1. A Whistle-blowing dilemma.The Ethicist in the New York Times Magazine is no fun anymore, now that a competent, real ethicist is answering queries rather than the previous motley assortment of Hollywood screenwriters and others of dubious qualifications. Even when I disagree with
- “Given how little cheating is caught, reporting them would have meant that they paid a penalty that lots of others ought to — but won’t — pay.” Ugh! A Barry Bonds excuse! So because all guilty parties aren’t apprehended, everyone should get away with wrongdoing?
- “Because many people in your generation don’t take cheating very seriously, your friends would most likely have ended up focusing on the unfairness of being singled out, not on their wrongdoing.” That’s their problem. The attitude the Ethicist identifies is 39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?” He’s correct that this will be the likely attitude of the busted cheaters, but since when did how wrongdoers rationalize their wrongdoing become mitigation?
- “The intervention you were considering was likely, therefore, to be very costly to you.” Yes, doing the right thing often is.
- “The burden of dealing with cheating in your school shouldn’t fall on you.” Boy, I really hate this one. It’s #18. Hamm’s Excuse: “It wasn’t my fault.”
This popular rationalization confuses blame with responsibility. Carried to it worst extreme, Hamm’s Excuse would eliminate all charity and much heroism, since it stands for the proposition that human beings are only responsible for alleviating problems that they were personally responsible for. In fact, the opposite is the case: human beings are responsible for each other, and the ethical obligation to help someone, even at personal cost, arises with the opportunity to do so, not with blame for causing the original problem. When those who have caused injustice or calamity either cannot, will not or do not step up to address the wrongs their actions have caused (as is too often the case), the responsibility passes to whichever of us has the opportunity and the means to make things right, or at least better.
This rationalization is named after American gymnast Paul Hamm, who adamantly refused to voluntarily surrender the Olympic gold metal he admittedly had been awarded because of an official scoring error. His justification for this consisted of repeating that it was the erring officials, not him, who were responsible for the fact that the real winner of the competition was relegated to a bronze medal when he really deserved the gold. The ethical rule to counter Hamm’s Excuse is a simple one: if there is a wrong and you are in a position to fix it, fix it.
Appiah doesn’t feel the full force of my fury because the case involves middle-school, and the questioner is a child. This is what makes it a toss-up. If this were college or grad school, I think reporting cheaters is mandatory. Appiah also says that he doesn’t care for honor codes because they are usually not followed.
Maybe I was wrong about him…
2. Hmmm…Sounds familiar...The funny ethicist who gets to answer oddball questions, Judge John Hodgeman, got this one:
“Over a decade ago, my sister tried to prove to me that Sean Connery starred in “You Only Live Twice,” but I refuse to believe her. That man doesn’t look like Sean Connery, and the voice is all wrong. Every now and then it comes up, and I still say she’s wrong.”
This sounds like half the political arguments I find myself in.
3. That was collusion, right? Aiding and abetting? What? In last week’s indictment handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, we learned that…
… Defendants and their co-conspirators, through another ORGANIZATION-controlled group, organized a rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President” held on or about November 12, 2016.
Both CNN and MSNBC hyped the Russian-organized anti-Trump rally with live and overwhelmingly positive reports every hour. Reporters called the unprecedented anti-President-elect event “a love rally,” with its chants of “We reject…the President-elect.” Well, it kinda rhymes.
Neither CNN nor MSNBC were aware of the fact that this was part of a Russian effort to promote division and discord, but they had to know it would do that. Thus those networks played the roles of “useful idiots,” in old Marxist parlance. Covering the rally, as the two networks, as they have continued to do since, pushed fear-mongering and hysteria as a reasonable response to Trump’s election.
MSNBC anchor Alex Witt told viewers, “That woman, when she’s saying she’s concerned that black people will be shot in the street….Is that a legitimate concern for her? Because, that’s scary.” Naturally, useful idiot on-scene reporter, Morgan Radford, replied, “Alex, it’s not only a legitimate concern for her, it’s a legitimate concern for a lot of people I’ve spoken to….They’re wondering if this [Trump’s election] is almost a license to carry in terms of hate!”
I wonder why the American public doesn’t trust journalists any more?
This is what happens when journalists are so biased, partisan and unprofessional that they abandon all objectivity and skepticism. How ironic it will be if it turns out that CNN and MSNBC, both obsessed with “Russian collusion,” colluded with the Russianswhile the Trump campaign did not.
(Do alert me if you see any of the network news shows pointing out CNN and MSNBC’s complicity in the Russian destabilization plot.)
4. But no one can blame the Russians for THIS...The New York Times’ relentless obsession with Trump-bashing notwithstanding, the paper has provided a neat compendium of the ethically-slovenly activities of several high Trump appointees here, including…
[T]he secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, last week struggled to explain why the government spent $4,000 to fly his wife to Europe so she could accompany him for what was supposed to be a trip to attend a conference on veterans’ issues. Turns out, the happy couple spent nearly half the trip checking out sites like Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen and Buckingham Palace in London. Oh, and they also improperly accepted free tickets to watch a tennis match at Wimbledon, according to the V.A.’s inspector general.
As I have written here more than once, such unethical dealings are inevitable given the total ethics vacuum at the top of the administration. It is also the kind of casual looting that CEOs engage in commonly and shamelessly.
Shulkin should be fired, of course.