Tag Archives: misrepresentation

Pop Ethics Quiz! What’s Wrong With This Picture?

speeding bullet

No, you don’t have to spot the mistake, now.  That’s too easy. The single, embarrassing mistake in this ad created for Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown For Gun Safety is so obvious I’m pretty sure there are 5th graders who could spot it. A bullet doesn’t come out of the barrel with its casing. There would be no way to propel such a projectile. This ad couldn’t have been created or approved by anyone who ever fired a gun, saw one fired or watched a  Western, war movie or action flick.

The unethical conduct represented by the ad, however, are more numerous, though equally unforgivable:

  • It is incompetent and lazy. No one connected with the ad and its graphics bothered to do the minimum due diligence necessary to find out what a bullet coming out of a muzzle looks like, or how guns work.
  • It is untrue. Actually, anyone is faster than that bullet, which would drop harmlessly to the ground.
  • It negligently misinforms the public, passing along the ignorant misconceptions of the group and its hired artist to people who know as little as they do.

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I Repeat: April Fools Day Is Not For Ethical Professionals

april-fools-day-banner

In a much attacked post here way back in 2010, I offered some ethical guidelines for April Fool’s Day, which was just beginning to get out of hand. I was right, my critics were wrong, and maybe some of the mockers who are now trying to figure out when their favorite news organization is lying to them today for fun, as opposed to the rest of the year when it lies to them out of bias or incompetence, are beginning to appreciate my position.

I just watched three different morning news shows that contained fake news or commentary that the reporters and anchors, at least, seemed to think was hilarious. In one case, on Fox, conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham dead-panned a remarkably even-handed and fair explanation for HHS Secretary Sibelius’s much-maligned TV silence when asked about the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity.  April Fool! Laura wasn’t being fair or objective, she was just tricking Fox’s audience into being angry at her for being fair and objective, or, in my case, admiring her integrity for pointing out that the incident had more than one plausible interpretation. Got me, Laura. I just heard an NPR host plead with the audience not to regard the upcoming segment as a hoax because of the date, an especially difficult plea since NPR springs virtual hoaxes on its audience all year.

The first and most important of my April Fools guidelines was this:

1. April Fools’ Day tricks are not for professionals to play on those who depend on them, trust them, or otherwise rely on them for information or services, unless there is a special relationship as well. The risks of harm and abuse are too great.

The succeeding four years have validated my position. Journalism, government and politics are the prime examples. CNN played a video that showed Jay Carney crowing yesterday about the Affordable Care Act’s success even as the Healthcare.gov website had crashed. Wait..is this a joke? Did the Obama White House film this for fun and games? They wouldn’t do this, you say? Government officials don’t use their high office for jokes and hoaxes? Really?

Sen. Ted Cruz, also on Fox, showed his new tattoo, apparently an April Fools’ joke, but also said he was certain that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed. Which is more likely, that the AFA will be repealed, or that wacky Ted Cruz would get a tattoo? Slate has a post up by someone called Rehan Salan, which is, clearly, a clever anagram for “En Anal Rash” or something, arguing that adults without children should be forced to pay extra taxes to support parents. Hah! Good one, Slate! That should turn the “pro choice” crowd on its head: lets; punish the choice not to have children via a penalty—I’m sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, a tax, wink-wink. Wait…that isn’t a joke? Ok, well, I’m sure about this, then: that fake video showing famous tough guy Don Baylor, a record holder for being hit by pitches when he played and now a coach for the Los Angeles Angels, “breaking his leg” catching the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season. April Fools, right ESPN? No????

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz (Movie Division): “The Impossible,” Whitewashing, and Betrayal

"Bennett" and Belón

“Bennett” and Belón

I suppose some of you may have thought about this two years ago, when the Spanish film “The Impossible” was first released. I, however, take a while to catch up with my movie-viewing, and though the film was much praised by critics and got Naomi Watts an Academy Award nomination, I had not seen the film until recently. “The Impossible,” about as accurately as a motion picture can, tells the amazing story of how Spanish physician María Belón, her husband Enrique Álvarezs, and her three young sons miraculously  survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami when the family was on vacation in Thailand.

It is an engrossing, harrowing movie. I was surprised to find out, however that the family’s name wasn’t “Bennett,” and that they weren’t British, as the movie presented them. Apparently to maximize box office receipts, the film makers decided to take the heroic story of a real family and make the characters “more relatable” by recasting them as English-speaking Brits. There was a minor controversy about the film “whitewashing” the story*, but not much of that made it into the mainstream media. Belón, after all, is white. She was an active participant in the appropriation of story and that of her husband and sons, and they all profited from it, at least financially. Still, the movie’s point of view left a bad taste in the mouths of some international critics. Here is Australian critic Ruby Hamad:

“Based on the true story of a dark haired and darkish-skinned Spanish family, the filmmakers admitted to changing their nationality and casting lily-white actors in order to make the story ‘universal’. In other words, only white people can stand in for the human race as whole. For this reason, Thailand and its people are mere backdrops for the story of a Caucasian family who learn the hard way that even western privilege is no match for the brute force of mother nature.”

Your (two-year late) Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz, therefore, is:

Is “The Impossible” unethical”?

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Spreading the Word: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

"Bottoms up!"

“Bottoms up!”

I am moved to re-post the early Ethics Alarms entry from 2010, titled “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit,” for a few reasons.

It raises an important and shamefully under-reported topic, one that despite my exhortations then has yet to be adequately examined in the media. If one googles various combinations of “mouthwash,””Listerine,”‘alcoholism,” and “alcoholic,” the first result is, sadly, my post. Most people who are not afflicted with the disease of alcoholism have no idea that mouthwash is a popular stand-in for liquor, or that is used to deceive family members who think an addict is no longer using or intoxicated. None of the recommended policy changes I suggest in the post have been implemented, either.

Last week I chanced to mention the use of Listerine by alcoholics to a friend who is a doctor who treats alcoholics. He was shocked, and had no knowledge of this at all. “Eww!” he said. “Isn’t that poison? You can drink it? I had no idea.” And he is a professional who keeps up  with the literature. (But obviously doesn’t read his friend’s blog.)

Despite my frustration that what I regard as a true exposé that should have sparked an equivalent article in a more widely read forum has remained relatively unknown, I am encouraged by the effect it has had. Most posts have their greatest traffic around the time they are posted, but since 2010, the page views of this article have increased steadily every month. More importantly, it has drawn comments like this one, from yesterday:

“Am looking after my twin sister who is a chronic alcoholic. She has been three days sober and then she just walked in and I couldn’t work out what the hell happened. She was in a stupor , but there was no alcohol and I am dispensing the Valium for detox period and she smelt like mint!! Found three bottles of it !!! This is my last big push to help her and she pleaded innocent and no idea it had alcohol in it! Hasn’t had a shower for two days but keeps her month fresh and sweet !! Thanks for the information. Much appreciated XXX”

Most of all, I am revolted that what I increasingly have come to believe is an intentional, profit-motivated deception by manufacturers continues, despite their knowledge that their product is killing alcoholics and destroying families. I know proof would be difficult, but there have been successful class action lawsuits with millions in punitive damage settlements for less despicable conduct. Somewhere, there must be an employee or executive who acknowledges that the makers of mouthwash with alcohol know their product is being swallowed rather than swished, and are happy to profit from it.

Few had discovered Ethics Alarms by April of 201o. I hope that by re-publishing the post now, it might find its way to more social media pages and even be sent to some investigative reporters. As I ended the original post, spread the word. Mouthwash is killing your friends and family members, or if not yours, those of someone not far away.

Thus, for the second time and hoping for more impact than the first, here is “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit.” Even if you read it the first time, refresh your memory.

People are killing themselves right under our noses, and we are being thrown of by the minty smell of their breath.

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Who’s That Woman On The Cover of “O” Magazine?

l, c: O yesterday; r: Cover O.

l, c: O yesterday; r: Cover O.

By purest coincidence, I was looking through a magazine rack at CVS yesterday and taking notice of how well Oprah Winfrey has been keeping the pounds off lately. Then, this morning, I saw footage of her walking across a stage to announce her latest venture, something to do with chai tea. Mama mia! The woman I saw smiling and waving, presumably the real Oprah, was easily 50 pounds heavier than the look-alike who has been gracing the cover of recent O’s, though I will say, as mitigation, that the strategically shot March cover has a graphic over OW’s gut.

I could not care less how much Oprah weighs or what she looks like. However, an ethical narcissistic—and what else can you call a woman who publishes a magazine named after herself that has her as the cover model for every single issue?—has limited choices:

  • Keep yourself in fabulous shape, so you are fit to be a cover girl (by your own standards)
  • Don’t put yourself on the cover when you don’t feel cover-worthy
  • Use cartoons, or
  • Let it all hang out.

Not an ethical option: showing your loyal, trusting readers that you look one way, when in fact you look a whole lot fatter.

Yes, yes, I know—photoshopping, airbrushing, make-up, glamor photos, “it’s done all the time.” This is Oprah’s magazine, her image and her body, and pictures communicate. Her covers say “This is what I look like, be like me.” If she doesn’t look like her covers or even close, that’s an outright, calculated lie. It’s really as simple as that.

 

 

 

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Ethics Dunce: CNN’s Chris Cuomo

Bob BarkerCNN morning anchor Chris Cuomo is a fascinating study in modern broadcast journalism. Handsome, engaging, obviously intelligent and wearing his New York liberal Democrat family’s brand for all to see, he will either become an annoying MSNBC-style left-wing media scold (like his dim predecessor Soledad O’Brien), manage to walk the perilous tightrope between fair newscaster and openly liberal commentator, or (my prediction) go into the Cuomo clan business and run for office. Lately, however, his adventures have me wondering if his ego will swallow his judgement, setting him on a trajectory for MSNBC itself.

On Wednesday’s New Day, Cuomo couldn’t hide his obvious disappointment over Florida Republican David Jolly’s victory in the much-watched Florida special Congressional election. He  noted that The Price Is Right theme music was played Jolly’s  victory rally on Tuesday, and expressed disgust: “What a metaphor for what politics has become – that they are playing the theme song of The Price Is Right when they celebrate a victory, because it’s about the money! It makes me sick.”

The impression Cuomo left was indeed disgusting, that Republicans were celebrating the triumph of their big money campaign over the Democrat’s similarly obscenely funded campaign, calling attention to their victory in what had become, due to its presumed bellweather status, a local race that had attracted support from deep-pocket king-makers from both parties. Ironically, Democrat Sink outspent the Republican Jolly, who won, making Cuomo’s indictment an example of selective prosecution. His indignation that the Republicans would be mocking the role of money in politics, however, seemed to justify his making them out to be villains. Continue reading

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Law vs. Ethics, The Cynical “War on Women,” And Stacking The Deck for Hillary

Let me begin by reprinting, in its entirety, a post from the earliest days of Ethics Alarms, one then titled, The Difference Between Law and Ethics:

In the instructive category of “Lawsuits that demonstrate the distinction between law and ethics,” we have the Massachusetts case of Conley v. Romeri.

Ms. Conley met Mr. Romeri when they were both in their 40s and divorced. As romance beckoned, Ms. Conley told her swain that she was childless, and wanted to begin a family before her biological clock struck midnight. The defendant, who had sired four children already, told her “not to worry.” He had seen a fortune-teller who had predicted that he would increase his number of children from four to six.

That held Ms. Conley for seven months. Then he told her that he had been vasectomized years ago.

Ms. Conley sued the bastard, claiming that her now ex-boyfriend had fraudulently misled her into believing he could father little Conleys in order to prolong the relationship, and that his actions had thrown her into emotional distress and depression.

Let us pause here and say that Mr. Romeri is a cur. Knowing that Ms. Conley was desperate for children and running out of time, he nonetheless deceived her for his own purposes, costing her perhaps her only chance to have the family she desired. For the fans of Bill Clinton out there, he was also clearly adept at Clintonesque deceit: he said “don’t worry” about having children, not that he was capable of creating them; he said a fortune- teller has assured him that he would have more kids, but never said her prediction was plausible. Mr. Romeri, like millions of deceitful people before him, probably doesn’t think he really lied. But of course he did.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court, however, found that while Mr. Romeri may have behaved abominably, it was not the place of the law to punish him.

Such claims, the judges said,

“…arise from conduct so intensely private that the courts should not be asked to resolve them….It does not lie within the power of any judicial system to remedy all human wrongs. Many wrongs which in themselves are flagrant–ingratitude, avarice, broken faith, brutal words and heartless disregard–are beyond any effective remedy.”

Our hearts go out to Ms. Conley. But the law will never succeed in making people be honest, caring, and fair. Only we can do that by creating a society in which boys grow to manhood knowing that behavior like Mr. Romeri’s is wrong, and at the same time, a society where women take responsibility for their own welfare, without seeking government remedies for every challenge.

——————————————–

Reading this post again, and watching the (I think) overtly cynical and political effort by Democrats and the Obama Administration to increase the weight of the already heavy hand of the law in matters involving problems that are unique to or that disproportionately affect women, I think the importance of Conley v. Romeri extends beyond the original reason I posted it. Among other things, the case stands for the proposition that the government need not and should not treat women as if they are helpless against adversity, and must be accorded special privileges and protection Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Rank The Unethical Politicians!

Three pols

For your first Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the New Year:

Consider these unethical politicians from Florida, Texas and California…

Unethical Politician A:

California State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

Ethics Failures:

Competence, Responsibility, Diligence

Explaining his proposed legislation SB808, dealing with “ghost guns” (that is, home-made weapons) at the California Capitol in Sacramento last week, de Leon held up such a firearm and said, “This right here has the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second.”

This is genuine anti-gun gibberish that could not possibly be uttered with a straight face by anyone even slightly familiar with guns. There is no such thing as a “30-caliber clip;” he is referring to a 30-round magazine. (There is also no such thing as a “30 magazine clip.) “Caliber” refers the measurement of the width of a bullet or the internal diameter of a gun barrel, not what the magazine will hold. And the average rate of fire for a semi-automatic rifle, which is what he was holding, is about 120 rounds per minute, not 3,600 rounds per minute.

Why are legislators who don’t care enough about guns to educate themselves about what they are, how they work and what they are capable of doing, submitting legislation about guns? Because they just know guns are dangerous, and in their infantile, knee-jerk reasoning, that’s all they have to know. The rest is fakery: the legislator is pretending that he has sufficient expertise to be credible on the issue, when he is too lazy and arrogant to do the minimum study necessary to render him qualified to vote on gun regulations, much less author them.  This is the equivalent of a legislator who thinks babies are delivered by storks proposing abortion laws. Continue reading

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Unethical Website Of The Month: Ranker

"One of these things is not like the others..."

“One of these things is not like the others…”

Lists, especially stupid celebrity lists (Worst plastic surgery…Most overpaid…Actors with famous siblings…Actresses with high IQs) are a staple of the internet, and there are sites like Cracked (which does them well), Buzzfeed (which occasionally does) and Bleacher Report (which is sloppy unless it is doing lists of hot women, in which case it is just undiscriminating) that often appear to do little else. That’s fine; everything on the web doesn’t have to be edifying, profound or useful. Still, there are some basic rules of competence and responsibility even in list-making on the web. One is that as with any conduct involving the conveyance of information, do your homework and don’t mislead readers or  create misconceptions.

Another is that when you are dealing with individuals to whom you owe your nation’s very existence and who are as superior to you as a human being as you are to an anteater, show some damn respect.

Ranker, a second tier list site apparently operated by junior high school drop-outs (but whose lists are “recommended” by more respectable and heavily trafficked sites like Mediaite and The Daily Beast) failed these two essential principles with their offensive list, “33 Celebrities Who Have Killed People,” introduced with this:

“…Many celebrities were involved in tragic accidents that resulted in deaths, while others committed cold-blooded murder. Some celebs have served time in prison stemming from convictions, and others have gotten away with murder; sure, maybe they were wrongly accused, or maybe they just had great lawyers. Several famous people were involved in deadly car accidents. Former First Lady Laura Bush missed a stop sign and slammed her car into another vehicle, accidentally killing her friend who was driving the other car. She was in high school at the time of the accident. Other celebs who killed people in car accidents include Keith Moon, Ted Kennedy, and Rebecca Gayheart. What do you think about all the celebrities who have killed someone?” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Heroes, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, The Internet, Unethical Websites, War and the Military

What Do You Do With The Drunken Judge? Media Distortion And Judge Gisele Pollack

Broward County (Florida) Judge Gisele Pollack, a recovering alcoholic, showed all the signs of suffering a relapse during her session on the bench two weeks ago, when she abruptly ended the day’s proceedings after an hour and a half that featured the judge slurring her words and acting erratically. She presides over misdemeanor drug court, a program she established shortly after being elected as a county judge.  Her program offenders to have their charges dismissed and their drug records erased after six months of treatment.

After staying away from work for a day, Judge Pollack returned to the bench in the late afternoon, and presided over a courtroom packed with about a hundred drug offenders, along with  their friends and their families. The event marked the completion of rehab for dozens of offenders and the dismissal of their misdemeanor marijuana charges.“You’ve got to remain vigilant,” she told the graduates, emphasizing that they had to work hard to avoid relapses that would  place them back in front of her, and perhaps in jail.

After court, she acknowledged her own health crisis and announced that she was going into an outpatient rehab program. An attorney retained by the judge in the wake of her conduct attributed her relapse to personal issues, telling reporters that she has  “had some severe personal tragedy in her life. Her mother recently passed away, and they were very close. It’s been really devastating for her.” Apparently her son is also suffering from a serious illness. Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, a longtime friend, told reporters, 

“If this causes the people to not have faith and not have trust in what goes on in that drug courtroom, then she will have to step aside,’ he said. ‘My hope is is people will wrap their ever-loving arms around Judge Pollack just as she has wrapped her arms around thousands of people.”

What’s going on here? I think it’s pretty obvious: a recovering alcoholic in a critical position of public trust suffered a relapse, as alcoholics are wont to do. If one is an alcoholic, this is a symptom of a very persistent, pernicious and incurable disease that kills many Americans every year, does horrific damage to families, businesses, governments and the economy, and that is incurable. Being an alcoholic is not an ethical violation for a judge or a lawyer, nor is having a relapse. Allowing that relapse to affect the competent performance of one’s duties, however, is an ethical violation that calls into question a legal professional’s ability to do her job. It could trigger professional sanctions; it certainly should trigger an official inquiry. A Florida judge appearing drunk on the bench, just once, is still a massive ethical breach. It arguably violates the first five Canons of Judicial Ethics a Florida judge is bound to follow… Continue reading

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