Ethics Dunce: Author Karen Hunter

In a jaw-dropping example of naked bias, dishonesty, and Bizarro World journalistic ethics, African-American author Karen Hunter complained on MSNBC that the Associated Press was racist by transcribing President Obama’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus without restoring his intentionally dropped dropped G’s, as other services—unethically—did.

Here’s part of the AP version:

“Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Hunter said the AP’s version was “inherently racist.” Continue reading

President Obama’s Integrity Collapse

It is one of the Ethics Alarms truths that “When the going gets tough, the tough get unethical.” That is not universally true, however, for there are individuals, in public and private life, who manage to maintain their ethical values even under pressure, even when unethical tactics appear to be an inviting way out of peril, even when maintaining ethical integrity can lead to failure and defeat.

I once thought Sen. John McCain was such a man, but I was proven wrong when he defeated a conservative rival for his Senate seat by embracing unethical policies and positions that he had once decried. I once thought that Barack Obama, despite his other deficiencies as a leader, had a strong claim to being more honest and ethical than his likely Republican rivals. He is now proving me wrong again. Continue reading

The University of Wisconsin’s Lesson: Ignorance + Political Correctness = Repression

Why does a defunct cult TV space Western threaten the University of Wisconsin? Good Question!

As in the disturbing incident at Widener Law School, in which a professor has been persecuted and punished for the imagined sexist and racist implications in his  fanciful classroom hypothetical, a theater professor at the University of Wisconsin in Stout, is now being subjected to full-fledged censorship by the university’s administration because of a pop culture reference that it finds “threatening.”

And also as in the Widener situation, one wonders if the school’s faculty cares enough about academic freedom and free speech to support their colleague. So far, they have not.

Prof. James Miller is, like me, a fan of “Firefly,”  Joss Whedon’s late, lamented science fiction TV series. He mounted a poster on his door that shows actor Nathan Fillion as Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, captain of the spaceship that cruised through the series.  The poster includes a famous line (well, famous with fans of the show, at least) by Reynolds in the first episode,  delivered in response to a passenger who asked if he was in danger of being murdered while he slept. “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once,” Fillion’s character said. “If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.”

Lisa Walter, the university’s chief of police, took down the poster, stating that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.” Walter said that the poster was not covered by the First Amendment:

“ We were notified of the existence of the posting, reviewed it and believe that the wording on the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed. This posting can cause others to fear for their safety, thus it was removed.”

Absurd. Ignorant. Offensive.  And an abuse of power. Continue reading

Non-Douche Neil Patrick Harris Almost Gets It Right

Neil Patrick Harris...no douche he! But is it for the right reasons?

In a cover feature story for Entertainment Weekly, Neil Patrick Harris (or whoever ghost-wrote for him) lays out his Hollywood Survival Guide. Secret of Hollywood Survival #6 for the star of “How I Met Your Mother” and ubiquitous awards show host is “Don’t Be A Douche”:

“Hollywood affords many opportunities to be a douche of epic proportions,” writes the grown-up “Doogie Howser,” “Avoid the temptation.”  He continues:

“Being a pleasant person has got to count for something….Actors sometimes take themselves far too seriously and put themselves on a different level [from the crew.] But everyone’s working really hard and should be afforded the same level of respect.”

For that, Neil gets an Ethics Alarms salute. Unfortunately, he scars his achievement by going on to explain how the make-up people, the film editor and the transportation department can really nail you if you don’t treat them well.

Given the breezy tone of the article, Harris was probably joking, but the joke reinforces the misconception many people have about ethics, which is that ethical conduct is a quid pro quo. It’s not. The Golden Rule isn’t “Do nicely unto others do they won’t screw you over,” and someone’s less than nice behavior  toward you doesn’t justify your being a douche to him. One isn’t respectful to the waiter because he’s liable to spit in your soup if you’re not, but because it’s the right way to treat other human beings.

Neil Patrick Harris certainly seems like a decent guy, and he probably is. I just wish, in the pursuit of a pretty stale joke about how the make-up people will get even by making you look like a troll, he hadn’t reinforced one of the most persistent of unethical rationalizations.

A Brief Rant Against Irresponsible Misinformation

Bill Wambsganss makes an incredibly easy play in Game 5 of the 1920 World Series

I was watching baseball on television all day yesterday, and had to see more commercials than are good for me. It struck me that despite the advent of the so-called “Information Age,” commercials seem to be written by increasingly ignorant writers, and ads that contain blatantly incorrect facts make it to the air where they rot innocent young brains and delight badly-educated  old ones.

Since the average TV commercial must be seen by literally hundreds of writers, executives and technicians on its way to this carnage, what does this tell us? It tells us that the education system is just as bad as we feared, and that these irresponsible people don’t care enough about being accurate to do a 20 second Google Search so they won’t misinform people. Making such a search is called due diligence and responsible conduct. Not doing so is called lazy, negligent and unethical. Continue reading

Lingerie Football Ethics

Does this sport condone rape? Or tickle fights?

I think professional lingerie football is a strange sport, to be sure. Attractive women dressed in bras, panties, helmets and shoulder pads play football before paying customers, almost all of them men. The players seem to play hard and many of them are excellent athletes. Is it sport? Is it sex? Is it spectacle?

Sondra Miller, a feminist and rape crisis counselor, believes that lingerie football increases the incidence of rape and violence against women, and writes that the proper ethical conduct is to end it:

“Don’t support the women’s lingerie football league. Don’t buy a ticket. Don’t watch it on TV. Don’t talk about it at the water cooler. Ignore it — or better yet — speak out against it.” Continue reading

A Fan’s Obligation: 12 Life Lessons From Being a Red Sox Fan

Thanks Carlton. I won't forget.

This is not going to be a fun day.

The Boston Red Sox, the baseball team to which I have devoted a remarkable amount of my time, passion and energy over a half-century, are threatening to complete late season collapse of embarrassing and historic proportions. A spectacularly bad month of September has the team holding on to its once assured post-season play-off slot by its fingernails, and the squad appears to be dispirited and unhinged. Today the Red Sox play a double-header with the New York Yankees, the team’s blood-foe, and its prospects don’t look good. I, of course, must watch both games.

Following a losing baseball team is emotionally hard—I listened to or watched every game the Red Sox played in a six year period in which they never had a winning season— but following a collapsing winning team is much, much worse. It feels like a betrayal, yet at the same time the fan feels guilty for being angry with the players, who undoubtedly are suffering more than you are. This is, after all, their career. Still, you have had your hopes raised over many months; you have, if you are a serious fan, attached your self-esteem to your team’s fortunes. Watching it tank is like watching a presidential candidate you have argued for, and gone to rallies for and contributed to make an ass of himself in a debate. (And no, I’m not a supporter of Rick Perry.) Continue reading