Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/19: Fake News, Twin Ethics, Bonnie And Clyde, And A Deadly Date

Good morning!

I would give you all a big hug, a squeeze, and maybe a sniff, but that’s not me...

1. This is fake news, you know. Today’s headline on the Times front page: “Barr Understated Mueller Findings, Some on Team Say.” Naturally, “some” are never identified. All this headline means is that some involved with the Mueller investigation wouldn’t have summarized the report as the AG did,  and some had a different opinion, and, presumably, some disagreed with them. Who didn’t assume this? This isn’t news. This is just pot-stirring and innuendo in service of a political agenda. Now if the Times’ sources went on the record and explained what findings they are referring to and why, that would be news. This isn’t.

2. Maybe just Ick, not ethics, but still, ICK! Kendall Jenner, who is famous exclusively because her half-sister sister bared all in a sex video that launched the Kardashian reality show empire, made $26.5 million for just 53 sponsored Instagram posts, according to Captiv8, a marketing firm that connects brands to “social media influencers.” Let’s see: is there anything wrong with Jenner letting companies pay her to send out social media hype? As long as she isn’t lying in her posts, I guess not...but if she becomes part of a fraud without doing her due diligence,  its not just unethical, it’s illegal. Is there anything unethical about paying a narcissistic waste of space who would lose a game of Scrabble to a sea sponge millions to promote a company’s product or event? No, if it works. Is there anything unethical about trusting a barely-educated celebrity because of her looks? Unethical, no…stupid, but not unethical.

3. On the suspension of ethics during wartime. Freddie Oversteegen, who died September in her native Netherlands, was just 14 when she joined the Dutch resistanceTogether with her older sister Truus and their friend Hannie Schaft, she murdered as many Nazis as she could, using a firearm hidden in the basket of her bike. The women had a  method: first approach a Naz in bars, seduce them, ask if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) and then, shoot the bastards, or as Freddie  put it, “liquidate” them.

 “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people,” she told one interviewer. When she was asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”

Freddie also blew up bridges and smuggled Jews out of concentration camps, so she was more than a black widow assassin. Is she justly regarded as a hero?

4. “The Highwaymen” My wife and I watched this new Netflix release starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the real life aging Texas Rangers who were handed the assignment of “stopping” Bonnie and Clyde’s deadly rampage through Texas in 1934. We liked it a lot, but then it’s an ethics movie, raising and debating the question—see #3 above—of how far one can ethically go to fight evil. Bonnie  and Clyde were evil despite their folk hero status at the time, and despite the sick glamorizing they received in the 1967 film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which made them the romantic rebels fighting a corrupt establishment—you know, like the arrogant creeps who shut down my college a year later.

The Highwaymen barely shows the two psychotic love-birds until they are being riddled with bullets, focusing on the real heroes of the saga, the law enforcement officials who hunted them down.

The two ex-Rangers break quite a few laws in the pursuit of the greater good, and it is odd that there seems to be a resurgence in sympathy in the entertainment media for brutal police methods. In Dick Wolf’s “Chicago PD,” for example, Sergeant Hank Voigt (Jason Beghe) regularly threatens, extorts and beats people up to solve crimes–and he’s the moral center of the show. Is law enforcement more like war than we like to admit, where the ethical rules can be, are, and maybe need to be suspended?

Best line in “The Highwaymen”: Kathy Bates, as Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson—I’ll tell her weird ethics story tomorrow—tells reporters that she is making sure that Bonny and Clyde are hunted down, and one of them references their image as Robin Hood figures. “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?” she asks.

5. Now THIS is weird…Twin ethics! In Brazil, when identical male twins  refused to say which one of them had fathered the child (DNA test proved inconclusive because they their were identical twins)  assuming they would then be able to escape having to pay, a judge ordered that they both had to pay child support. Each twin was ordered to pay 230 reais; ($60; £45) a month, or 30% of the minimum salary in Brazil. Judge Filipe Luís Perucaalso ruled that the names of both men would be on the girl’s birth certificate.

The twins had used their resemblance to impersonate each other and date as many women as possible, and then defend themselves from allegations they were cheating on girlfriends. Ah, memories! I see a reboot coming!

But they’re irresponsible illegitimate fathers!

Identical illegitimate fathers, and you’ll find

The look alike, deny alike, they go in court and lie alike!

You could lose your mind

When irresponsible illegitimate fathers

Are two of a kind!

Elle’s Paul Ford: Nominee For Most Unethical Father Of The Year (Non-Criminal Division)

"We're giving one of you most of our money, because we already know the other one won't need it."

“We’re giving one of you most of our money, because we already know the other one won’t need it.”

Bias, as we say here often, makes you stupid, and social justice delusions unmoored from facts, ethics, common sense and reality make you spectacularly stupid.

A nauseatingly self-congratulatory feature by Elle writer Paul Ford was introduced by the women’s magazine this way:

“As Paul Ford’s twins grew, he couldn’t stand the fact that his daughter would always lag behind his son financially. Then he hatched a brilliant plan….”

Here’s the brilliant plan, in Ford’s own words: Continue reading

More Unethical Fun With Twins: It’s Not Nice To Fool The Judge

You'll doubtless recall that the same tactic was used in the infamous "Parent Trap" murder trial....

Way back in May of 2010, I wrote about a lawyer who suspected that his criminal defendant had pulled a switcheroo, substituting his identical twin brother for himself in his trial. (He had, too.) That was bad enough, but when a lawyer pulls the same stunt, she has crossed some significant ethical lines that will land her in serious trouble with the judge and probably the bar. Thus when Dorothy Savory, a Kansas City defense attorney, placed her client’s identical twin at the counsel’s table just in time for him to be identified by a witness as the man who had snatched her purse, the judge was furious.

This sleazy tactic is older than Abe Lincoln, and has the theoretical purpose of establishing inherent reasonable doubt by showing that an eye witness has identified the wrong person. It has been long established, however, that doing this is a fraud on the court–deceiving not merely the witness, but the jury and, most important of all, the judge, unless a defense attorney alerts the judge to her intention and gets advance permission to try to fool the witness by seating a fake defendant where the real defendant would normally sit.  There were three things that made what Savory did unethical: Continue reading

Genome Sequences, Consent, and Scientist Ethics don't trust this guy???

Few things are scarier than when scientists start debating ethics.

A current debate in the scientific community involves whether it is ethical to publish your genome sequence without asking permission from family members. It is increasingly common for people to pay to have their genome scanned for the presence of traits, including genetic diseases. Scientists agree that releasing this information without the permission of the individual whose genes are described would be a clear ethical breach. The controversy involves whether an individual is ethically obligated to get consent from family members before publishing his or her own genome sequence, since to some extent that means publishing theirs as well.

The argument proceeds from the unauthorized release of someone’s genome sequence by a third party to the plight of an identical twin whose sibling wants to publish his own sequence, which, of course, also describes his twin’s.  This is ethically clear too: it would be wrong not to seek permission. But what about the rest of the family? Continue reading

Twins on Trial: Just Like “The Patty Duke Show”!

Are you old enough to remember “The Patty Duke Show”? You know, with Patty, then a young starlet fresh off her Broadway and film triumphs as Helen Keller, playing “identical cousins” Patty and Cathy (with a British accent)? If you do, you surely remember the disturbingly catchy theme song about “two pairs of matching bookends, different as night and day!” Well, here’s a story about recent “matching bookends” who caused some ethics problems. To introduce it properly, to the melody of Patty Duke’s theme: Continue reading