Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/19: The Rotten Standards Edition

I feel like hearing my favorite hymn this morning.

1. How TV makes the public ignorant and unethical. On a 2008 “Law and Order” episode, “Knock Off,” a New York Assistant DA tells a lawyer that since his former client is dead, attorney client privilege no longer applies. “The privilege does not survive the client,” he says, authoritatively. This is exactly 180 degrees wrong. Privilege and client confidences do survive clients; lawyers are bound by them forever, with some rare exceptions.

The show had legal advisors.  There is no excuse for this. What were Law and Order’s standards? Would it deliberately misstate law and regulations just to accommodate the plot? Apparently so.

2. According to the New York Times, we’ve been mistaken. People don’t kill people, Guns kill people, apparently all by themselves. One of the infinite ways news organizations practice unethical and biased journalism is by falsely framing facts and issues to encourage a particular public perception. The “paper of record” just went for a new record in this event with a piece titled “One Handgun, 9 Murders: How American Firearms Cause Carnage Abroad.”Incredibly, the article personifies a gun:

She came to Jamaica from the United States about four years ago, sneaking in illegally, stowed away to avoid detection. Within a few short years, she became one of the nation’s most-wanted assassins. She preyed on the parish of Clarendon, carrying out nine confirmed kills, including a double homicide outside a bar, the killing of a father at a wake and the murder of a single mother of three. Her violence was indiscriminate: She shot and nearly killed a 14-year-old girl getting ready for church.

With few clues to identify her, the police named her Briana. They knew only her country of origin — the United States — where she had been virtually untraceable since 1991. She was a phantom, the eighth-most-wanted killer on an island with no shortage of murder, suffering one of the highest homicide rates in the world. And she was only one of thousands.

Briana, serial number 245PN70462, was a 9-millimeter Browning handgun.

The thrust of the rest of the article is that the terrible murder rate in Jamaica and other third-world counties is the fault of the U.S. for guaranteeing its citizens gun rights, and not the corruption, weak government, poverty and rotten cultures, not to mention the killers they produce, in those nations themselves. “Law enforcement officials, politicians and even gangsters on the street agree: It’s the abundance of guns, typically from the United States, that makes the country so deadly,” the article says. “And while the argument over gun control plays on a continual loop in the United States, Jamaicans say they are dying because of it — at a rate that is nine times the global average.”

That’s right: all those murderous Jamaicans would become as harmless as lambs if the United States would just get with the program.

This isn’t news reporting, it’s anti-gun propaganda. Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2019: Tennis Players, Baseball Players, An Unethical Football Player, And Tarzan

Where did the morning go?

1. Men don’t matter, so apparently this isn’t worth worrying about or criticizing... The same kind of body dysmorphia that has had feminists and psychologists attacking the media and popular culture for warping women’s concepts of acceptable and desirable body types is affecting men just as negatively, it seems. It’s just that nobody cares.

From Barbie to “Baywatch,” the culture’s emphasis on absurdly proportioned and gorgeous, never-aging women has been blamed for poor self-image, anorexia, breast implants, botox, obsessive dieting and exercising, and weight loss scams. The culture’s relatively recent obsession with male physiques that once would have been regarded as freakish, however, is seldom criticized.

Where once he-men and heart throbs like Clark Gable, John Wayne and even Tarzan himself, Johnny Weissmuller, didn’t hesitate to appear in films looking fit but hardly muscle-bound, like this

and this…

and this…

..now even minor minor male characters on TV, in ads and movies have to show bulging pecs, swollen delts and a rock-like six pack, despite the fact that such bodies, unlike those of Gable, the Duke and Johnny, are impossible for most men to attain while maintaining a healthy and productive life-style.

A study published in June found that 22% of men aged 18-24 reported muscularity-oriented disordered eating. Lead researcher Dr Jason Nagata of the University of California says, “The drive for a bigger, more muscular body is becoming very prevalent. Their entire day is spent at the gym trying to bulk up. They may also be taking illicit supplements like steroids.”

Men, however, seldom seek treatment for the problem, and media and social critics continue to concentrate on the pop culture’s unhealthy effects on the body images of girls, not boys.

2. More reason to detest Tom Brady. Here’s father Tom Brady forcing his 6-year-old daughter to jump off a cliff:

Nice.

Hey! I get to use three favorite Ethics Alarms terms in one mini-post! This is res ipsa loquitur for irresponsible parenting. It is signature significance as well, because no good parent would do this to so young a child, even once. And it is moral luck: if Brady’s daughter had been injured in the jump, and she easily could have been, Brady would be widely and justifiably condemned, and possibly charged with child endangerment. That she was not hurt was just moral luck: it doesn’t change the ethics verdict on his conduct at all. Continue reading

You Have Two Weeks To Be Ethical And Decide Not To Watch The Super Bowl

Let me say something good about the New York Times: not all of it’s editorials are repetitious attacks on President Trump, just most of them. Last week editorial board member Alex Kinsbury persuaded his colleague to let him used the space for an opinion both ethical and irrefutable. A quick summary: Football is maiming its players, the NFL doesn’t care, and if you watch the Super Bowl and support its sponsors, you’re complicit.

But them you knew that, right? At least you know it if you’re been coming here for any length of time.

Recalling a hard hit on Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, Kinsbury writes, “As the sound of the hit faded into a commercial break, I realized with absolute certainty that I couldn’t watch football anymore. There aren’t enough yards to gain or Super Bowl rings to win that are worth the cost.”

True. What took you so long? He continues by reviewing the well-publicized data:

The first research into the link between football and traumatic brain injury was published in 2005. Since then, the science has become impossible to ignore. In 2017, The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of the autopsies of the brains of 111 deceased former N.F.L. players, whose relatives gave their bodies up for study. The group was not a random sample, yet 110 showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. Research published in November estimated that a minimum of 10 percent of all professional football players would develop C.T.E. at some point in their lives.

10% is wishful thinking, even for the  players who can still think. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

Hear me out, for I am, as regular readers here know, far from a Brady fan, despite my Boston bona fides. In fact, I think he shares the atrocious ethics values of his coach, which can be fairly summed up as “the ends justify the means” and “it ain’t cheating if you can get away with it.”

This, however, is a completely different area,  the toxic, values-rotting narcissism and obsession with surface beauty and impossible ideals in appearance that has made the nation sillier, more trivial, meaner, neurotic, insecure and less productive.

After the above photo of the 40 year-old quarterback with his model wife, Gisele Bundchen, surfaced online last week, the Patriots super-star was beset with social media snark attacking his “dad bod” and declaring him out of shape.

Whether it is intentional or not, Brady is to be thanked, admired and praised for appearing in public absent ripped abs and bulging muscles, and even some healthy fat visible in moderation, and doing so without shame. This is how normal people look, and should be allowed to look without comment or criticism. Once upon a time, not so long ago, before Nautilus and health club chains, celebrity athletes and he-men were judged on what they did, and not how chiselled and bulked-up they looked off the field or between films. This now extinct attitude was known as rationality and proportionality. Thus Joe Louis, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time.. Continue reading

Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Quote Of The Day: Professor David DeSteno

pro-brady

“It’s not about the true facts, or about how honest you believe a group is, or what the group’s past behavior is. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, or what team it is, or even if it’s sports at all. Just being a part of a group, any group, is enough to excuse moral transgressions because in some way, you’re benefiting from it. Your moral compass shifts.”

—-David DeSteno, Northeastern University Professor of psychology, explaining why Boston fans believe the New England Patriots, their coach, Bill Belichik, and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, are as pure as the driven snow, while the rest of the country sees them as detestable

The professor’s point will be familiar to any Ethics Alarms readers who have perused the various pots here regarding cognitive dissonance, or even those familiar with the mantra, “Bias makes you stupid.”  However, he has done some interesting research on the phenomenon described in the Times Sports article this morning.

In a psychological experiment, researchers separated people into two groups and offered some of them an option: Complete a fun, 10-minute task, or take on a difficult, 45-minute one. Placed in a room alone, they were told to choose which task they would have to do, or let a coin flip decide. Either way, the person entering the room next would be left with the other task.

Afterward, those people were asked to rate how fairly they had acted, and 90 percent said they had been fair. Except that they were lying. In fact, they had picked the easy task for themselves, without even flipping the coin, wrongly believing that no one was watching…

DeSteno and his former student Piercarlo Valdesolo conducted studies that showed that even strangers placed into groups quickly start favoring the people in their group, as they would favor themselves, even if that group was created randomly, and only minutes earlier. Morality, as it turns out, can change by the second, and for no good reason.

Professor DeSteno told the Times that this isn’t a conscious decision, but an innate survival reaction…. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova

"Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you're afraid to give us your position on fracking!"

“Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you’re afraid to give us your position on fracking!”

“So many athletes are afraid to use their platform to do the right thing and speak what they feel, and that’s very depressing.”

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to approving New York Times sports reporter Juliet Macur, as the former tennis great prepared for her keynote speech at a human rights event at the Department of State.

Wrong, Martina. There is no “platform.” You earned credibility and influence regarding social and political issues by intelligently and boldly standing up for your own rights and privileges, on issues that affected you directly and about which you had an important perspective and a legitimate reason to speak out. Female athletes. Discrimination. Gay rights. Feminism. You had credentials and authority in all of those areas, and using your status as a sports star to spark intelligent debate was responsible and fair.

Once you had established your credibility, analytical abilities and skill at articulating issues while taking informed positions on them, then you had earned added legitimacy separate from your athletic prowess and stardom. You’re a smart person: smart people’s informed opinions should be listened to and considered no matter what the topic. Many other athletes have expanded their legitimate authority and influence this way. Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Ted Williams. Billy Jean King. Bill Bradley.

Athletic stardom, however, confers no more assumed expertise regarding issues unrelated to sports than being a paper-hanger or a busboy. The difference is that famous athletes, like famous singers and actors, are admired and idolized by many people, especially among the young, who are incapable of resisting the siren influence of their heroes. There is nothing good about this, and everything wrong about it. Tom Brady supports Donald Trump, and the only reasonable reaction to that is to conclude that Tim Brady is a moron. However, that’s not how blank-slate sports fans react to his endorsement. For too many of them, the sequence is pure cognitive dissonance: Continue reading

The Cheater’s Rationalizations

cheatingI was in Boston recently, and naturally the topic of Tom Brady and Deflategate came up often. I kept hearing the same defenses of Brady with a growing sense of déjà vu. Yes, many of the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List raised their ethically-muddled heads in Beantown, all-purpose classics like “Everybody does it,” “It’s a bad law/ stupid rule,” and “No harm, no foul,” but there were others that clearly came out of some secretly published “Cheater’s Handbook.”

These are going to enter the list as a group, like #6,The Biblical Rationalizations. They will be trotted out for other purposes, no doubt, but no set of excuses better defines the unethical mindset of a cheater’s defenders than these three.

59. The Cheater’s Rationalizations Continue reading