Category Archives: Professions

Tales of “The King’s Pass”: Pete Rose and Jeremy Clarkson

King

The King’s Pass has been much in the ethics news of late—Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly, David Petraeus, Hillary. Let’s review, shall we?

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others…

1. The BBC just demonstrated how the King’s Pass should be rejected—with courage and gusto.

Jeremy Clarkson, the main host of the popular BBC auto show “Top Gear,” spent March misbehaving. He got in a shoving match with a producer, verbally abused staff and was recorded trashing the network. When Clarkson topped it off with a physical altercation with a show staffer, the BBC decided not to renew his contract. BBC head Tony Hall said in a statement:

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts…I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making [the facts] public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

The BBC is a broad church…We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations… Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and “Top Gear”…The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw [Controller of BBC Two] to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.

The show, without Clarkson, is toast, and Hall knows it. Nonetheless, he had the guts to do the necessary and ethical act: not allowing its indispensable star to abuse his power and popularity . Once Clarkson did that, “Top Gear” was doomed anyway; firing him now just minimizes the carnage. Although Hall has no responsibility to other networks and organizations, his decisive handling of the episode has saved other programs even as it destroys his own. It is a precedent and a role model for employers refusing to allow themselves to be turned into enablers  by stars assuming the King’s Pass works. When they say, “You can’t fire me, I’m irreplaceable! There’s no show without me!”, the response now can be, per the BBC: “If there’s no show without a jerk like you, then there’s no show. Bye!”

2. Once again, Pete Rose is sucking the ethics right out of people’s brains.

Ah, Pete Rose. He was the topic of the first ethics post I ever wrote, way back in 2004. Then, in 2007, he became my first and only Ethics Dunce Emeritus.

The Pete Rose case is simple. Baseball has an absolute, no exceptions rule that demands a lifetime ban of any player, coach or manager who gambles on major league baseball games. Such banned players can’t be hired by major league teams for any purpose, and cannot be considered for Hall of Fame membership., ever, even after they are dead. Everyone in baseball knows why this rule exists—baseball was nearly destroyed in 1919 when gamblers bribed the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series—and the rule is posted in every clubhouse. Rose bet on baseball while a major league manager, and also bet on his own team. Thus he is banned.

The significance of the fact that he is, as a player, the all-time hits leader and was the face of the game is that it led Rose to believe that the game would never ban him, and that if caught, he would be treated with special leniency. His excellence on the playing field doesn’t mitigate his conduct, or justify minimizing the ban it earned, at all.

The New York Times published a story about Rose’s efforts to get baseball to lift the ban, now that a new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is in office. You can read the article here, which is remarkable for the many jaw-droppingly unethical arguments put forth by the baseball people the article quotes, contrasted with the occasional quote that shows that a speaker comprehends the concepts of consequences, accountability, and why letting stars break the rules is suicidal to any culture. It would be an excellent ethics exam.

Here are the quotes; my comments follow in bold. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Sports, Workplace

Fire NYT “Public Editor” Margaret Sullivan

new_york_times_logo

In some professions, an apology isn’t enough.

One such profession is accounting. Arthur Andersen couldn’t fix its reputation by apologizing. Its knee-deep involvement and likely complicity in the Enron debacle rendered its claim to trustworthiness permanently and irredeemable damaged. Its conduct made the company useless as a certifier of transparency and truth. For an accountant or auditor, if there is any doubt that he or she might not be telling the truth, the jig is up. One cannot trust a truth-teller who only is accurate and reliable most of the time.

I think the same applies to newspaper ombudspersons, if that’s the proper term now, and this is what Margaret Sullivan’s job as New York Times “public editor is,” euphemisms aside. She is supposed to bolster public trust by serving as an objective critic of Times reporters, columnists and editors, and ensuring that they hew to the high standards of professionalism and journalism ethics readers should be able to expect from the nation’s most respected newspaper.

Like the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, Sullivan has published a mea culpa for her joining on the “Darren Lewis is a white cop and Mike Brown was an unarmed black kid, so obviously the white cop gunned down the black kid in cold blood because that’s what white cops do and whites want to do” lynch mob last summer as it was being led by Eric Holder, the media, Al Sharpton and others.  But unlike Capehart, who is an opinion columnist and can be forgiven a bit for being led by his biases, Sullivan job is to protect her colleagues from their biases and ensure that the Times at least tries to be objective and fair. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Professions

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Jonathan Capehart…Big Whoop.

Hands up 3

“Now that black lives matter to everyone, it is imperative that we continue marching for and giving voice to those killed in racially charged incidents at the hands of police and others. But we must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching. That’s what I’ve done here.”

—— African-American Washington Post blogger and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart in a Post column acknowledging that the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” chant, hashtag, protest motto and refrain was based on the lies of Dorian Johnson.

This is unusual: a statement embodying ethical principles that arises entirely out of an unethical, unprofessional and untrustworthy world view.

It is a credit to Capehart that he has the integrity to openly admit he was wrong when the facts finally penetrated his biased, bigoted, unethically-motivated brain. He is certainly more admirable than the politicians and journalists of the left and the civil rights movement who still refuse to admit it, like Capehart’s MSNBC colleague and perpetually Angry Progressive Lawrence O’Donnell. It’s good that he apologized, in the sense that it’s better than if he didn’t, but if he were aligned with ethical advocates and advocates, his apology would be unnoticed among thousands of others. Capehart’s ability to process and admit what was, or should have been obvious months ago is not rescued from disgrace because others are even worse.

For the record, Ethics Alarms concluded that “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” was probably false on November 27, 2014. I don’t usually quote myself at length, but after I read Capehart’s much praised, “Well, gol-ly! Knock me over with a feather! Dorian Johnson was lying, and I used what he said to help the media, Al Sharpton and Eric Holder convince African-Americans that whites are out to kill unarmed black men! Ooopsie! My bad!” column, I gagged, and went back and read this:

How does the culture, the news media, the civil rights  industry, and politicians determined to benefit by making African-Americans suspicious, paranoid, racist and, of course, lifetime Democrats, make amends for this? How do they undo the damage to mutual trust and American society?

Obviously they don’t. They don’t even try. In fact, all indications are that they will refuse to acknowledge that the entire, national effort to portray the tragic confrontation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson as a race-triggered execution was based on a lie that was presumed to be accurate despite much reason to doubt it.

The original claim that Brown was shot and killed after putting his hands in the air came from his friend and partner in crime, Dorian Johnson. Johnson, who already had a record of lying to police, was with Brown prior to the August 9 confrontation, and had joined him in the petty robbery that occurred just before Brown’s arrest. In his TV interviews  after the shooting, Johnson said that Wilson shot Brown in the back, causing him to turn around with his hands up, pleading, ‘I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!’ Before the grand jury, Johnson, who admitted that he hid during the incident and later ran home to change clothes so he wouldn’t be identified, even elaborated and provided minute details to his fabrication, stating under oath that the shot in his back caused Brown’s body to “do like a jerking movement, not to where it looked like he got hit in his back, but I knew, it maybe could have grazed him, but he definitely made a jerking movement.” The forensic evidence showed that Brown was not shot in the back.

Other witnesses concocted similar testimony demonizing Wilson after hearing the media’s credulous accounts based on Brown’ friend’s claims. One told the FBI that he saw Wilson shoot Brown in the back and then stand over his prone body to “finish him off.” In front of the grand jury, however, this witness acknowledged that he had not seen that part of the shooting. He explained that the false story he told the FBI was “based on me being where I’m from, and that can be the only assumption that I have.”

Sort of like Democrats have to believe such false narratives because the presence of deadly, virulent racism is core to the party’s appeal to African American voters…

Then, he admitted,  he changed his story to fit details of the autopsy once it was reported on TV.  “So it was after you learned that the things you said you saw couldn’t have happened that way, then you changed your story about what you seen?’ a prosecutor asked. “Yeah, to coincide with what really happened,” the witness replied.

Members of the community, activists, anti-police zealots and those who had observed how effective the Trayvon Martin hoodie symbolism had been in casting George Zimmerman as a racist killer (rather than as he was subsequently shown to be, an irresponsible, unbiased jerk) immediately seized on the gesture as a powerful protest symbol. Every time it was repeated in a protest or demonstration, it was Johnson’s lie multiplied, until the narrative that Officer Wilson shot an unarmed, unresisting teenaged black male who was pleading to live was imbedded in the American mind. Of course it was murder! Of course any system that does not immediately charge the rogue police officer with murder is corrupt and flawed.

I have had conversations with well-intentioned liberals in denial,who are obviously unable to think of what occurred in Ferguson any other way. Such frustrating conversations. As in the Martin case, they want the white shooter to be guilty of racism and brutality. The fact that no clear evidence will show that, as the grand jury found out, doesn’t dissuade them, even though they would nod vigorously if activists argued that prosecutors displayed racism by indicting any black suspect when eye-witness testimony was unreliable.

Oh, it is true that their confusion is compounded by not understanding what a grand jury does, or hearing references to the quote that a prosecutor can make a grand jury “indict a ham sandwich” (not recognizing that this was a criticism, or perhaps having no more regard for a young policeman’s life than they do a ham sandwich, because, you know, white cop), and that they have been conditioned to believe from their SDS veteran professors from the Sixties that police officers are not public servants but really diabolical agents of an overbearing state—not that they don’t want an overbearing state in most matters, just not where public safety…okay, it’s complicated!). Still, what most nourishes their fervor now—how I love being told that I am taking my cues from Fox News!—is the indelible image of young, frightened, unarmed Mike Brown, with his hands in the air.

How does Darren Wilson get his career, reputation and life back after a lie is promoted as fact by the media, and ruthlessly used by race-hucksters to destroy him while escalating racial distrust? How does the culture recover from this deep, self-inflicted wound?

It is not the criminal justice system that is so in need of repair, but our system of communicating important events to the public, so that bias doesn’t overwhelm truth, and we will be able to forge the right lessons from tragedies like Michael Browns death, not false lessons that leave us more ignorant, hateful, and afraid.

How was I able to write that four months ago, and Capehart is only capable of comprehending it now? It’s simple, really: I’m not an anti-white bigot, and he is.  I had no horse in this race: I was just trying to weigh the facts. I don’t have a stake, politically, racially or socially, in proving that Mike Brown was just an innocent kid hunted down and shot in the street like a dog, or proving that Office Wilson was a model police officer. Capehart didn’t pay attention to the evidence because it was a white Prosecuting Attorney who produced it, and a black—sorry, thug—who contradicted it, as a black Attorney General behaved and spoke as if he believed the thug.

Now Capehart is a believer, and why? He is a believer because the Justice Department run by that black Attorney General had to grudgingly admit that there were zero facts to support the lie that it desperately, urgently wanted to be true, so Darren Wilson could be crucified to expiate white America’s sins against the black man….and, not so incidentally, gin up black votes for the Democratic base.  Now Capehart trusts the facts, because a black AG, not a white one, endorses them.

Well, to hell with him, frankly. Why are anti-white racists with Capehart’s biases writing for the Washington Post? Must there be a black racist slot on the op-ed page now? I didn’t notice: did Obama’s EEOC pass that regulation? The New York Times has Charles Blow, and so the Post must have at least one too? Is there a black racist pundit arms race?

Who is going to apologize to Darren Wilson? Capehart didn’t do that; after all, Wilson is white. Capehart doesn’t care about whites, but wants to clear the record so future protests against police, Ferguson and white America aren’t weakened by reliance on a lie. Where are the apologies to Robert McCulloch, that presumptively racist Prosecuting Attorney who was able to avoid the lynch mob’s demands that Wilson be tried for murder by running a grand jury that got to see all the evidence for once, the scum. How dare he? Van Jones, who is treated as a respectable, rational pundit on CNN and ABC, told the latter that “If there had been a special prosecutor in Ferguson, we would have had a different result.” And we all know that a different result would be the right thing, meaneth Van. To my knowledge, Van hasn’t apologized either. I’ll lay odds that he won’t. Neither has the former governor of Massachusetts, prominently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate once Democrats finally admit that Hillary is hopeless: Deval Patrick told Meet the Press that he wanted to see Wilson indicted regardless of the facts. Nor Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, who told Meet the Press that justice meant trying Wilson for murder, based on seeing the case through the eyes of Brown’s parents, the individuals whose confirmation bias most powerfully compelled them to believe the self-serving lies of their baby boy’s pal.

Two police officers are dead, two more have been shot, uncounted whites have been targeted and beaten by angry blacks (the Justice Department hasn’t been interested in the racial implications of those attacks), Ferguson is in ruins, innocent businesses are destroyed, Darren Wilson is in hiding, and racial distrust across the U.S. is worse than it has been in decades, not entirely but substantially because people like Jonathan Capehart wanted to believe Dorian Johnson’s lie, because it fits their ideological, political, social and racial agenda. So they did.

Admitting a wrongdoing—not a mistake, but wrongdoing— is always commendable, but when it comes after such carnage, and so inexcusably late, my applause is going to not only be faint, but suffused with disgust.

______________________
Graphic: Washington Post

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, U.S. Society

Sign Language Interpreter Ethics

Let’s see, I haven’t gotten disability advocates angry at me in a while. It might be time.

Jonathan Turley posted the video above in a blog post titled “You Decide: Which Is The Greater Draw – The Singer Or The Signer?” The title, and especially the video, reminded me of a live entertainment phenomenon that has annoyed me for decades. I had forgotten about it, because producers learned long ago that I wouldn’t tolerate it in shows I was involved in. The ethics issue: showboating sign language interpreters for deaf audience members.

I have no objection to having signers at special performances of live stage presentations, as long as those signers understand their purpose and obligation. Their purpose is to communicate the words to hearing-impaired audience members. Their obligation is to do so as unobtrusively as possible, so as not to draw focus from the performance itself, or  interfere with the integrity of the production.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of the sign language interpreters who specialize in signing plays and operas don’t see their job this way. They think they are supposed to be as flamboyant–that is, obtrusive–and demonstrative as possible. Well, they’re not going to do that in one of my shows.

I’m not going to work over a grueling six week rehearsal schedule to perfect audience focus, the arc of the show, the lighting, sound, stage picture and all the other artistic elements that need to be coordinated to fully realize a work of live performance art  only to have someone show up who I have never seen before and improvise his or her own act in competition with the performance on stage. If I thought it would enhance “A Steetcar Named Desire” or “The Music Man” to have Marcel Marceau or Red Skelton jumping around and waving their arms next to the performers, I would have staged the shows that way. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Professions, U.S. Society

The Unethical French Animator, the Mammalian Duck, Dysfunctional Ethics Alarms

“Oggy and the Cockroaches” is a French animated comedy series produced by Xilam and Gaumont Film Company. Its future on the Nickelodeon children’s TV cartoon channel NickToons is in doubt, however, after the channel was thrust into an unwanted controversy by an unknown French cartoonist’s practical joke.

A recent episode that aired on NickToons featured a brief view of a framed wall hanging showing a cartoon female duck sporting a pair of bikini briefs, sunglasses and bouffant hair-do, and most significantly, naked torpedoesque breasts of a variety more familiar to afficionados of “Fritz the Cat” than the target audience of eight-year-olds. Naturally, the station was deluged with complaints from parents.

The NickToons  website now appears to have removed the show from both its schedule and its homepage. Good start. It should also end any relationship it may have with Xilam and Gaumont.

I know cartoonists are not known for an excess of maturity, but a network needs to be able to reside a modicum of trust in its contractors, suppliers and partners. If an animator would think it’s funny to slip a topless, sexy duck into a kid’s show, then who is to say the next “joke” won’t be a giant talking penis or Adolf Hitler having sex with a cow?

Far more disturbing than the prank itself are the rationalizations and justifications being offered for it in online comments to the story and in social media: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society

“House of Cards” Ethics: Why Should We Believe TV Journalists and Pundits Have Any Integrity When The Don’t Value It Themselves?

Safer interviews "President Frank Underwood." Morley, Morely, Morely...

Safer interviews “President Frank Underwood.” Morley, Morely, Morely…

The third season of “House of Cards,” a Netflix series about the corruption in Washington, continues to corrupt real Washington journalists and talking heads. On the third season  episode I just watched, “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” was drawn into this alternate universe (or Hell) and George, along with regular panel members Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd, rendered trenchant if predictable opinions about fictional President Frank Underwood with exactly as much passion and certitude as they do when they aren’t just playing themselves, but being professional analysts whose job it is to objectively enlighten the TV news audience.

With that, they joined CNN’s John King ,Candy Crowley,and Carol Costello, Soledad O’Brien, now with Al Jazeera America, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Fox’ Sean Hannity, CBS’s Morley Safer of “60 Minutes,”  and Matt Bai as “House of Cards” journalist/actors. I’m sure I missed a few. The mystery is why none of these journalists (and whatever Sean Hannity and Brazile are) don’t hear ethics alarms ringing when invited to sully their already dubious credibility (they are in the news media, after all), by showing themselves reporting and commenting on fiction exactly the way they are seen reporting on reality. Brian Rooney, a media critic who writes “The Rooney Report,” states succinctly what’s the matter with this:

“The trouble with journalists appearing as themselves in entertainment is that the public already has difficulty discerning fact from fiction in the news. Reporters and news organizations survive on truth and trust. Readers and viewers need to believe what they are told so they can make informed decisions. When real reporters allow themselves to be part of fiction, the trust is shattered. They do it with a wink, like they are in on the joke, but it costs them their credibility.”

Well, it would cost them credibility, if they had any. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Democratic Operative Paul Begala

“Voters do not give a shit. They do not even give a fart… Find me one persuadable voter who agrees with HRC on the issues but will vote against her because she has a non-archival-compliant email system and I’ll kiss your ass in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses.”

—Clinton enabler/mouthpiece/consultant Paul Begala, quoted in Politico’s essay by Gabriel Debendetti 

roses

Begala, just in case you’ve forgotten, was the most loathsome of Bill Clinton’s paid defenders—deceitful, smug, arrogant, Machiavellian. I’ll confess my bias: along with Karl Rove, David Axelrod, Dick Morris, James Carville and his wife, Mary Matalin, and others whose names I am mercifully unaware of so far, Begala and his species are the scourge of the political culture as well as democracy itself. Their stock in trade is misrepresentation, and their objective is to make Americans ignorant, uncritical, lazy, compliant, and gullible. The contempt they have for Americans is palpable, as in Begala’s quote. Continue reading

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