Ethics Dunce: Anyone Who Ran This Story

On my way home from my seminar today, I saw that my cab’s in-ride video featured, along with three Jeopardy! questions from Alex Trebek, a Jimmy Kimmel feature (his “Pedestrian Belly-Flop” competition) and the weather, and a video from the ceremonies I had just returned from witnessing in person at Boston’s Fenway Park. The headline was-HAHAHAHA!—“First Pitch Goes Horribly Wrong!” and showed Mike Andrews, the ex-Red Sox second baseman from the 1967 “Impossible Dream Team,” receiving a pitch from the ceremonial first pitch tosser, who then heaved the ball far beyond Mike’s reach into a group of photographers, hitting one of them—it’s important to note that he is male–right in the crotch. The clip was attached to an ad for the local ABC affiliate here.

I thought that the mocking video was an ABC product, and it might be, since other ABC affiliates have distributed it. But the same video with similar mockery of the pitch in the commentary is elsewhere, and on its way to going viral. Here is the attached story used by ABC Channel 15 in Arizona:

A photographer and University of Arizona alum was the unfortunate victim of one of the worst first pitches in MLB history on Wednesday night.

Before the Boston Red Sox hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park, the gentleman who tossed out the first pitch threw it juuuuuust a bit outside — and right into a sensitive spot for Tony Capobianco, a photographer and page designer for The Eagle-Tribune who graduated from UA in 2013.

Fortunately, Tony reported he’s OK. Way to Bear Down, sir.

That “sir” is a triumphant cancer survival and success story by The Jimmy Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s ‘s research drive to cure cancer in children that the Red Sox  made the organization’s affiliated charity since Ted Williams became passionate involved with the project in the late 1940s. His pitch was the climax of the ceremonies honoring the 50th anniversary of  the storied pennant winning team, in part because that team became the first to ever award a full World Series share to cancer research, and in part because Andrews had followed his playing days with 25 years as the Jimmy Fund’s executive director. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Washington Post’s Trump Hair Orgy

Trump Hair

Preface: I believe that it is existentially essential and an ethical duty of citizenship to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President of the United States. I also believe that the news media is obligated to report the campaign objectively and fairly, admittedly something they have increasingly appeared both unwilling and unable to do. For the mews media to elect the President by allying itself to one party is a far more dangerous threat to democracy than, for example, organizations of citizens being allowed to make whatever political statements they choose during the course of a campaign. Democrats like Bernie Sanders don’t see the news media placing its weighty foot on the scale as a problem, because they know where that foot will go: on their side of the scale, hard, like it did in 2008 and 2012.

All signs point to the news media planning to metaphorically stomp on the scale in the coming campaign and justifying it because of Trump. This is also known as “the ends justify the means.”

Today’s Ethics  Quiz continues the Ethics Alarms ongoing inquiry into what ethical journalism standards should be during the 2016 Presidential race.

Late last week, I was somewhat stunned to see the Washington Post Style Section dominated by a feature of the sort the Post usually reserves for holidays, like News Years or Valentines day. Almost the entire front page of the section was devoted to the single topic of ridiculing Donald Trump’s appearance, specifically his hair. Titled “The 100 greatest descriptions of Donald Trump’s hair ever written,” it began in part,

“Here, in the most comprehensive and highly scientific endeavor of its kind, culled from 30 years of news articles, we present the top 100 unique descriptors of the Trump mane, written by journalists or pontificators who secretly fancy themselves poets.”

Among the entries…

9. An ambitious corn dog that escaped from the concession stand at a rural Alabama fairground, stole an unattended wig, hopped a freight train to Atlantic City and never looked back

15. A mullet that died in some horrific accident

62. A dead skunk

70. A dishrag that on closer inspection is alive with maggots

Stipulating that this article appears in the Style Section, along with the comics, movie reviews and human interest stories, your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was this orgy of hair ridicule of a Presidential candidate being published in a major newspaper fair?

Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Conservative Supporters Of Self-Appointed Censor Mom, Judy Cox

Judy Cox, saving America one T-shirt at a time...

Judy Cox, Wacko, saving America one T-shirt at a time…

Conservatives just can’t help themselves, it seems.

They can’t avoid undermining their historically vital role in counterbalancing the process of societal entropy and the degrading of individual liberty by central state control, by periodically making themselves and their philosophy look so hypocritical and ridiculous that their power to persuade is crippled. One traditional way conservatives ensure that they will be reviled and mocked by anyone under the age of 50, even when the are right, is their addiction to celebrating censorious wackos who seem to have been only recently unfrozen from the glaciers that have imprisoned them since around 1954.

This afternoon I watched with my jaw agape as a panel of “experts” on Fox cheered the ridiculous actions of Judy Cox, who was horrified to see T-shirts sale for in a Utah college town store  that sported the images of winsome women in scanty attire—you know, like one can see on television every hour of every day, but more dignified.  Judy, who was concerned for the sensibilities of her 18 year-old son (also known as “an adult”) and those like him whose morals will be permanently warped by such images, promptly had a cow:

“Cox said she complained about the window display to a store manager and was told the T-shirts couldn’t be taken down without approval from the corporate office. She then bought all 19 T-shirts in stock, for a total of $567. She says she plans to return them later, toward the end of the chain store’s 60-day return period. The shirts cost about $28 each on the website for PacSun, which sells beach clothes for teenagers and young adults.“These shirts clearly cross a boundary that is continually being pushed on our children in images on the Internet, television and when our families shop in the mall,” Cox said in an email to The Associated Press.”

That’s not all: Continue reading

Feel Smarter Now? Don’t.

There’s been a lot of gratuitous Harvard-bashing lately, lately being defined as, oh, the last two hundred years or so. The latest plot to embarrass Harvard, my alma mater, came from the campus newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. This also isn’t a new development: I often found the Crimson embarrassing to Harvard back when I was student, when its staff was as often as not on a picket line chanting “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?

It’s latest effort was to send a roving reporter out with a video camera to show how ignorant Harvard students are. The question featured: “What is the capital of Canada?”  Here is the video:

Sure enough, none of the students shown could answer the question, except a Canadian. How humiliating! I can only imagine how many people will be flush with pride because they know that the capital city is Ottawa, and Harvard students don’t.

Of course, the video is meaningless. One Crimson reader, a student, wrote in to point out that he was interviewed for the stunt, gave the right answer, and turned up on the cutting room floor. He theorizes that there were others like him, and I wouldn’t be surprised: “Only six out of 19 Harvard students know the capital of Canada” isn’t much of a headline, is it? “Lame” was this student’s verdict for the Crimson’s rigged version of “Jaywalking.” I agree. Continue reading


A face for radio, in D.C., anyway...

A face for radio, in D.C., anyway…

One would think—wouldn’t  one?— that I could listen to a baseball game on my car radio without being jolted intro an Ethics Alarms column, but nooooooo…

Here I am, sort-of listening to the Orioles game while running to the grocery store, and suddenly I hear two morning jocks have this exchange:

“So there, in line for the roller coaster, is this woman eating a funnel cake, and she has this comically huuuuge badonkadonk butt! It is the biggest butt I have ever seen! I couldn’t take my eyes off it!”

“How was she going to fit into the roller coaster seat with that badonkadonk?”

Well, I don’t think she could! And I came this close to saying, “Ma’am, would you please stand over here so I can take a photo of your comically gigantic badonkadonk butt as you eat your funnel cake?”

(hysterical laughter) Continue reading

Ugly Consequentialism: The Daily Beast Backs Perez Hilton

I am developing a real dislike for the Daily Beast. Tina Brown’s slick news aggregating website has gone out of its way to slander innocent dog breeds, features self-promoting hypocrites like John Avlon, and generally displays the ethical instincts of Piers Morgan, which is to say, none. Today it gave us an update on Serene Branson, who was mocked by blogger Perez Hilton and others for having an obvious, and frightening, on-air neurological event that caused her to be unable to speak coherently. Entitled “Line-Flubbing Grammys Reporter Fine”—trivializing as “line-flubbing” what was clearly nothing of the sort; people don’t get checked out by physicians for flubbing lines—the Daily Beast’s commentary noted that paramedic could find nothing wrong, so “Laugh away.”

This is the ugly face of consequentialism, judging the ethical nature of conduct based on what happens afterwards. Perez Hilton’s cruel amusement at a reporter finding that she cannot form intelligible speech is now retroactively fine and dandy, because Branson hasn’t—so far—keeled over or gone blind. So laugh, jerks, laugh…until she does keel over, tomorrow, or next week, or next month, in which case the ridicule becomes unacceptible to The Daily Beast.

Another human being who is panic-stricken as her body turns on her is not funny, and it is a sign of callousness and a deficit of compassion to laugh at the sight of it, whether or not the apparent catastrophe turns out to be minor after all. But the Daily Beast is proving that it is a playpen, occupied by reporters, columnists and editors with the ethical sophistication of gradeschoolers.


UPDATE 2/15/11 (From AOL News):

“Despite Branson’s insistence that she’s fine, doctors who have examined the now heavily circulated footage of the incident continue to express concerns.

“This is what we call a class neurological event,” Dr. Keith Black, director of the Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told NBC’s ‘Today’ show. “She was obviously aware that she was having difficulty.”

According to Black, Branson’s episode was likely the result of a transient ischemic attack, essentially a “blockage in blood flow going to the brain,” or a “mini-seizure located in the language area.”

The New York Post also spoke to doctors who viewed the tape, and they said that Branson’s garbled speech could have resulted from “aphasia, which affects the ability to articulate, and that it could have been brought on by a mini-stroke, a tumor or a circulatory issue.”

Ethics Dunce: Blogger Perez Hilton

There is snarky, and there is vicious and cruel. Perez Hilton, the over-the-top celebrity blogger who always amasses enough points to be in the running for Media Creep of the Year, hit rock bottom over the weekend, showing a level of humanity, empathy and caring we identify with the people who ridicule  ALS sufferers and terminal cancer patients, and who find watching heart attacks and strokes amusing.

“MUST WATCH!!!” “Grammy Reporter Fail!” wrote Hilton, about a frightening video showing CBS reporter Serene Branson suddenly finding herself unable to speak coherently on the air as she reported on the Grammys, and obviously experiencing some kind of neurological episode that was a lot more serious than being “tongue-tied.”

“Someone call an exorcist!” joked the blogger, who called Branson’s cisis “HIGHlarious.”

[This post originally included the video footage, but CBS has pulled it.] Branson gets a few words out, then you can see the fear and panic that starts to come into the young woman’s expression as she realizes that her thoughts are no longer being formed into words. She utters a stream of jibberish  very reminiscent of the sounds made by the swimmer at the beginning of “Jaws” who is being attacked by a Great White shark, and then the station cuts her off. If watching another human being in peril and terror is “HIGHlarious” to you, “Ethics Dunce” is an understatement.

Hilton quickly pulled his first post on the incident when it began drawing fire, and so far, doctors haven’t been able to determine what caused the incident…so Hilton obviously thinks he’s in the clear.

He’s not. Even if we never know what happened to Branson, she was frightened and something bad was obviously happening to her. I’m sure she’s still terrified, and should be: my law school room mate, last year, had a mysterious episode that seemed like a stroke, but the doctors found nothing, and sent him home. Two days later, he dropped dead.

Yuk it up, Perez.


Palin, Ifill, Contempt and Respect: A Cautionary Tale

One reason why it is both right and prudent to treat others respectfully is that we seldom can know the true measure of an individual’s abilities and character. All human beings are complex, and all deserve an almost limitless benefit of the doubt before it is wise to dismiss them as unworthy of decent, respectful treatment. When we assume that someone whom we really don’t know very well is stupid, or evil, or not worth paying attention to, we not only treat them badly, we also put ourselves in peril, both of violating the Golden Rule, and also of looking foolish. Mockery, the child of contempt, is especially dangerous. When we mock others, we assume a superiority that may prove to be illusory.

Have I fallen victim to this ethical error? You betcha.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin. Continue reading

The Unethical Humiliation of Sister Rita X

Among conservative radio talk show hosts, Sean Hannity holds a special niche. He is not as entertaining or audacious as Rush Limbaugh, nor as erudite and apoplectic as Mark Levin, nor as funny and acerbic as Laura Ingraham. Hannity is nice, or appears to be. His act (though it seems sincere), is to be reasonable and pleasant, even when under attack. Recently, however, he has been giving excessive air time to a middle-aged African-American caller who goes by the name of “Sister Rita X.” She is a strong, liberal supporter of President Obama, but more importantly, she is bats. Sister Rita not only sings the praises of  Rev. Farrakhan, but believes that God has created a giant flying war machine that is designed to destroy the United States if it doesn’t change its ways.

Hannity seems to think it is amusing to his listeners for him to allow this opinionated, loud and deluded woman rant on in response to his goading. He also thinks, apparently, this it is a powerful indictment of progressive cant to have an advocate of sorts sound just as deranged as conservatives like Hannity believe all liberals really are. Hannity is using Sister Rita, mocking her while he features her, and encouraging her to be as bizarre as possible. “So tell me about this mother ship, or whatever it is, that is going to get us,” he asks. And she does. Continue reading