Ethics Quote Of The Week: Emily Yoffe

“Even as we must treat accusers with seriousness and dignity, we must hear out the accused fairly and respectfully, and recognize the potential lifetime consequences that such an allegation can bring. If believing the woman is the beginning and the end of a search for the truth, then we have left the realm of justice for religion.”

—-Emily Yoffe in her essay titled, “The Problem With #BelieveSurvivors”

More…

…in a Senate floor speech the day before the hearing, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced that it was unnecessary for her to hear Kavanaugh’s testimony. Gillibrand declared, “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford.” Many Democrats, in keeping with #BelieveSurvivors, are taking their certainty about Ford’s account and extrapolating it to all accounts of all accusers. This tendency has campus echoes, too: The Obama administration’s well-intended activism on campus sexual assault resulted in reforms that went too far and failed to protect the rights of the accused.

The impulse to arrive at a predetermined conclusion is familiar to Samantha Harris, a vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Harris says that under Title IX, students who report that they are victims of sexual misconduct must be provided with staffers who advocate on their behalf. These staffers should “hear them out, believe them, and help them navigate the process,” she said, but added, “When the instruction to ‘believe them’ extends to the people who are actually adjudicating guilt or innocence, fundamental fairness is compromised.” Harris says that many Title IX proceedings have this serious flaw. As a result, in recent years, many accused students have filed lawsuits claiming that they were subjected to grossly unjust proceedings; these suits have met with increasingly favorable results in the courts…

…The legitimacy and credibility of our institutions are rapidly eroding. It is a difficult and brave thing for victims of sexual violence to step forward and exercise their rights to seek justice. When they do, we should make sure our system honors justice’s most basic principles.

All true, but here is my question: How did we arrive at a place where any of what Joffe writes needed to be said at all?

In College Sexual Assault Cases, False Accusers No Longer Deserve Guaranteed Anonymity

"You better be telling the truth, or this is coming right back at you..."

“You better be telling the truth, or this is coming right back at you…”

Especially now that the Obama administration has demanded that colleges strip away the basic rights of students accused of rape, the practice of not releasing a false accuser’s name to the media must end.

The compelled switch to a “predominance of the evidence” standard in such cases has led to too many false charges, too many wrongly punished male students, and too many scarred lives. High profile national leaders like Hillary Clinton are undeterred in supporting this power play by feminists, and university officials apparently don’t have sufficient regard for fairness or even basic logic: the Department of Education threatened their income stream, so if a few male students get railroaded out of school and haunted for a lifetime with the stigma of being a rapist, the college leaders consider it a necessary sacrifice to the greater good.

It is only one case, but if the facts of the University of Michigan’s persecution of student Drew Sterrett are as they appear to be, this is signature significance: one incident this irrational  proves that campus sexual assault  hysteria has turned into a genuine, bona fide witch hunt, with the metaphor appropriate for once. There must be accountability, and the Obama Administration, the schools, their administrators, irresponsible leaders like Clinton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Jared Polis, and, yes, sorry, false accusers must share it.

Sterrett was forced to leave the University of Michigan in 2012 during his sophomore year, after a female’s student’s accusation of forced sexual intercourse was upheld under circumstances that would have made a kangaroo court, with real kangaroos, an improvement. He sued the university in federal court, arguing that  his 14th Amendment rights to due process had been violated. The only possible response to his claim, once one reads the account published in Slate, is “Ya think?” It is disturbing that anyone should have to sue to get such treatment recognized as outrageous. Apparently no one at the University of Michigan who has power possesses any ethical twitches whatsoever, while nobody with a passing knowledge of right and wrong has any power.

From Emily Yoffe: Continue reading

Further Thoughts And Questions On “The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law” (Part 1)

lottery win

The last ethics quiz posed the questions of whether a financially struggling (that is, like most people) brother [NOTE: In the earlier version, I incorrectly said they were twins. Why, I don’t know, except that it makes the set up more perfect. I apologize for the error. It didn’t change the issues any, or the commentary.]  in his Sixties should suggest to his lottery-winning brother, now 50 million dollars richer, that he could use some of that excess cash…and whether the brother would be unethical to refuse.

The more I think about it, the more I am sure that Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe was answering a fictional hypothetical carefully devised to coax out the answer it did. I write these things for a living, and the brothers element is suspicious. The idea was to emphasize the perception of unfairness: here we have two genetically similar human beings raised with the same advantages and disadvantages, not just metaphorically “created equal” but equal in fact. How cruel and unfair that, in “Dear Prudence’s” words,  “your brother-in-law, through no effort of his own—save the purchase of a quick pick—was smiled on by fate and now enjoys luxuriant leisure. Especially since the two brothers suffered from a start in life that would have crushed many, it’s disturbing that the lottery winner hasn’t been moved to share a small percentage of his good fortune so that his brother doesn’t spend his last years scrambling to meet his basic needs.”

I didn’t exactly give my preferred answer to the quiz, but I did suggest that Yoff’e’s answer and the orientation of the questioner were redolent of the prevailing ethos of the political left. This was met with some complaining in the comments, but come on: “it’s disturbing that the lottery winner hasn’t been moved to share a small percentage of his good fortune so that his brother doesn’t spend his last years scrambling to meet his basic needs” would be a great Occupy Wall Street poster if it wasn’t so long, and it perfectly states the ethically dubious mantra we can expect from Bernie, Hillary or Elizabeth and probably any other Democrat who is selected to be called “a lightweight” and “a loser” by Republican nominee Trump.  In fact, I think this hypothetical would be a great debate question….and better yet if we explore some of the  variables.

For example: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law

_rich_man_poor_man“Dear Prudence” (a.k.a Emily Yoffe), my least favorite advice columnist (who answers weird questions from weird people at Slate), received an ethics quiz worthy query from a woman whose husband has had some business reverses and now, as he near retirement age, is looking at two jobs and tarnished golden years without a pension or vacations. Meanwhile, her husband’s brother (let’s assume this is true: it sounds like a hypothetical to me) won 50 million bucks in the lottery a few years ago, and is having a ball. The two brothers are on good terms and speak often. She asks,

“What I don’t understand is how he can stand to see his little brother so stressed and working so hard while he has more money than he could spend in a dozen lifetimes. Obviously he is under no obligation, but he does not seem to realize how hard it is to see how he spends his money on travel and amusements. I think he should help his brother out. What do you think?”

Prudence  thinks the poor brother should ask the rich brother for money, and that if he won’t, the wife of the poor brother should: Continue reading

Advice Malpractice: Good Advice Columnist, Bad Advice Columnist

"Go jump in a lake!"

“Go jump in a lake!”

I cannot imagine being so bereft of wisdom, friends and mentors that I would ever be moved to ask a stranger to advise me regarding an important decision based solely on a letter describing my problem. Nevertheless, a lot of poor souls apparently do, and because they do, many of them probably act on the advice they get from Beth, Abby, The Ethicist and the rest. This means that anyone with the ego and chutzpah to hold themselves out as qualified to give such advice is ethically obligated to be able to do a competent job at it, and at very least to “do no harm.” Yes, unlike the law, advice columnist is one of the professions where the traditional ethical mission of medicine is not just appropriate, but essential.

Most advice columnists in the media are not competent, and some are dangerously reckless. The worst thing an advice columnist can do is to use the trusting and needy stranger as a potential recruit to steer toward the columnist’s ideologically-driven goals. The question being asked by desperate advice seekers, after all, is not “What would you do?” but rather “What should I do?” If the columnist answers the question presuming that the advice-seeker does or should see the world as the advice columnist does, then doing harm is the likely result.

Carolyn Hax ( Washington Post) is a wonderful advice columnist, and Emily Yoffe (“Dear Prudence”) is the other kind. Two recent responses by them illustrate the distinction between competent, skilled and ethical advice, and advice column malpractice. Continue reading

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

Ethics Dunce (Advice Columnist Division): “Dear Prudence”

Hmmm...refreshing! And strangely tangy!

Hmmm…refreshing! And strangely tangy!

Here is my guess: nearly 100% of all people with two ethics alarms to rub together would be able to answer this question correctly, responsibly, and within about 1o seconds of thought. The question, in essence:

‘I worked as a nanny for a couple I didn’t like, so to make myself feel better, I secretly poisoned them. Now I work elsewhere, and I hear that they are both ill and doctors are stumped. I feel kinda bad about it. What should I do?’

The obvious answer: “For God’s sake, you idiot, tell them what you did, so the doctors can treat them! Why are you wasting time talking to me? They could die, and you would be responsible!”

But this answer isn’t the one given by Emily Yoffe, Slate’s serially incompetent and unethical advice columnist. She responded, in a live online chat that uncovered this vile supplicant, who confessed to routinely dipping her employers’ toothbrushes in the toilet and periodically spiking their bedside water with the same fecal solution, by writing this:

“Part of me would love to tell you to rush to confess. However, I will extend you a courtesy that you didn’t give your “inconsiderate” and “rude” employers. That is, while I think this couple should know the source of their illness, confessing could leave you open to potential prosecution. You may deserve it, but you need to consider the stakes here.”

That part of Emily, apparently, is the sensible, compassionate, ethical part, and it was over-ruled by the unethical, irresponsible, dumb part. The lawyer, if he or she is more ethical than Emily, a good bet, will tell the Potty Poisoner that she should confess immediately in case an E Coli infestation is what is making the couple ill, particularly because they might die, greatly increasing her risk of serious criminal penalties as well as, you know, ending their lives and leaving their children parentless.  The lawyer will also explain all the possible scenarios resulting from what Emily seems to dread, honesty and accountability. Even lawyers, who are required to place their clients’ best interests first, are not supposed to advise them to cover up their crimes and allow their victims to perish. Advice columnists are definitely not supposed to do this, and are duty bound to give wise and responsible advice that is in the best interests of all concerned, not just their correspondents, who are likely to be, in general, less than bright, ethically-clueless, and in need of nannies themselves.

“Dear Ethics Alarms: I’m an advice columnist and I told someone who said that she had been poisoning her employers with fecal matter that she didn’t need to ‘fess up, even though they became deathly ill. Now she has written me a follow-up, thanking me for my advice since the couple died, leaving several young children orphaned, and she would have been in big trouble if she had come clean. Now I feel guilty. Should I?”

Yes.

______________________
Pointer: Fark

Source: Slate