It’s an International Ethics Dunce parade!
1. Ontario, Canada
The Windsor-Essex County Humane Society in Ontario thought it would be really clever to use the Donald Trump phrase that many believe disqualify him to be President in an ad to adopt kitty-cats. It featured a photo of Trump and said, “You don’t have to be a star to grab a pussy … cat.”
Amazing. Not one person in the chain of custody of this—I would say obviously, but when so many people miss it, I guess it’s not—offensive ad had an ethics alarm sound. Nobody had the sense, prudence or guts to say,
“Uh, guys? Hello? You do realize that this is using a phrase describing sexual assault while alluding to the one who used it to describe sexual assault? You do realize that “pussy” alluding to female genitalia is vulgar and uncivil, right? No? Here, let me explain it to you…or hwo about this: there is no way this won’t spark criticism. Is that what you want?”
Sure enough, the ad promoting cat adoptions this week for $50, was taken down shortly after it appeared this week.
The society offered a pathetic apology. Melanie Coulter, executive director of the humane society, “explained” it was an attempt to make light of the U.S election campaign, though it also “made light” of sexual assault, contemptuous attitudes toward women, and obscene rhetoric.
“We are obviously sorry if people are offended by the ad — that wasn’t our attempt in the least,” Coulter said. “Our attempt was to find homes for cats that need them.” She also added that the shelter took in more than a hundred cats in the last week.
For the record, the rationalizations here are…
3. Consequentialism, or “It Worked Out for the Best”
13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”
It also suggests that I need to add “We meant well” to the list as a sub-rationalization to #13.
2. Kuroishi, Japan
A photographer took a photo of a smiling 13-year old Rima Kasai and submitted it to a contest that was part a Kuroishi festival. He was not aware that his subject had later jumped to her death from a train platform, leaving a suicide note that indicated that she had been bullied into taking her own life.
The photo won the Mayor’s Prize, but upon learning of the suicide, the contest’s executive committee revoked the prize.
This is ethically moronic. The fact that the girl committed suicide has nothing whatsoever to do with the photo, the contest, or the photographer. If the photo drove the girl to suicide, then the committee would have some legitimate ethics-based arguments to pull the honor (though I would argue that in art, the manner in which a work is created is irrelevant to the artistic worth of the work itself.) This is an example of mistaking “ick” for ethics, and punishing the innocent for cruel fate thy could not control.
After the award was withdrawn, the girl’s family released her name and the award-winning photo of her, saying they hoped it would bring attention to the issue of bullying, and that they wanted people to remember their beautiful daughter smiling.
“We would like to deeply apologize to her bereaved family,” Kuroishi Mayor Ken Takahi told a news conference this week, as the prize was un-revoked.
How about apologizing to the photographer?
3. Pyongyang, North Korea
Believe it or not, I left the worst for last.
Azalea, the cigarette-smoking chimpanzee is the hot attraction at Pyongyang’s newly opened zoo. The 19-year-old female primate was trained to smoke about a pack a day. She will also pick up and smoke cigarettes thrown to her by onlookers—what fun!—and knows how to light her own cigarettes when a zookeeper tossed her a lighter. The delighted visitors at the new attraction just laugh and laugh at this, and who can blame them?
But don’t worry about Azalea, whose name in Korean is Dallae. Zoo officials swear that she doesn’t inhale. They really do.
So it’s all right, then!