Category Archives: Etiquette and manners

Noted: A Familiar Debate Over At Slate

battle-marvel

Those who participated in the epic, star-studded battle in February here, led by the departed Bruce Bartup, over what are acceptable levels of intensity and personal attack on Ethics Alarms, will experience some nostalgia reading this debate on Slate about the website’s policies. My favorite line: “…if someone is a dick, and we’ve explained that he’s a dick, why shouldn’t we also call him a dick? He’s earned it!”

If you missed Bruce’s Lament and the terrific donnybrook it generated (sadly, Bruce took his bruised feelings and went home to the British Isles, though I urged him to persevere) can read his Comment of the Day and the responses to it here.

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Graphic: kiss my wonder woman

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, The Internet

Ethics Dunces: Paula Deen and “Uncle Bubba”

uncle-bubba-s-oyster

Like breaking up via text message and telling your spouse you want a divorce in an e-mail, here’s a crummy use of technology that we should hope doesn’t catch on.

Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House, a restaurant owned by Paula Deen and her younger brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers Jr., told all of its employees that the place was going out of business on its Facebook page, and that was all. The message:

“Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region’s freshest seafood and oysters. However, the restaurant’s owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located. At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations.”

Yechh.

Cruel, rude, impersonal, cowardly. Also callous, lazy and inefficient: how many employees were told by third parties about the announcement?

Well, at least Paula’s not a racist. I wonder if the Food Network fired Paula via Facebook? I’m pretty sure it didn’t.

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Pointer: Evil HR Lady

Facts: CBS

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, The Internet, Workplace

Selfie Ethics: Yes, Big Papi Exploited The President

Ortiz-Obama-Selfie.jpg

I wrote about this ethical breach when Ellen DeGeneris did it at the Oscars. The short version is this:

“It’s unethical to pretend that a selfie is a spontaneous  gesture of fun and friendship when you have a commercial agreement in place to use the photograph in a way that promotes the cell phone manufacturer.”

This is exploitation for commercial gain, and it’s wrong. It’s wrong when the victims are movie stars, and it’s wrong when the exploited party is President of the United States. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

Ethics Quiz: The “You Stink” Farewell Retirement Party Speech

retirement-pocket-watch

As reported by Bloomberg and Above the Law, James Kidney, an SEC enforcement lawyer who had worked at the agency since 1986 (with a four year hiatus in the private sector) favored his retirement party with a fiery speech telling his colleagues what a lousy job they do.

The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said“On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.”

Kidney accused SEC manager of being  focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service rather than on bringing difficult cases. “I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket,” Kidney said. “They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances.”

He accused his soon-to-be former employers of having little interest in “afflicting the comfortable and powerful,”and condemned the agency for massaging  statistics to burnish its reputation. There was more. We only know of Kidney’s comments from notes; there was no video or formal transcript.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today:

Was Kidney’s farewell speech ethical?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Professions, Workplace

Ethics Dunce: Joy Behar

These things never happened at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, but then, those comics were pros, not wannabe political pundits...,

These things never happened at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, but then, those comics were pros, not wannabe political pundits…,

The View edged up in my estimation a tic or two when Joy Behar exited it for her own show, now mercifully ended. Admittedly, this enhancement still left that offensive ABC daytime talk-fest well below water, but anything was an improvement over Behar, the epitome of a loud and opinionated celebrity with nothing to contribute of substance to any discussion except misplaced arrogance and noise. I’m sure I’ve flagged at least one or two of her stunts…let’s check. Why yes, here is one: I wrote this when Joy led a walk-out on guest Bill O’Reilly because he had the bad taste to suggest that Muslims took down the Twin Towers. (They did, you know.)

Given her antics through the years, I was stunned to discover that anyone would compensate this awful woman to give her a podium, but someone did. On April 1, Behar was one of a group of New Jersey comedians hired to participate in a “roast” of former New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne, who is in his nineties. On the dais with Byrne was the current governor Chris Christie, who, this being a roast, came in for more than his share of the jibes from the comics, who were generally clever about it. Behar, however, decided to make her act personal and nasty. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Professions

The Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies

fallacy

I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling  him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.

 

1. Ad Hominem Attack

An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an  argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.

1 a. The Toxic Introduction.

A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.

2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)

Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ethics Hero: HBO Comic Bill Maher

at_the_end_of_the_world

Yes, you read that right.

Soon dogs and cats will be sleeping together, the world will stop spinning on its axis, and there will be snowball fights in Hell. It is the end of the world.

On the latest installment “Real Time with Bill Maher, “HBO’s weekly conservative/ Republican bash-fest, Maher, whom his progressive guests trust  implicitly to be of a like mind, read a quote that the posted graphic  identified as issuing from Rep. Paul Ryan. The 2012 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate had been slammed earlier in the week for “racially coded” comments about the need to change the culture in the inner city. Here is the quote:

“When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. They’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

Then Bill let his guests take turns criticizing Ryan for blaming black Americans for problems over whichthey had no control, while sole conservative guest (Bill only allows one token punching bag from the right per show) Rick Lazio was mocked and laughed at by the studio audience for defending Ryan’s point. Finally, after letting everyone hang themselves, Maher revealed that the real speaker was…. Michelle Obama.

As Ralph Cramden…that is, the Great One, Jackie Gleason, used to say,

Thank you, Bill!

He was the perfect one to pull this revealing and damning stunt, being a reliable race-baiter himself (on an earlier show, Maher countered Bill Kristol’s challenge to the liberal cant that Republican opposition to President Obama is based on racial bias by asserting that he “absolutely” believed that.) But Bill isn’t above tricking and embarrassing his loyal allies and toadying audience for publicity and to pose as a truth-teller so his future deceptions, slanders and lies have more credibility. One can do the right thing, and a very beneficial thing, for unethical reasons, and I am absolutely certain that the despicable, amoral, cynical and vicious “comic” had nothing but base motives for this stunt. In fact, tricking invited guests who trust him into exposing their own bias was despicable, terrible host etiquette, and dishonest, but then Bill’s show is something of an ethics-free zone anyway. Anyone, right or left, who enables Maher by appearing on his show has waived the right to have my sympathy. In another case, I might argue that the end doesn’t justify the means, but anyone who voluntarily agrees to keep Maher’s show on the air deserves what he or she gets. This is the Scorpion and the Frog at its clearest.

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Race

Fundraising Ethics Controversy in Michigan! Naming Buildings After Big University Donors: Ethical or Not?

Enron-Field

I worked in the development (capital fundraising) office of Georgetown University for many years, and am well aware of the sausage-making that goes into attracting big donations. Thus the controversy that recently erupted in Michigan is of interest both for its ethical content and the way it dances around inconvenient truths.

With the college student’s wonderful knack for avoiding the obvious, the student newspaper of Grand Valley (Michigan) State University declared ethics war on what it called “billboards”: buildings and lecture halls named after corporate and individual donors. With naivete and boundless ignorance of the world of philanthropy and non-profit fundraising, the editorial declared (among other things)…

  • “What’s next? Will we turn Lake Huron 133 into the “Amway Lecture Hall?” Will the backs of our chairs have plaques dedicated to the lower-level donors?” COMMENT: For enough money, of course the university would rename the hall. Why should it care what a lecture hall is called, if it can avoid having to raise tuition? As for the backs of seats: did the editors do any research at all? Opera companies, theaters, museaums and other non-profit entities do exactly this. So what?

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Etiquette and manners, Marketing and Advertising, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Annoyances For The Obsessing Traveling Ethicist

Hepburn

I just got home from another day trip, and am too weary to essay a significant post. Allow me, instead, to give readers a taste of what goes through one’s mind when you have begun to focus exclusively on ethics in preparation for a key, out-of-state presentation:

  • The incompetence of supposed professional broadcasters. Shortly before leaving for the airport on Sunday, I watched the local Fox affiliate report on the new Vogue cover, featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. One of the two anchorwomen noted that there was a parody of the cover titled “Vague” featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy in the same poses. She pronounced it as “Vagg.” Her partner did not correct her. I think newsreaders should be able to read, don’t you?
  • Dishonesty in headlines. With the Kardashians still gnawing at my brain, I noticed an issue of “Star” in an airport magazine rack. The headline read, “Kardashians Cancelled!” Filled with momentary hope for civilization, I looked up the corresponding story in the rag. It stated that cable’s “Keeping Up With The Kardashians had been renewed, but that the family was worried that it might be cancelled next year. Yes, the headline was “X” and the story was “Not X.” I don’t care that the Star is just a glossy paper tabloid—how can anyone justifying this? Deceitful headlines are bad, but at least they are literally true, if misleading. Tabloid ethics are as low as ethics can be, but this flat-out false cover headline seems to have breached them… a neat trick.
  • More  incompetence of supposed professional broadcasters. CNN’s John Berman showed a clip of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton with Jimmy Kimmel and said…”Next…what Jimmy Kimmel did with three generations of Clintons.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Professions

Schindler’s Tweets And The Monster In The Mirror

Shrek in the mirror

John Schindler is a former NSA officer, a professor at the Naval War College and a PhD who periodically holds forth on his various areas of expertise on the web. He also specializes in particularly obnoxious tweets in which he both insults anyone who questions or disagrees with him, and does so by referring to his own innate superiority as a scholar and an intellect. If he isn’t a complete jerk, he sure plays one convincingly.

Some wag noticed the trend, and created a website that contains nothing but Schindler’s most snotty tweets. Here is the puzzling part: Schindler, in yet another tweet, referred to it as “an ugly new defamation site against me.” Forget the complete lack of comprehension of what defamation is (Ken White at Popehat, an expert in that field of law, invoked Inigo Montoya of “The Princess Bride” in a tweet to the Professor saying “‘Defamation.’ You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”). My question is this: if Schindler thinks the website is ugly, and it contains only what he has written to others, why doesn’t that promote self-awareness, regret, remorse, and altered conduct? That is how it is supposed to work; I would think that is how it has to work. The idea behind the Golden Rule is to look at your conduct from another’s perspective, and if it strikes you as ugly and wrong, then you have learned something. So you change. Not this guy. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, The Internet