About A New Rationalization And The Netflix Series That Just Reminded Me Of It

I’d like to write about the new Netflix mystery series “Clickbait” in detail, but that would be unfair, because everyone deserves to see it without knowing all of its twists and turns. Maybe after enough readers watche it, I’ll set up a Zoom discussion or something.

There is no doubt about it, “Clickbait” is an ethics drama, or perhaps a dramatization of an ethics train wreck would be a better description. If I had to pick a favorite Ethics Alarms concept that is illustrated by the show, it would be “Ethics Chess,” defined as the vital skill of anticipating the likely consequences, including the worst case scenarios, of ethically challenging or questionable decisions. Multiple characters take extreme or impulsive action without their ethics alarms pinging, often with disastrous results. Reflex lying and deceit is also a persistent theme, along with too many rationalizations on the list to count (or at least I stopped counting them).

Late in the show, in Episode 8, a character voiced a familiar line that I suddenly realized was a rationalization that I had missed, as she urged a family member to stop being obsessed with obtaining “justice” for the death of another family member whose demise was at the center of the plot. “It won’t bring him back,” she said.

Bingo! That’s new Rationalization #52A, “The Resurrection Delusion,”which will soon take its place as a sub-rationalization to #52, The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.” (This will require bumping the current 52A, Ted Kennedy’s Stall, or “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” to 52B). Like many of the rationalizations on the list, this one has some ethical uses, as when it is employed to explain the unethical nature of revenge. However, the rationalization often dishonestly (or foolishly) reduces complex ethics calculations to ridiculously simple-minded form when it is used as an excuse to avoid requiring accountability for serious wrongdoing. Like its parent, 52, 52A uses “Move on!” as if doing so is always the right and ethical course.

Other notes on “Clickbait”:

  • Everyone in the story, across generations, is a technology gadget whiz, and obsessed with smart phones, the web, social media and computers generally.  As the title suggests, this obsession is at the core of the unfolding tragedy. Surely the average American isn’t like this…yet. At least I hope not.
  • The performances are uniformly excellent. It is still jarring to see the casting creating a deliberate alternate universe of racial and ethnic demographics, all as a consequence of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. The family at the center of the story is multi-racial, of course. The oldest of the mostly-black kids has an Asian-American girlfriend. The unethical reporter who causes a lot of trouble is gay and Asian-American, with a white boyfriend. The chief detective is Muslim. Somehow, in the midst of the obtrusive wokism and astoundingly diverse array (SPOILER ALERT!), the characters who do the most damage are white.

10 thoughts on “About A New Rationalization And The Netflix Series That Just Reminded Me Of It

  1. Well, I had been on the fence about watching this. An Ethics Alarms endorsement! Moving it up on the watch list and I’m in for a Zoom meeting.

    BTW. I recently re-watched Absence of Malice for the first time in decades because you mentioned it. Frustratingly contemporary in its issues. We need a movie list.

  2. I thought Kennedy’s stall was supposed to be “We’ll drive off that bridge when we come to it”.

    Ever watched the Amazon series “Goliath”? Just started watching; has Billy Bob Thornton in it.

  3. “Surely the average American isn’t like this…yet. At least I hope not.”

    This from the “Personal” section of Greg Epstein’s (Harvard’s head chaplain) wiki page: “In early 2021 Epstein shared his struggles with compulsive smartphone use and addiction to networked technologies.”

    This is from a Boston Globe article he authored which is behind a paywall. The headline reads, “My name is Greg, and I’m addicted to tech” Lucrative twelve step programs to follow. Sigh.

  4. “The performances are uniformly excellent. It is still jarring to see the casting creating a deliberate alternate universe of racial and ethnic demographics”

    I mean, the demographics for Oakland, California, where this is set is:

    White: 35.48%
    Black or African American: 23.75%
    Other race: 16.94%
    Asian: 15.50%
    Two or more races: 6.87%


    At the end of the day, fiction is fiction, so it doesn’t *need* to reflect reality, but with 1 in 16 people in Oakland being mixed race, this actually probably does reflect the reality of racial and ethnic reality. It’s weird… I don’t know if we see things like this because it’s especially jarring against the backdrop of historical Hollywood casting, or if we’ve become more sensitive to the shoehorning of diversity in media in a woke revising of roles and history (I’m thinking of examples like AC: Valhalla, which featured an almost 50/50 cast of male and female Vikings and knights, despite how there weren’t *any* female Vikings or knights during the 870-880AD Viking invasion of the British isles.).

  5. I began watching “Clickbait” last night after the grandsons went to bed. I hoped it would get in your sights as an ethics topic. I haven’t made it to episode 8 yet, but I’m looking forward to watching the balance of the series this week. I have seen many demographics represented so far, but few people with active ethics alarms.

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