Category Archives: The Internet

Note To The Over-Forty Crowd: The Obligation To Be Culturally Literate Has No Age Limit, And The Duty To Be Aware Is Forever

ignoranceIn the Washington Post’s weekly crank section “Free For All,” a reader chastised the paper for not quoting more extensively from Bob Dylan’s works in its piece about his Nobel Prize, writing:

“It may come as a shock to the young people who now write and edit the paper, but there are many of us who are not familiar with the lyrics of “popular” music.”

Granted, in respect to Dylan, the complaint makes no sense. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written in 1963; I’d expect “young people” to be more unfamiliar with Dylan than seniors. How old IS this guy? Still, the letter raised a crucial ethics point related to life competence, an ethical obligation for all of us. Being willfully ignorant of current popular culture is as much of an ethical lapse, and as great a threat to societal cohesion, as young people not bothering to learn about “Moby-Dick,” minstrel shows, Will Rogers, Stephen Foster, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire or Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1987, University of Virginia English professor  E.D. Hirsch wrote “Cultural Literacy,” making the argument that nations require common cultural reference points for generations to communicate with each other. He argued—correctly— that teaching this cultural vocabulary was a primary duty of the schools, in part because cultural literacy is an inextricable element of individual autonomy and power. Since then, the problem of the fracturing of society and the breakdown in communications between segments of the population has worsened considerably, its deterioration propelled by the loss of common information sources and the rise of the internet. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Education, History, Literature, Popular Culture, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova”


Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:

…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, Social Media

Trending On Ethics Alarms…


….this post, from July, now the all-time most viewed and shared Ethics Alarms post ever, and this post, from May.

Gee, I wonder why?

I only wish this post, from last September, was as well distributed, but I’m going to keep linking to it until it is, or until it’s moot.

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, The Internet

From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag: Is The Current Photo Of Trump In The Site Background Unfair?

trump-1A reader asks,

“Earlier you admonished yourself for using unattractive photos of Hillary Clinton to illustrate various posts and in the blog wallpaper, and pledged to stop the practice, Now you have a serene photo of Mrs. Clinton, but a shot of Trump that looks like he’s in the middle of uttering an obscenity. Isn’t this a double standard?”

Answer: Nope. Not in my view. At this point, that photo fairly and accurately portrays Trump’s conduct in the campaign, which is ugly, assaultive, and a direct reflection on his character. Hillary Clinton’s public demeanor has always been dignified and appropriate for a Presidential candidate, so photographs that captured her in millisecond-long poses with her eyes crossed or looking demonic were both unkind and misleading. The photo you refer to is an accurate depiction of Trump’s demeanor and temperament, especially of late. That is Donald Trump.


Filed under Character, Government & Politics, The Internet

Ethics Heroes: North Carolina Democrats


Someone firebombed a Republican Party office in North Carolina over the weekend, and added some graffiti telling “Nazi Republicans” to leave town. Police are investigating; I don’t know why, since Donald Trump, responsible and fair as ever, already announced that the Clinton campaign did it.

trump-tweet-ncInspired by a tweet from University of North Carolina’s School of Information Science’s Zeynep Tufekci, David Weinberger of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Technology launched a campaign on GoFundMe to rebuild the ruined office. He wrote on the fund’s page,
Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

In The Latest Episode Of “As The News Media Disgraces Itself,” Chris Cuomo Reveals Himself As An Incompetent Fool

The public cannot trust what the star lawyer-anchor of a morning news program on a major news network says about the law with utter certainty.

The public cannot trust the major news network to correct the false information so conveyed in a timely fashion.

The public cannot trust that major news network.

Unproven hypothesis: The public cannot trust any news network.

Never mind the hypothesis, however. Let us just deal for now with the lawyer/host/news anchor, Chris Cuomo, his inattentive network, and this ridiculous statement he uttered as authoritative fact last week:

”Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”


“So everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us” would appear to state that it’s illegal for the public to even read the hacked e-mails, which anyone can do here. That can’t be right, and of course is nonsense: anyone can read anything that is available on the web. It is also a sinister theory, claiming that we have to rely on the interpretation, selective reporting, spin and biased analysis of media hacks like Chris Cuomo, because the law says we can’t download or read such material ourselves. Where did  Cuomo, a licensed lawyer, get a crack-brained idea like that? More important, why couldn’t he figure out it was ridiculous using common sense? A law degree is hardly necessary, if one thinks for a few seconds.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet

The Doctor, The Emergency And The Flight Attendant: A Depressing Ethics Tale With No Ethical Resolution In Sight

Was it race, gender, youth, all of them, or none of them?

Was it race, gender, youth, all of them, or none of them?

Tamika Cross, a young OB-GYN flying Delta from Detroit to Minneapolis,  heard flight attendants calling for medical assistance when a passenger  man two rows in front of her was found to be unconscious. Dr. Cross raised her hand, only to be told, according to Cross’s subsequent Facebook post on the incident, “Oh no, sweetie, put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.”

Cross says she tried to  explain that she was a physician, but was “cut off by condescending remarks,” from the attendant. A moment later, when there was a second call for medical assistance and Cross again indicated that she was ready to help, the same flight attendant said, according to Cross, “Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?” She then quizzed Cross  about her credentials, area of practice, and where she worked. In the meantime, a white, middle-aged male passenger appeared, and Cross, she says, was dismissed.

On her now viral Facebook post, Dr. Cross concludes:

“She came and apologized to me several times and offering me Skymiles. I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don’t want Skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this….and I will still get my Skymiles….”

What’s going on here?


1. This was an emergency situation.

2. Dr. Cross sincerely felt insulted and treated with disrespect.

3. She also feels that she was the victim of stereotyping,, bias and prejudice.

4. Her account can be presumed to be an honest recounting of how she experienced the episode.

5. The Roshomon principles apply. We do not know how the flight attendant perceived the situation as it developed, and will never know, since the incident is already tainted with accusations of racism.

6. This was an emergency situation.

7. There is no way to determine what the flight attendant was thinking.

8. Despite all of the above, observers, analysts and others will be inclined see the event as confirmation of their own already determined beliefs and assumptions.

9. This was a single incident, involving a set of factors interacting in unpredictable ways.

Next, some ethical observations…. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Professions, Race, U.S. Society, Workplace