Tag Archives: ethical duties

The 87th And 88th Rationalizations: The Reverse 15 And The Psychic Historian

Translation: “I got nuthin’!'”

I haven’t been in tip-top shape the last several days, making new posts more of an ordeal than they should be. Luckily this motivates me to catch up on updating the Rationalizations List, which has several waiting additions, including these:

Rationalization #15 A. The Reverse 15, or “If I don’t do it ( and I don’t want to) somebody else will.”

The Reverse 15 uses exactly the same excuse as #15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” but for the opposite purpose. In #15, the rationalizer wants to avoid the consequences of doing something unethical by arguing that his or her refusal to follow orders would have no practical effect: someone else would just step in and do what was demanded anyway. How, asks the fictionalized version of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz in “The Andersonville Trial,” can a post-Civil War military tribunal fairly hold him responsible for cruelly mistreating the Union prisoners in the Georgia prison camp as he was ordered to, when if he refused he would have been shot, and his successor would have abused them anyway?

In 15A, the argument is the opposite. The rationalizer refuses to perform a necessary ethical act out of apathy, callousness or fear, but this was reasonable because he or she was certain that someone else would do the right thing instead. The Reverse 15 could also be called “The Kitty Genovese Rationalization,” recalling that the many people who heard the murdered woman’s screams chose not to “get involves” while convincing themselves that someone would come to her aid. All of the Mount Everest climbers who left a stricken colleague behind to die protested later that they were certain the next climber behind them (or the next, perhaps) would stop to help the man. We pass a stopped car in distress on the highway at night, reasoning that someone else will stop to help, sparing us the trouble.

Sometimes someone does. Sometimes not. This abdication of an ethical duty is accomplished by casting one’s lot, and gambling with the fate of another, while relying on the unpredictable quirks of moral luck. The only ethical decision is to take action. You must do what you know is the ethical act yourself, and not ignore your obligation because you can pass the buck and then argue, disingenuously, “How could I know that everyone else would be as unethical as I am?”

Rationalization #1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m On The Right Side Of History”

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Ethics Quiz: Branding Ethics And The Weinstein Scandal [Updated]

I’m lounging in Richmond’s wonderful Jefferson Hotel, watching the hilarious and despicable parade of actors, actresses and Democrats—Hillary, the Obamas–rushing to condemn Harvey Weinstein now that his use to them is probably ended, and they see safety in numbers. Many of their statements—I was just listening to Mira Sorvino—mouth the same platitudes about how “this is no longer conduct that can be tolerated”—pssst: It was never tolerable behavior; your industry and colleagues just tolerated it anyway—and how it is essential that such sexual predators be stopped—pssst again: why didnt YOU do anything to stop it?– while saluting the courage of victims who come forward, without any adequate explanation in many cases of why they, or others, didn’t come forward for years and even decades while  other actresses were victimized and even raped. (The alleged rape total is now up to three.)

Angelina Jolie said today that she was harassed by Weinstein a decade ago, decided not to work with him, and “warned other actresses she knew not to do so as well.” This dovetails nicely with another harassed non-reporting actress’s tale, that of Gwyneth Paltrow—years late, of course, that she was attacked by Weinstein, and her boy friend at the time, Brad Pitt, confronted him. Presumably Pitt also later  knew about Jolie’s experience,being married to her and all. Brad Pitt was afraid to expose Harvey Weinstein? Sorry, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe George Clooney’s statement either, or long-time stars like Glenn Close. I also don’t understand Paltrow, whose father was himself an influencial producer. Her father wasn’t willing to stop Weinstein? Why not?

[CORRECTION: an earlier version of the post conflated Sorvino with Paltrow. Thanks to Spartan for the alert.]

This was a conspiracy of silence, abetted by Weinstein’s wallet. As long as he was a useful ally to ambitious actresses willing to exchange their ethical duties as citizens and human beings for parts and pay-offs, and liberal politicians employing wilful ignorance to keep money flowing to their campaigns and causes, Weinstein had a free pass to molest and abuse, and knew that he had a free pass.

The posturing by so many powerful people who could have made Weinstein a pariah at any time—but just not during the current campaign at the time, or while the latest promising Miramax project was being produced—is nauseating.  Even if one excuses the struggling starlet—and I don’t, not when she’s struggling and afraid, and definitely not years later, when she knows what happened to her is still going on but she’s now a Hollywood power herself—there is no way to excuse the community. This isn’t sort of like inner cities that have a “no snitch” culture that allows crime, drugs and murder to rot everything while innocent victims are terrorized, it is exactly like them. Victims still have ethical duties as citizens and human beings. Of course it’s hard. If being ethical was easy, we wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.

Of course, the most complicit of all may have been Harvey Weinstein’s business partners, including his brother. There is no reasonable possibility that some, most, or all of them didn’t know that their meal-ticket was a sick, sexual predator. Certainly Weinstein’s brother, now running The Weinstein Company. Now I read in the Wall Street Journal before me that the company is planning on rebranding, taking the Weinstein name off of the company. The idea is that after a few successes and maybe some convenient amnesia,  people will begin trusting the company again. Hey, let’s call it “Trust Entertainment”! (That’s my idea, not theirs.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

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