The Ethical Take

Published: July 19, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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The E.T. examines the few, the questionable and the outrageous who refuse to take the road less traveled.

Rolling Stone –

Several chain stores, including pharmacy brand CVS will not sell copies of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine to their customers in the New England area. Fire and Police associations are boycotting the magazine as well because this month’s cover features a youthfully innocent picture of self-admitted Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The cover story, written by Janet Reitman, entitled, The Bomber: How a Popular, Promising Student was Failed by his Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster, a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, begins with this disclaimer from editors: “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”

I applaud Reitman and Rolling Stone for such a well-researched profile that focuses, not on popularizing, but the very valid questions surrounding how such an innocent young man raised in the U.S. and attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth became a radical terrorist. Important questions. Important story.

However, despite their intention to make clear that this isn’t a glamour piece, the timing is wrong.

While the press has a responsibility to offer stories that inform, clarify and explain about matters of social conscious, they must sometimes temper that responsibility with respect.

The Ethical Take: Respect overrides responsibility. Insensitivity is not the message you want to convey, and editors should have given it more time, as well as tested the cover image.

Edward Snowden –

He’s no longer problematic, he’s dangerous. The country’s latest self-anointed leaker-in-chief could’ve presented his conclusions to NSA bosses; says he couldn’t. He could have reported to theOffice of the Inspector General; he wouldn’t. He could’ve gone directly to Congress; he didn’t. So, he takes it upon his own Bradley Manningesque conscience to decide wrongdoing and goes where… to that citadel of “journalism,” Wikileaks. Oh, Edward!

If Snowden really wants to help his cause, he should come home, face the music and report directly to Congress about data collection. If he’s genuinely interested in exposing the truth, and copies of his files are safely in the hands of others, what’s the problem?

He needs to stand up to the consequences of his actions. Even his hero, Daniel Ellsberg did that. However, in releasing The Pentagon Papers (uncovering poor decision-making in Viet Nam as well as the lies told by the Johnson Administration to the public and Congress), Ellsberg – a more reasoned whistleblower – worked with the staff of Senator Edward Kennedy and had approached several other senators early on. I guess Snowden forgot about that little piece of personal decision making.

Ethical take: No sense of responsibility leads Snowden to act before thinking.

The Zimmerman Aftermath –

What a tragic mess for all.

A seventeen-year-old is dead, a neighborhood watchman, on trial for second degree murder, is exonerated, and the thermostat on race relations cranked up to overdrive thanks tooverreach by civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Sharpton needs to stop exploiting Trayvon Martin, dial-back the rhetoric, and begin to examine a much bigger question: Where do we go from here, and how can the media (of which you are a part of, Al)begin a serious dialog on the key issues of justice and race?

As for Florida’s “stand your ground” law? This bit of blatant vigilantism is just as responsible as Zimmerman, who, if he had only followed police instructions to stay put, would not have found himself on trial.

Was justice served? The jury believes they followed the law. Is Zimmerman blameless? No. Will “stand your ground” be over-turned in Florida: only if reasonable minds prevail.

Ethical take: Rights should never trump responsibilities and Florida should seriously consider repealing a bad law that will come back to haunt them again. As for Zimmerman – good luck finding a place to start over. Maybe Moscow’s transit lounge?

One for the Books –

According to an Associate Press report (July 12), “A dentist acted legally when he fired a longtime assistant because he had grown too attracted to her and worried he would try to start an affair, the Iowa Supreme Court reaffirmed Friday. Clarifying its rationale for an earlier ruling, the all-male court found that bosses can fire employees that they and their spouses see as threats to their marriages. The court said such firings were not sex discrimination because they were motivated by feelings, not gender.”

Now, you might think, as I did initially, that the Iowa Supremes got it wrong, but… take a closer look at the following:

“The case was brought by Melissa Nelson, 33, against Dr. James Knight of Fort Dodge, who fired her after his wife learned of text messages between the two. Ms. Nelson’s lawyer had asked the court to reconsider a December decision, in which the justices said the issue was ‘whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.’ That language was removed from Friday’s opinion. Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote that Ms. Nelson was fired ‘because of the activities of her consensual personal relationship.’ ”

Ethical Take: They’re both responsible! Knight should re-examine his feelings for his wife, and Mrs. Knight needs to secure a post-nup!

The Road Not Taken –

Even when the signs are obvious, our desires can bend us away from the right to the right away. With apologies to Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And I did scratch my head in doubt
But being upright and good
I traveled down the loneliest as far as I could
Until drawn to that sweet smell of In-N-Out

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one most traveled by
Because discounts are just common sense.



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