The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

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Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

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KABOOM! Just…KABOOM!

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Now I think understand why Ann Althouse, an intelligent, rational lawyer and law professor, has begun holding a “Most Loved Rat” contest on her blog to see which of her rat doodles are most popular. I’m less creative, I guess (though I also draw good rat cartoons!)—my head just explodes. It exploded last night.

It’s hard to explain exactly what did it.  Here I was, watching a series of baseball play-off games (since the Red Sox had been eliminated by the Cleveland Indians the day before), and Neil Patrick Harris appeared yet again to tell me that “Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man’s meat.” (I wrote about the gratuitous vulgarity of this ad here. Apparently this makes me a homophobe.)

Wait…isn’t flipping another man’s meat sexual assault? What is the difference, in lack of respect and sexual assault ethics, between grabbing a woman by the pussy, as Donald Trump so eloquently put it, because you’re a rich celebrity, and flipping another man’s meat because…of beer? 
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“Flipping A Man’s Meat” Ethics

Is this what the culture has accomplished with its hard won respect for and acceptance of gay Americans? Really?

Neil Patrick Harris has done a series of quirky, benign spots  for Heineken Light, perhaps to lure us into a false sense of ease.  For in his most recent commercial,  Harris notes, as he stands next to a man grilling barbecue, that Heineken Light makes it OK “to flip another man’s meat.”

This is another in a long and growing list of TV ads based entirely on the assumption that adults think it’s hilarious to suggest obscene or vulgar innuendos. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, which is merely the normalization of crudeness in our discourse, nothing more, but nothing less either. So now we have gay sexual innuendo  by an openly gay actor to advertise beer. Isn’t that great? Boy, Heineken must be so proud.

The grill guy replies to the puckish—or flirtations?—former-Doogie that no man can do that, but late,  Harris asks him: “Can I flip your meat?”

Wow, that’s just hilarious! Why is it hilarious? Because it’s naughty? Because it’s daring? It’s certainly not clever, and if virtually defines the word “gratuitous.” It it a challenge to viewers, daring them to question the taste of joking about “flipping a man’s meat” when they routinely accept gross commercials with vulgar and gratuitous—you know, like this —heterosexual double entendres?  Is the assumption that gays will giggle, guffaw and slap each other on the back when they see this! “Good own, Neil!” Really? How insulting.

I can’t wait for the masturbation double-entendres in credit card and bank commercials. Continue reading

Non-Douche Neil Patrick Harris Almost Gets It Right

Neil Patrick Harris...no douche he! But is it for the right reasons?

In a cover feature story for Entertainment Weekly, Neil Patrick Harris (or whoever ghost-wrote for him) lays out his Hollywood Survival Guide. Secret of Hollywood Survival #6 for the star of “How I Met Your Mother” and ubiquitous awards show host is “Don’t Be A Douche”:

“Hollywood affords many opportunities to be a douche of epic proportions,” writes the grown-up “Doogie Howser,” “Avoid the temptation.”  He continues:

“Being a pleasant person has got to count for something….Actors sometimes take themselves far too seriously and put themselves on a different level [from the crew.] But everyone’s working really hard and should be afforded the same level of respect.”

For that, Neil gets an Ethics Alarms salute. Unfortunately, he scars his achievement by going on to explain how the make-up people, the film editor and the transportation department can really nail you if you don’t treat them well.

Given the breezy tone of the article, Harris was probably joking, but the joke reinforces the misconception many people have about ethics, which is that ethical conduct is a quid pro quo. It’s not. The Golden Rule isn’t “Do nicely unto others do they won’t screw you over,” and someone’s less than nice behavior  toward you doesn’t justify your being a douche to him. One isn’t respectful to the waiter because he’s liable to spit in your soup if you’re not, but because it’s the right way to treat other human beings.

Neil Patrick Harris certainly seems like a decent guy, and he probably is. I just wish, in the pursuit of a pretty stale joke about how the make-up people will get even by making you look like a troll, he hadn’t reinforced one of the most persistent of unethical rationalizations.

Isolating Corey Haim: Child Star Deceit and Disinformation in the Media

It is clear that the news media, and especially the entertainment and pop culture media, don’t want to lose their cuddly child performers. Thus when a former kid star like Corey Haim perishes at a young age, the victim of a dysfunctional childhood turned fatal by addictions to fame and drugs, the sad story is usually told as a cautionary tale about how one young actor’s early promise and talent turned to dust and destruction because of his own weaknesses and missteps. A responsible media would use such events to examine the larger, serious, and mostly ignored problem of child abuse and exploitation in the entertainment business, and its terrible toll of casualties.The media is not responsible on this topic, however, and in the case of Haim, seemed to go out of its way to falsely represent his fate as the exception, rather than the rule. Continue reading