There I was, half-asleep, drinking my second cup of double caffeine coffee, considering how I had already missed the window for Saturday blog posts (if at least two posts aren’t up by 12:30 pm., the day’s traffic will be pathetic), and watching the Smithsonian’s educational and attractive “Aerial America” series, where a staid narrator waxes on abut various locales as a we see them from a lying camera above. (Did YOU know that “penitentiary” is a word devised by William Penn, who designed Pennsylvania prisons to cause criminals to be penitent (by making them spend their sentences in solitary confinement? I didn’t, and now I feel really stupid.)
Suddenly, as the airplane flew low over Central Park in Manhattan, I heard the narrator proclaim, “Some say that more gunpowder was used to make the ponds and landscapes in Central Park than was used during the Battle of Gettysburg.”
ARRGH! THAT again!
And there it was.
This rationalization for spreading falsehoods and misinformation is a staple of today’s untrustworthy and propaganda-spreading journalism, and needs to be wiped off the face of the Earth, or at least from sea to shining sea. Rationalizations are lies we tell ourselves to justify or excuse unethical conduct, and this is a prime example…yet somehow, it is a prime example that your friendly neighborhood ethicist managed to miss for eleven years, perhaps for the same reason he never connected the dots and realized that penitentiary was derived from penitent.
Who cares what “some people “ say? What should what “some people” say have any persuasive value at all? Why is it worth mentioning? “Some people” say and even believe ridiculous things. That’s not authority, it’s not evidence, it’s not even interesting. Yet the fact that “some people” have registered completely unsubstantiated assertions, poorly constructed opinions and utter nonsense as truth is constantly held up as an excuse to further pollute the public consciousness with dubious information.
Of course, much of the time, especially when The Idiot’s Proof is offered by journalists, pundits and politicians, “some say” really means “I say, but I don’t have the guts to say it directly.”
I HATE this rationalization. Some say it may be the worst of them all.
I’ll add a more professional and sober version of the description of #70 to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations Lists when I calm down.
Update: I did.