The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Three)

Jill-Greenberg

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Photographer Jill Greenberg, whose art requires parents to make their children cry. Runner-up: Peeping Tom photographer/artist Arne Svenson

Kaitlyn Hunt

False Allegation Of Anti-Gay Bigotry Of The Year

Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents, who spun a false tale of anti-gay prejudice to portray their sexual predator daughter as a victim after she was accused of statutory rape by the parents of her under-age target. Hunt’s parents even managed to suck the ACLU into their web and the liberal-leaning press portrayed her as a martyr to anti-gay bias. But Hunt’s lies ultimately caused her cover-story to unravel.

 Unethical Hoax Of The Year

Oberlin students Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden, aided and abetted by  Oberlin College and its president, Marvin Krislov. The two students, self-proclaimed progressives, posted a series of racist and anti-Semitic posters, graffiti and anonymous emails as “an experiment.” Krislov and Oberlin, after cancelling classes and engaging in campus-wide navel-gazing, continued to allow the media and the public believe that this was the work of racists on campus well after it had learned who the real miscreants wereRunner-up: The horrible Meg Lanker-Simons, former University of Wyoming student (now admitted to law school—I don’t want to talk about it) who threatened herself with rape and used the bogus threat to show that her campus was violent and sexist.

Most Unethical Use of Social Media Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Peter’s Problem

40 years from now, would you book Kaitlyn Hunt for your Congressional campaign fundraiser? Should you...if she's become a famous and beloved singer?

40 years from now, would you book Kaitlyn Hunt for your Congressional campaign fundraiser? Should you…if she’s become a famous and beloved singer?

Shelly Stow, an occasional commenter here who blogs provocatively at With Justice For All about the harassment and persecution of former sex offenders, raised the topic of today’s Ethics Quiz. She  posted about the plight of Peter Yarrow, the Peter in Peter, Paul and Mary, now, thanks to cruel mortality, just Peter and Paul. I was not aware of this, but in 1970, when he was 30 and a rather significant star, he had sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. Shelly is wrong to call this “consensual,” for 14 is statutory rape territory. The law declares that a 14-year girl is a child and not capable of meaningful consent, and fans of  Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Kaitlyn Hunt notwithstanding, it is quite right. He pled guilty to something less than rape, and served a three-month sentence; he is also, as a result, a registered sex offender. President Jimmy Carter pardoned him in 1981.

Yarrow, as Sixties folk singers tend to be, is a social activist, and is politically active as well. Not for the first time, his child molesting past became an issue recently when he  agreed to sing at a campaign event for Martha Robertson, a Democrat running for Congress in New York against incumbent Republican Tom Reed. A spokesman for the RNC told the media,

“It is absolutely deplorable that Martha Robertson would kick off her congressional campaign by having a convicted sex offender headline her fundraiser. If Robertson’s judgment is so bad that she would even entertain the idea of raising money with a man who molested a 14-year-old girl, she has no business representing the people of the 23rd District of New York in Congress.”

He also said Robertson should cancel the fundraiser and return any money she raised with Yarrow’s support.

Shelly writes,

“What is wrong with this scenario? Our criminal justice system is comprised of one part punishment and one part rehabilitation. The purpose of the punishment is to bring about rehabilitation. Sometimes it works like it is supposed to. Mr. Yarrow committed a crime in 1969. That is over 40 years ago. He served his court ordered punishment, and in light of the fact that there has been no re-offense in over 40 years, I think we are safe in declaring him rehabilitated. Everything worked just like it is supposed to. What then is the problem? Is rehabilitation not good enough for some? Is there some other standard of measure needed?”

This launches the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for this weekend, which I will phrase this way:

Is it unfair for Peter Yarrow to still face criticism, suspicion and condemnation based on his crime of 40 years ago, for which he has been both punished and pardoned?

For this one, I am not at all certain of the answer, and will be very interested in your responses, not that I am not always.

Here are some of the considerations that have me, to paraphrase the title of one of the hit pop songs Mr. Yarrow helped to write, “Torn Between Two Answers.Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair: Upon Further Review…”

And if Kaitlyn Hunt looked like this, would we be having this discussion?

And if Kaitlyn Hunt looked like this, would we be having this discussion?

John Garrison’s incisive Comment of the Day decisively adds Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents to the Kaitlyn Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, which has already enlisted them, the vigilante group Anonymous (itself a self-perpetuating ethics train wreck), the lazy news media, which apparently misreported the essential facts of the case, and the social media as passengers since my first post on the debacle.

Here are his comments on the follow-up post, The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair: Upon Further Review:

“There are a number of things that concern me about this case. First, I do agree that the law is very harsh in Florida. But we never seem to get the actual story from Kaitlyn’s parents. At first, they said that they were 17 when they started dating, and that the parents vindictively waited until Kaitlyn turned 18. That story seems to have changed around the time the police report was released stating that actual ages of the girls. At that time, the family claimed that the police not redacting the address was retaliation against them going to the media, even though it is not remotely unusual for the police not to redact the address of the accused.

http://www.examiner.com/article/kaitlyn-hunt-arrest-record-released-free-kate-family-disgusted-with-sheriff Continue reading

The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair: Upon Further Review…

This may not have been Juliet and Juliet after all...

This may not have been Juliet and Juliet after all…

As happens all too often with these viral ethics stories, the facts in the Kaitlyn Hunt case as represented in the first accounts appear to be wrong. Kaitlyn did not first become involved with her girlfriend when both were minors. According to an arrest affidavit , Kaitlyn and her girlfriend began dating in November 2012 when the younger girl was 14 and Kaitlyn was already 18.

Sorry, but that changes everything. Unless one is ready to assert as fact that lesbian relationships in which an adult, however young, becomes involved with a child are less dangerous and potentially damaging than heterosexual ones, Kaitlyn broke a law that is legitimate and sensible as it applies to her, and that law should be enforced. A 14- year old is not capable of meaningful or legal consent, and the opportunity for older, more experienced teens to exploit their inexperience, innocence and deference to older peers is significant and a genuine source of parental—and legal, and societal— concern. If the law permitted an 18/14 year-old sexual relationship between female teens, it would be difficult to explain why 18/12  year-old sexual relationships were materially different, and that being so, legal prohibition on 18-year-old young men seducing 12-year-old girls would be difficult to maintain. Continue reading

The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair

Child abuser?

Child abuser?

Once again, the ethical complexities of applying statutory rape and age of consent laws to relationships between non-adults and just barely adults has led to an ethics train wreck. The worst example in recent years has been the epic criminal system abuse of Genarlow Wilson, which if you are unfamiliar with his story and its aftermath, you should catch up here and here. The Kaitlyn Hunt case,however, has potential to be an epic of its own.

It appears that Floridian teen Kaitlyn Hunt was involved in a consensual, same-sex relationship with another girl in her school while both she and her partner were minors. They had started dating at the beginning of the school year, and the relationship had been known to both parents for months. Clearly the parents of the younger girl did not approve, for when Kaitlyn turned 18—the other girl was 15—they filed a criminal complaint with police. Continue reading