirror, much like most vicars do. Because, hey, when you have written about ethics for over 20 years, it is apparently okay to insult others.

        Also, cittens and rainbows.

        • Well, I just wrote a long response, and lost it, so this will be shorter than I originally intended:

          1. I just re-read your last post. I reasonably took your dictation regarding how I could conduct our discussion as presumptuous, and I think most readers would do the same.
          2. Your nastiness aside, I do know that ethics is a division of philosophy, I find philosophical debates fun but almost always unproductive—in any event, they take too much time to do online, and have a limited audience. You are welcome to criticize how I construct this blog, but its ultimately my call.
          3. I took the time and thought to address your direct questions in your previous post, and expected you to respond accordingly. As I feared, you were not interested in the issues you purported to be, but in challenging my credibility, credentials and my blog’s mission. I expected better.
          4. There was nothing insulting in my response. I was a bit stern, because I think it is rude to be critical of what you have not bothered to read carefully, and your comments indicated to me that you had not.
          5. Along those lines, anyone who reads this blog knows that I frequently challenge my own conduct and write about it critically.
          6. My purpose is not to call out others on their mistakes, but to use the ethical and unethical conduct of others to raise awareness of ethical issues and dilemmas that can be translated into future analysis and decision-making. So you characterize the purpose here as well.

          Again, I expected better.

          Finally, I have no earthly idea what this—-“Why do you keep approving of these comments by the way, if you rule your blog’s comment section with an iron first, like you claim to? At least I’ll know I’ve won this, still rhetorical battle, when this doesn’t show up, because I have transformed a man who only did good, into a complete unethical monster.”—means. Nowhere have I ever claimed to “rule the comment section with an iron fist.” I almost never fail to post a comment (because almost all posters meet my stated standards, and I always give a new poster at least two shots to get it right) , and in fact waived an absolute ban on “anonymous” comments to allow your first one to be posted. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

          • Laurens Duijvesteijn

            If you use Chrome or Firefox to browse the web, there is an extension that automatically saves everything you put into a web-form until you submit it. This way you won’t loose your comments if you close a tab. The Chrome version can be found in the Chrome webstore, the Firefox one is available at the Mozilla add-ons site

            If I sounded presumptuous, then I apologize for that. My native language is Dutch, which raises two issues, when communicating in English:

            Sometimes I do not notice if something I write or say has a tone, which might be considered offensive or vulgar.
            In Dutch it is customary to say things in a way that people who speak other languages may find strange or even offensive. We do not mind engaging a public discussion for instance, whereas those from other languages might prefer to do that in private.

            I do know that my previous comment was largely unacceptable, I posted it, because of some personal circumstances. I pointed some of my personal anger towards you, for which I also apologize.

            So do you want to start over and have a philosophical discussion without any rhetoriscs? Or do you think it is best we leave this be? It is up to you.

            • Of course I do, and do you know what? I only recalled you were Dutch after the last post. When you “subscribed,’ earlier I got a notice that someone had subscribed who was in the Netherlands, and I stupidly hadn’t made the connection. Then I re-read your posts and realized that indeed it was the tone that triggered my reaction, that it was probably unintentional, and that it wasn’t your fault at all. Heaven knows what my tone would read like in Dutch—I have enough trouble with it in English. I might, barely, consider my tone in return to your posts justifiably provoked by your text from a native English speaker, but it’s just plain unfair, and a Golden Rule, breach, to react as I did to someone communicating in my native language, for my convenience, and I’m very sorry.

              Let’s start over.

              • Laurens Duijvesteijn

                Great. Instead of directly diving into philosophy, I want to provide you with some context.

                Lifehacker is a blog, where the authors provide tips and downloads for getting things done, in a broad way. There are some very technical articles on how to configure a Linux server and building your own computers from scratch, but also articles about cooking and psychology, pretty much anything interesting goes.

                Dark-side is a column, in which a new post is added every week. Topics range from using science to spot a liar to removing security tags from clothing. Most of these posts written by Adam Dachis, who also writes technology articles at Lifehacker. The purpose of this column is to educate how evil works, not necessarily to encourage people to steal. For most of these posts there is a legitimate reason to use the information, but some feature horrible things. Those are meant for education and entertainment. The Photoshop parking ticket forgery post indicates that some States need a new system. Adam also posted on Google+ that he lost the ticket of a pair of shoes he bought, of which the store forgot to remove the security tag.

                In the quote I gave you Dachis expressed his general attitude towards flexible ethics. He did not at all state that he approves of some of the topics he writes about, and I am sure he does not. He still uses his judgement before he acts.

                The “Steal your way into a perfect flight” is an example of one of those horrible things. There is no way to justify the action of one that actually steals one’s way into first class. The information can be used for other purposes though, like recognizing someone who does and pointing that out. It is also quite entertaining to read, if you know that its purpose isn’t to corrupt souls, but to do just that, entertain.

                I believe that “Only use your dark side for good..” was explained in another post (the introductory one). It means that you only should use skills that are generally classified as evil for ethical purposes, like picking the lock of your own door when you cannot get in. I do not think that is ethically incoherent with the explanation. I find it to be less than average editing, but nothing more.

                All in all. I think these posts aren’t really promoting evil. In my opinion it is a combination of humor and education. They could use a better disclaimer or even a whole dedicated to ethics, but they are not unethical, not by a long shot.

                • This all makes sense to me, Laurens. I don’t frequent the blog, so I could not, as those who read Adam regularly perhaps could, translate the selection I quoted in the over-all context of his other writing. I designated it an “Unethical quotation,” rather than flagging the website itself, which is on the whole positive in orientation and objective. Perhaps it was unfair to refer to him as an “ethics corrupter” without having that perspective.

                  The quote itself seemed, and still seems, excessively ” flip” to me given its subject matter. “Your judgment and actions are your own, so think before you do anything you read here” is insufficient advice, suggesting, though I take it that you are confident that this is not his intent, that any form of thinking, whether it is based on sound utilitarian reasoning, absolute values, altruism, pure self-interest or hostility toward the human race is as valid as any other. Since ethics is the journey to determine what are the best ways to make choices in conduct, the concept of “whatever you decide is fine” is antithetical to that inquiry, and I believe it is irresponsible to advocate it. There was a book on Amazon a few years ago about how grown men could meet and have sexual relations with young children. The author claimed that this was “educational” only, and not advocating such conduct. There are books about how to be a suicide bomber or cheat on your spouse, or cheat at cards…they all make the same kind of claim. I’m dubious. I think such people know what their audience will be, and are advocating and instructing in anti-social, unethical conduct. They all contain “make good decisions” style disclaimers. They just add dishonesty to the list of objectionable conduct.

                  Now Adam may not be in that category. I describe unethical practices sometimes, but I do so to try to explain why they are objectively harmful to society. “Only use your dark side for good” is either a “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” bit of cynicism; code for “have a good time…if it feels good, it is good”; incredibly sloppy writing; nonsense; or a profound thought that needs a lot of discussion and exposition. Words have meaning; he has a lot of people that trust him. Tossing off such an ambiguous and potentially corrupting sentiment is, I believe, irresponsible.

                  As I began, as a regular reader, you know Adam’s orientation better than I, and on that basis, I am willing to say that I was excessively harsh on him based on one careless passage. It is a pitfall of what I do—using examples to raise issues and make points about ethics decision-making, I am occasionally guilty of making a valid point using one individual as the catalyst, but in the process laying the whole weight of a larger problem on that individual, whose conduct had neither the scope nor the intent to justify the degree and intensity of my criticism.

                  I think where I end up on the issue is this: if someone publishes a “:how to” explanation of an unethical practice, my presumption is that it is to advocate the practice unless the author credibly makes another motive clear. If they want to argue that it’s ethical, or should be under certain circumstances, I accept that: such a discussion is always useful. “It’s up to you” and “think first” don’t meet that minimum standard.

                  • An addendum…I just read the entries under “Evil Week,” and I must say, I see no hint that Adam does not endorse these practices. The Costco trick, for example, is cheating, pure and simple. There is no “flexible ethics” that legitimately justify letting paying member underwrite your bargains.Most of the “dark side” entries violate Kant’s principle of universality—I don’t think Kant always applies, but he identifies cheating well. Again, you know Adam..but I am curious as to how you can interpret these posts as anything other than facilitating and endorsing wrongdoing by unethical people.

    • One more, Devon…as your comment irritates me the more I think about it. The response of your ethical mentor, who is, though it is admittedly hard to tell, still the subject of the post in question, was that I “suck.” What ever I choose or don’t choose to post in response to comment here, I have already far, far, exceeded the lower than low bar set by that Lecture Dachis about “persuasiveness” and “critical thinking”….he needs it, not me.

  12. Pingback: Fix Your Bad Habits, Personal Issues And Other Stupid Brain Problems This Weekend | Lifehacker Australia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s