Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/30/18: Classless


1. Of unethical, and useless, unpaid internships. There is about as a good a summary of what is wrong with unpaid internships at the UConn website as you will find. My only complaint is that the piece, by Henry Zehner, ignores my long-time objection to these positions based on my experiences with various employers who forced me to use out-of-class students in ill-defined roles. (Yes, one of them was the current Secretary of Education.) Zehner mentions that the law requires interns to do substantive work rather than low level office tasks. He doesn’t mention that only the rare intern is able to do tasks “not requiring specialized training.” My experience was that interns usually had negative effects on my time, management and productivity, as I not only had to instruct them, but also often had to re-do whatever work they completed. (Julie and LeeAnn, wherever you are, I don’t mean you.) But as for the young man who was assigned to assemble  my foundation’s annual meeting board books and explained that it took him so long because the “little slips to label the dividers kept falling into the typewriter,” the less said the better.

2. More on the art vs the artist. Last week we discussed the folly of judging art according to the character of the artist, in my post [#3 in a Warm-Up] on the op-ed. “We’ve been too forgiving of unethical artists.”

Here is an example of an artist of disgusting art being found to be disgusting: John Kricfalusi, the creator of the animated “The Ren & Stimpy Show” has been accused by a 37-year old woman of sexually abusing her 20+ years ago, apparently with her consent, but since she was under 18 at the time, such consent is legally meaningless.  So, really, is her late hit, except to gain #MeToo creds. It’s too late to prosecute the cartoonist, and he was remarkably candid about his relationships with teens while he was having them. Kricfalusi had always admitted to his disturbing taste for under-age teenage girls.

Does this old/new information mean that parents should treat “The Ren & Stimpy Show” as taboo, and that channels that feature cartoons should refuse to show it, thus robbing the show’s creator of residuals and income?

No. Kricfalusi’s art has value, if it has value, independent of his own private misconduct. “Lohengrin” is no worse or better because Wagner was a racist and an anti-Semite. The “Alice” books are wonderful, and our culture shouldn’t be robbed of them because Lewis Carroll was creepily obsessed with little girls.

Kricfalusi, for me, is an easy case. I always thought his work was sick and disturbing, and that no parent should allow any child under the age of 13 to watch it. I would feel the same if Kricfalusi was a certified saint. Continue reading

Beautiful, Desired, Happy and Exploited: The Life of an NFL Cheerleader


National Football League cheerleaders volunteer. They receive a puny per-game honorarium, but nothing for their many hours of rehearsal, or the use of their images for promotion. Can this be squared with basic principles of fairness?

It cannot, but people will try. The cheerleaders  have such glamorous jobs! They are adored, and treated like royalty, or at least Kardashians! They get to date football players, and you know how hot and rich they are, at least until they become senile in their fifties! Most of all, the competition for the cheerleader squads is fierce!  They don’t want to be paid! The job is its own reward!

Weak. Athletes are paid mega-millions of dollars to play the same games they played for years as recreation. Actors receive union-dictated salaries for engaging in the same activities they fought like dogs to do for free in high school, college and community theater. The standard mantra is that joy and fulfillment in life arrives  when you are fortunate enough to be paid for doing what you love, not to be allowed to do what you love so someone else will make a lot of money, while you get dates. The NFL is a money machine, generating billions and paying its management, employees and contractors very well, but they “allow” young women to significantly enhance the NFL brand and  product for little or nothing. The word for this is exploitation. The NFL does it because it can, and the women put up with it because, well, they enjoy it. Continue reading

Ethics Pop Quiz: “What’s Unethical About Auctioning Intern Positions?”

Are you ready to exercise those ethics brain cells?

The News Alert blog is reporting that the Huffington Post auctioned off an intern position for $9000, and another  internship —three weeks of it with Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, and three weeks with hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons — was auctioned off for $85,000, to benefit Simmons’s charity, Rush Philanthropic.

Question: Is there anything unethical about this, and if so, what?

[Play the “Final Jeopardy Theme” while you think this over…] Continue reading

Of Interns, Heroes, and Hoaxes

Intern exploitation: The New York Times explores the burgeoning practice of using unpaid interns, exploiting college students and graduates desperate for experience by “allowing” them to do menial office tasks without even minimum wage compensation. It is a perfect scheme, really: the student doesn’t want to burn bridges, so doesn’t complain, and the company avoids hiring a worker. The problem is that it is dishonest and unfair, as well as illegal.

Remembering Ethics Hero Jerry terHorst: J. F. terHorst has died, and though he was a distinguished reporter, what made him an Ethics Hero was one act of principle unrelated to reporting. Continue reading