Tag Archives: snitching

Ethics Quiz: Branding Ethics And The Weinstein Scandal [Updated]

I’m lounging in Richmond’s wonderful Jefferson Hotel, watching the hilarious and despicable parade of actors, actresses and Democrats—Hillary, the Obamas–rushing to condemn Harvey Weinstein now that his use to them is probably ended, and they see safety in numbers. Many of their statements—I was just listening to Mira Sorvino—mouth the same platitudes about how “this is no longer conduct that can be tolerated”—pssst: It was never tolerable behavior; your industry and colleagues just tolerated it anyway—and how it is essential that such sexual predators be stopped—pssst again: why didnt YOU do anything to stop it?– while saluting the courage of victims who come forward, without any adequate explanation in many cases of why they, or others, didn’t come forward for years and even decades while  other actresses were victimized and even raped. (The alleged rape total is now up to three.)

Angelina Jolie said today that she was harassed by Weinstein a decade ago, decided not to work with him, and “warned other actresses she knew not to do so as well.” This dovetails nicely with another harassed non-reporting actress’s tale, that of Gwyneth Paltrow—years late, of course, that she was attacked by Weinstein, and her boy friend at the time, Brad Pitt, confronted him. Presumably Pitt also later  knew about Jolie’s experience,being married to her and all. Brad Pitt was afraid to expose Harvey Weinstein? Sorry, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe George Clooney’s statement either, or long-time stars like Glenn Close. I also don’t understand Paltrow, whose father was himself an influencial producer. Her father wasn’t willing to stop Weinstein? Why not?

[CORRECTION: an earlier version of the post conflated Sorvino with Paltrow. Thanks to Spartan for the alert.]

This was a conspiracy of silence, abetted by Weinstein’s wallet. As long as he was a useful ally to ambitious actresses willing to exchange their ethical duties as citizens and human beings for parts and pay-offs, and liberal politicians employing wilful ignorance to keep money flowing to their campaigns and causes, Weinstein had a free pass to molest and abuse, and knew that he had a free pass.

The posturing by so many powerful people who could have made Weinstein a pariah at any time—but just not during the current campaign at the time, or while the latest promising Miramax project was being produced—is nauseating.  Even if one excuses the struggling starlet—and I don’t, not when she’s struggling and afraid, and definitely not years later, when she knows what happened to her is still going on but she’s now a Hollywood power herself—there is no way to excuse the community. This isn’t sort of like inner cities that have a “no snitch” culture that allows crime, drugs and murder to rot everything while innocent victims are terrorized, it is exactly like them. Victims still have ethical duties as citizens and human beings. Of course it’s hard. If being ethical was easy, we wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.

Of course, the most complicit of all may have been Harvey Weinstein’s business partners, including his brother. There is no reasonable possibility that some, most, or all of them didn’t know that their meal-ticket was a sick, sexual predator. Certainly Weinstein’s brother, now running The Weinstein Company. Now I read in the Wall Street Journal before me that the company is planning on rebranding, taking the Weinstein name off of the company. The idea is that after a few successes and maybe some convenient amnesia,  people will begin trusting the company again. Hey, let’s call it “Trust Entertainment”! (That’s my idea, not theirs.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is this ethical? Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, Quizzes

Reporting the Confessed Killer in Your Midst: An Ethical Dilemma That Isn’t

Pedro Hernandez, now under arrest for the murder of Etan Patz, the  6-year-old boy whose 1979 murder was a national mystery, confessed that he had strangled the child just a few years later to his prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua, a Catholic church in Camden, New Jersey.  No one, including Hernandez’s relatives who learned of his confession and the prayer group leader, reported the confession to authorities.

Hernandez’s sister, Milagros Hernandez, confessed what she described as a “family secret” to a reporter for the New York Daily News over the weekend, setting off “What would you do?” internet polls and blog posts, as if there was any question about the proper conduct for a family member or church group member who hears a murder confession. There is no question.  You report it. There are no debate issues, no competing considerations, no claims of loyalty or confidentiality.  It isn’t a Golden Rule dilemma, as in “Would I want someone to report me if I confessed to him in confidence that he had strangled a little boy?”  It isn’t a dilemma at all. There is only one right thing to do, and if you think otherwise, you missed a couple of key meetings when the ethics were being handed out. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Citizenship, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Unethical (and Disgraceful) Website of the Month: Attackwatch.com

We've just got to find the White House staff some better role models....

In scary-looking black and red, attackwatch.com is the latest embarrassment from the amateurs  and goof-offs who are inexplicably still employed in Barack Obama’s White House. It is the creation of the campaign arm, announced in a sinister e-mail by the President’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, who wrote:

“Forming the first line of defense against a barrage of misinformation won’t be easy. Our success will depend on a team of researchers and writers to stay on the lookout for false claims about the President and his record, bring you the facts, and hold our opposition accountable.”

The website includes an online snitch form that allows good citizens to report anything that might be regarded as an “attack,” and to finger the pundits, bloggers, journalists or other sources responsible.

Many commentators on the right have called the site Stalinist and compared it to classic totalitarian practices in other nations, in which the good and loyal citizenry have been encouraged to identify enemies of the state who may be “disloyal.” Certainly a program that encourages Americans to report “misinformation” —defined, the site makes clear, as any assertion less than fawning over the President—so they can be held “accountable” encourages such a comparison. “This is a frightening effort by the White House to suppress political speech,” one caller to a Washington D.C. talk show said yesterday.

It’s frightening, all right, though not for that reason. Yes, the site’s language is spectacularly tone-deaf to First Amendment concerns: “stop attacks on the President before they start” is the language of fear, repression and censorship, not patriotism and statesmanship. Nonetheless, I have no fears that a ham-handed, paranoid website and silly volunteer snitch program by an administration that is finally beginning to get at least some of the criticism from the news media that it deserved to get three years ago will intimidate anybody. What is frightening is the naked incompetence and juvenile instincts of the people the President allows to represent and advise him, who don’t understand the culture of the nation they are supposed to govern and how deeply offensive this kind of paranoid, Big Brother-style, enemies list behavior seems to most Americans when it comes from a President.  The fact that he allows this shows that the President doesn’t understand either. This is, after all, the man is supposed to work for and respect the opinions of supporter and critic alike.

Attackwatch.com is merely the latest in the depressing succession of botched U.S. Leadership 101 tests by Barack Obama and his team.  I was searching my knowledge of the Presidents to think of any one of them, before Obama, who would have allowed himself to be heard, recorded or videotaped telling a crowd “If you love me, you gotta help me pass this bill!” as Obama did this week.  [Note: A commenter below was offended that I did not exactly quote the President in my original version here, writing “If you love me, pass this bill!” The key phrase, of course, is the “if you love me,” and to clarify for him and any other “gotcha” fans out there, I cannot imagine a President before Mr. Obama who would say anything beginning with the phrase, “If you love me…!”  because it is unseemly, pandering, narcissistic, and embraces a cult of personality that is antithetical to the political culture of the United States.] I couldn’t think of one; in fact, I couldn’t think of one who wouldn’t have been horrified at the thought of appealing to blind adoration as the justification for a major policy initiative, rather than its value to the nation.  If Attackwatch.com is frightening, that was just sad.

Actually, they are both sad.

And frightening.


Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Leadership, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites

More on “The Atheist, the Graduation, and the Prayer”

Damon Fowler, School Adminstrator-In-Training?

Either by design, bias, or because I was not sufficiently clear (always a distinct possibility), a lot of readers seem to have misunderstood the central principle in my post about Damon Fowler, the Louisiana high school senior who singled-handedly bluffed his school out of including a prayer in his graduation ceremonies. Let me clarify.

The post is only incidentally about atheism vs. religion. The ethical issue arose in that context, but it just as easily could have been raised in other circumstances. The ethical values involved here were prudence, tolerance, self-restraint, proportionality, consideration, generosity, and empathy. Fowler’s actions assumed that preventing what he believed was a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religious belief over another justified ignoring all of these. They don’t, and the same conclusion applies whether we are discussing a technical legal violation, a breaching of organizational rules, or personal misconduct.

Anyone who reads Ethics Alarms knows that I believe that the culture only becomes and stays ethical if all its participants accept the responsibility of flagging and, when necessary, condemning and stopping harmful societal conduct, as well as unethical personal conduct that will be toxic to society if it becomes the norm. Nevertheless, society becomes oppressive and intolerable if every single misstep, offense, violation, possible violation, arguable violation or mistaken judgment is cause for confrontation, conflict and policing, without regard for context and consequences. Indeed, much of the challenge in ethical analysis involves deciding what kind of misconduct matters, even once the question of whether something is misconduct has been settled. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Daily Life, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Comments of the Day: “Bully Ethics…”

I was in New York all day, and returned to find a plethora of excellent comments on the post, “Bully Ethics: Lessons from Casey the Punisher.” Two of the finest follow, and they go well together: Michael on the dilemma facing the bullied child, and Lianne on her family’s solution.

First, Michael:

“Bullies only understand violence. If you are being bullied, how can you stop it? Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Comment of the Day, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

Doctors and the Deadly Anti-Snitch Reflex

Everybody, or almost everybody, hates to report friends and colleagues for misconduct. This is the anti-snitch reflex, a strongly programmed response from childhood. Telling authorities about the misconduct of others sets off internal alarms that have been installed by parents and peer groups, ensuring that we feel terrible if we “tattletale.” This is betrayal, a violation of loyalty, and most of all, a breach of the Golden Rule: we’d never want anyone to snitch on us.

For professionals, however, this reflex is false, mistaken and even deadly. The duty to report dishonest public employees, crooked cops, unethical lawyers, conflicted accountants, self-dealing business executives, fraudulent researchers and others in the workplace—even if they are colleagues and friends—trumps childhood codes, personal loyalty and general discomfort. There is nothing noble or admirable about allowing innocent people to entrust their life and livelihood with untrustworthy professionals. Nevertheless, a disturbing large proportion of all professionals can’t bring themselves to do the right thing when it comes to the core ethical duty of stopping workplace dishonesty, incompetence or corruption when it involves a colleague.

A recent survey of doctors is not comforting, but it confirms the problem. Continue reading


Filed under Education, Health and Medicine, Professions, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

More on Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s Lying Attorney General

Now that we know a little bit more about Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General whose pursuit of a U.S. Senate seat has him periodically masquerading as a Vietnam War veteran, it is clear that simply defeating him at the polls isn’t enough. He should be impeached as Attorney General, and deserves professional discipline from the Connecticut Bar as well. Why? Well, he’s an unrepentant serial liar on a grand scale. Lawyers, including Attorney Generals, are prohibited from engaging in dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, and it is professional misconduct when this rises to a level that calls a lawyer’s trustworthiness and fitness to practice law into question. Does pretending to have credentials, especially military combat experience, that you do not have in order to get a job reach this level?

Of course it does. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, U.S. Society, War and the Military