The Ethical Take

Published: July 16, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
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The stories in this month’s Take could make a zany Mel Brooks comedy if they weren’t, sadly, true.

Donald Sterling Redux –

The dichotomy that is Donald Sterling – the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers with an intolerant mouth – just gets worse.

During one court appearance, Sterling and (estranged/not estranged?) wife Shelly “had a poignant exchange,” The New York Times writes (July 9), “when Donald Sterling reached for his wife’s hand and pulled her closet to him. She whispered in his ear then wiped away a tear.”

However, the following day, when Shelly takes the stand to testify that her (estranged/not estranged, I still don’t know!) husband “had slipped in recent years, becoming more forgetful and prone to outbursts, and that she had arranged a neurological examination because she was concerned about him,” Sterling exploded.

“Get away from me, you pig,” Sterling shouted.

The judge admonished Sterling for the outburst, adding “It’s somewhat disturbing.”

But Sterling saved his best bluster for when he took the stand, himself. “Make no mistake today, I will never, ever, ever sell this team, and until I die, I will be suing the N.B.A. to make them pay for the terrible violations of antitrust that they have imposed on my family.”

But the statement that grabbed my attention came from Sterling’s attorney, Bobby Samini, commenting on his client’s erratic outbursts: “I told you: That’s who he is. He didn’t come to put on a show for you guys. That’s who he is. Sometimes he’s combative. Sometimes he’s witty. Sometimes he’s charming. Sometimes he’s funny. It’s not a vaudeville act.”

The Ethical Take: Sterling throws Caution and Responsibility out the window. If the neurological reports are true about Sterling, (as well as his endless string of lawyers) it may just be impossible for him to ever, ever submit to the help he needs.

Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’? –

That was the provocative question in a recent New York Timeseditorial (July 8), in which journalist Peter Ross Range points out that “the book has been officially suppressed in [Germany] since the end of World War II.”

According to Range, Bavaria’s copyright will expire at the end of 2015, permitting the book to be published by anyone. “Racing to be the first to publish the book is the Institute for Contemporary History… with an annotated ‘critical edition’ of Hitler’s 700-page ramble.” The goal of the project by a five-scholar team is to “demystify and decode it… [allowing] an alternative subtext and historical context that will strip it of its allegedly hypnotizing power.”

Nonetheless, strong sentiments about Adolf Hitler’s manifesto remain. “Uri Chanoch, an 86-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor, [said] that Germans ‘somewhere in their hearts still have a hatred for us’ and has campaigned aggressively against the book’s republication, calling for international pressure on Bavaria to block it.”

The Times Letters to the Editor, look at both sides (July 9).

“Let’s not forget,” Holocaust survivor Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League writes, “that book burnings and the banning of ideas that ran contrary to the Nazi Party line were a regular feature of the Third Reich…. ‘Mein Kampf’ was the blueprint for the extermination of six million Jews… It is therefore an essential document to help Germans understand their history, even at the risk that neo-Nazis and hatters could also use the book to promote a sinister agenda.”

Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress writes, “The book was the inspiration and playbook for the greatest mass murder the world has ever seen…. we have seen how e-book versions of ‘Mein Kamf’ shot to the top of best-seller lists a few months ago. What would the Holocaust survivors and their relatives think if they visit a German bookstore and see Hitler’s book on the shelves.”

However, Bruce Weinstein writes, “As an American Jew who has taught ethics in Germany, I hope that Germans will appreciate that reading ‘Mein Kampf’ is the ethical and smart thing to do. The best response to hateful speech is more speech, not less.”

The E.T.: I agree with the Foxman and Weinstein assessment. The book should be used as a tool to educate Germans and others as to how quickly hate becomes a philosophy of the desperate and how desperate people are willing to cling to anything in an effort to escape their own misery. With radical Islamic groups reinterpreting the Qur’an to their own hate-filled philosophy, it’s a lesson we need now, more than ever.

You don’t want to get on his bad side –

Actor/writer/director George Clooney rarely goes after a tabloid, but this time, it was not just personal, it was dangerous.

Appearing in USA Today editorial (July 7), in reaction to a British tabloid report, Clooney writes, “The Daily Mail has printed a completely fabricated story about my fiancée’s mother opposing our marriage for religious reasons,” the actor said. “It says Amal’s mother has been telling ‘half of Beirut’ that she’s against the wedding. It says they joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride.

“Let me repeat that: the death of the bride….

“I’m, of course, used to the Daily Mail making up stories — they do it several times a week — and I don’t care…. But this lie involves larger issues. The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous. We have family members all over the world, and the idea that someone would inflame any part of that world for the sole reason of selling papers should be criminal.

“I’m the son of a newsman,” Clooney continues, “I accept the idea that freedom of speech can be an inconvenience to my private life from time to time, but this story, like so many others, is picked up by hundreds of other outlets citing theDaily Mail as their source, including Boston.comNew York Daily NewsGulf NewsEmirates 24/7 and so on.

“The Daily Mail, more than any other organization that calls itself news, has proved time and time again that facts make no difference in the articles they make up. And when they put my family and my friends in harm’s way, they cross far beyond just a laughable tabloid and into the arena of inciting violence.”

Clooney rejected the paper’s apology calling them “the worst kind of tabloid” for recklessly printing inflammatory and potentially inciting rhetoric.

The E.T.: If the tabloids want to become real journalists, they need to ask themselves one simple question on every story they write: How would you respond to a tabloid printing a false and inciting story about your own family member? They need to recognize that journalism comes with a moral responsibility to consider the ethical implications of all decisions by considering their possible affect on others.


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