Ethics Hero: Joe Concha at Mediaite

Berman and Romans: mystery solved. Well, not really a mystery, maybe "Marshall incompetence addressed" is more accurate,..

Berman and Romans: mystery solved. Well, not really ” mystery solved;” maybe “Marshall incompetence addressed” is more accurate,..

Lots of kind readers pitch in here to help Ethics Alarms do its lonely job better and more efficiently. Some of you e-mail me with typos, which are getting fewer thanks to a new a new proofreading regimen, others send me links to stories that raise ethics issues, and others still offer off-site critiques and comments that are helpful and thought-provoking. I do not expect that kind of generous assistance from major media blogs that get more traffic in the time it takes me to post an article than Ethics Alarms gets in a week. Thus it was a nice surprise to wake up this morning to Joe Concha’s post at Mediaite, properly chiding me for getting the CNN anchors wrong on the recent Simon Cowell egging story, and best of all, giving me the right names, which I had failed to find, as in “didn’t do my due diligence and look hard enough.”  [For the record, it was not Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan who I heard cheering on the woman who threw eggs at Simon Cowell during “Britain’s Got Talent,” but John Berman and Christine Romans, who now inherit the Ethics Dunces honor that should have been theirs from the beginning.]

The fact that Concha enlightened me while taking full advantage of the egg angle (“Blogger’s Got Talent? In Egg-Filled Irony, Ethics Alarms Gets CNN Hosts Wrong” is the headline) and chiding me for my fact-checking inadequacies is beside the point—-I deserved it. What matters is that I’m grateful that 1) he’s reading about ethics, which should be discusses on Mediate every day, given the state of the news media, 2) that he found the right anchors and 3) told me, so I could finally get that post right….which I will do as soon as I post this.

Again, my apologies to Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan for unjustly labeling them Ethics Dunces. I wish them good luck on their new show, and may I never have the occasion to mark them as Ethics Dunces again, in contrast to Soledad O’Brien, whom they replace.


Facts: Mediaite

Ethic Dunces: CNN Morning Anchors John Berman and Christine Romans

Attacked and attacker. Guess which one the CNN sympathizes with?

Attacked and attacker. Guess which one the CNN sympathizes with?

[Update and Correction: When I wrote this post, the designated Dunces were identified as Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan, the new kids on the CNN block. I thought I verified that on CNN’s site, but a helpful reader told  me that Cuomo and Bolduan haven’t debuted yet. Which CNN anchors it was who egged on the egger were in doubt, so on June 11, I changed the post, discussing the issue but only referring to “CNN anchors.”  I also apologized to Chris and Kate, and put out a call for the right names. And promptly forgot about it: with everything else going on, this was neither a major ethics issue nor a two-day story. Then, today, June 13, Joe Concha of Mediate posted a full-fledged smackdown of me, Ethics Alarms and my research skills, and helpfully provided the correct identification in the process

I’m grateful to Joe, who also preserves my original correction, which this replaces. Once again, I apologize to CNN, Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan, and also to my readers for mucking up this one so thoroughly. ]

“It’s about time,” snickered  CNN early morning male anchor John Berman, as his partner Christine Romans smiled and nodded. They were approving of a man being assaulted live on TV while doing his job, a job he performs better and more profitably than anyone else in the world.

The man is Simon Cowell, late of “American Idol,” and an angry musician from the studio orchestra seized the opportunity to run onstage during the finale of  “Britain’s Got Talent” and hurl five eggs at Cowell from the stage. The woman, Natalie Holt, had been a contestant in the past, and the assault was part revenge for her own group’s harsh treatment on the show last year, part vainglorious stunt to punish Cowell, she claimed, for his “influence,” and part stupidity. After the show, Holt apologized to the two finalists whose performance she marred, but not to her victim, saying: “I want to apologize to Richard and Adam for overshadowing their performance. I’ve never done anything like this before and in hindsight I have realized it was a silly thing to do.”

But to listen to the CNN pair, what Holt did wasn’t silly, but hilarious, and justified. Continue reading

Now THAT’S Unethical…But Funny! And Weirdly Satisfying…

Attack of the Fridge

Danny the Fridge stalks his prey…

[UPDATE: This story was, it now turns up, just another hoax. Fred Phelps doesn’t even have a son. I hate web hoaxes, whether I’m sucked in by them or not. But I’m cutting this one a little dispensation, because I needed a good laugh, and this sure provided it. ]

I am awash in shame. Since early this morning I have been bursting into uncontrollable laughter at another human being’s pain, as he was subjected to an experience of unimaginable existential and surreal horror. It is schadenfreude beyond question, not unethical in itself—feelings are not unethical—but taking joy in the misfortune of others is not a sound foundation for ethical conduct.

I’m not going to rationalize this: I should feel sympathy for the victim. Nonetheless, and even though he was attacked without provocation, and for exercising his First Amendment rights, there are some unusual mitigating circumstances:

  • The victim was David Phelps, son of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church infamy.
  • He was ranting on during a radio interview in a mobile studio, and had just said, “God hates fags.”
  • Suddenly, a 500 pound naked man known as “Billy the Fridge” burst out of a bathroom roaring, “Leviathan! Leviathan!” (see, now I’m laughing again: I’m a horrible person…) and..
  • …proceeded to sit on Phelps, saying, “Who’s your Daddy now, Davey?”
  • An eye-witness later claimed that he saw Phelps being pursued down the street outside the mobile studio by a naked fat man.

That last part was the one that got me. There, see, I’m laughing again.

We have been puzzling about what to do about the Westboro Baptist Church and its disgusting ritual of shouting anti-gay epithets at the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, and I admit that having a 500 pound naked fat man sit on him never occurred to me. I can’t condone it; it is assault and battery, and both a crime and a tort. Nor is it ever ethical, if you are a 500 pound fat man, to chase someone down a street. Indeed, it is arguably not even ethical to be a 500 pound naked fat man, at least in public. It is certainly wrong for any of us to sanction such behavior by cheering it on, or doing anything to encourage other naked obese people to ambush, sit on and pursue members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Just wrong.

And now I’m laughing again.

I’m so ashamed.


Pointer: Fark

Facts andGraphic: The Daily Mail

Bad Crime, Unethical Punishment, Ominous Sign

Here’s a pop quiz for you.

The topic: crime and punishment

“Off with his head!” Uh, Queen? Isn’t that just a tiny bit severe?

An attractive woman falls asleep on an airplane, and the stranger sitting next to her, a card-carrying, pig-man creepazoid, takes that opportunity to “feel her up.” He is caught in the act, and arrested when the plane lands. What should be the maximum penalty imposed for such a violation of the poor woman’s privacy, dignity, and person?

If you said “life in prison,” go to the head of the class. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over  sexual abuse cases that occur on American airplane flights, and sets the penalties. A New Jersey man is currently awaiting trial after allegedly engaging in such in-flight molestation. How can such an extreme sentence be justified or even contemplated? What is this, “Midnight Express”? Rumania under the wise rule of Vlad the Impaler? Continue reading

The Worst Humanitarian Award Winner of the Year

Michael Brown---wife-beater, humanitarian.

Michael Brown founded Houston’s Brown Hand Center, which specializes in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. He is now on trial for assault, after being arrested last year for attacking his his wife, twisting her arm behind her back and, among other things, hurling his 2010 Joanne King Herring Humanitarian Award at her.

I have often thought that those who give out humanitarian awards for specific instances of good conduct have an ethical obligation to make sure that recipients conform to the definition of “humanitarian” in their overall conduct. One of the definitions of humanitarian is “ethical.” Official pronouncements that an individual is ethical can be very effective false advertising for the character of someone who is anything but. Mr. Brown illustrates my concerns.

By 2010, when Brown received his award, he had already pleaded no-contest in 2002 to aggravated assault for beating then-pregnant wife, Darlina Brown, with a bed post. Call me a stickler, but I think there should be an automatic “Beating a pregnant woman with bedpost” disqualification provision for humanitarian awards. Then, in 2006, Dr. Brown’s medical license was revoked after he tested positive for cocaine use. So to summarize, at the time he was deemed worthy of the honor of being the 2010 humanitarian of the year, Brown was already an admitted wife-beater and an ex-doctor found unfit for the continued practice of medicine.

What a guy!

How about a rule that if you try to kill someone with your humanitarian award, it is automatically revoked?

Too strict?


A Tale of Two Heathers

All right, cooking your child doesn't mean you're a bad person.

Heather #1: Ethics Hero Heather Elliott, who saw two small boys locked in a car parked outside a Kroger store in Indianapolis. The temperature was in the 90s and climbing, and the boys looked red-faced and hot. One was screaming and crying, and banging at the closed window. Elliott decided to take action, and began to try to find a way to open the car doors.

Heather #2: Ethics Dunce Heather Query, 21-year-old mother of the two cooking boys, who arrived on the scene just as Heather #1 was trying to rescue her children. “How long were you in that store?’ Heather #1 asked #2.  “It’s 100 degrees outside.” ‘What do you care?” said Ethics Dunce Heather. “Mind your own business” When Ethics Hero Heather responded, “I’m just concerned about your kids. I’m just thinking about the safety of your kids,” Heather #2 attacked her, punching her in the face.

There’s gratitude for you. Continue reading

Now THAT’s Bad Sportsmanship!

After a 16-year-old Florida boy lost a black belt taekwondo match, he bowed to his opponent, shook his hand ...and then kicked him in the face. The blow knocked his surprised adversary’s front teeth out.

The sore loser was booked on a felony assault charge. The sore winner ended up in the hospital.

National taekwondo organizers are reportedly considering serious sanctions, including banning the suspect from the sport for life.

I think that’s a reasonable response.

Now THIS is Incivility…

The Victim

University of St. Thomas math professor Douglas Dokken is a devoted University of Minnesota fan, but the school mascot’s hijinks became just a little too annoying for him during  a men’s gymnastics meet Saturday night. When Goldy Gopher tapped him on the shoulder one time too many, Dokken wheeled around in his seat and punched him right in the kisser.

The  professor, though sincerely remorseful over his stuffed-animal abuse and bad manners, has been banned from the University of Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion and Williams Arena for a year. Goldy’s face needs some stitches, and he was left speechless. But then Goldie never says anything anyway. After all, he’s a gopher.

Physical violence is not the answer, even to a dumb question like, “How do you stop a guy in a 7-foot gopher suit from bugging you?”

What Gawker Calls Unethical: Poor Ex-Rep. Etheridge Was “Tricked” Into Assault

The ethics-free web zone known as Gawker is indignant that it now appears that the young men roughed up by now-defeated North Carolina Democrat Rep. Bob Etheridge were G.O.P operatives stalking him in the hopes of catching him in a gaffe. Etheridge lost, in part because the video of him grabbing one of the young men in a bear hug was turned into an effective campaign ad by his adversary. He deserved to lose, as much as any candidate running in any race in the country.

Gawker apparently believes that under some circumstances it is no big deal for members of the U.S. Congress to commit assault and battery on the citizens they are supposed to serve, a view that Etheridge shares, but that Ethics Alarms does not.

Neither does Ken, over at Pope Hat, who makes a definitive argument that Etheridge has no excuse whatsoever. I can’t improve on it. You can read it here.

What Do You Do With Climate Change Skeptics? Blow Them Up!

Ok, all you people out there who thought a waitress squeezing dishwater into the drinks of customers who didn’t root for her football team in the Direct TV ad was harmless…do you want to take responsibility for a trend?

As you can see over on YouTube, a climate change advocacy group called 10:10 is pressing its case with a video showing a teacher explaining to her pre-teen students the 10:10 formula, in which everyone cuts their carbon emission by 10%, “thus keeping the planet safe for everyone, eventually.” Most of the class volunteers various ways they and their parents can meet the 10% goal, but a couple of students refuse—vicious, dumb, Right wing global warming “deniers,” apparently. So the teacher pushes a button and blows them to bits, with flesh and blood splattering everywhere.  Similar scenarios involving the detonation of adult victims follow. You see, the only way to get “everyone” to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions by 10% is to eliminate those who refuse to do it. Continue reading