PREFACE: I have just returned from a crazy three day odyssey that had me lecturing on Massachusetts legal ethics in Boston, Washington, D.C. legal ethics in the nation’s capital, and, professional ethics, legal ethics and accounting ethics in Tucson, Arizona. Keeping pace with ethics developments was even more difficult than it usually is when I’m on the road, because I had almost no time in between flights, meetings and various hassles to get to a newspaper, surf the web, or watch TV. And my browser kept crashing.
I wrote the John Oliver post, frankly, as low-hanging fruit. His performance was vile and hateful, barely funny, self-indulgent, and disrespectful in a damaging way, and I didn’t think, and still don’t, that there should be much disagreement on that assessment. I expected the usual “lighten up,” “he was only joking “[he was NOT only joking], and “he has right to free speech” comments, because I always get those any time I point out that a comedian has been unfair and irresponsible. I did not expect,for the post to get more single day traffic than all but one previous Ethics Alarms entry, and so many comments, many of which with troubling social and political significance. I returned to my office to find more comments waiting for moderation than have ever been there at one time, and I apologize for that: I try to get them cleared withing hours if not minutes. Of course, a disproportionate number of them were garbled nonsense, or just invective with no point whatsoever. They didn’t make it.
I also had some tough calls, with repetitious comments that misrepresented the post, made irrelevant or factually mistaken assertions, and also were abusive. I fear that I may have been inconsistent, and perhaps less tolerant than usual, and I’m not referring to the occasional comment I allowed to be published just to show the kind of comments that weren’t being posted. The problem is that this site is a intended to be a colloquy, and poor quality comments just make the threads hard to read, and also undermine the site.
I may have to be more ruthless in moderating comments in the future. I’m thinking about it.
Ethics is all about processing new information. Here are some useful things I learned, or re-learned, from the reaction to the post, “Ethics Dunce: HBO’s John Oliver”….
1. Otherwise reasonable, fair, smart people really do think that Donald Trump justifies unethical conduct and that makes it okay. Continue reading