Tag Archives: snitching

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: ‘NCIS’ Ethics”

[ Again I am awash in Comments of the Day. There’s no question about it: the comments here are getting better, and more commenters are participating. There are also more comments being made to posts than ever before. 2017, despite a 10% drop in traffic from 2016, set a record for comments. This blog was always designed to be an interactive online colloquy on ethics. More views, links and shares would be nice, but I’ll take more and better comments over volume any day. You all are doing a terrific job. I may  have to make “Comment of the Day” a daily rather than an occasional feature. That would be progress.]

The latest Ethics Quiz was about this week’s “NCIS” episode in which the federal agency’s director got all misty eyed and proud to learn that his daughter had accepted the blame (and the charges) for her friend’s shoplifting because her friend was 18 (and a habitual shoplifter) and the offense would end her dream of college. Ethics Alarms readers were asked whether this was a responsible ethics message for Mark Harmon’s long-running procedural to send, especially to any children watching.

The quiz attracted uniformly excellent responses (my take is here).

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: “NCIS” Ethics:

I would say that the daughter acted foolishly and the father acted unethically.

The father has a duty to teach and protect his children, which he utterly failed to fulfill in this case. His daughter is showing disastrously poor judgment, placing her future seriously at risk, and he needed to set her straight. He should have lectured her on the enduring truth of the adage, “Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.” She should not be spending any time at all with an incorrigible thief. This other girl is big trouble. She has already gotten the daughter arrested once and if the daughter continues to hang out with her, the odds are high that she will do it again. The lesson that the daughter should have learned from this incident is that she needs to shun the company of this supposed friend. Instead, the incident has bound them together even more closely. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/24/2018: Demands, Denial, And Ethics Distortions

Good morning, crew!

1. Say please..…. A group of “Dreamers” blocked an entrance to Disneyland yesterday, as part of a protest demanding a Congressional OK for DACA.  I am willing to accept the will of Congress and the President if somehow the illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and never took the initiative to become compliant with the law get a break via DACA.  However, they are supplicants. The US has no obligation to accommodate their predicament. I don’t want any demands from them, and the more they demand, the less I am inclined to be sympathetic to their plight.

Ask nicely. Say please. Their sense of entitlement is redolent of the attitudes of the advocates of the usual, everyday, garden variety illegal immigrants. How dare the country we entered illegally enforce the law? If the “Dreamers” want to ask for a compassionate exception, I’ll listen, just as I’ll consider the pleas of panhandlers and homeless veterans. But don’t you dare tell me I have to give you a handout.  And as non-citizens, “the “Dreamers” have no basis to protest anything.

2. Is it news yet? If you had no inkling that the FBI somehow “lost” thousands of text messages sent between those lovebirds, FBI counterintelligence expert Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page,  at the exact point where their conversations and expressed desire to “stop” President Trump may have been especially interesting, you are not alone. There is an internal Justice Department investigation about the communications that went on during the extramarital affair, in part because both were involved in the Mueller investigation into whether there is some way that Democrats can find a legitimate reason to impeach President Trump. Strzok also helped lead the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server—also now under renewed scrutiny, since more evidence suggests that it might have been rigged; did you know that?— and was initially involved in Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. Strzok was kicked off the task force after Mueller learned that there was smoking text message evidence that he detested the President, and Strzok and Page had texted about the need for an “insurance policy” against Trump being elected, creating a prima facie case that the investigation included supposed objective seekers of truth who had a political agenda. Page, Strzok’s secret squeeze, was also on Mueller’s team before returning to the FBI. That makes two potential anti-Trump moles. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Quizzes

Ethics Quiz: “NCIS” Ethics

One of the longest running 15 years!), most popular, and never honored TV procedurals is CBS’s “NCIS,” starring Mark Harmon. The show frequently has ethics themes, and tonight’s was especially provocative.

Jethro Gibbs'(that’s Harmon) boss, NCIS chief Leon Vance, found that his daughter Kayla, a top student who had already been accepted at Georgetown, had been arrested for shoplifting. Vance was troubled by his daughter’s dismissive treatment of the arrest and her crime, as she shrugged it off as a first offense that would likely result in community service because of her age, 17. Her father, played by Rocky Carroll, felt that his daughter’s values has been corrupted because he was a single father with a demanding job.

Then he discovered that daughter Kayla had not really committed the crime. She had taken the rap for her troubled 18-year old friend, who had multiple previous shoplifting arrests, but who wanted to go to college. Rocky realizes that his daughter had accepted blame to help her friend, so she might realize her dream of a college education. “I figure I’ll have to do about 30 hours of public service,” Kayla tells her beaming father between hugs. “I think I’ll help teach some poor kids to read, or maybe help some needy seniors.”

Vance beams. He is so proud. Kayla did the right thing.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

Is this the right ethics message for “NCIS” to promote?

I know my answer to this one, and maybe you know me well enough to guess it. But I’ll let readers weigh in first.



Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

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