Ethics Dunce: Petula Dvorak (And Introducing The New Ethics Alarms Term, “Dvorak”

Congratualtions, Petula! Now you're a word---I mean, in addition to "Idiot"...

Congratulations, Petula! Now you’re a word—I mean, in addition to “Idiot”

Washington Post Metro columnist Petula Dvorak just modeled hypocrisy, stupidity and willful complicity with irresponsible public policy and exploitation. Her sole justification is “everybody’s doing it.” She apparently thinks this is funny. It’s not. It’s typical human conduct, but there’s nothing funny about it. It’s tragic.

In a column yesterday titled, “I despise lotteries, but I bought four Powerball tickets anyway,” Dvorak, who has been justly scorned on Ethics Alarms for ethics idiocy before, goes to great length to describe what is wrong with state lotteries–they are corrupt, they prey on the poor, they are regressive taxes that substitute for real taxes that would require political courage, they promote gambling addictions—even going so far as to call them “evil.” Then she cheerily tells us that she couldn’t help participating in the current lottery craze, because just think of all the things she could buy if she won a gizzillion dollars!

Dvorak apparently believes that by acting irrationally and irresponsibly and thus supporting what she claims to revile, she can make a more powerful point about how seductive lotteries can be. Or she’s an idiot. Wait–the two are not mutually exclusive.

It’s not complicated, Petula, not at all. When you identify a system,  an enterprise or a movement that is harmful and corrupt, don’t support it, participate in it or strengthen it. That’s all. Every ethical system dictates that result. If you think, indeed, as your column proves, you know, that state lotteries are corrupting, cowardly scams, don’t play them. If you know that pro football makes billions by inducing healthy young men to destroy their brains, don’t watch pro football. If you know that illegal drugs ravage the poor, destroy livesm businesses and families don’t use illegal drugs.  If you know that American politics are corrupt, stop supporting corrupt politicians.

There are so many societal evils that could be eradicated or significantly weakened if those who understand what is wrong about them just had the integrity, personal responsibility, courage and determination to reject them unequivocally, and show others with less certitude and resolve that it is possible and right.

What lazy, simplistic, weak, hypocritical people like Dvorak do is claim to understand the ethical implications of a phenomenon, but indicate by their conduct that it really isn’t worth the energy and sacrifice to actively oppose it with conduct rather than words.

Columnists are supposed to impart wisdom, perspective and knowledge. Lazy, simplistic, hypocritical people like Dvorak do none of this; what they do is encourage unethical, society-harming values and behavior by encouraging the belief that it’s acceptable to keep on doing the wrong things as long as you know they are wrong.

Henceforth, Ethics Alarms will refer to conduct consisting of supporting a system, process, organization or individual that one knows and admits is unethical, corrupt, harmful, illegal, and bad for society  “a dvorak.


26 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Petula Dvorak (And Introducing The New Ethics Alarms Term, “Dvorak”

  1. Makes sense, but where is the line between a Dvorak, which sounds like plain old hypocrisy, and holding your nose and taking the most palatable of choices, none of which is particularly good? I am not Donald Trump’s biggest fan, he is a loudmouth and a jerk, but I’d vote for him over Hillary in a heartbeat, that woman must NEVER have unlimited power.

  2. “If you know that American politics are corrupt, stop supporting corrupt politicians.”

    That sounds a lot like “Don’t Vote” to me. I’ve noticed the phenomenon before, and one of the most common excuses to take part is that there aren’t any better options, and so even though they realize they’re propping up a corrupt system, they see it as the lesser of two evils. It’s easy to label supporters of movements like BDM or BLM as Dvoraks, but what about socialists or feminists? I disagree with them, and there are even parts of those ideologies that proponents think are toxic, but I believe that the majority of them really do think that their ideologies are the best way to address the issues they care about. And then on the same track: I have a very hard reconciling my conservatism with the religious right. Is it wrong for me to continue to support a party that is a haven to a circus tent full of crazy, even though I feel that on balance it still has more to offer than the alternatives?

  3. The classic Dvorak is people who bitch and moan about how Walmart kills communities and mistreats its employees and then shop at Walmart regularly and with great relish.

    Having people in public life, entertainment and the media be admirable and set an aspirational example went out with Norman Lear and Hunter S. Thompson, Roseann Barr, Charles Barkely and their ilk. It’s one of my major hobby horses. Incredibly corrupting.

    An unfortunate use for a great composer’s name.

    • Here’s the link to a Dvorak piano quintet performed by Arthur Rubenstein and the Quarneri String Quartet to sooth everyone’s nerves, kind of like the theme song from “Flipper.”

    • Uh, you mean went out when those folks ARRIVED, right? Admirable people in entertainment, sports, and the media might include Danny Thomas, Jimmy Stewart, Ted Williams, etc.

    • I was thinking about that name since I saw it in the post title, wondering how it would be pronounced, should I discuss this with the people who took enthusiastically to being acquainted with Fick-ness. In my head Dvořák has those diacritical marks and I think it pronounced with the respect accorded a composer who, I discovered, first presented us with the theme from Jaws (it’s at the very beginning of the last movement of the often-heard — some say too-often — New World Symphony) … or so I believe. But if there is no knowledge of this pronunciation, and given that the columnist is a dork (was there ever a Mr. or Ms. Dork?), I shall pass it along as Duffrack.

  4. And I was thinking this would be related to the history of the Dvorak keyboard (of which I’m a user, because I’m weird). So many studies, counterstudies, evidence manipulation, losts manuscripts, etc. For a taste of it look at this article in Reason:

    And since I’m already being off-topic I gotta say that I managed to reduce my football consumption this year to the college championship and about five games; all at someone else’s place. Quitting on my fav sport has been hard, but you’ve convinced me that’s the right thing to do (and having 3 little boys helps, as I don’t want them to think football is a path to a career or a scholarship).

    • Look for the movie “Concussion,” if not in your neighborhood multiplex then it should shortly be available on Netflix. It will help alleviate your remaining withdrawal symptoms.

  5. There are some things that must be absolutes. Unlike Scotsmen there IS such a thing as true integrity. Probably no one has it in every aspect of life. So why is it so important? Maybe we should all simply assume no one has it. It would save time.

  6. Great article! This hideous woman also moderates away comments on her Washington Post stories that don’t suit her worldview. In her latest piece on the murder of a 13 year old cancer survivor who snuck out of her house to meet a boy, ANY comments disagreeing with her main points, and/or suggesting the parents are negligent are getting deleted. I’ve seen comments with 5 to 10 upvotes vanish over the past 24 hours. That doesn’t happen on other articles unless the remarks are highly, highly inflammatory: it seems pretty obvious they would only give that kind of moderating power to the diva who wrote the article herself. Also, a whole bunch from very late last night didn’t vanish until this morning, strongly suggesting she zapped a bunch when she woke up. The firm they outsource their moderation to can remove _real_ offensive content 24/7.
    Her article is poorly reasoned hysteria…I will never click on another one written by her.

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