Columbus Day Ethics Voyage, 10/12/2020: Portland And Washington, Which, Had Chris Known His Discovery Would Lead To Such Dens Of Madness, Might Have Caused Him To Turn Back

When you see me a day off like this, please understand that it is a direct result of the new, mandated, stupid WordPress system making it literally impossible to complete a post on my laptop. (Having a newly rescued, affection starved  large dog desperately needing to climb onto your lap doesn’t help either.) Once the office is closed for the night, getting back up there to complete a post is nigh impossible, not to mention domestically perilous, if you get my drift.

1. In Ethics, we call now this kind of problem “Portland”… Portland software company New Relic is roiled with a controversy over CEO Lew Cirne’s donations to a private Christian school that excludes gay students and opposes gay rights and to a controversial evangelist Cirne’s wife is a contributor to President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Can’t have that!

The aggrieved employees say Cirne’s personal values are not consistent with the “message of inclusion”n the company claims to represent. They see his wife’s donations to the President of the United States as also antithetical to the company’s stated values.

One New Relic employee told the media, “That is deeply concerning to me, especially to someone who is queer. I don’t feel like those diversity and inclusion initiatives are real or will be protective of me,” and says the company lured her into a false sense of security with its diversity pledges, pulling a bait and switch.

I advise Cirne to make this statement as soon as possible. No charge for my advice, and I recommend it, as an ethicist, to any company executive who encounters similar criticism:

“Our company does not mandate particular political opinions or social views among its employees. In the United States, we are blessed with freedom of expression, association, speech and religion. It is literally none of our business. As long as employees confine their conduct to company policies and values while doing their job, they have met all of their obligations to the company.

Similarly, executives of this company have those same rights, and will exercise them as they see fit. It is none of anyone’s business in this company how the company’s leadership or their family members choose to direct their charitable donations or devote their private time. Employees who cannot meet these fair and essential requirements are invited to seek employment elsewhere.

In addition, any employee, at any level of the corporation, who presumed to criticize another employee’s family members for their personal political or charitable activities is subject to firing for cause.”

[Pointer: Matthew B]

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Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethics:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critical New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Sackler, Tufts, Cancel Culture And The 100th Rationalization: The Reverse Ruddigore

I have been waiting to find the ideal 100th Rationalization, officially #70 (there are 30 sub-rationalizations on the EA Rationalizations list. It’s “The Reverse Ruddigore,” the equally valid opposite of Rationalization #21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”:

 You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

“Ruddigore,” for those of you sadly unaware of the joys of Gilbert and Sullivan, is the unjustly under-rated work by the Victorian geniuses that involved an ancient curse on a family that required a Baronet of Ruddigore to perform a crime a day or die in agony, courtesy of his re-animated ancestors, who otherwise hang around, literally, as portraits in a haunted gallery. One member of the family who has inherited the curse, Sir Despard, believes that he has found a loophole:

“I get my crime over the first thing in the morning, and then, ha! ha! for the rest of the day I do good – I do good – I do good! Two days since, I stole a child and built an orphan asylum. Yesterday I robbed a bank and endowed a bishopric. To-day I carry off Rose Maybud and atone with a cathedral! This is what it is to be the sport and toy of a Picture Gallery!”

Looking back on past posts, I laid the groundwork for #70 when I condemned the decision of Walt Disney World to remove Bill Cosby’s bust from the its Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame of Fame:

[L]ast I heard Bill Cosby was still recognized as a major trailblazer in stand-up, TV comedy, and television integration (remember “I Spy”?), an important positive cultural force for race relations and black community self esteem, and a spectacularly talented comedian with a unique voice and presence. None of that has changed. Those were the achievements that prompted Cosby’s bust’s inclusion in Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza, along with celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey who, like the Cos, have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. O.J. Simpson is still honored in the College Football Hall of Fame, because he was one of the greatest college stars ever. His post-career hobby as a murderer, like Bill’s extra-curricular activities as a serial rapist, have nothing to do with the honor, just as Cosby earned and still deserves, his honor for what he achieved on stage and screen.

Subsequent bad acts no more cancel out past good ones than Sir Despard’s cathedral would make up for kidnapping sweet Rose Maybud. The current “Cancel Culture,” however, holds otherwise. In the latest episode, Tufts University announced today that it will strip the Sackler name from the buildings and programs on its medical campus, after a report censured the school for its relationship with the family whose drug company made OxyContin, the opioid blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths nationwide. Continue reading