Media Ethics (Section 09)
About this class
Studies suggest that the average Canadian spends 31 hours online and 14 hours watching TV every week. Many of us also listen to the radio while driving, read the newspaper in the metro, and are bombarded with advertising everywhere we go. It is therefore hard to deny that the media plays a major role in our lives. But the media is hardly ethically neutral and it presents us with moral conundrums on a daily basis. Journalists struggle to balance the need for privacy with the public interest when reporting a story; Hollywood Blockbusters have raised questions about the place of sexism and consumerism in popular culture; and communities struggle with the issue of universalism versus particularism in an increasingly global era.
This course is designed to engage with these and other issues. Conceptually, it is organized into 4 sections: 1) An Introduction to Ethics, 2) The Media and its role in Creating Normative Values, 3) Ethics and the Media in the Global Era, 4) and The Media, Democracy, and a Just Society. Assignments include a reflection paper, program-related posts to be made on an educational networking site called newsactivist.com, and a position paper and formal debate about WikiLeaks.
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You have discussed both sides of the debate on abortion, which is very important seeing as you acknowledge that there are different viewpoints. I agree that abortion is a woman's choice. It is important that we focus on the living and their current needs rather than focusing on the needs of a human that has not even been fully formed. There are many reasons why a woman could choose to have an abortion, whether the child is a result of rape or if she is simply not physically or mentally prepared to have a child. I believe that a fetus should not be considered as a human life until it is substantially developed. I do not think that at the moment of conception a fetus should be considered a human life. However, I do not support the argument that the decision to call the fetus “a human life” is based on its moral status. Although it is a human trait, not every human necessarily “displays characteristics of independence or rationality.” There are people who have mental illnesses that do not allow them to possess these characteristics. Psychopaths, for example, do not have a sense of morality; does this mean they are not considered “human lives”? Regardless, I believe that women should have the ability to abort if they so choose. It doesn’t mean that women should be encouraged to make this decision lightly, but it is their body in the end and they should be able to do what they feel is best for themselves.
First, thank you for bringing such an important issue to light. While most people are in fact aware that our health care system is problematic, mostly due to the long waiting lines in hospitals, we tend to forget the extent of the problem. People tend to treat budgetary issues in an utilitarian viewpoint, where money should be allocated to where the largest amount of people would be benefited. However, access to health care should be viewed in a deontological manner as it is one of the most basic rights of citizens. The health and lives of people should not be used as a means to an end, in this case people's access to health care should not be jeopardized simply to reduce financial strain in the province or to reduce taxes. Therefore the government of Ontario should review its budget and make sure that their health care system has enough funding to function properly, even if that means having less money for other less important programs. I do agree with your suggestion that a larger part of the population should be involved into the solving of this problem as it affects us all. Moreover if more people are aware of the issue and they will be more accepting of any possible increase in taxes or decrease in other services resulting from the proper funding of health care.
The Nepal Earthquake was disastrous. You have brought up very interesting points. I agree with you that the Canadian government might not be doing much to help the Nepalese people who have been evacuated out of their houses, and losing loved ones. Even though, the Canadian government had pledged to offer five million dollars to help, they are not doing anything about the Canadians who have been registered as being in Nepal. I have never heard of the New Power, and I find it interesting that it consists of people helping the society. I find it incredible that New Power is a way of communicating and sharing ideas, and finding information.
I think that New Power is a really great way of helping people who are eager or worried about this earthquake. This group of individuals who are the New Power can follow a utilitarian-based goal, which is to perform the greatest good that will benefit the greatest number. Also, by having this group of individuals who want to help to contribute the growth of something, will encourage other members of society to be concerned about what is happening around the world, and helping and comforting others who need it, like the people who are affected by the Nepal earthquake and want to know if everything is okay. The New Power will enable a lot of people to communicate ideas and share news with each other and this will allow a part of the society to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people (which in this case are the people that are affected by the Nepal earthquake in other places other than Nepal, like Canada).
You brought up an interesting topic that is both a relevant and popular story and raises important points about the transgender community. However, there is definitely an ethical issue at play with this particular story: when does someone's private life need to become public and who has the right to decide that? For months, Jenner's life was being ridiculed and made into a public spectacle as rumours about his sexuality ran rampant. The lack of respect accorded to him* and his family was enormous and intrusive. Who gave all these media outlets the right to invade and exploit his private life and his personal struggle with gender identification? In your article, you seem to be defending the utilitarian maxim that aims for the greatest good for the greatest number of people. By arguing that the outing of his personal story is helping many people in the transgender/queer community, you demonstrate that the good brought to hundreds of people thanks to Jenner's story outweighs the harm that Bruce Jenner, a single person, might have come to during this media circus. I agree with the idea that if someone's private story will help a lot of other people, they should share it, especially since in this case, Jenner's story is encouraging to people who are transgendered and also humanizes transgendered people to the rest of the population, which is great. However, I am strictly opposed to the way media outlets hounded him for months. In future delicate situations such as this one, the media should acknowledge the utilitarian view of "greatest good for greatest number," as you have, but they should definitely not forget to look at their stories through a deontological framework. The latter would be quick to remind them that there are universal maxims in place that should not be abused, and the right to privacy is surely amongst them (Cornell Law).
Cornell Law: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/privacy
*I appreciate the fact that you call him 'they,' but since he did say that for now he prefers 'he,' even though that might change later on (The Guardian), I figured I can just use that pronoun with no disrespect intended.
I totally agree with you on the fact that the GMO industry's way of doing things are far from ethical. Indeed, I have once seen a documentary on the subject called "The World According to Monsanto" which depicts the hash truth behind the genetically modified seeds. In this film, it has been said that researches about the long term effects of the GMO on the human body has not been discovered yet, since the experiment gathers data from many people over a very long period of time. So, in the end no one is really sure of the possible consequences these GMO may have on the human body and the company is ignoring these potential threats which makes their way of doing things highly immoral.
I think you make an interesting point when bringing up the fact that the mass surveillance issue has proven itself to be pretty much useless up to date. For example, with all the data collected, where was the NSA when the Boston Marathon Attack happened? Shouldn’t they have prevented it? Many questions such as these remain unanswered and debatable. The problem with mass surveillance also includes the fact that more and more average people are being investigated and incarcerated, and it seems that this mass surveillance is not serving its purpose to protect the USA from enemy harm, such as terrorism and other threatening countries. From, a utilitarian’s point of view, the government is arguably doing the right thing with this mass surveillance technique, which apparently assures national security and comes at the small price of gathering information about civilians, most of which is harmless and goes unnoticed. In this way, the government sees national security and protection as more valuable than the right to privacy, for it promotes the greatest amount of good for the greatest number, which is the determinant for right and wrong in utilitarianism. All in all, your position is clear, but there are also other possibilities as to whether mass surveillance is right or wrong.
I agree that we should spread awareness on this issue because not many people are aware in the first place. Cutting funds for people who need it the most is immoral since these children need the services provided by the preschool. The government needs to take into account the consequences of removing services for kids with disabilities. In the perspective of a utilitarian, there are less people being benefited from the budget cut then those that actually are benefited(the government), which needs to change. In regards to politics, it is very difficult to elect someone that will always stick by their promises. I agree that changing who has the power will allow for this issue to be resolved, but we also have to take into account that politicians do not always deliver. Also, sharing the power between the government body and communities calls for cooperation, which is not guaranteed. However, I do believe that the most effective way to solve this problem is to cut funding from sectors that need money the less and that won't harm people to the same extent as reducing services for disabled children.
I am very impressed by your latest post, which provides a well-supported, ethical analysis of the issue of sensationalism in the news media. Essentially, through the critique of multiple sensationalist reports written about Wakefield’s inaccurate findings, you have clearly shown that sensationalism in the news media proves immoral. In general, from a deontological perspective, I most definitely agree with your conception that sensationalism in the news media is immoral because sensationalism escapes the notion of truth; thus, in the context of journalism, sensationalism violates the media’s responsibility to be accurate. This lack of accuracy is evidenced by the sensationalist reports written about Wakefield’s findings, in which the authors try to generate a buzz by wrongly reporting that there exists a link between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella disease. Moreover, in general, from a utilitarian perspective this time, I further agree with your conception that sensationalism in the news media is immoral because sensationalism creates the potential for harm to society. This potential for harm is also evidenced by the sensationalist reports written about Wakefield’s findings, which encourage people not to get vaccinated and, thus, expose them to disease. Ultimately, I agree with your assessment that sensationalism in the news media is wrong. Overall, you have done a good job evaluating this topic through the perspectives of deontology and utilitarianism. Keep up the good work!
I'd like to first commend you on your desire to test the assumptions of modern medicine and an excellent job concisely synthesizing a lot of information. Before delving into my argument, I want to address the usage of preference utilitarianism in the above comment. Preference utilitarianism is actually a deeply flawed teleological framework because the fulfillment of preferences does not typically fulfill the summum bonum. This is particularly true in the case of refusing cancer treatment, where preferences can easily be skewed, leading to misinformed decisions by patients.
In addition, I'll now apply the teleological framework of ethics to show that refusal of cancer treatment is actually unethical. The overarching goal is to create the greatest happiness for the greatest number; in other words, maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. In your post, I believe that you generally referred to pleasure or pain in terms of physical sensations. Utilitarian doctrine, however, focuses on higher level pleasures (e.g. pleasures of intellect). I would make the argument that by refusing treatment, the patient is choosing to forego high-value pleasures in order to avoid physical harm. In general, so long as they can remain conscious, patients should try to prolong life as much as possible because of the potential future pleasures.
To start off, I must say this is an issue I found exceptionally thought-provoking. It made me reflect a lot and I can come up to a conclusion which supports the idea of fighting for survival. Undoubtedly, It is true that chemotherapy possibly has many negative side effects to it. Although, another fact is: chemotherapy is misunderstood. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that “69 percent of lung cancer patients and 81 percent of those with colon cancer misunderstood the purpose of the very treatment they'd been undergoing” (Span, 2014). I feel that many times there are overreactions concerning these treatments. We should all be aware that when aiming for good, there is and will always be a small possibility where things may go wrong. As you have mentioned, most of the children (80-90% according to a specialist) with ALL can be cured from it and the percentage of survivors that will develop a unrelated cancer in the next 15 years is of 17.6 percent. The 17.6 which is that lower percentage where things may go the opposite way.
Some of these facts tend to scare people right off the start and produce misunderstandings but it would be extremely important for the individuals to acquire unabridged knowledge. After all, the matter is of a battle between life and death.
Span, Paula. "Misunderstanding Chemo." The New York Times. Nov 12. 2012.
Web. May 4. 2015. http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/what-chemo-cant-do/?_r=0
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