Comment of the Day on “The Twins and the Amazing Hockey Shot: the Public Flunks Its Ethics Test…Badly”

Reader Jim Weaver came up with an especially deflating and insulting Comment of the Day by taking literally my lament, in the post about the twin winning, then being denied, a cash prize while masquerading as his brother, that I was disappointed that after almost a decade of my ethics commentary that the public was still ethically out to lunch.

His comment:

“Did you really think that this blog would make a difference in America’s ethics? Is that really why you write this thing? If so, then you should be depressed because you are sadly deluded. 99.99% of the country has never heard of you or read your blog.

“I thought you wrote it to get attention and to try to drum up business for your training company. Just exactly how many readers do you have anyway?”

Jim has been infected by the cynicism and distorted values of 21st Century America, I fear. I started on-line commentary about ethics because I felt it was needed, not as a marketing ploy. I know something about marketing, having served as marketing director and having had to do a lot of it in other capacities, and writing a broad, eclectic ethics site like Ethics Alarms or The Ethics Scoreboard, its predecessor, makes little marketing sense. The bulk of my work is in the field of legal ethics, which is only an occasional topic here, and most of the rest of my professional work is in the field of business and workplace ethics. If my on-line opinions have brought me a single dollar of business, I don’t know about it. That was never the objective.

The objective was and is to establish a dialogue about ethics, and to help people be more aware of the ethical content in matters involving all activities and pursuits across the culture, and better able to analyze them. It was not to become famous; are you kidding?  Nobody becomes famous talking about ethics. Nor have I ever believed that I, by sheer persuasiveness and brilliance, could make a change in the country’s ethical culture. I do believe , however, that I can be part of a cultural shift, along with many others in this field and other fields, as well as the many ethical and wise citizens who reinforce ethical values in our society by their words and conduct every day.

And I know that ideas, particularly ideas vividly and persuasively expressed, can have transformative power by serving as catalysts for exchanges of views, debates and publications in the media, in classrooms, and at dinner tables.

In less than two years, Ethics Alarms has had its small victories. It helped a small theater company in Missoula, Montana being picked on by prominent media commentators for being faithful to a the spirit of a 19th Century Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. It was widely cited as one of the only legal ethics commentators not dismissing out of hand the suggestion that a judge who withheld the truth of his domestic arrangement until after ruling in favor of gay marriage had crossed ethical boundaries. Various posts have been reprinted and used in college courses and church discussion groups, and occasionally I start a trend—for example, I wrote the first essay praising umpire Jim Joyce for his integrity after he botched a call at first base that cost a pitcher a no-hitter. And I am regularly ripped off by, or rather inspire, more prominent commentators. And that’s fine by me.

Since Ethics Alarms was launched in late October, 2009, there have been 1,869 posts, which is a lot. There have been over 460,000 views of those posts, not counting spam, and traffic continues to increase. It has few competitors: there are not many ethics blogs, and fewer yet that comment on as wide a variety of topics as this one. Usually it is on the first page of the Google rankings.

Most important of all, the blog has developed a group of perceptive and passionate commenters, who add value and content every day.

I’m sorry Jim equates fame and notoriety with substance and worth; I know that’s how most of  the Kardashian Age thinks, but I don’t.  Yes, I am frustrated that ethics is so often forgotten or misrepresented in the public square, but I know I am doing my part to try to improve matters. All it takes, sometimes, is one good idea that cuts through all the fog and nonsense, and that idea can change everything. I’m putting a lot of them out there, every day, seven days a week.

Maybe, some day, one will be good enough.

12 thoughts on “Comment of the Day on “The Twins and the Amazing Hockey Shot: the Public Flunks Its Ethics Test…Badly”

  1. “Did you really think that this blog would make a difference in America’s ethics?”

    That single sentence says a lot about Jim. I read this blog because it is one of the very few places where there is a thoughtful discussion of ethics, and there definitely needs to be just that in this country. It’s saddening to see the way people think about cheating and unethical conduct. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading, even Jim Weaver’s comments, as they help to illustrate the problem.

    • This is good to hear. As apparently impervious as I am to most of the typical cliche criticisms against what the blog does—“Who are you to judge?” and ” You can’t know what he/she/ they were feeling!” being high on the list—“nobody cares” is always a body blow. I have no idea, other than what commenters tell me, if I am supplying a useful service and resource or not. It’s a lot of work to do without any positive reinforcement, particularly when the problem of toxic ethical attitudes seems to immune to change. Encouragement, I’m embarrassed to say, really does help.

  2. I don’t know about you Jack, but when my critics start using direct or tangential ad hominem attacks, I smile because I know that my logic has won the arguement. I read your blog every day and often quote your posts to my coworkers. I can see that you put a great deal of effort into this blog and I truly appreciate the high level of intellect and civility on your site.

    While I usually avoid cliched proverbs, remember “mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.


    • Thanks, Scott. I wrestled with whether to broadcast Jim Weaver’s comment, and decided that it was valuable to force me to answer, for myself, the essential questions: why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish? If there is not measurable impact, is it just an exercise in vanity and ego?

      I also had been on the verge of taking on the attitude that notoriety and popularity are the primary indicia of worth anyway. Mark Levine and Rush Limbaugh use this argument all the time in their radio rants against various MSNBC foes, saying, “What kind of ratings to these people have? Nobody listens to them—who cares what they say?” Denigrating the content of someone’s argument on the sole basis of “ratings” is illogical and self-serving for “stars,” and uncritical and destructive for everyone else.We all need to listen to more voices, not fewer, and certainly not the most popular ones.,,,which would eliminate ethics as a topic completely.

  3. ‘” You can’t know what he/she/ they were feeling!”’

    It’s all about how people f-e-e-e-e-l lately. One hundred different people may feel one hundred different ways about an event…what do you use as a compass then?

    • You beat me to it. This does remind me of the starfish story. FWIW, this blog makes a difference to me. I don’t read it as frequently as I would like, but I always enjoy reading it and I generally feel that I have learned something in the process.

  4. To right the unrightable wrong,
    To love, pure and chaste from afar ,
    To try, when your arms are too weary,
    To reach the unreachable star.

    Keep your powder dry, Jack. I read your blog more than any other and have been unapologetically inspired from time to time.

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