Tag Archives: social media

Ethics Quiz: If There Is Going To Be A Racial Double Standard For Bigoted Statements, Can We Please At Least Know What It Is?

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Item: Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the NBA Clippers, while speaking with his mistress/girl friend/ escort in the bedroom, announces that he doesn’t want her bringing black men to Clippers games. In the process, he does not say anything specifically derogatory about African- Americans. He believes the statement is private, and that he is talking to someone he could trust.He was wrong. A recording of the conversation was leaked to the press, and Sterling has been roundly vilified as a vile racist, threatened with a boycott by the players, mostly African-American, in the NBA, fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from the game.

Item: Via Mike Wise, Washington Post sports writer—

“Following Wednesday’s Pacers-Wizards game in Indianapolis, during the time when NBA rules permit media members to be present, the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist. Afterward, I complained on Twitter that if Commissioner Adam Silver truly wants an inclusive league, he ought to address this (common) practice.”

Result: Wise, who is white, was attacked as a racist. What NBA players listen to in the locker room is none of his business, he is told (but what Donal Sterling says in his bed room is their business.) The NBA has done, and is expected to do, nothing.

Item: Appearing on ESPN where he is a commentator, Charles Barkley, former NBA star (and an African-American), decided to deride the women of San Antonio, Texas as fat. “There’s some big ‘ol women down there,” said Barkley. “That’s a gold mine for Weight Watchers.” He added, “Victoria is definitely a secret. They can’t wear no Victoria’s Secret down there.” A spokesperson for a fat acceptance group protested:

“Making slurs about body size is just as offensive as making comments about body color. One would think being a black man, he’d be more sensitive to having his physical body criticized. It’s totally out of line. He should absolutely apologize.”

Barkley not only refused to apologize, but defiantly challenged anyone objecting to his remarks, jokes or future comments to “change the channel.”  Nobody expects Barkley to suffer any consequences from this series of events.

Item: In 2007, talk show provocateur Don Imus got into a facetious discussion with a broadcast team member about how te women’s basket ball team from Rutgers was “rough looking” and had some “nappy-looking ho’s.” He also referenced Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and the film’s “Jigaboos vs.  Wannabes.” Imus apologized profusely, pronouncing the exchange inappropriate, thoughtless and stupid. Under pressure from various civil rights groups,  WFAN, which produced his show, fired Imus, who has never regained his previous prominence.

Item: In 2013, media professional Justine Sacco tweeted a race-based joke before boarding a plane to Africa: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” A furious cyber mob condemned her as a racist, and demanded her punishment. When she landed in Africa, she learned that she had  been fired.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

What the hell is going on here?

Continue reading

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Ethics Diagnosis: #SueyParkisanirresponsiblepowerhungrypoliticalcorrectnessbully

Colbert gag

Suey Park has declared war on Stephen Colbert over a promotional tweet made in his name by some Comedy Central PR employee. Not that there was anything wrong with the tweet*, unless you chose to willfully misconstrue it. The line was a quote from Colbert during a comic riff on his show mocking Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s lame effort to deflect criticism of his team’s name as being ‘racist.’ (Reminder: It isn’t—not in the context in which is being used. Tasteless? Perhaps…) Anyone who is familiar with Colbert’s schtick—it is all tongue in cheek, exaggeration, irony, sarcasm and satire—understands that the Twitter quote is mocking the idea that one can continue being “racially insensitive” as long as you set up a foundation to show sensitivity to the group you have been accused of being racially insensitive about. Here is an explanation of how Park saw an opening for some cheap social media muscle-flexing, from Slate:

“On Wednesday night Stephen Colbert made sport of Washington football team owner Dan Snyder and his plan to undercut criticism of the team name by founding an organization for the uplift of “original Americans.” Colbert ran though all the reasons why this was funny, then called back to a skit from one of the show’s first episodes, way back from the fall of 2005—a joke about the host being caught on a “live feed” playing a racist Asian stereotype (Ching Chong Ding Dong, from Guanduong), then not understanding why it was racist. Colbert would make amends with his new “Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” He’d played versions of the game since then, dressing up in a sombrero for “Hispanic heritage month.” It’s one of the Colbert character’s oldest gags—he “doesn’t see color,” so he can’t ever be blamed if he accidentally does something horribly racist.”

The rest of the story: Suey Park pounced, first telling Colbert “Fuck you” and then sending her many followers a directive to flood the twitterverse with   …. and so they did, and have. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

Facebook’s Promote Policy: Annoying And Perhaps Stupid, But Unethical?

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I have been wading through the many online complaints about Facebook’s  aggressive policy, begun in earnest back in 2012, of reducing the number of “friends” a Facebook user’s posts reach (by about 85%) and then charging the Facebook user a fee to reach more of them. Frankly, as a less-than-intense Facebook user who necessarily spends most of his web-content time running a blog, I didn’t even pay attention to the “promote” button, and wasn’t even aware of the change. The Facebook revenue-generating move is described here and here, but what happened is pretty simple  and easy to understand. Having sucked a lot of people, groups and businesses into using their free service to reach family, friends, like-minded souls and potential customers, Facebook then changed the rules and is now charging for them to get the same reach that was free for quite a while. Is this unethical?

Some, indeed many, think so. Here is the New York Observor:

“This is a clear conflict of interest. The worse the platform performs, the more advertisers need to use Sponsored Stories. In a way, it means that Facebook is broken, on purpose, in order to extract more money from users. In the case of Sponsored Stories, it has meant raking in nearly $1M a day.”

This is Dangerous Minds, in a widely circulated attack on Facebook called “I want my friends back”:

“It’s perhaps the most understated stick-up line in history, worthy of a James Bond villain calmly demanding that a $365 million dollar ransom gets collected from all the Mom & Pop businesses who use Facebook. How many focus groups do you reckon it took until Facebook’s highly paid marketing and PR consultants finally arrived at such an innocuous phrase for describing information superhighway robbery?”

Robbery? Conflict of interest? A hold-up? Bait and switch? This is the kind of tantrum that shows how easy it is for unscrupulous politicians to use the profit motive, free enterprise and capitalism as cheap scapegoats for every problem under the sun, all the better to build support for a massive, all-powerful government that will make everything right, and ensure that we all have lollipops and rainbows regardless of talent, effort, hard work or the cruel turns of fate.* Facebook created this service millions use for free—how dare the bastards try to make money out of their ingenuity and enterprise? Don’t we all, in a real sense, own Facebook? Shouldn’t we? Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Steve Martin (Coward, Too)

Life imitates art.

Shame on Steve Martin. He is a comedian. He tweets jokes. He tweeted a joke that was not racist in the least. (Everything that comments humorously on cultural quirks isn’t racist.) The political correctness bullies jumped on him too, because they nailed Phil Robertson and destroyed Justine Sacco. Martin, a novelist, a playwright, a TV writer, a comic and an actor, should have the integrity to stand up to this suffocating and unethical phenomenon. He has the stature to make a difference. He doesn’t have that integrity. He took the path of least resistance. He is a coward. He groveled. He apologized. The Blaze headlined that he “had to apologize,” No he didn’t. What he had to do was show some principle and strength of character when being manipulated and unfairly attacked, and he wasn’t up to the task.

By giving them what they crave, Steve Martin made the censors, bullies, cyber mobs and political correctness dictators more powerful, and hungrier still.

Without champions who will fight for free thought and expression, we will lose them. Martin and people of his intelligence and credibility have an obligation to be such champions, and he failed us all.

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Spark and Pointer: The Blaze

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The Unethical Destruction of Justine Sacco

Justine Sacco, victim.

Justine Sacco, victim.

Media executive Justine Sacco tweeted an impulsive, racially provocative joke on the social media site Twitter that a lot of people found offensive, didn’t like, or felt they could justify participating in cyber-bullying as if they found it offensive. As a result, she has lost her job, is being portrayed as a virulent racist across the web,  receiving threats and hate messages from strangers, and has become an international pariah.

It doesn’t matter what the tweet said. It was a tweet–140 characters directed at nobody in particular, that harmed nobody in any way, unlike, say, the tweets by various celebrities trying to direct mobs to where George Zimmerman could be found and beaten. Nobody attacking her knows this woman, what’s in her mind and heart, what she has done in her life or the good works and deeds she may be responsible for. And yet thousands of strangers, many of whom are almost certainly, on balance, less admirable people than Justine Sacco in many ways, have chosen to use her 140 ill-chosen characters as provocation to throw a huge, greasy monkey wrench into the gears of her life. Continue reading

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Ethics Heroes: The Mourners of Harold Jellicoe Percival

It’s a simple story.

Thanks Dad. Thanks, Harold. Oh, shut up. Justin!

Thanks Dad. Thanks, Harold. Oh, shut up. Justin!

From the Los Angeles Times:

When Harold Jellicoe Percival died last month, the British World War II veteran’s obituary mentioned that he had no close family to attend his funeral. But after the obituary went viral, hundreds of people showed up to honor him Monday. Percival, who served as a member of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command, died on Oct. 25 at the age of 99. His obituary requested that “any service personnel who can attend his funeral service would be appreciated.” It spread across social media brought it to the attention of service members and veterans organizations in Britain, They, in turn, rallied people to attend his funeral and honor his memory on Armistice Day.

There were reportedly 100 mourners in the church, and another 400 standing outside.

The ethical virtues demonstrated here are respect, gratitude, kindness, and citizenship. Somebody please explain this to Salon’s clueless, obnoxious, ungrateful and ethically, historically, logically and rhetorically-challenged writer Justin Doolittle, who argues that there is no reason to thank veterans for doing the dirty work of democracy and putting their lives on the line to protect his. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Reddit Ethics And The Non-Privileged Confession

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Reddit’s OffMyChest forum is promoted as a safe social media site to post confessions and to seek support or advice for very difficult, personal, potentially embarrassing problems. Of course, there is no such thing on the web, and such posts are only as confidential as the forum’s participants are trustworthy.

An 18-year-old poster calling himself Pilot94 unburdened himself about a statutory rape (or two) that he escaped punishment for thanks to some good luck. But the episode obviously still troubled him. He began…

“I’ve never been good at this sort of thing. Never in my life have I fully told the truth to anyone, except my best friend…But there are things I need to say that I’ve never been able to say before. I am purposefully not using a throw away account, I highly doubt anyone I know will find this but if they do, I’m glad you now know… “

He went on to describe his life to date, and how it had begun to spin out of control:

“I basically turned into a drug dealer with my best friend. He took the pills and I sold them. We started to get into trouble with the police. Patrick and I vandalized numerous parks and places around our town. We got caught for that had probation and fines, etc. That didn’t stop the Dynamic Dumbasses though. We picked up charges for shoplifting, under age consumption, speeding, drunk driving, etc. But nobody knew. We were such good liars that we were able to keep it all to ourselves. …We ran from cops all the time and partied, got drunk, got high, and raised hell. I kept dealing drugs and we kept taking them. Somehow we avoided getting charged for that, though we were close multiple times.”

Then came the incident that prompted the post:

“I knew some girls from school (I thought they were 15-16, they ended being 13-14) that I met at a party. One night they called us up and said they were drunk and wanted to have fun. We couldn’t say no. We drove out and picked all 3 of them up. We parked by the neighborhood pool, got in the back of the truck, and started going at it. Everyone had their clothes off, the girls were making out with each other and having sex…After about an hour, we headed back to their house. We were out front when a cop pulled up. Then shit hit the fan. The girls accused us of raping them, getting them drunk and supplying drugs. They revealed their true age to the police…One of the girls was so drunk she had to have her stomach pumped and spend the night in the hospital. [My friend} and I went home with our parents as the police impounded my truck and started a full criminal investigation into what had happened. Apparently all 3 were virgins prior to the night, and only did this because they were drunk. The one with alcohol poisoning also had vaginal tearing, and they performed a rape kit on her. The evidence against us was incredible. I don't know why we weren't arrested on the spot...But for some reason, both the lead detective on the case and the chief of police were fired shortly after. We were told we would hear from the new officer in charge of our case, but we never did. I don't know how or why, but it just disappeared."

The near disaster prompted a life turnaround, he wrote, that at least so far was a success:

"Needless to say this scared us beyond straight. Going from expecting 10+ years in prison to miraculously being free was incredible. Somehow I straightened my life up and actually graduated with honors from a Top 500 school....I received a full ride Army ROTC scholarship to a prestigious military school to study Russian and International Affairs and eventually receive a commission as an officer. [My friend and I]  both have no idea how or why we were given another chance, but we definitely aren’t going to fuck it up. I know there are stories on here about suicide and other heavy subjects, but this is the most honest I’ve ever been in my life, and it feels amazing. Sorry for making it so long!”

So trusting was the author that he later posted a photo of a scholarship he received from Army Reserve Officer Training Corps to Reddit’s military forum. It included his name, and some Reddit users connected the scholarship, the school, the name and the earlier confession.

And alerted the school.

Now he may be kicked out, and perhaps prosecuted. When he asked on the forum why anyone would do this to him, one Reddit member, perhaps the same one who revealed his secret, wrote…

“You ruined a couple of girls’ childhoods. You make it sound like your a good person now and that you have turned over a new leaf but you never once indicated that you felt any remorse for these people you destroyed. I think you far exaggerate to us and yourself how good of a person you are, and how deserving you are of forgiveness.”

Another wrote:

“He considers drugging and raping 3 14 year olds in the back of his pick up “minor”, he has no remorse for the lives he’s hurt, only that he was caught. He is deserving of no forgiveness until he can show that he actually feels remorse.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Question is this...

Was reporting him to his school based on his post ethical, or unethical? Continue reading

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The Steubenville Ethics Train Wreck: So Far, So Bad

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There has been no mention here of the awful Steubenville, Ohio rape case before today, and there was a reason for that. This is a massive ethics train wreck that is not only still rolling and accumulating passengers and victims, but is also too full of debris and wreckage to fully understand. At the end of this month, a grand jury will begin examining the looming question of whether others besides the two high school football players already convicted of the rape should be indicted.  The town is also doing an investigation of its own. These will help. My hesitation in diving into this gothic American nightmare is that recounting the obvious instances of miserable, heartless, ethically incomprehensible conduct by participants, observers, public officials and commentators doesn’t begin to make sense of it.  We will be analyzing and discussing this episode for a long time—we will have an obligation to do so. It is every bit as important and alarming as the Penn State scandal, and more significant than the infamous New Bedford pool table rape case, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film, “The Accused.”

The crucial cultural questions that will have to be answered are these: Continue reading

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Ethics Quote of the Week: Tom Hawking

“It’s not the role of our media and our journalists to shield us from truth; it’s their job to confront us with it. In this respect, the plurality of imagery is both a blessing and a curse, because in the sort of panic that follows an event like yesterday’s bombing, anything could be real. But equally, it’s also the volume of images and coverage — graphic and otherwise — that help us get a clearer picture of reality than we ever did in the days when our opinion was shaped by one journalist and a few photographs.”

—- Tom Hawking in his essay “The Ethics of Disaster Photography in the Age of Social Media,” discussing the controversy over whether graphic images from catastrophes like the Boston Marathon bombing ought to be published by the mainstream media, or should be toned down, edited, or withheld altogether.

Boston Marathon ExplosionHawking’s conclusions are spot-on, and you should read the entire essay here. Obviously horrendous photographs shouldn’t be thrust in readers’ and viewers’ faces; we should all have the opportunity to avoid seeing images we know would upset us. ( I have not looked at any of the graphic images from Boston. The text descriptions are plenty for me, thanks.) Leaving it to editors and journalists to decide how much realism we can stand, however, is folly. To be blunt, there is no reason to trust them. One of the blessings of the web and social media is that the traditional media no longer have the power to withhold information based on their biased and paternalistic judgement, which they are thoroughly unqualified by intellect, education  to render.

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Source and Graphic: Flavorwire (Tom Hawking)

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

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The Fourth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2012 (Part 1)

Trayvon

Welcome to the Fourth  Annual Ethics Alarms Awards

Recognizing the Best and Worst of Ethics in 2012!

This is the first installment of the Worst. (Part 2 is here, the Best is here.)

2012 inspired over 1000 posts, and Ethics Alarms still missed a lot. And the last week of 2012 was sufficiently ethics packed that the Awards are late this year. My apologies.

In a depressingly unethical year, these were the low points:

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

Was there ever any doubt? The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman fiasco, naturally, which is far from over. This year’s winner may be the worst ethics train wreck since Monica and Bill were dominating the news.  So far it has involved dubious, unprofessional or clearly unethical conduct by, among others, Martin’s parents, their lawyer, Zimmerman, his wife, the police, Zimmerman’s first set of lawyers, the prosecutor, the Congressional Black Caucus, NBC (which repeatedly broadcast an “accidentally” truncated tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call that made him sound racist), the rest of the broadcast media, conservative talk radio and bloggers (who decided their contribution would be to try to show that Martin deserved to be shot), Spike Lee, Rosie O’Donnell, the New Black Panthers, and President Obama, who ratcheted up the hate being focused on Zimmerman by implying that the killing as racially motivated, and by connecting himself to the victim. Runner-up: The 2012 Presidential campaign.

“Incompetent Elected Officials of the Year” Division Continue reading

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