The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 3)

ellen-selfie

2014 Conflicts of Interest of the Year

  • Conflicted Elected Official: Philadelphia State Senator LeAnna Washington. This is always an entertaining category. Washington was convicted of using her tax-payer financed staff to organize a yearly campaign fundraiser around her birthday party. When one staffer complained that this was illegal, she reportedly replied, according to his grand jury testimony:

“I am the fucking senator, I do what the fuck I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”

  • Conflicted Journalist: CNN sent Jay Carney, fresh off his assignment as President Obama’s official spokesman, defender and spinmeister, to cover his ex-boss’s speech.
  • Conflicted  “Non-partisan” Watchdog: CREW. The Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its chief, Melanie Sloan, finally came clean (after falsely claiming non-profit status as a non-partisan organization for years) by making David Brock, head of the openly partisan, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Republican media watchdog Media Matters its Chairman of the Board, essentially merging the two groups.
  • Appearance of Impropriety Award: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), Republican Whip. It is not certain yet whether Scalise knowingly spoke to a group of white supremacists in 20o2, inadvertently spoke to the group, or just spoke to another group meeting in the same venue before the David Duke-affiliated group of racists started comparing sheets. It isn’t even clear that Scalise knows, but everyone should agree that it looks awful no matter how you categorize it, making the fiasco a classic appearance of impropriety situation. If the Republicans were smart, they would dump him.

Unethical Attire of the Year

Offensive shirt

This.

Unethical Political Candidate of the Year

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, whose campaign materials were largely plagiarized from the materials other candidates.

Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year

New York’s 11th Congressional District, which contains Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. These alert and ethical citizens sent back to Washington thuggish and crooked Rep. Michael Grimm (R), then facing a 20-count indictment by federal authorities for fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury, having earlier distinguished himself by threatening to kill a reporter and being recorded doing so.

  Unethical Advertising of the Year

Lawyer Division:

Public Service Announcement Division:

TV Program Division:

The Discovery Channel’s campaign for “Eaten Alive!” which did not, in fact, feature anyone being “eaten alive,” or at all.

Private Sector Product Division:

Halos. Or perhaps this is the Child Abuse Division:

Political Campaign Division:

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, offered an ad attacking her wheelchair- bound opponent that 1) appealed to bias against the disabled 2) misrepresented the duties of a state attorney general 3) misrepresented the facts of the cases the ad referred to and  4)  deceived the public regarding the ethical duties of lawyers, which Davis, a lawyer, presumably understands. Continue reading

Sexism, Feminists, and The Scientist’s Shirt

Offensive shirt

The European Space Agency’s probe managed to land on a hurtling comet millions of miles away to collect scientific data, and  has begun sending images from the surface of the body, known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. However, Dr. Matt Taylor, one of the scientists responsible for the Rosetta probe mission found himself at the center of a feminist uprising after he appeared on television earlier this week….because of his choice of shirts.

Here’s a good view:

new-gunner-girls. shirt

Taylor, who appears to superficially fit the template of clueless scientific geniuses  presented in the hit comedy “Big Bang Theory,” appeared live wearing a garish Hawaiian-style shirt with a design made up of Heavy Metal comic book images of busty women in various states of undress, carrying guns and generally enacting the fantasies of 14-year-old boys. This somehow managed to overwhelm the astounding scientific achievement he has been part of, and angry feminists attacked:

“No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt,” tweeted Atlantic journalist Rose Eveleth. Astrophysicist Katie Mack said, “I don’t care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in science.”

So furious was the reaction of some feminists and others on social media and elsewhere that Taylor felt constrained to apologize, which he did during another televised update regarding the mission, saying, as he choked back tears, “I made a big mistake and I offended many people and I am very sorry about this.”

Then came the backlash from the men. Continue reading

Hollaback And Awareness of Street Harassment—What’s the Point?

 

If people who engage in specific unethical conduct know it is unethical and don’t care, does it serve any useful purpose to tell people who know it is unethical and would never do it or tolerate it that the unethical individuals are engaging in it?

I wonder.

From Vox:

Hollaback, an organization that wants to stamp out street harassment and intimidation (a.k.a. catcalls), produced a video in which it videotaped a young woman walking around Manhattan for 10 hours this past August. A hidden video camera was placed in the backpack of a man walking in front of her, catching every catcall, whistle, and even one persistent character who walked alongside the woman for five minutes.

The results are startling. According to Hollaback, there were over 100 instances of verbal harassment in that 10-hour walk, not including winks and whistles. In the video, the woman remains silent. She is dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.

Check the link to Hollaback, and you will see that the organization claims that “you have the power to end street harassment.” No, really you don’t. There can’t be a law against shouting out to someone ( to its credit, legislation isn’t one of the group’s recommendations), and the tradition of men harassing attractive women on the street is old and persistent. This isn’t an everybody does it excuse, this is an “assholes will be assholes, and there will always be assholes” statement of fact. I would expect that street harassment is getting worse, thanks to counter-productive muddled feminist efforts like the recent video with little girls repeatedly saying “Fuck.” Women killed chivalry by treating it as an insult—indeed, it was subordinating and condescending, but at least well-intentioned—and are surprised now that its polar opposite thrives? See, the chivalrous men, those with manners, were called pigs and made to feel guilty about being nice. The men who intentionally and openly harass women? They can’t be made to feel guilty. They do this because they like it.

Remember “the Hunger Project”? It was essentially a 1970’s scam that purported to seek an end to world hunger by saying that it could be ended without really doing anything that could possibly accomplish that goal. Gullible members gave money to the organization, and felt they were doing something to end hunger by giving, when all they were really doing was supporting a group that said world hunger could be ended. Is Hollaback any different? I know there is a long list of “actions” it recommends, but none of these  are likely to penetrate the culture that causes the problem. Basic ethics—the Golden Rule, mutual respect for others, manners, civility—already tells us that shouting at women on the street is disgusting and wrong, and civilized human beings don’t do it, ever. Nor do groups of civilized human beings engage in this conduct.

Men who harass women on the street are exactly like men who have indiscriminate and irresponsible sex, or men who drink so much they can’t hold a job, or men who cheat on their wives, or men who molest children. Nobody needs to tell them that civilized, ethical people think this is wrong. They know it’s wrong. They do it because they like it.

There is no chance, none, zero, that increasing awareness among the comparatively few people who don’t know this is a vile social behavior (I was surprised that the harassment in ten hours wasn’t worse) will do anything to end or even reduce it. So what’s the point?

This, in Vox’s last sentence…

“The video is a reminder that men asserting their dominance over women and intimidating them is simply all too common.”

That’s the message. The awareness campaign is designed to make sure everyone regards women as victims of men generally, and to group men who would never engage in this kind of boorish and threatening conduct with those who do. Then all men can be vilified and placed on the defensive. Dare you question whether a woman should have her contraception paid for, regardless of means? Why, you are just like those harassers on the street, asserting your dominance over women!

I will decline Hollaback’s invitation for the self-indicting trap it is.

Nice try, though.