Yes, It’s True: Conservative Warrior Brent Bozell Is The American Mamoru Samuragochi, “The Japanese Beethoven” Who Was Really The Asian Milli Vanilli

This, apparently, is the real L. Brent Bozell.

This, apparently, is the real L. Brent Bozell.

L. Brent Bozell, the outspoken head of the Media Research Center, doesn’t write the syndicated opinion columns that run under his by-line and has not for quite a while. Reporter Jim Romenesko did a little digging, and discovered that the red-headed face of the conservative group, a favorite guest of Fox talk show host Sean Hannity, uses Tim Graham, the MRC’s Director of Media Analysis as his ghostwriter, both for his columns and apparently his recent books as well.

Before the embarrassing deception was exposed, however—-Bozell’s special crusade is exposing and condemning dishonesty in the liberal news media—the company that distributes Bozell’s columns managed to expose its own flawed ethics as well. Confronted with Romenesko’s suspicions, Bozell’s syndicator wrote this response:

“If you know of one of our columnists who supposedly is not writing the column but rather ‘assigning an underling to pen them (an underling who is not credited),’ I think it only fair that you tell us who has been accused of this so we can talk to the columnist. Yes, we expect all of our columnists to write their own columns, though we understand that some work closely with researchers.

Once the evidence appeared too overwhelming to deny (as in “lie away effectively”)—-various Media Research Center employees confirmed that Bozell didn’t write his own copy, with one telling him in surprise, “I thought everyone knew it.”—the defense, predictably, began to evolve into “everybody does it.” Continue reading

The Ghostwriting Ethics Scale

ghostwriting

The ease with which former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ op-ed denigrating opponents of the Manchin-Toomey background check provision was accepted as her words and sentiment has prompted me to focus again on a persistent ethics issue of long-standing: ghost-written articles, op-eds, articles and other printed statements. This is the epitome of a slippery slope issue, because finding the dividing line between what is acceptable ethically and harmfully deceptive is so difficult, most people don’t even bother to try to make ethical distinctions. We have to, though, and the Giffords piece shows why.

A published opinion piece by a prominent individual can have several uses, intentional and otherwise: Continue reading

GlaxonSmithKline Inspires a Fun Game For Your Holiday Party: “Forcast That Ethics Scandal!”

Almost all ethics scandals and examples of outrageous unethical conduct are thoroughly predictable, whether they involve individual, organizations or institutions. The most obvious proof of this is in politics. Once we consider past patterns, current conditions, institutional habits and what we know about human nature, the question when a new political party takes over isn’t whether there will be instances of bribery, influence peddling, self-enrichment, and conflict of interest, but only which elected leaders will be caught at it. Sometimes even that part is easy: everyone should have been able to guess, long before they occurred, that Tom DeLay’s ethics-free philosophy of politics as warfare would lead him to commit serious misdeeds, just as the odds against former Florida Rep. Alan Grayson running a fair or civil campaign for re-election were prohibitively high. Similarly, sports scandals can usually be seen coming a long way off. Once New England Patriots coach Bill Belichik was caught making surreptitious videos of his team’s opponents’ practices, it was easy to guess that he wasn’t the only one, and that since both he and his team were so successful, it would be only a matter of time before a similar incident came to light. And it did, last week.

As I look through various Ethics Alarms posts, it is striking how many of them could have been written in advance, in fill-in-the-blank format. All you need to do is identify an industry with a history of ethics problems, a weak ethics culture, a trusting, under-informed audience, the potential for increased profit, power or influence, and a large population of corruptible, lazy, incompetent, venal, ambitious or cowardly allies. I’m sure a computer program could be developed, but for this holiday season, why not forecast next year’s ethics scandals as a party game? Challenge your guests: Which TV reality show will be shown to have completely manipulated “reality”? Which revered sports figure will be disgraced in a sex or drug scandal? Which Wall Street firm will be caught violating the “sacred principles” posted on its website? Which school will suspend or expel a student for violating the letter of an overly broad and horribly-written rule without actually doing anything wrong? Which universally accepted scientific research will turn out to be the result of manipulated data? Which embarrassments of the Obama Administration will only be reported by Fox News, and which outrages committed by Republicans will the same network ignore?

And, of course, where will TSA employees put their hands next?

This occurred to me as I read about the recent Big Pharma-manipulating-medical-practice scandal, involving drug giant GlaxonSmithKline, while slapping my forehead and shouting, “Of course! This was the logical next step!” Continue reading

Unethical Web Site of the Month: Essay Emperor

Masquerading as a blog (Ethics offense #1 : Dishonesty) when it is, in fact, a commercial web site advertising an essay writing service, Essay Emperor includes “informational posts” purporting to give general information about essay writing services but which actually links the reader to just one service: the service provided by—what a coincidence!—Essay Emperor, Inc. (Ethics Offense #2 : Deceit)

Three of the posts on the home page claim to discuss the ethical issues of using essay-writing services. Continue reading

Al Gore’s Unethical New York Times Op-ed

I swear, this post has nothing to do with whether climate change is soon going to have the East Coast under water and the polar bears playing beach volleyball or not. The ethical  issues raised by Al Gore’s last volley in the global warming wars are journalistic integrity, public honesty, and respect for the intelligence of the American public. Continue reading