Welcome to the Fourth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards
Recognizing the Best and Worst of Ethics in 2012!
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
- Elected Body: The U.S. Senate, which passed a pork-filled tax bill that temporarily averted the “fiscal cliff” without bothering to read what was in it.
- National Democrat: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) , who was unable to discharge his legislative duties for most of the year due to being hospitalized for bi-polar disorder, was already being investigated for corruption, and who never had any qualifications for the job to begin with except for the luck of having a famous father, but who insisted on running for re-election anyway, and was easily elected by a district that just doesn’t care. Then he resigned before serving a day.
- National Republican: Rep. Scott DesJarnais (R-Tn), an MD politician who is, in a word, unbelievable—a full-fledged, pro-life, anti-abortion tub-thumper who, it was revealed shortly after his re-election in November, supported his ex-wife’s two abortions before they were wed, helped arrange abortions for a mistress and a patient he impregnated after they were married, had multiple sexual affairs with co-workers, subordinates and patients, prescribed recreational pills for at least one of his sex partners, and engaged in multiple actions that are violations of medical ethics, workplace ethics, and laws.
- State legislator: North Carolina Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg), who at least read the bill she didn’t want passed, but when the time came to push the green button that would have ensured that the Governor’s veto of a fracking bill she opposed wasn’t over-turned, she pushed the red button by accident, thus over-turning his veto and making the fracking bill law.
Unethical Website of the Year
Potential Prostitutes, with nothing else coming close for pure, gorge-raising sliminess. This defamation and extortion website solicits anonymously-sent photographs of women to be posted as “potential online prostitutes” with their names and addresses included, never checking whether the women are in fact on-line hookers or just Facebook users with vicious ex-boyfriends. Then the site sports a button marked “DELETE THIS PROFILE NOW,” which, once clicked on, brings the visitor who has been so defamed to a page where she can pay $99.95 via cred card to have her name, address and photograph removed.
The Unethical Use of Social Media Awards
- Most Unethical Use of Facebook by a Corporation, Organization or Group: Facebook, which in the high heat of the anti-gun hysteria following the Sandy Hook shooting decided that posting a Second Amendment-friendly quote by, of all people, Gandhi, justified suspending the account of the pro-gun ownership Natural News because the sentiment violated its vague “community standards.”
- Most Unethical Use of Facebook By An Individual: Clayton High School principal (now ex-principal) Louise Lasos, who masqueraded on Facebook as imaginary student “Suzy Hamilton” in order to monitor the lives of the 300 students who friended the administrator-in-disguise.
- Most Unethical Use of Twitter: Film director Spike Lee. Knowing that the New Black Panthers had placed a bounty on Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman, Lee 1) tweeted Zimmerman’s address, so he could be tracked down, and 2) it was the wrong address!
- Most Unethical Use of YouTube: Late Night creep and 2011’s “Villain of the Year” Jimmy Kimmel, of course, who continued his despicable (but popular!) “YouTube Challeneges,” in which he dangles the prospect of a few minutes of fame on his ABC talk show to induce parents to play cruel practical jokes on their children and videotape their reactions, so they can subsequently be humiliated on television and YouTube. Kimmel has now made his Challenges to get parents to spoil kids’ Christmas and Halloween annual events, and in 2012 he introduced another one: pre-chew your children’s dinner and feed it to them, as hilarity ensues. Then put their disgusted reaction when you tell them on YouTube.
- Social Media Bullies of the Year: Thousands of Twitter users, who decided that a young British woman who innocently used Twitter to ask a “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”-like query regarding whether the Wimbledon tennis tournament “is always played in London” deserved to be mercilessly mocked as an idiot and held up to international ridicule. The elderly couple who lived there had to flee for their lives.
- Most Unethical Social Media Trend: Potential employers demanding Facebook passwords as a condition of employment
Most Unethical Conduct By A School or School Employee
Not reported until 2013, but still a mandatory winner: The incomprehensible decision by Greer Phillips, the principal in East Harlem’s P.S. 79, to hold a lockdown drill within days of the Sandy Hook Elemantary School massacre, without letting teachers, the police, or the autistic and emotionally disturbed children herschool serves it was just a drill, and an armed intruder wasn’t really in the school.
Ethics Corrupter of the Year
(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)
An impressive comeback by all-time champ Bill Clinton, who not only was the star speaker at a Democratic National Convention that celebrated women’s rights, but who also, while on the campaign trail, made one of the most shameless and hypocritical remarks in American political history. The former President stands as a shining role model for anyone who believes that you can use and discard values and principles like Kleenex, and still be rich, famous and adored.
Uncivil Elected Official of the Year
House Speaker John Boehner, whose indefensible “Go fuck yourself!” to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on December 28 barely edged out runner-up Vice President Joe Biden, whose rude and undignified behavior during his televised Vice Presidential debate with Paul Ryan probably lowered the civility of political discourse forever.
Conflict of Interests of the Year
- Individual: Judge Kelly S. Ballentine, a Pennsylvania district court judge, who avoided paying $268.50 in parking tickets by dismissing her own cases.
- Organization: The government-affiliated mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, contrived to profit by making multi-billion-dollar investments that would turn a profit only if homeowners couldn’t get out of their expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates. Of course, Freddie Mac’s job is supposedly to be the opposite…to help homeowners find cheaper, fairer mortgages. Since the financial strapped entity makes more money if it fails to help those it exists to assist, this is the very model of a miserable conflict of interest. Despite a thorough NPR expose, this embarrassment to the Obama administration received little news media attention, perhaps because it was an embarrassment to the Obama administration.
- Most Ethically Clueless Company
- National Corporation: Safeway, which fired an employee who “violated policy” when he stopped a man from beating up a pregnant girlfriend right in front of him, and only relented after a public outcry.
- Small Business: Jeff Ellis Management, an Orlando, Florida-based company and apparent Safeway wannabe that fired 21-year-old lifeguard Tomas Lopez because he rescued a drowning swimmer who was going down for the last time outside the beach area the company had contracted to supply lifeguards for.
- Unethical Advertising Campaign
A tie! Reebok and Belvedere Vodka. Reebok endorsed lying, sexist and cheating with the slogan, “Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workouts,” while Belvedere Vodka created print ads of a gleeful man apparently sexually assaulting a young woman with the text, “Unlike some people, Belvedere Vodka always goes down smoothly.”
The Niggardly Award
(Bestowed on the employer that displays outrageous political correctness by punishing an employee for an imaginary racial or ethnic insult)
ESPN, which caved to activist pressure and idiotically suspended broadcaster Max Bretos for the offense of using the phrase ” a chink in the armor” while discussing the skills of temporary NBA sensation Jeremy Lin, a Chinese American.
Most Unethical Church
Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, whose pastor, Darrell Gilyard, is a registered sex offender with a record of molesting underage teenage girls. The Church has dealt with this problem by warning his likely prey to stay out of his way. When he’s preaching, no kids allowed.
Most Unethical Judicial Decision
The Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that dentist James Knight was within his legal rights to fire otherwise efficient and effective dental assistant Melissa Nelson because he couldn’t resist her innate womanly charms, thus placing his marriage in peril.
Most Unethical Parent
Lisa Long, who exploited her emotionally disturbed 13-year-old son to score a viral blog post and nab 15 minutes of fame in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. In doing so, she labelled him a potential serial killer and made his private struggles not only public, but available for the rest of his life to potential employers, neighbors, friends and lovers.
The Kitty Genovese Award
(Bestowed on the most outrageous example of a potential rescuer who refused to help someone in peril)
The Facebook friends of Taiwan woman Claire Lin, who conversed with the woman as she live-streamed her own suicide on line, but never contacted anyone to stop her before she asphyxiated herself with burning charcoal fumes.
Most Unethical Sports Figure
Ethics Dunce of the Year
Unethical Quote of the Year
- Politics and Government Division: Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock , who told rape victims that God wanted them raped by saying in a televised debate: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
- News Media Division: Ann Curry, now canned “Today” show co-host, who reprimanded author Mimi Alford for revealing her sexual exploitation and abuse at the hands of President John F. Kennedy in a memoir, saying, “What about Caroline [Kennedy], who is still alive?…Did you think about, as you talk about unburdening yourself, the idea that you’ve burdened other people now with this?”
If you think all this was bad, just wait until you see the The Worst of Ethics 2012 (Part 2).