Media Ethics (Winter 2017, section 3)
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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To start off, I really enjoyed your article because this is recurring problem that happens in our society. I think it would be interesting if you were to view the ethical issues behind this problem. I think many might approach the issue by saying it follows the ethical frameworks of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is an approach that focuses on the outcome of the action and not the action itself. It promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. In this case, many people around the world get to be entertained by reading interesting news while there is only one person who gets hurt because the information that people are reading about them is false. Therefore, many people might see it as ethical.
I believe that the ethical framework that needs to be followed in this context is virtue ethics because its promotes dishonesty. The people who write and publicize the false information do it for entertainment and publicity, while being aware of the fact that this will most likely hurt the celebrity. Some may argue that virtue ethics also incorporates the self and that the motive behind their actions was to create happiness for themselves. Therefore, this shows that we can not all agree on the most important virtue.
In my opinion, the morally correct thing to do would be to publicize truthful facts about their lives. This way, they are honest while creating entertainment and publicity.
I did not know of the way in which Australia has been treating their homeless population before reading this, thanks for the insight! I also side with you in that their efforts are not going to provide any sort of positive change.
You seem to be naturally forming this argument on the basis of ethical rationalism. This is a philosophical approach that attempts to measure morality based on outcome, because, the will to do something determines the outcome. Therefore, a person who has done an action that is considered by society as bad can be seen as immoral.
According to Kant, a distinguished supporter of this framework, there is two types of imperatives which act as instructions. Categorical imperatives are the ones that matter, because that, unlike hypothetical imperatives they give reason to do something. Among the categorical imperatives Kant argues that there exists only one, which is to act on what you can while hoping for it to become a universal law. To exemplify, someone who has an innate gift at birth should use that gift, hoping that others will also utilize their gifts. Furthermore, breaking this imperative will be immoral as you are wishing something negative upon society.
First, I would like to say that your post was very informative about the topic of rape myths. I had some sense that police forces didn’t always take rape cases seriously enough but I didn’t know it went this far. You explained the specific rape myths that police officers believe in and showed how those myths make it harder for women to report their cases of abuse. I believe you are looking at the issue of misinformed police officers with the use of virtue ethics. That is to say you would want the police officers to do what a virtuous person would do. This would mean that the police agents would make sure they are well informed and take all cases seriously. That would be the morally right thing to do according to the virtues of justice and equality.
However, you could also look at this using a utilitarianism point of view. This would mean that you would base your actions according to their outcomes in the hopes of causing the greater good for the greatest number of people. In this case you could argue that ignoring harder or seemingly less important cases to focus on more important cases would better benefit society.
Given the long history of society blaming the victim instead of the perpetrator in cases of women being raped I think you were correct in applying virtue ethics to your analysis. However, it is still important to consider different views when looking at ethical problems.
Your article touches clearly on a modern subject about which many of us hear everyday on social networking sites like Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many more, which effectively caught my interest and attention. In fact, the problem of spreading fake news on celebrities can be approached using utilitarianism, ethical rationalism and virtue ethics.
Firstly, according to utilitarianism, gossip about fake celebrity news is profitable for the celebrity, journals and magazines and the readers since the attention gained by spreading the news makes the celebrity more popular, thus making more people entertained by reading journal or magazine articles on the issue. Therefore, the greatest good is creating for the greatest amount of people.
However, ethical rationalism would say that it is against the rules for the people spreading fake rumours about celebrities to lie, because this is not what a person should do. Also, the journals or websites continuing to propagate the false information that have the duty to inform readers or viewers of accurate facts are going against their responsibility by doing so.
Finally, virtue ethics offers another way to look at the problem: spreading fake gossips about celebrity can be virtuous for journal and other media corporations when their goal is to make more money out of an issue that, fake or real, will gain attention; the virtue here would be that of determination to achieve their goals. The reason why it is the best way to view this problem is because this framework also acknowledges ambiguity: like you said in your post, sometimes the spreading of rumours on celebrities can trigger cases of suicide, but according to virtue ethics, the outcome can not be predicted; the situation is neutral as long as the media did the virtuous action of informing the audience in order to be recognized and a successful company.
Although homelessness today is significantly lower than a few decades ago, it remains a very important issue that affects our communities and society in general. I admire the fact that you highlight various statistics that describe the presence of homelessness in large cities and then link it to Montreal, giving us a grasp of the very important issue that we are dealing with.
In terms of morality, there are many ways of understanding homelessness. From a deontological perspective, which focuses more on the action and not the outcome, ethical rationalists would argue that one is obligated to help homeless people if they were to ask for help because it obeys the categorical imperative. In other words, the action of giving to a homeless person and fighting homelessness is a moral action because if everyone were to do so, the world would be a better and safer place. If one does not show generosity to homeless people, they are therefore being immoral.
However, from a teleological perspective, which focuses more on the outcome of an action rather than the action itself, one might argue that homeless people often use their wealth on harmful products which further entrenches them in their difficult social state. Due to the outcome being potentially harmful, certain teleologists might argue that giving to homeless people is an immoral action. It may cause a greater burden to society than if one were not give anything at all to a homeless person.
Personally, I prefer the deontological perspective of Ethical Rationalism. Being generous and giving to others are without a doubt, moral actions. The world would definitely be a happier place if everyone were to give to homeless people. We as human beings are all equal no matter our social status. Although it may be possible that a homeless person might invest their money in irresponsible ways, that is not of our concern. We can only control our actions, and ultimately, our Self.
There are two aspects of this blog post I thoroughly enjoyed. The first is the choice of subject matter because indigenous issues have yet to be publicized or even recognized to the extent of their severity. The other is the prompt towards the end encouraging discussion and reflection. I believe true divisiveness roots from people’s unwillingness to hear and respect differing opinions.
The underlying approach you seem to be using when dealing with this topic is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism, a subset of relativism, is an ethical framework that encourages actions benefitting the greatest number of people. An important assumption to make when using this theory is that every person is equal; no one’s value overrides another’s. Therefore, utilitarianist thought supports your criticism towards the police based on their immoral rejection of an entire community. Verna, although suffering substance abuse problems, should not be dehumanised and viewed as a less worthwhile member of society. Regardless if she embodies the “drunk Indian” stereotype, proper and fair trials must take effect to uphold a morally just legal system. The disproportionately high homicide rate among aboriginals and the disengaged investigation of Verna’s specific case are clear indications of Canadian society failing to meet the egalitarian standards it is widely accepted to have.
First off, great post! I really like how you make your point by contrasting how the situation is dealt with in Montreal versus Melbourne. This issue raises an important ethical dilemma, to resolve it I will focus on deontology and teleology.
From a deontological point of view, morality is derived from maxims, meaning there are universal rules that all should follow and that humans must be treated as an ends in themselves. In that sense, homelessness is an infringement on individual’s right to housing, as declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is then the duty of the government to solve this issue, as they are responsible for upholding their citizen’s rights.
From a teleological point of view, the issue is much more complex. Teleology focuses on the outcome of situations; the greatest good for the greatest number. In that sense, some could argue that helping individuals off the street would provide the best outcome. It provides safety and health to the great number of people who live on the streets. However, others could argue that putting up tents and other equipment on public or private property is a public safety issue. This would mean that it has a negative outcome far greater for society as a whole.
I would argue that the deontological perspective is the most appropriate. Not only is the right to housing essential for all, it is linked to a host of other issues such as health, security, etc. Homelessness is also a systematic issue, and individual’s personal circumstances leading to loosing or leaving their homes can be aggravated by the legal and social context in which they live. Therefore, governments should uphold this universal human right, instead of making it harder for people without homes to survive.
Truthfully and honestly, I really thought there was a difference between feminism and humanism. I thought there was more to both wanting the world to be equal, whether it is women being equal to men or just humans sharing the same equality. Reading this article helped me better understand that there isn't much difference.
Reading this article, the philosophical approach used to write this article was from a Utilitarianism approach. Utilitarianism because the outcome of an action outweighs the action taken to get the outcome. Like you mentioned in your piece, both feminists and humanists both want equality, justice and independence, these are all outcome. It was a good approach for understanding the article.
I also feel a virtue ethics approach would have been another good way to go about this topic. Virtue ethics deals with what you should be and not what you should do, it deals with being a virtuous person and any virtuous person would want the same justice and equality for everyone else. You are not obliged to want equality, independence and justice for everyone else, but instead you wake up every morning wanting to make sure everyone has those.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this article and your sources were very helpful.
Your article offers a good insight into the issue of the treatment of animals in poor and developing countries, something that frequently gets overlooked. It's very often that people forget about the awful conditions domesticated animals are confronted with in places where human issues take priority, leaving creatures like the dogs you spoke of with little aid and creating a cycle of neglect and mistreatment that is difficult to escape from.
You outlined some different ways in which we can and are remedying this situation, and from an ethical perspective we have a few options for tackling the issue. As you mentioned, there were attempts to vaccinate animals in India, which would be the most humane method to correct disease and overpopulation. The problem with this method is, as you said, that treating 35 million animals is costly for India, which can barely afford to feed its own people. Thus, if we wish to avoid this, the only logical step we can reach would be either to find some means of funding a large-scale vaccination project, through charity or some other means, or to take some steps in the utilitarian direction, and sacrifice the needs of the few for the needs of the many and selectively vaccinate only a portion of the population and allowing the treated animals to live while the others can be humanely euthanized.
You bring up an issue that is important to deal with in today’s society. Some sources of information have an agenda which they push by being intentionally misleading or providing false facts (or “alternate facts”).
The reason for banning fake news falls into the ethical framework of deontology, or virtue ethics, which is a concept which states that what is considered unethical is always unethical, regardless of the context. Therefore, fake news should be illegal because it is a lie, which is always unethical.
However, passing a law to ban the spreading of false information is a teleological action, meaning whether it is ethical or not is determined by its intended outcome. While the intention is to create a truthful media, limiting free speech (as you mentioned) is a problem.
This is because there must be an entity which decides what is truthful and what is not. Current events in the United States demonstrate the use of the term “fake news” to discredit any opposing information. President Trump, the largest proponent of fake news’ prevalence, tweeted: “Any negative polls are fake news” (Twitter: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/828574430800539648).
The power to eliminate “false information” can be easily abused by allowing those in power to mislead the masses, which is the exact same as publishing fake news in the first place. The only difference is that true information can be deemed false and therefore be censored.
To deal with this situation, a utilitarian approach should be taken: provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. By choosing between a media filled with both truthful and misleading information or one with just misleading information, it is clear that a ban on fake news would not be good news.
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