Media Ethics (Winter 2017, section 18)

About this class

Studies suggest that the average Canadian spends 19 hours online and 28 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.

Media Ethics does not aim to provide simple answers to difficult ethical questions. Instead, it is designed to introduce you to ethical questions surrounding the media and to provide you with the skills necessary to begin to find your own answers. Although the teacher will not attempt to hide her perpective, no particular position will be deemed “correct” in this class, and students are encouraged to put forward any opinion that is backed by evidence and critical thought.

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by TobyT on April 21, 2017
Nowadays, ad agencies understand that sex sells; the problem with the concept of “sex sells” is that they are so concentrated on selling the product or service the ad may be causing body dissatisfaction to their audience. Many advertisements use body image to attract consumer, but in the end many ads have completely failed due to the agency not realizing that the message they are portraying seems more like body shaming.

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by TobyT on April 21, 2017
Nowadays, ad agencies understand that sex sells; the problem with the concept of “sex sells” is that they are so concentrated on selling the product or service the ad may be causing body dissatisfaction to their audience. Many advertisements use body image to attract consumer, but in the end many ads have completely failed due to the agency not realizing that the message they are portraying seems more like body shaming.

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Marianopolis College
by TobyT on April 21, 2017
Nowadays, ad agencies understand that sex sells; the problem with the concept of “sex sells” is that they are so concentrated on selling the product or service the ad may be causing body dissatisfaction to their audience. Many advertisements use body image to attract consumer, but in the end many ads have completely failed due to the agency not realizing that the message they are portraying seems more like body shaming.

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by person1234 on April 21, 2017
According to marketing experts, the average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements a day (Marshall 2015). Advertisements can be seen on television, social media, billboards and/or magazines. In October of 2014, Victoria’s Secret, a lingerie company, came out with a controversial ad campaign that contains the slogan “The Perfect Body”. The ad contains pictures and videos of the Victoria’s Secret models and it portrays to viewers that having a body like theirs is considered perfect (Victoria’s Secret Ad).

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by kashamaar on April 21, 2017
Marijuana, being considered one of the most relevant topics of today’s day and age, has recently been discussed about its legalization in the country. Before and after Justin Trudeau’s campaign and election, many different opinions and subjective thoughts have been made towards the subject, creating a storm of controversy in today’s media. This is based on his proposal to legalize pot, loosely influenced by Colorado’s success after legalizing the substance all throughout the state.

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by Error on April 20, 2017
           At the time of its release in 2009, Infinity Ward’s new Call of Duty game, “Modern Warfare 2”, was critically acclaimed and viewed as one of the best video games to have ever been released in its genre. The game was praised for its entertaining multiplayer and its story driven campaign[1], but it was faced with massive controversy at launch. Why?

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by asdfghjkl on April 20, 2017
Adam Grandmaison (aka Adam22), the founder of a hugely successful BMX website has, in the recent past, become somewhat of an influential figure in the underground rap scene. He has risen to relative fame, gathering over 500 000 subscribers, through his podcast that is hosted on his YouTube channel No Jumper. As his influence has grown he has come into contact with more and more rappers and people that are a part of the scene. This has been capped off by the fact that he was able to put together and go on a rap tour entitled “The No Jumper Tour”.

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by mango101 on April 19, 2017
The influence media can have on one’s life can be truly remarkable. More specifically, television shows can often change one’s outlook on life or future aspirations. After all, watching one episode of Suits can certainly promote the field of law as an interesting future career. Although, unlike Suits, which includes a leading female actress as one of the main characters, most television shows portray women in a troubling manner. The portrayal of female characters as sexual objectified inferiors is quite common in today’s television scene.

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by aurea.mediocritas on February 13, 2017
In 2015, with an increase in research and access to artificial neural networks, an unprecedented amount progress took place with respect to artificial intelligence (AI)(Clark, 2015). Artificial neural networks aim to replicate the human brain, allowing them to acquire the brain’s unique ability of complex problem-solving and decision-making. While this has been beneficial in a range of fields, from finance to the medical industry to telecommunications and so much more, there is an inherent risk in the continued development of AI (CNN, 2006).

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by Carte Blanche on February 12, 2017
Governments most often invest in public medical research programs that are likely to benefit the large majority of the population. This puts research for rare diseases at a disadvantage, as the private pharmaceutical industry is reluctant in investing in research that would not result in a lucrative business, as its results would target only a small number of people. Thus, patients with debilitating rare disorders are left without treatment options and often a lack of even a basic scientific understanding of the disease.

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by Ailsssss on February 11, 2017
              Volkswagen had always been a reputed brand – promoting “the people’s car” as well as their low gas emissions – until 2015, when a scandal erupted regarding the company’s fraud in emission tests in the US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered a software installed in Volkswagen cars that was able to detect the parameters set by the EPA, and therefore allowed them change their performance to match the federal emission levels.

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by Juicy on February 10, 2017
  3D printers enable synthesizing three-dimensional solids by building up the object layer by layer using computer aided design. Futurologist Jeremy Rifkin suggested that the emergence of 3D printing leads to the beginning of a third industrial revolution(Rifkin). The creation of 3D printing cuts cost and saves time successfully in the industry. However, there are several problems might be caused by the improper use of 3D printing, which includes increasing the difficulty of protecting intellectual properties and the possibility of manufacturing illegal weapons etc.

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by SimoneDB on February 10, 2017
With the rapid advancement and proliferation of weapon technology, machines are increasingly beginning to replace humans on the battlefield. Many now consider robotics technology – Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems that have the ability to choose how and when to attack – as the future of warfare. Most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of sentient machines, especially ones that are engineered to kill. After all, humans should be making the decision to take human lives, right?

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by CashMeOusside on February 10, 2017
How would you feel if you knew one of your younger siblings was being forced into hard labour instead of having a normal childhood? How about not being able to see your parents often enough because they are subjected to intense workload in their factory in order to be able to feed you? It may not be a first world problem but it is obvious that these scenarios are terrible because we all know we would not want to experience such things. So why should workers suffer in factories to produce the goods we buy?

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by TobyT on February 10, 2017
In Western civilization, we, as a society, attach a high value to privacy and total control over our own bodies along with our lifestyles. Following this theme, we can determine, that any choices that directly affect our bodies should be decided by an individual for themselves, for example, any one person can choose to put whatever they like into or on their body.

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by mnsr on February 10, 2017
In an age of continuous scientific and technological advancement, it is not uncommon that morals constitute a potential brake to seemingly revolutionary ideas and concepts. This is the case for autonomous cars. Indeed, while human error is the source of more than 90% of car accidents, a car that requires nearly no human action has a much faster reaction time and cannot be drunk or distracted by a cellphone. However, the use of self self-driving cars represents a moral dilemma in the measure that these vehicles can face dilemmas themselves.

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by mango101 on February 10, 2017
The legalization of marijuana has been a recurring topic of discussion in North America over the last decade. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to begin the legalization process for Canada, while some American states, such as Oregon and Maine, have already legalized this drug. Many conflicting issues are represented in this debate. A utilitarianism approach to this discussion would argue that its legalization would benefit the majority of the population and consequently would be considered the ethical answer to this question.

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by rocki17000 on February 10, 2017
Medicinal Mush 

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4 months 2 days ago

I find this is an interesting subject and in your summary you make some good points, however I do not agree with everything you said. Firstly, I completely understand the censorship of songs with overtly racist lyrics, however, I ask the question; should these songs be playing on the radio anyways? My answer is no. I do not believe that songs on the radio should be censored when mentioning sexual acts nor violence. I believe that this censorship ruins the feeling and the sound the artist tries to create through the use of these carefully chosen words. Secondly, I believe that it is up to the listener (except in the case of children) to interpret these words as they wish, however; the offence taken by one listener should not lead to the censorship of the song. When it comes to the case of children, I believe that some censorship is required but complete censorship is useless for a couple reasons. Firstly, if a child does not know a word, it will sound like all the other words and secondly, if a child does know and recognize the word than they already know the word then censorship would achieve nothing.

4 months 2 days ago

Firstly, I just want to say that I completely agree with your point on the misconception of women’s rights being far more progressive than they are in the West and the false portrayal of the “’never-ending’ oppression” women face in the developing world. Although the law is seemingly more equitable towards women in the West, their relationship with the law (as you mentioned) is often not. The need for feminism and the notion of sexism even existing in modern Western liberal democracies is something that is still contested and its denial is immoral under a number of ethical frameworks.

From a deontological perspective, individuals simply shouldn’t treat others in ways they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves. Therefore, it would be immoral to apply the law differently to different groups of people, such as in the case of the missing Indigenous women, whose families continue to be deprived of the justice they rightfully deserve.

From the point of a view of virtue ethics and teleology, denying sexism in the West is both not virtuous and has harmful implications. Under the framework of virtue ethics, believing that we have achieved gender equality could lead to moral licensing, whereby people ignore the micro and macro-aggressions women continue to face in society because under the law, their status is seemingly equal to that of men. Moral licensing is not acceptable under virtue ethics because moral agents should continually seek to be virtuous. Similarly, according to consequence-based ethics, believing that the justice system is “flawless” leads to detrimental outcomes. Since the society feels as though they’ve already done enough, women’s issues tend to be ignored, which not only lacks a solution to the specific problem at hand, but also stifles the improvement of women’s rights.

I think the utilitarian perspective is the most convincing way to frame this argument. Although virtue ethics works in solving this dilemma, it only looks at the problem from an individual level, whereas utilitarianism considers how the entire society ought to behave in order to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest amount of people. This is far more impactful when advocating for long-term social change. Deontology could also work, but insofar as we live in a society where different groups of people are perceived differently due to their gender, ethnicity, or otherwise, and consequently, are subject to different implicit standards on how they ought be treated, the practicality of deontology and applying these absolute maxims on moral behaviour is difficult.

4 months 2 days ago

I found your post to be extremely relevant to the media content regarding mass shooters in North America. It is indeed flagrant that race and gender are rarely mentioned in the characterization of the perpetuators of such crimes.
It seems that you have hinted at a potential solution to this issue by targeting white males and screening them in particular for isolation or mental disorders. In this way you have approached the subject using utilitarianism to justify discrimination. A deontological perspective would condemn such an action completely since it treats others in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated. However, in the case of the prevention of violent actions we can't evaluate our decisions based only on the present but also on the outcome. If we can target a group that is more likely to be problematic, our efforts would be put to better use and would have more impact in getting help to individuals at risk. While we can’t exactly predict the outcome, your research has shown that the white male demographic represents 64% of mass shootings so in my opinion it would be unethical to not study their behavior more closely in order to save lives in the future. Thus, giving up an inkling of equality is necessary for the greater good.

Reply to: Popular vs Real
4 months 2 days ago

I really enjoyed reading your article since it accurately addressed to the issue that nowadays media lies in order to have attention and make more money. It makes us question if the information we receive everyday is a lie. People go crazy and feel good about the fake news vibe simply because it is more attractive and excited than one's everyday boring life. Though the result may seem like a win-win situation, that Facebook and related media are happy because they are making money, people are excited about the news, it is not correct from the teleological point of view. Since the purpose of the medias is to make profit for their own and not considering the lies they bring to society, the motive of them is not beneficial to society. With this being said, their goal is selfish and does not aim at favoring the people and society. Therefor what they are doing is not correct. At the same time, doesn't it make people in society have less trust towards each other once they start to question the truth and discover the lies?

4 months 2 days ago

First of all, thank you for sharing this interesting piece of information. In the light of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the term "fake news" became widely spread and that is how I became aware that some of the most influential media outlets were manipulating the news. However, I did not know how standard and common this practice was, so it was very interesting to read about this issue.

I notice that you seem to be adopting a more utilitarian standpoint, which simply promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Indeed, you mention that biased news reports negatively affect millions of people and that transparent news would, in return, benefit them by properly cultivating their minds. I think this is best and most logical reason to believe that media’s distortion of news is wrong. Naturally, we would want the entire population to be well-informed.

Let me introduce to you a different ethical framework that could also help analyze the matter. Virtue ethics determines morality based on the agent; if the agent possesses a virtue, then his/her actions would also be deemed virtuous (right), and vice-versa. In this situation, the agent would be those in power, the media outlets. Since everyone can agree that dishonesty is not virtuous, the virtue ethics framework would argue that media’s manipulation of the news is definitely wrong.

In the end, I agree that what news outlets are doing is absolutely wrong and highly unethical, and this statement is supported by both utilitarianism and virtue ethics.

4 months 2 days ago

This post effectively describes the faults in our society when it comes to overwhelming abundance of rape culture in the media by bringing up key points such as women being subordinate to men, violence in men and the overall objectification of women.

It seems like you naturally took a utilitarianism approach when analyzing this advertisement as you focused on the consequences of this advertisement on the larger population. Like the definition states, utilitarianism focuses on the outcome of events. Some of the consequences you brought up that result from hyper sexual ads like this one are seeing women as sexual objects, the reinforcement of gender roles, and the unrealistic standards imposed on women. In order for a phenomenon to be ethical under a utilitarian lens, it must bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people. It is evident that this advertisement surely does not meet these standards as women make up fifty-one percent of the world population yet women surely do not appreciate being treated unequal to their male counterparts.

An approach you may not have considered is focusing on the actions of the people accountable for creating these sexists images in the media. This method is known as deontology which focuses on the action itself and not the outcome since it cannot be accurately predicted. Deontology focuses on the fact that there are a set of rules that are inherently applied to society which includes respect towards each other. This objectifying advertisement doesn't give women the respect that they have the fundamental right to. It seems like most advertising firms have a long way to go before becoming ethical under any framework.

4 months 2 days ago

The topic of your paper is very interesting. Additionally, your summary of the viral video was not only informative but also very intriguing. The discussion surrounding the legality of prostitution is often debated using various ethical frameworks. Firstly, the idea of utilitarianism is concentrated around the premise of the benefit of the majority of the population. Using this framework, one can argue that prostitution should be legal since the benefits affect the majority of society. These benefits include tax revenue from this industry, safer environments for prostitutes and their clients and less STD transmission. These benefits to society outweigh the potential negatives to the minority of prostitutes. Virtue ethics evaluates actions based on the actor employing naturally good virtues and how virtuous people would act in these scenarios. Contrary to the previous argument, a virtue ethics approach would condemn prostitution since paying for a sexual favor, without any aspect of love involved, would not be considered virtuous. Key virtuous figures in society would not remove the prestigious intrinsic value of sex by paying for a random stranger to perform sexual acts for them. The entire aspect of love would be removed from the equation, making sex unethical. Similarly, deontology would also condemn prostitution since the action itself of paying for sex would not be considered good. Personally I believe that the utilitarianism approach is best since all of society would benefit, rather than judging an action based on the virtues embedded in it. In my opinion, ethical actions should be measured by positive benefits to society and not the root of the action.

4 months 2 days ago

First of all, very interesting article; You elaborate on the horrors of honour killings and do not just restrict your criticism to foreign countries, but also to the murder taking place in Canada itself. I also like your proposed solution of increased journalistic transparency. What I think you are expressing more abstractly is an ethical rationalist stance directly opposed to a relativist viewpoint. Indeed, honour killings are one of the most common examples cited against relativist ethics.
Relativism postulates that right and wrong can only be judged within the social mores of the time, place, and culture. Therefore, a relativist stance would refuse to denounce or take action against any honour killings because they belong to the social mores of a particular strain of culture.
By contrast, ethical rationalism clearly denounces honour killings as morally reprehensible. The main postulate of rationalism is that there are objective ethical rules that people can follow and that one must follow an ethical code, called a categorical imperative, to only do what is universally right. Honour killings clearly fail this categorical imperative, since murder in general is a terrible act. Your proposed solution to journalists to increase their transparency is also consistent with rationalist ethics, as people must tell the entire truth in every situation. There truly is no honour in killing.

4 months 3 days ago

Hi emilyboiteux,

I found your article to be a very insightful and fair treatment of this sensitive subject matter, so kudos to you for the effort! It is a topic which I am familiar with, but I am glad to have been afforded the opportunity to see the situation from another person’s perspective. The plight of the Syrian people is an issue which I am sympathetic towards, and your article very much demonstrates this shared sentiment. I particularly enjoyed how you argumented for the inclusion of Syrian refugees by using a local example, the story of Avo Kazanjia who was able to benefit not only himself, but also the country which gave him sanctuary.

It would be however interesting to take a look at the situation from a utilitarian point of view. Indeed, this philosophical approach which postulates that morality is based on what achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It is a concept which does not discriminate between people, every person is considered as important as the other. So according to this ethical framework, the life of a refugee is as valuable as any other. Therefore, it raises an important ethical issue: does taking in refugees benefit more people than it harms? You seem to already be using this theory and have applied to very well, taking into consideration the pros and cons of the situation. From what I gather, the cons of the danger that some refugees pose to nations is heavily outweighed by the pros of saving their lives and their contribution to society. A very neat application of utilitarianism. Good job!

4 months 3 days ago

Hi emilyboiteux,

I found your article to be a very insightful and fair treatment of this sensitive subject matter, so kudos to you for the effort! It is a topic which I am familiar with, but I am glad to have been afforded the opportunity to see the situation from another person’s perspective. The plight of the Syrian people is an issue which I am sympathetic towards, and your article very much demonstrates this shared sentiment. I particularly enjoyed how you argumented for the inclusion of Syrian refugees by using a local example, the story of Avo Kazanjia who was able to benefit not only himself, but also the country which gave him sanctuary.

It would be however interesting to take a look at the situation from a utilitarian point of view. Indeed, this philosophical approach which postulates that morality is based on what achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It is a concept which does not discriminate between people, every person is considered as important as the other. So according to this ethical framework, the life of a refugee is as valuable as any other. Therefore, it raises an important ethical issue: does taking in refugees benefit more people than it harms? You seem to already be using this theory and have applied to very well, taking into consideration the pros and cons of the situation. From what I gather, the cons of the danger that some refugees pose to nations is heavily outweighed by the pros of saving their lives and their contribution to society. A very neat application of utilitarianism. Good job!

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