Note To The Over-Forty Crowd: The Obligation To Be Culturally Literate Has No Age Limit, And The Duty To Be Aware Is Forever

ignoranceIn the Washington Post’s weekly crank section “Free For All,” a reader chastised the paper for not quoting more extensively from Bob Dylan’s works in its piece about his Nobel Prize, writing:

“It may come as a shock to the young people who now write and edit the paper, but there are many of us who are not familiar with the lyrics of “popular” music.”

Granted, in respect to Dylan, the complaint makes no sense. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written in 1963; I’d expect “young people” to be more unfamiliar with Dylan than seniors. How old IS this guy? Still, the letter raised a crucial ethics point related to life competence, an ethical obligation for all of us. Being willfully ignorant of current popular culture is as much of an ethical lapse, and as great a threat to societal cohesion, as young people not bothering to learn about “Moby-Dick,” minstrel shows, Will Rogers, Stephen Foster, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire or Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1987, University of Virginia English professor  E.D. Hirsch wrote “Cultural Literacy,” making the argument that nations require common cultural reference points for generations to communicate with each other. He argued—correctly— that teaching this cultural vocabulary was a primary duty of the schools, in part because cultural literacy is an inextricable element of individual autonomy and power. Since then, the problem of the fracturing of society and the breakdown in communications between segments of the population has worsened considerably, its deterioration propelled by the loss of common information sources and the rise of the internet. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Education, History, Literature, Popular Culture, The Internet, U.S. Society

Along With All The Other Critical Issues Ignored In This Presidential Campaign, What Completely Neglected Crime Robs American Consumers Of An Estimated $25 billion A Year?


Why it’s fish fraud, of course!

Ethics Alarms covered the problem way back in 2011, in a post called “Getting Scrod in Boston: The Ravages of Seafood Fraud. I just checked: almost nobody has read it, and those who have almost certainly have 1) forgotten about it and 2) been ripped off buying seafood since.

Now the guys at “Stuff You Should Know” have done an excellent  podcast about the issue. It really is infuriating that with all the regulations we pay for, and all the attention the government focuses on fads, politically correct crusades (how many Americans are affected by limitations on which public rest rooms can be openly used by transgender citizens?) , and out-and-out trivia, something like this goes not only unaddressed by officials, but ignored as well. The news media, meanwhile, would rather use its limited daily space to tell us how Stephen Colbert just skewered Donald Trump last night than to warn us about our pockets being picked.

Well, not me: I almost never buy seafood unless it’s raw oysters, whole shrimp or crab,  and if I’m in New England, Ipswich clams and lobster, all hard to fake. Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising

Gee, I Wonder Why Republican Voters Might Worry About The Election Being “Fixed”? It’s A Mystery!


It began with this story: A Wikileaks leaked email, from Donna Brazile to the Clinton campaign, started with the subject line “From time to time I get the questions in advance.” Brazile, then vice chair of the DNC and a CNN and ABC contributor, included a question that was later asked of Hillary Clinton at a subsequent CNN “town hall,” word for word.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper, probably the closest thing to a fair and ethical journalist that exists in the current broadcast media, told an interviewer regarding the episode in part,

It’s a very, very troubling… look, I have tremendous regard for Donna Brazile. She’s a good person and a nice person and I like her a lot but whatever took place here… and I know I had nothing to do with it… and I know CNN, we were so closely guarding our documents… they weren’t emailed around….It’s horrifying.  Journalistically it’s horrifying and I’m sure it will have an impact on partnering with this organization in the future and I’m sure it will have an effect on… Donna Brazile is no longer with CNN because she’s with the DNC right now, but I’m sure it will have some impact on Donna Brazille.,,People at CNN take this very, very seriously and to have somebody who does not take it seriously and to have us partner with that person and then they do something completely unethical and share it with Donna Brazile who then shares it with the Clinton campaign… it’s horrifying and very, very upsetting and I can’t condemn it any more than… I condemn it in no uncertain terms, it’s awful.

Democratic operatives using their chummy, insider relationships with alleged legitimate news organizations to assist their candidates with undisclosed, under the table, tips? Who wouldn’t call that awful? Well, interestingly, most of the rest of the mainstream, Hillary-recruited media, which has mostly left this story to  Fox, the Daily Caller, and “conservative media” while suggesting that the e-mail from Wikileaks was somehow fake.

Enter Megyn Kelly on Fox, who was persistent in trying get Brazile to give an explanation in an interview. What she got instead was incredibly guilty-sounding evasion and Authentic Frontier Gibberish: Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

Ethics Dunce: The Smithsonian Institute


The new Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is intended to celebrate the two aspects of African American influence on the nation mentioned in the title, and that includes honoring  influential and historically significant African American leaders. Among the figures ignored by the museum’s displays is Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, only the second black member of the Supreme Court. The museum does, however, celebrate the “heroism” of his last-minute accuser at Thomas’s confirmation hearings, law professor Anita Hill.

This is another and particularly sad reflection of the petty partisan bias and lack of integrity demonstrated by the Obama Administration at so many levels. It is stuffed with so many intractable ideologues, and often incompetent ideologues, that objectivity, respect and fairness are frequently too great an effort to muster. The museum honors Hill, who was recruited as a last ditch effort by Democrats to block President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of a black conservative judge to the Supreme Court and whose accusations of sexual harassment were never verified except by the confirmation bias of Democrats and Thomas’s enemies. It chose to snubThomas, which all involved had to know would be seen as an insult to the Justice, and a calculated one.

By all logic and reason, Hill should be, at best, a footnote to a Thomas display. Mean-spirited bias from the empowered Left under Obama has extended even to museum curating, which should be non-partisan. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova”


Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:

…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, Social Media

Presenting Rationalization 13 A. “The Road To Hell”


The post earlier today regarding three examples of ethics duncery (or worse) in foreign lands included three examples of Rationalization 13A at work. All could be, and in one case was, excused with the claim that “we meant well.” I checked: this infamous rationalization wasn’t among the seventy plus rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms list, which proves just how sinister these little buggers are. As its name suggests, Rationalization #13A is named after the famous quote, “Good intentions pave the road to hell,” or, alternatively, “The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” which nobody seems to know who was the first to utter it.

It was a major omission, and I’m thrilled to rectify it.

13A. The Road To Hell, or “I meant well”

This sub-rationalization to the Saint’s Excuse is related to its parent but arguably worse. Rationalization 13 is one of the really deadly rationalizations, the closest on the list to “The ends justified the means”:

 The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else. 

But while the wielder of the Saint’s Excuse typically at least has a beneficial or valuable result to claim as justification for unethical and inexcusable acts, the desperate employers of 13A only have their alleged good intentions, which may be the product of emotion, misunderstanding, ignorance or stupidity. How a bad actor intended his unethical conduct to turn out is no mitigation at all. The underlying logic is that the wrongdoer isn’t a bad person, so the wrongful act shouldn’t be held against him or her as harshly as if he was. The logic is flawed (it is the same logic as in The King’s Pass, #11, which holds that societally valuable people would be held to lower standards of conduct than everyone else) and dangerous, encouraging the reckless not to consider the substance of a course of action, but only its motivations.

The Saint’s Excuse attempts to justify unethical actions that accomplish worthy goals The Road to Hell attempts to justify unethical conduct even when it does undeniable harm, just because it was undertaken with admirable intent.



Filed under U.S. Society

Trending On Ethics Alarms…


….this post, from July, now the all-time most viewed and shared Ethics Alarms post ever, and this post, from May.

Gee, I wonder why?

I only wish this post, from last September, was as well distributed, but I’m going to keep linking to it until it is, or until it’s moot.

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, The Internet