Category Archives: Marketing and Advertising

Unethical Website Of The Month: HealthNews NJ.com

One of the most patently dishonest campaign tactics is for a candidate to put up a fake website purporting to report “news” that is really there to attack his or her political opponent. Who would do such a thing? Well, one good bet would be a U.S. Senator who already narrowly escaped conviction on bribery charges because his providing political favors to a “friend” who showered him with gifts could be proven to result from a quid pro quo arrangement.

Sure enough, the new website HealthNewsNJ.com, with the exception of a tiny-print disclosure at the bottom of its home page does all it can to convince readers that it is an independent news site.  In reality, it is a campaign-run hit site put up by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to attack his opponent, Bob Hugin, the former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Celgene. A typical post on the website, which runs below a byline crediting it to “HealthNewsNJ Staff,” is titled: “How greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin gouged cancer patients and enabled Donald Trump.” On Facebook, the site’s page calls itself  a “news and media website.”  Neither it nor the HealthNewsNJ  Twitter account mentions a tie to Menendez or his campaign.

Putting up a fake website like this is signature significance. Menendez is willing to deceive the public. He’s a liar, by definition. He cannot be trusted.

Luckily for him, he’s running in New Jersey, so it probably won’t matter.

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Filed under Unethical Websites, Government & Politics, The Internet, Character, Marketing and Advertising, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

Gay Stereotype Ethics

I admit it: I no longer understand gay stereotypes, or even if they are gay stereotypes anymore. What are the rules, and the ethics, now?

Take Jamie, the newish character in the Progressive insurance commercials, as longtime spokes-character Flo (Stephanie Courtney) approaches late middle age  and viewer fatigue. Everything about Jamie is stereotypically gay, and on top of that, he’s a silly character. (The actor is excellent and funny. Boy, will I be impressed to learn that he is straight. …let’s see…HOLY COW! His name is Jim Cashman, and apparently he IS straight! Wait…then he is deliberately playing a transparently gay man? And making him both funny and goofy? Silly gay characters were standards fair in Hollywood for decades, but the message was that gay men were ridiculous and laughable.

I don’t see how Jamie is any different from the outrageous gay stereotypes that were ridiculing gay men right up until  recently. Like Martin Short, in “Father of the Bride”: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Gender and Sex, History, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Thanks To The Widespread Absence Of Competence, Honesty, Integrity And Trustworthiness, I Have No Idea What This Story Really Means, If Anything

The Hill tells me that Democratic pollster Mark Penn claims that a vast majority of Americans don’t really support sanctuary cities. The one-time chief strategist for Hillary Clinton‘s 2008 presidential campaign says that a poll he took revealed that 84 percent of Americans favor turning undocumented immigrants over to federal agents.

“I asked them, ‘Do you think notifying ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] would in fact increase crime because it would inhibit people from reporting crimes or does it decrease crimes because it takes criminals off the street,’ and they overwhelming said ‘decrease,’ ” Penn told Hill.TV’s “Rising.” “When someone’s arrested, they expect someone will notify federal immigration authorities just as they would expect someone who violates state tax law will find out that they notified the IRS,” the pollster said. This is supposedly summed up by The Hill’s headline, “Ex-Clinton aide: 84 percent of Americans support turning undocumented immigrants over to authorities.”
Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Research and Scholarship

Saturday Afternoon Ethics, 6/23/18: Pondering Pandering And Zugswang By The Sea

Good afternoon.

It’s a good thing that I don’t pay myself anything for this, because I’d have to fire myself. Thanks to a full fledged computer crash at 6 am., all of my plans this morning to get a post up, get my notebook organized for tomorrow’s ethics training, and complete the outline for my Smithsonian Associates program on the influence of Gilbert and Sullivan on 21st Century America week from today before I had to fly to Tampa were as dust in the wind. This is especially bad for Ethics Alarms, as the blog gets virtually no traffic after noon on Saturday, no matter what I write about.

So here I am at the Wyndham Grand on Clearwater Beach—the sun is shining, the ocean is gleaming, and the pool, music, bar and beautiful women are right below my balcony—and what’s the first thing I do? This.

1 Ethics Zugswang and the illegal immigrant kids. The news media is now telling us that the President’s executive order creates an inherent conflict if he is serious about “no-tolerance” immigration violation enforcement. Yes, we knew that, or at least the people who didn’t blind themselves, Oedipus-like, rending their garments over “Think of the Children!” mania knew it. See, it goes like this:

A. Entering the country illegally is a crime.

B. People who commit crimes are supposed to be arrested, or more such people will commit those crimes.

C. Illegal immigration is a federal crime.

D. Children who accompany their parents while committing federal crimes cannot, by law, be  imprisoned with their parents.

E. They also cannot be held at all for more than a proscribed time, which is too short a period to process their law-breaking parents.

F. If the children have to be returned to their parents,, then the parents cannot be punished for breaking immigration laws.

G. If the children are separated from their parents, the government officials doing so are evildoers who must be shamed, excoriated and condemned.

F. Thus government officials are supposed to ignore the law, by the principle that Children Invalidate Laws, which they didn’t teach me in my college government classes or in law school but apparently that’s a rule.

G. But government officials are sworn to uphold and enforce the law.

Ethics Zugswang.

This Gordian Knot requires some distortion and deceit to stay tied, however…

One: “No-tolerance” is being used by the media to make “enforcing the law when people break it” sound like the equivalent of a school suspending a student for making his fingers look like a gun. Law enforcement is not supposed to “tolerate” crime and law-breaking. Illegal immigration is a serious breach of law, and what the news media is calling “no-tolerance” is really just enforcement.

Two: The Obama Administration opted for “catch and release,” which can be fairly described as “pretending to enforce the law, but not really doing it.” It was a dishonest, cynical, incompetent and unethical policy.

Three: There is no justification for treating the children of illegal immigrants differently from the children of citizens who are arrested and who have no one to care for their kids.

Four: The principle being advocated by the hysterical critics of the “separation of families” at the border (the accurate description is “the arrest of illegal border-crossers) is, now correct me if I’m wrong, “If a child or children accompanies a parent when the parent is apprehended while trying to violate a law carrying a substantial penalty, that parent will be treated with more leniency than if a child did not accompany him or her.” My puzzlement arises from this conundrum: Why do only law-breaking non-citizens get this benefit? Why don’t we “catch and release” good old American single parent bank robbers and burglars who bring their toddlers along as a “Get out of Jail ” card?

Five: What’s the difference? Here’s the difference: the progressive ghetto of our culture has adopted the convenient fiction that illegal immigration isn’t a crime at all, and illegal immigrants are heroes, or martyrs, or potential Elizabeth Warren voters, or something, but certainly they aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s an act of love (said Jeb Bush, proving that he had  squishy soft nougat center). Then why do we have a law against it, Jeb, et al.? Oh, because you can’t have open borders, that would be ridiculous and irresponsible. History shows us that. A nation most protect its borders!

Ethics Zugswang.

It is not ethics zugswang, though. It may be political zugswang because of the greed, dishonesty, emotionalism, and rationalizations driving this issue (in addition to its usefulness as another excuse to undermine this particular President), but the ethics are clear:

—The government’s primary duty is to enforce the laws.

—The integrity of national borders must be ensured using laws.

—The illegal border-crossers are breaking the law.

—They should be punished exactly the same regardless of whether they have brought children along or not.

—The responsibility for placing the children in this position belongs to the parents, and only the parents.

—Making the fate of the children the primary focus of any portion of the illegal immigration debate is intellectually dishonest, manipulative, and unethical, or, at best, innocently ignorant and emotional. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising

From Ethics Alarms “The Truth Hurts” Files: Target’s Fathers Day Card

Target came under fire for putting out the Father’s Day card above, and apologized, especially for having only a black couple version.

Interesting: what exactly is wrong about the card? It depicts the state of black fatherhood as it is: about 72% of black births are to unmarried couples, while about 32% is the white figure. Is the perceived problem that the card shames African Americans, or that it appears to give couples having children without bothering with marriage a societal pass by celebrating their lack of responsibility? Not being married to a child’s mother vastly increases the likelihood of absentee fathers, and being raised by single mothers is statistically linked to many social pathologies that disproportionately plague black communities.

Maybe Target isn’t the one who should be apologizing. One incensed critic wrote on Twitter, “This is an insult to black fathers and a slap in the face to the African-American community as a whole.” No, that would be true if the card’s implication wasn’t true. It is true. Now what? Getting angry at Target is a deflection.

Of course, the likelihood is that Target wasn’t thinking deeply about this at all. It just thought the “baby daddy” card opened up a new Fathers Day market.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, Race, U.S. Society

No, This Isn’t A Frivolous Lawsuit, Just A Really Dumb One That Makes People Hate Lawyers Even More Than They Already Do

In fact, it makes me hate lawyers, and just about everyone I know is a lawyer, including me. I am drowning in self-loathing.

Now pay attention. A class-action lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale federal court this month is based on the claims of Cynthia Kissne, and Leonard Werner that they shouldn’t have to pay for the cheese on their McDonald Quarter Pounders if the cheese is removed at their request. The lawsuit, filed by Andrew Lavin of the Miami-based Lavin Law Group, asks for 5 million dollars in damages for this injustice. The logic of the suit is that McDonald’s used to distinguish between the Quarter Pounder and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and charged a bit more for the latter. Now, however, the only version sold in the stores is the cheese version, but it is just called a Quarter Pounder. If you don’t want cheese, you say, “no cheese,” but you still pay the same price. The Horror. This is not an unusual practice in the industry, for obvious reasons. Burger King advertised that you could customize your Whopper, but removing stuff didn’t mean you paid less. Oddly, nobody sued. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, War and the Military, Workplace