Tag Archives: cognitive dissonance scale

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/12/17

Good morning, all!

1. I can’t keep writing the same post repeatedly as the politically correct, the historical censors, the Soviet-style Left and the gallactically stupid continue to tear down statues and eliminate honors to significant Americans who are predecessors deemed worthy.  Just hunt for the “airbrushing history” tag here and you’ll find too many already. We should note, however, how the cognitive dissonance scale is coming into play to the benefit of the unethical airbrushers.

In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, this weekend will witness thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating to protest a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee  from a city park, because, Lee’s sub-21, infinitely wise undergrads insist, erasing Lee from history will undo the legacy of racism, or something. Of course, for the Racist Right to be the ones protesting makes this position look reasonable. White supremacists organizing the protests unjustly associates Lee with their cause, making his statue mean something it never did, and attaching him to  cause that was not his. The protests against tearing down Lee’s statue–UVA’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, will be next on the non-person list, or close to it—should be coming from historians, scholars, liberals, believers in fairness, nuance, and integrity, and those who are literate enough to understand that the life of Robert E. Lee has much to teach every child and American about loyalty, hubris, hard choices, tragic choices, hypocrisy, courage and more. Why aren’t they protesting? Two reasons, now: they don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder with the scum of the earth, and they are too timid to stand up for crucial ethical principles, unlike the censors of Charlottesville, who don’t understand them, and the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who don’t have them.

2. And speaking of historical airbrushing and censorship: Last year, I designated the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C as an Ethics Dunce for omitting the second African American SCOTUS justice, Clarence Thomas from mention while devoting an exhibit to his unsubstantiated accuser, Anita Hill.  Now the museum has announced plans to honor Jim Vance.

Come on, you all know who Jim Vance is, don’t you? (D.C. area residents: shut up!) Jim Vance, who transformed America for blacks? Give up? Vance was a long-time popular local D.C. television news broadcaster, with a nice screen presence and a casual delivery.  He just died, and he was black. The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said the broadcaster “symbolized that it was really important that America was changing and his presence was a symbol of that change.” Right, sort of….although Vance was hardly the first or the most prominent black newscaster in D.C. Clarence Thomas, however, was the first conservative black justice…which is, of course, why is being shown such disrespect by the “Nation’s Attic.”

I haven’t visited the huge, striking new museum on the mall yet, and I won’t until its shows signs of being am objective chronicler of history rather than a tool of interest group propaganda. Continue reading

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Reflections On My Final Visit To “The Greatest Show On Earth”

The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus will bring down its metaphorical Big Top for the final time in May. Its business model simply does not work any more, as an executive of the arena entertainment company that owns it said recently—especially since the circus capitulated to animal rights activists and fired its performing elephants. (Ticket sales dropped by almost a third.) This was an iconic cultural institution vanishing, so I had to say farewell, and did so last weekend, when the circus came to Washington, D.C. for the final time.

Observations:

1. It is still an entertaining show, even though  the Ringling brothers would never have recognized it as a circus. Several of the acts were worth the ticket price (in our cases, about 75 bucks) all by themselves.

2. The Verizon Center was about a third filled for the final show of the legendary Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Center itself was sparsely staffed; it took 20 minutes in line to buy popcorn. Americans, as a group, don’t care about history, culture and significant changes in it landscape any more. The circus and its components gave us imagery, lore, metaphors—“walking a tight rope,” “three ring circus,” (this one is now a two-and-a half ring circus at best), “ringmaster,” “dog and pony show,” “the big tent,” “side-shows,” “clown act,” —and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” The nation is a little poorer and less colorful without it.

3. The public also increasingly sees little value in the mass audience experience. Live entertainment, especially family friendly varieties, were traditionally seen as an important and natural way to strengthen community ties, by bonding disparate members of society through a shared experience involving witnessing something transforming and memorable.

4. Assisting in the death of this experience is the trend of making sure all arena and stadium events  are filled with loud, never-ending, pounding electronic music that would make Phil Specter grab ear plugs. Once,  the circus’s dramatic  music consisted of drum rolls, bands and soft calliopes. If you watch the Cecil B. DeMille movie “The Greatest Show On Earth,” you will see spectators talking to each other during the acts, or shouting out to performers. Either is virtually impossible now. Conversation consists of screaming a few words repeatedly until your companion nods. This continues the cultural trend of making meaningful interaction with fellow human beings passe. How can this possibly be a healthy development for society?

I did see a lot of people texting….maybe to those sitting next to them.

5. Almost no venders were walking among the seated. A single snow cone from one of these cost $12.00.

6. This is how unintended cultural pollution takes place. The conglomerate that owns the circus also owns various ice shows, like Disney on Ice. To cut costs, it decided to employ performers from the ice shows in the circus too, meaning that instead of a sawdust path around the rings, the track around the performing areas are ice. Everyone is on skates half the time. It isn’t a bad effect: it’s faster than the old-style parades. But now the circus is an ice show. Continue reading

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“We’re Environmentally Conscious, So Buy Our Cereal!”

And if you are really just cynical, reckless virtue-signalling grandstanders? How good does that make your cereal?

General Mills, the company that makes Honey Nut Cheerios, launched a creative campaign to raise awareness about declining bee and other pollinator populations in the U.S. and Canada, or, perhaps, to sell more cereal. Which do you guess it is? I’m stumped!

The company gave away 1.5 billion allegedly bee-friendly wildflower seeds attached to its Honey Nut Cheerios boxes. urging consumers to plant the seeds in their backyards and community spaces. More wildflowers, after all, will mean more food and shelter for our stressed honeybee population. There is a real problem to address here: honeybees and the honey industry are threatened. From April 2015 to April 2016, beekeepers lost 44 percent of their honeybee colonies.  The U.S. Agriculture Department says that it was the second year in a row that beekeepers lost as many bees during the summer as they did during the winter. Of the 47 species of bees native to the U.S. and Canada, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature says more than a quarter face a risk of extinction from pesticide poisoning, climate change, disease and habitat loss.

But General Mills doesn’t really care about honey bees. If it did, it would have put some thought into its promotion. No, all it was doing, like most companies when they advertise, is counting on the cognitive dissonance scale to do its magic:

It works every time. See, environmental sensitivity is at the top of the scale. So are flowers: who doesn’t like flowers? Below the zero mark for a lot of people are empty calorie breakfast cereals and big consumer corporations. Dr. Leon Festinger, who developed the scale more than half a century ago, showed through his research that when something we place high on the scale is associated or linked to something low on the scale, the low item naturally rises in our esteem. (The higher-placed things will drop, too; the process reduces dissonance, the inate human difficulty of holding two inconsistent values.) This is why candidates for office recruit celebrities and sports figures to endorse them, as if Tom Brady or Rihanna have any more expertise about government and politics than the average 7-11 clerk. This is also why the news media and Democrats keep “linking” President Trump to Russia without any evidence whatsoever—to drive him down on the scale. Continue reading

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Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Quote Of The Day: Professor David DeSteno

pro-brady

“It’s not about the true facts, or about how honest you believe a group is, or what the group’s past behavior is. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, or what team it is, or even if it’s sports at all. Just being a part of a group, any group, is enough to excuse moral transgressions because in some way, you’re benefiting from it. Your moral compass shifts.”

—-David DeSteno, Northeastern University Professor of psychology, explaining why Boston fans believe the New England Patriots, their coach, Bill Belichik, and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, are as pure as the driven snow, while the rest of the country sees them as detestable

The professor’s point will be familiar to any Ethics Alarms readers who have perused the various pots here regarding cognitive dissonance, or even those familiar with the mantra, “Bias makes you stupid.”  However, he has done some interesting research on the phenomenon described in the Times Sports article this morning.

In a psychological experiment, researchers separated people into two groups and offered some of them an option: Complete a fun, 10-minute task, or take on a difficult, 45-minute one. Placed in a room alone, they were told to choose which task they would have to do, or let a coin flip decide. Either way, the person entering the room next would be left with the other task.

Afterward, those people were asked to rate how fairly they had acted, and 90 percent said they had been fair. Except that they were lying. In fact, they had picked the easy task for themselves, without even flipping the coin, wrongly believing that no one was watching…

DeSteno and his former student Piercarlo Valdesolo conducted studies that showed that even strangers placed into groups quickly start favoring the people in their group, as they would favor themselves, even if that group was created randomly, and only minutes earlier. Morality, as it turns out, can change by the second, and for no good reason.

Professor DeSteno told the Times that this isn’t a conscious decision, but an innate survival reaction…. Continue reading

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The Most Unethical 2017 Super Bowl Ad Is Yet To Be Revealed, But The Prize For The Most Shameless Is A Lock

Of course, all Super Bowl TV ads by definition are horribly unethical, exploiting for commerce a professional blood sport that renders healthy young men brain-damaged for a drooling public’s coarse amusement. To Hell with all the ads I say. Still, some are worse than others.

History suggests that the obnoxious Audi commercial above won’t be the worst, but it nicks a wider range of ethical breaches than the typical Super Bowl ad. For that it deserves, at very least, a hardy Ethics Alarm Bronx cheer, or “raspberry”…

to wit…

Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Duchess of York’s Website And The Duke of Plazatoro

The category is Celebrity Ethics, Royal Ethics or Marketing Ethics, depending on your point of view. Unfortunately for ethical clarity, how you answer today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz may depend on which category you choose.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is embarrassing the Royal Family again, only this time it isn’t by throwing snowballs at photographers or by not being as demure and lovely as the late Princess Diana. This time, the self-exiled and divorced Fergie is trading on her title to make a living as an internet huckster. She has a website that peddles a juicer for weight loss and “The Perfecter Ultra”:

The Perfecter Ultra Heated Styling Brush combines innovative ionic technology with pure black tourmaline heating plates for ultimate convenience in achieving salon quality hairstyles at home. Create silky straight styles or beautiful bouncing curls, reduce frizzies or add volume to thinning hair, the Perfecter Ultra is the remarkable styling tool that does it all.

The Duchess has also been appearing on QVC, the cable shopping network where shopping addicts, lonely recluses and easy marks hang out. Among the Royals, with whom she is already on the outs, this is considered…unseemly. Concludes Tom Sykes at the Daily Beast:

“Her website majors in its attempts to cast her shill as public service, saying, “One of my missions in life now is to help people fight their weight challenges so they can live longer, healthier and happier lives. Take it from me: you can do it!”  But the truth is, Fergie is selling her title, and getting paid a no-doubt healthy fee for her promotional activities.”

There’s little doubt that “selling her title” is a fair description.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

As Duchess of York, does Sarah Ferguson have an ethical obligation to behave like the symbol of the British Commonwealth that she and the rest of the Royal Family is, or can she ethically use her title as she chooses, including to sell junk on the internet?

Continue reading

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Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale

Cognitive DissonanceThis whole episode is pure cognitive dissonance hell for me, with high scale values clashing with low scale conduct, and the result being as hard to analyze neatly and dispassionately as the aftermath of an elevator crash. But I’m a fool, so I’ll take a shot at it anyway.

1. Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner’s openness about his transsexual issues is brave and may yet help this misunderstood and routinely derided group achieve acceptance. PLUS.

2. She should have played ethics chess, however, and as a public figure who, she now says, always planned this transition, was irresponsible not to. Associating herself with the traveling freak, venality, bad taste and atrocious values caravan known as the Kardashians guaranteed that anything she did thereafter would be a legitimate object of suspicion. MINUS.

3. Turning her transition from Bruce to Caitlyn into a reality show was similarly counter-productive and harmful to her cause, assuming the cause really matters to her. I doubt that it does.  Reality shows equal schlock, emotionalism, manipulation, phoniness—and money. That won’t help the trans population. MINUS.

4. As the first bona fide celebrity to undergo gender reassignment (no, I don’t call Chastity Bono a real celebrity), Jenner could have handled this in a modest, measured manner that made trans people look reasonable, dignified, and rational. Unfortunately, Bruce Jenner was always a fame-addicted narcissist,  so her handling of the process is what you’d expect from one. Too bad. MINUS.

5. Thus we have the over-praised, over exposed, over-hyped, Vanity Fair cover, which is pure sensationalism, an exploitation of a serious issue for magazine sales, and a fraud. (Literally anyone can be dressed, shaved, and made up to look feminine.) Is Jenner interested in legitimizing and de-stigmatizing gender reassignment, or getting hubba-hubbas for a titillating man-to-bimbo transformation? Is Playboy next for Caitlyn? Don’t bet against it. MINUS for Vanity Fair; MINUS for Jenner

6. Is this really the way an ethical father kindly, sensitively and responsibly handles this kind of tectonic life change when he has six children and four step-children, including teenaged daughters? Admittedly, the daughters are crypto-Kardashians, so normal rules of delicacy might not apply. Still… MINUS for Jenner.

7. Republicans, conservatives and Neanderthals who are incapable of comprehending this serious topic should shut up about it.  There is grounds to criticize many aspects of this episode in American culture, but just making snarky comments like Neil Cavuto did on Fox is unproductive, unkind, divisive, and, frankly—I’ve been on Neil’s show, and I hate to say it—makes one look like an ass. If you don’t understand what’s going on, Neil, there’s no law that says you have to cover it. MINUS for Cavuto.

8. I had to shut off TV to get way from the breathless coverage of Jenner’s “coming out” photo. This isn’t respectful or responsible coverage, this is “Look! Bruce Jenner is HOT!!! She has BOOBS!” coverage, juvenile, degrading, and transparently salacious. It shouts “freak,” and that is exactly what Jenner should not want, nor should any LGBT advocate. Of course, the conduct of Vanity Fair and Jenner asked for it. MINUS for the news media.

9. To the extent that Jenner’s act promotes more public discussion and understanding of the issues facing trans individuals, this all may have a beneficial effect that may outweigh the negatives. Right now, there is too much static to tell. PLUS.

I hope.

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