Facebook Wars II: More School Abuse of Power and Privacy

"Hello? ACLU? Anybody there?"

In January, Ethics Alarms weighed in on reports from Illinois and New York about students being disciplined by their high schools for postings on Facebook about the sexual proclivities of female students in the community. The ethics verdict: the schools were abusing their power and the students’ privacy:

“When did schools suddenly acquire disciplinary control over what students do when they aren’t at school? There is no question that the websites involved were inappropriate, disrespectful, cruel and hurtful, just as the rumors and insults included in high school graffiti were, in those glorious days before the internet. Students so abused need to complain to parents, and parents need to talk to the parents of the offending students, and if they can’t or won’t address the problem, then the courts or law enforcement may need to become involved.”

The rationale offered by the schools at the time was that the students had violated rules against cyber-bullying, that ever-vague plague, although there is no more legitimate authority for a school to decree what a student can say about another student on a personal website than there is for a school to restrict what a kid can say at the dinner table.

Naturally, when an institution exceeds the natural limit on its authority, there is nothing to keep it from even more egregious abuse. Thus two Georgia students were just suspended and one another was expelled for negative Facebook postings about a teacher. Continue reading

Facebook Wars: Parental Abdication, School Abuse of Power

Student Facebook pages were much in the news yesterday. One student was suspended from an Illinois school for posting a list of girls at his high school ranked by appearance and sexual proclivities, while another school, Uniondale High, contacted authorities in Nassau County who prevailed upon Facebook to take down a similar page posting provocative comments about high school girls in various area high schools. Uniondale says it has a “no tolerance” policy toward cyber-bullying.

When did schools suddenly acquire disciplinary control over what students do when they aren’t at school? Continue reading

Glenn Beck vs. George Soros: Beck Cheats, Soros Wins

It is easy, and even enjoyable, to call foul when Fox News side-show barker Glenn Beck slanders a great American and personal hero like Theodore Roosevelt. It is less enjoyable when his target of abuse is someone I am far less fond of, George Soros. I don’t like to see billionaires use their checkbook to prop up juvenile Angry Left slime-artists like Move-On. Org, or to foist another family and  character-wrecking drug on society by pushing us toward the legalization of marijuana. But fair is fair, and lies are lies, and never the twain shall meet. The fact that Glenn Beck doesn’t agree with George Soros’s political activities can’t justify or excuse Beck’s use of falsehoods to paint him as something he is not.  Continue reading

Schemes, Slander and Deception: The Most Unethical Maneuvers of Campaign 2010

Well, I have to admit they were creative. And despicable.

2010’s most unethical maneuvers ran the gamut from lying to zombie exploitation, from false identity to extortion. Unfortunately, most of the worst stunts were pulled by or on behalf of Democrats; I say unfortunately because I try awfully hard to keep these kinds of lists in partisan balance. But the Democrats and their progressive fans were especially slimy this time around, and it it figures. When the going gets tough, the tough get unethical, and it is the Democrats who are facing ballot box carnage. They have been pushing the envelope, to say the least, in their campaign tactics, and I think it probably made their situation more dire rather than less.

Here, in reverse order of ethical outrageousness, are the Ten Most Unethical Maneuvers of Campaign 2010: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: George Clooney

An ethical challenge that all of us face now and then involves being present in a gathering when a host, a friend, a colleague or someone else makes an objectively bigoted or outrageously unfair and disrespectful  statement about a group that is not represented and thus unable to defend itself. At such times we all have a duty to confront and correct the speaker and condemn the sentiment, but the execution is difficult, and requires tact, knowledge, clarity and courage. Doing and saying nothing, however, gives the speaker and his slander support and tacit endorsement.

Fortunately, thanks to the magic of on-line video and George Clooney, we now have a lovely “How To” clip that demonstrates the right way to discharge one’s ethical duty in these awkward situations. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

“Yes, this has happened to a smaller degree before. In 1994, in the first mid-term election after the last Democratic president was elected, we got a slate of candidates that included Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Steve Stockman of Texas. These two were so close to the militia movement in this country that Mr. Stockman actually received advance notice that the Oklahoma City bombing was going to happen.”

—-Rachel Maddow, rising MSNBC star, attacking the current slate of anti-big government Republicans and Tea Party stalwarts.

As I have mentioned here before, when the going gets tough, the tough get unethical. As the certainty of a Red Tide washing over Congress, the Senate and the state houses becomes more inevitable with each passing day, frustrated partisans in the blogosphere and news media are lashing out in frustration, allowing their commentary to become even more shrill and their respect for essentials like facts and fairness to shrink to the vanishing point.

Maddow is an especially depressing case in point. She is a talented television personality and a sharp analyst, but her passionate progressive leanings sometimes overwhelm her professionalism, and this time, she crashed over all ethical lines. Continue reading

Keith Olbermann’s Alan Grayson Imitation

As bad as it is for an elected official like Rep. Alan Grayson to say publicly that “Republicans want you to die,” at least his status as a politician (and Grayson’s record as a politician lacking rudimentary respect, fairness, and honesty) alerts most listeners that his statements cannot to be trusted. Such statements are more harmful and less tolerable when they come from media commentators, however, even shameless partisan blow-hards like Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann began his coverage of the fire department in Tennessee that allowed a man’s home to burn down by calling it “a preview of an America as envisioned by the Tea Party…just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government.” Continue reading

Sunday Morning Revelations: Kurtz, Feldstein, Anderson, and Why We Can’t Trust the News Media

Media critic Howard Kurtz interviewed reporter/author Mark Feldstein this morning on CNN’s “Reliable Sources, who is promoting his book, Poisoning the Press, an insider’s account of how famed Washington, D.C. muckraker Jack Anderson bent, broke, or entirely ignored basic principles of ethics and decency in his quest to fill his column with damaging information about President Richard Nixon and his allies.

There were two moments in the interview that stand as persuasive evidence against anyone who maintains, against mountains of evidence to the contrary, that American journalism is fair, responsible, unbiased and ethical.

One was at the start of the interview, when Kurtz characterized Feldstein’s book as showing that Anderson was as willing to cut ethical corners as Nixon was. “Well, Nixon’s were felonies, and Anderson’s were misdemeanors,” Feldstein corrected him. “Nixon’s felonies killed thousands of people.”

What? Exactly what “felonies” was Feldstein referring to? Continue reading

Attack Ad Ethics: Rep. Alan Grayson, Sinking to Expectations

Rep. Alan Grayson (D) of Florida has his defenders, which means you can pretty much forget about fair play when you are dealing with any of them, too. The Florida Congressman is infamous for saying and repeating outrageous things about opponents and refusing to acknowledge that he was wrong or inappropriate. As I have written here often, some unethical conduct is so egregious that it precludes the possibility of it being an aberration or a mistake, and Grayson could be the poster boy for that principle. He has little regard for fairness, civility and truth, if defying any of these serves his purposes. Thus it is both unsurprising and comforting that the most unethical attack ad in this early campaign season come from him—comforting, because it proves the point. For Alan Grayson, unfair and dishonest attacks aren’t mistakes. They are a habit.

In a TV spot called “Draft Dodger, Grayson accuses his opponent of evading the Vietnam War draft, because “he doesn’t love this country.” Continue reading