The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Three)


Unethical Artist Of The Year

Photographer Jill Greenberg, whose art requires parents to make their children cry. Runner-up: Peeping Tom photographer/artist Arne Svenson

Kaitlyn Hunt

False Allegation Of Anti-Gay Bigotry Of The Year

Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents, who spun a false tale of anti-gay prejudice to portray their sexual predator daughter as a victim after she was accused of statutory rape by the parents of her under-age target. Hunt’s parents even managed to suck the ACLU into their web and the liberal-leaning press portrayed her as a martyr to anti-gay bias. But Hunt’s lies ultimately caused her cover-story to unravel.

 Unethical Hoax Of The Year

Oberlin students Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden, aided and abetted by  Oberlin College and its president, Marvin Krislov. The two students, self-proclaimed progressives, posted a series of racist and anti-Semitic posters, graffiti and anonymous emails as “an experiment.” Krislov and Oberlin, after cancelling classes and engaging in campus-wide navel-gazing, continued to allow the media and the public believe that this was the work of racists on campus well after it had learned who the real miscreants wereRunner-up: The horrible Meg Lanker-Simons, former University of Wyoming student (now admitted to law school—I don’t want to talk about it) who threatened herself with rape and used the bogus threat to show that her campus was violent and sexist.

Most Unethical Use of Social Media


(TIE) The Steubenville Horror. This ugliest of episodes would normally be a runaway winner; unfortunately, 2013 also witnessed…. the tragic and fatal humiliation of Audrie Pott.

Dishonorable Mention:  1. Curtis Cearley. The director of technology services for the Fayette County (GA) school district lifted a vacation photo of a female student from her Facebook page, clearly intended only for friends, without her permission, and used the comely photo of her (in a bikini) for a Powerpoint presentation at a public forum on the risks of sharing potentially embarrassing personal information on social media. He also used her name at the forum, which was attended by parents, faculty and  students who attended school with her. The forum was titled “Once It’s There, It’s There to Stay.” 2. Fun mom Judy Vigor, who hired two strippers for her 16-year-old son’s birthday party, took photos of the women doing what strippers do, including performing lap-dances for the guests, some of whom were as young as 14, and posted the photos on Facebook.

Social Media Bullies of the Year: Thousands of Twitter users, who decided to make a world-wide pariah of Justine Sacco for a Twitter joke misfire of ambiguous intent. As a result of being proclaimed a racist across the twitterverse, she lost her job and her good name, her career and reputation wrecked by strangers who know her only by 140 poorly-chosen keystrokes.

Shameless Bad Character Division

Biggest Jerk (defined as an individual who habitually places his personal need and ego gratification above the welfare of everyone and everything else): Former tennis star Jimmy Connors, who used his autobiography to get even with old flame Chris Evert, revealing that she had an abortion, a nasty betrayal of trust and confidence that he would profit from in book sales .

Asshole (defined as an individual who intentionally and maliciously causes pain and harm to others because he or she can, or for his own amusement)Elan Gale

Unethical Non Profit

Organizing For Action.

Hypocrites of the Year

Republicans and Democrats, a disgusting number of whom blithely flipped positions on privacy and government surveillance when the NSA’s over-reaching efforts were revealed by Edward Snowden.

Liar of the Year


President Obama. I hate to do it, but I really don’t see how the President avoids this dubious honor. Three of his whoppers were correctly listed by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker as among the columnist’s ten biggest lies of the year, and several others could have made the list as well. Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon never had such a dishonest year, and neither of them ever promised to be transparent and honest, like Obama did. Nobody would have believed them.

Unethical Apology of the Year

Ariel Castro. Part insincere apology, part excuse for the inexcusable, part rationalization for the unspeakable, the man who kidnapped, imprisoned, repeatedly and abused three young women for years until they were rescued from his Cleveland house of horrors provided one of the most chilling statements of this or any other year before he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.  In a triumph for  human waste removal, that life proved mercifully brief.

Most Unethical Profession

National Politics. Breaking a four-year lock shared by journalists and educators, the political leaders of the U.S. of both parties disgraced themselves and dishonored the nation, democracy, and the legacy of the Founders in too may ways and on too many occasions to list.

Unethical Talk Show Host of the Year

CNN’s Piers Morgan. Morgan appointed himself the prime TV lobbyist for the Democratic gun control push in the post Sandy Hook orgy of guilt, blame and demonization. Instead of bringing much-needed clarity to the issues—as is his job—Morgan repeatedly fed his audience misinformation, sought out and subsequently berated dim-bulb gun advocates who would be the least effective and weakest foils possible, and set his own cause back by driving thoughtful and fair Americans, like me, into the camps of the opposition rather than  appear to be associated with a pompous and abusive hysteric like him.

Unethical Cable TV Channel


The History Channel.  Once an oasis of useful and dignified programming in the morass of reality shows, infomercials, gore and soap operas that constitutes cable TV, the History Channel is now dominated by pop-science features about conspiracy theories and end-of-days scenarios, reality shows that have nothing to do with history, and assorted junk. Its name is as big a fraud as Arts and Entertainment or The Learning Channel would be if they went by anything other than their initials. Following those rivals’ lead, the once respectable channel should be just THC, as in “This Horrid Crap.”

Unethical Column or Blog Post

“Possible ‘Cure’ for Down Syndrome Seems So Wrong.” Nice, sensitive Mary Fischer’s rationalization-besotted post epitomized what trendy, half-baked thinking can do: create an argument against doing something that is obviously right, and send yet another terrible idea into the internet to infect the confused and weak-minded. It’s impossible to pick a winner of category like this, but this is a worthy representative.

The  Pazuzu Award

(Named for the demon that possessed Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” and made her say the nastiest things, the Pazuzu Award is bestowed on the prominent individual who denies responsibility for his or her actual words, claiming that they did not express what he or she really believes )


Reese Witherspoon. The adorable actress who is kept on a pristine pedestal by the celebrity press got a little sauced, saw her husband being arrested, and suddenly was wielding that tell-sign of a spoiled and entitled jerk, the “Do You Know Who I Am?” threat. Later, she blamed it all on Pazuzu, or whatever it was that made her inexplicably not “reflect who I am.” The fact is that celebrities who aren’t jerks never resort to DYKWIA, drunk or not. No, Reese, it was the real you.

Unethical Trend of the Year

Webshaming of restaurant  customers by waiters and waitresses.

Worst Variation of the Unethical Trend of the Year

FALSE webshaming of customers by waiters and waitresses.


And that was the unethical year that was.

Here are Parts I and II, as well as the paltry Best of Ethics 2013.

May 2014 be better.

(But it’s not starting out that way.)

37 thoughts on “The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Three)

    • Hard to argue, but he was a human being at one point. Empathy can go along with accountability. I heard one police officer say he’s felt sorry for everyone he’s ever arrested, including the ones he’s taken down by force, including the one he will shoot to kill if the guy ever gets out and breaks into the officer’s house.

      Not that I have any empathy left over for Castro after the amount of empathy his victims deserve.

      • I do differ strongly with Jack on being releived he died so soon, though. I would have savored the idea, whenever it occurred to me, of him suspended in the living death of lifetime incarceration for years and years and years.

  1. Hello, Jack,

    You have never said a good word about Audrey Potts’s assailants, but I’m curious about your opinion on the degree of their guilt, specifically whether they can be blamed for her death.

    Did they have bad moral luck in that she decided to take her own life? Or was this an example of the “eggshell skull” doctrine, such that they own all the consequences of their crimes?

    • Great question, Fred, and I may even have to post on it separately.
      Civilly, the “egg shell” principle requires an underlying tort. Criminally, a criminal’s act includes the direct results of it, so a robbery where someone get killed accidentally becomes felony murder. Ethically, the randomly determined consequences of an unethical act shouldn’t change the ethical nature of the act…if they are really random. If the egg-shell quality of a victim is part of the motive, as in “let’s hound this deliacte flower until she kills herself,” that’s part of the act. Otherwise, the suicide is moral luck.

      Here, the offense was so egregious and humiliating that the suicide, while extreme, was a reasonable possibility. That kind of treatment has often caused emotional trauma and breakdowns. It would have been moral luck if Pott hadn’t had serious adverse emotional effects. The suicide was the worst possible result, but not something that shouldn’t have been considered, and thus a legitimate aspect in judging the ethical as well as legal and civil nature of the act.

  2. I’m sure this is is hardly the most offensive on the list but…I’m pretty upset about the history channel thing. I was not aware that they had a show about ancient aliens; this is why I don’t have cable…

    • Yeah, I’ve been ranting periodically about the History channel in off-topic segues. I’m glad Jack mentioned it.

      Apparently the History Channel’s justification is that if the show mentions “time” or “history” either as a subject matter, actual words, or as a term in the title, then it gets to be on the channel.

      Occasionally, they’ve accidentally shown history topics, like the Dark Ages, and Greatest Tank Battles, and even a topic on the Civil War. But I’m sure they fired the scheduler who accidently ran those.

  3. Reading the Castro apology made me realise once again just how flawed I am as a human being.

    There’s so much about the human Central Nervous System we don’t know, you see. Things we could only find out via experiments that weren’t just unethical, but steeped in the deepest evil imaginable. Experiments that would take years to conduct.

    I think the main difference between myself and himself is impulse control, because my reaction to even reading his apology was to think along the lines of just how useful an experimental subject this thing would be. I have the capacity to think of horrors far worse than anything he’s ever done, and even to justify that in the name of the “greater good” and “just retribution”. I just choose not to do them.

    If ever I become the kind of person who would do something like that, I request that someone shoot me as quickly as possible. You’d be doing me a favour. And the world.

  4. I agree that Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents should be on this list but she Kaitlyn Hunt is not a sexual predator. Yes the relationship was wrong and yes her parents were idiots for saying it was gay bias but she does not meet the definition of a sexual predator.

      • That makes her an obsessed teenaged girl. Not a sexual predator. These are the characteristics of a sexual predator. There are some common characteristics of sexual predators. If you’re worried your teen may be a sexual predator, look for these warning signs:

        •Refusal to take responsibility for actions and blames others or circumstances for failures

        •A sense of entitlement

        •Low self-esteem

        •Need for power and control

        •Lack of empathy

        •Inability to form intimate relationships with adults

        •History of abuse

        •Troubled childhood

        •Deviant sexual behavior and attitudes

        From the book, Protecting Your Children from Sexual Predators, by Dr. Leigh M. Baker.

          • I think Kaitlyn meets the requirements.
            I think so, too.
            Let’s see…contacting the victim after court-ordered not to, sending the victim 10,000 texts on an Ipod surreptitiously placed in the victim’s school locker, some of which consisted of masterbation videos and nude photos, taking the (underage) victim by car to a remote location to engage in sexual activities while under a court order, insisting it was not predation but rather high school puppy love, breaking the law regarding sex with an underage minor…there is more.
            My question is, would you allow any 18 year old to put their hands on your 14 year old?
            Kaitlyn Hunt IS absolutely a sexual predator.
            The sooner everyone accepts that the better.

            • Sorry , that list may fit two of the requirements , a sense of entitlement and Need for power and control , but none of the others. As to her having sex with an underage minor that in of itself does not make her a sexual predator.

            • And to make sure I’m clear. I do think she has a problem and that she should be punished for what she did . I just don’t think she is a sexual predator. That is a very specific classification that accounts for a small minority of sex offenders but is used by the public and the media to classify them all.

        • Actually, she hits way more than just two.

          Her utter disregard of the court order demanding no contact hits “sense of entitlement”, her ignoring warnings from family and friends about the illegality of the relationship ticks “deviant behavior”, the entire relationship with someone 15 (especially taking her out far from home in a car, enforcing isolations and heightening the younger girl’s dependency) fulfills “need for power and control”, and the whole “people are only coming after me because they hate gays” takes care of the refusal to take responsibility.

          And that isn’t a checklist, by the way… Not all predators fit every single item on the list.

          • You make good points but I think your wrong when you say “her ignoring warnings from family and friends about the illegality of the relationship ticks “deviant behavior”, ” I think that ties more into sense of entitlement then deviant sexual behavior.

          • Ok, I’ve been reading more about her and I want to qualify my statement that she isn’t a sexual predator. From her behavior after she was released on bond, the constant contact, the sexual contact and the intimidation and the threats she made to the girl I think she is easily a sexual predator in the making, if she isn’t one already. Plus her mother is enabling this behavior by not stopping it and then trying to help her intimidate the girl.

  5. Hello, Jack, a question about your award for unethical non-profit.

    How did the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council fall short, in order for them to lose first place to OFA?

    • While Jack can correct if he likes, I suspect it is because while NOM and FRC are advocating something you dont agree with, they are not outright dishonest, while OFA is.

      NOM and FRC also dont claim to be independent from something and then take donations in exchange for setting up special meetings with the thing they totally dont coordinate with.

    • I’ll tell you: I don’t even think OFA should be in existence. The whole skewed loyalties of a President maintaining a non-profit advocacy group—that runs his twitter feed, for example—is a crossing of the leadership/politics/non-profit wires…a lousy precedent, all the way around. Combine that with some of the juvenile and tasteless efforts of OFA—like the “let’s ruin the holidays by hectoring our families about the crummy AFA—and it’s an easy call.

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