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.

 

Marianopolis College
by Clark Kent on April 25, 2017
On September 11th, 2001, the Western world declared war on terrorism. Ever since, we hear the phrase “war on terror” nightly on the news, or as a pop up notification on our phones. Why have we devoted so much time and resources to fighting this “war”? Is it because terrorist groups suddenly started murdering hundreds of innocent civilians? Terrorist organizations have been killing civilians for decades, so that cannot be the trigger. Or is it because they decided to attack Americans?

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by Dog With A Blog on April 25, 2017
The use of violent imagery in the media has increased tremendously in recent decades. While there are strict regulations on nudity on television, some argue that the restrictions on blood and brutality are not strong enough in comparison. Extreme violence in the media is shown to cause more aggressive tendencies among views. This should encourage more regulation on this type of content. However, if used correctly, there is a place in the mainstream media where violent images can play an important role: in war films.

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by Chinchilla on April 25, 2017
Online videogames are becoming more and more popular, it is estimated that about 500 million people worldwide play videogames for at least one hour each day. (Blake, M.) With this increasing popularity, videogames are becoming a regular part of people’s lives. Since this is the case, the fact that videogames are affecting people is undoubtedly true. The issue at hand is that some videogames are having negative consequences on individuals. The most popular videogame in the world is called League of Legends.

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by Piano on April 25, 2017
  Advertisements are very widespread now. Everyone sees one at least once a day. However, some advertisements may cause uproar because they may seem offensive.  There are some ads like the Dove ad for skin products that seem racist because of the arrangement of the women in the picture. Race in the media is rarely portrayed as beautiful because it does not t meet the requirements of the existing and historical cultural “beauty standards”.  

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by Iphone_user7 on April 25, 2017
In an increasingly technology-oriented society, photo editing has become endemic in the media industry and is now standard practice. The use of Photoshop in advertisements and magazines remains a highly polarizing issue. Before being published in media outlets, pictures of female models or celebrities are almost always edited to enhance their beauty and presumably increase sales and viewership. Such is the case in a 2010 issue of Rolling Stones magazine, which features the half-naked Katy Perry as the cover star.

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by ethics201 on April 25, 2017
            Rape culture is a situation where rape is frequent and where sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and in popular culture. Rape begins through the objectification of women’s bodies in the media, which creates a society where women’s rights and safety is overlooked. Examples of rape culture are: victim blaming, denial of rape, objectification of women’s bodies, and disregarding the importance of consent. The movies that show rape are not the cause of this issue but a reflection of this moral dilemma.

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by whareisshe on April 25, 2017
The main goal of terrorism is to intentionally create fear through the use of violence, in order to achieve a goal. Recently, there has been an increase in terrorist acts due to the fact that these terrorists are well aware that no matter where they perpetrate their act, the whole world is terrorized due to a widespread media coverage from the news outlets. If these acts are not reported in the media, they continue because they want to be heard and noticed.

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by Hockey1331 on April 24, 2017
     In nearly every household, there tends to be at least one video game console with many video games. These video games span from sports games to violent shooting games. Grand Theft Auto V is a video game that has received a lot of scrutiny for the amount of violence portrayed throughout the game. In GTA V, players are immersed into this virtual world where killings and robbery is often encouraged. It is not only this video game that has been criticized but many others as well.

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by J2r0c on April 24, 2017
 In episode 285 of the Simpsons, “Weekend at Burnsie’s”, Homer Simpson is introduced to medicinal marijuana, which helps induce a state of calm and euphoria for him, but also results in him cutting his face shaving, forgetting that he owns a kitchen, and accidentally signing a petition criminalizing his newfound medicine.

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by TheIdealCynic on February 15, 2017
Throughout the past decade, the terms like “social enterprise” or “triple bottom line” have gained steam in the world of business buzz words. With the emergence of globalization and transparency, consumer expectations have risen to the point that companies must generate value beyond profit to remain competitive. Indeed, companies have begun to acknowledge the importance of maintaining a positive social or environmental footprint to keep consumers content.

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by Youyou417 on February 13, 2017
Euthanasia, also known as medical assisted dying, is the practice of taking an action of ending a life to relieve unstoppable the pain and suffering of an individual. There have been heated public debates over the ethical and moral issues euthanasia has brought forth. Based on the social, cultural values as well as religious beliefs, different countries set their own laws either in favor of mercy killing or against it. In most countries today, euthanasia is prohibited or at least not recommended.

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by emsh98 on February 9, 2017
                Ethics in the psychology discipline is typically taken seriously, especially when people do not really know what is going on during a research experiment but, in 2014, researchers from Cornell University decided to do research on the impact of human emotions on Facebook (Booth).

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Marianopolis College
by sakuowo on February 9, 2017
Genetically modified crops (GMCs) have become widely used in agriculture over the last 10 years, constituting over 10% of the world’s harvest on arable land (ISAAA). By modifying the DNA of a plant through the introduction of a non-naturally occurring trait in the species, benefits such as higher crop yield and herbicide, pest, disease, and drought resistance can be found in the new product ("Genetically modified crops"). Despite scientific consensus affirming that GMCs do not pose a greater health risk than conventional food (Nicolia et al.

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by Juicycouture on February 9, 2017
              Many forms of marketing in the business world have a tendency to cause controversy with their public. More specifically, companies such as Dolce&Gabanna, Guess, and Reebok have attempted to attract attention to their brand  using unethical advertisements. This Reebok advertisement is unethical because it promotes the vices of dishonesty and hatred. It follows virtue ethics considering that it shows creativity while at the same time promoting dishonesty and hatred.  

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by Juicycouture on February 9, 2017
              Many forms of marketing in the business world have a tendency to cause controversy with their public. More specifically, companies such as Dolce&Gabanna, Guess, and Reebok have attempted to attract attention to their brand  using unethical advertisements. This Reebok advertisement is unethical because it promotes the vices of dishonesty and hatred. It follows virtue ethics considering that it shows creativity while at the same time promoting dishonesty and hatred.  

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by mangoislyf on February 9, 2017
In the twenty first century, genetic engineering, also known as genetic modification or genetic manipulation, is becoming a great ethical dilemma in the field of sciences. It is a practice that involves modifying an organism's genetic material. It can also involve taking a gene from one living organism and inserting it into another organism’s genome. The ethical dilemma of practicing this on human lives is argued throughout different ethical frameworks, mostly involving the action itself and its outcomes.

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by Sara Benson on February 9, 2017
  Although utilitarianism would argue otherwise, according to ethical rationalism, it is morally wrong to obligate a person to do or say something, even if it is done for a greater good.   Ethical rationalism, a form of deontology, explains that the action is what matters and not the outcome. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher explains that the will is the only thing that is unconditionally good. We cannot control outcomes, only actions, therefore the will trumps all. Utilitarianism and ethical rationalism have the same idea, each person is autonomous.

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by pancake on February 9, 2017
In late January 2017, geneticists at the Salk Institute in California announced a breakthrough for regenerative science: the successful creation of human-pig hybrids called chimeras. The creation of these organisms involved integrating human stem cells into embryonic pigs, and after several weeks of incubation, researchers observed that “some embryos showed that the human cells were beginning to specialize and turn into tissue precursors”(Belmonte et al.).

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by JapaneseYen on February 9, 2017
            The Coca-Cola Hello Happiness ad campaign works to help connect laborers within the United Arab Emirates with their far away families. Despite attempting to increase their quality of life, Coca-Cola’s large focus is that of gaining profits rather than social change.

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5 months 2 days ago

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.

5 months 2 days ago

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.

5 months 2 days ago

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.

5 months 2 days ago

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.

5 months 2 days ago

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.

5 months 3 days ago

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.

5 months 3 days ago

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.

5 months 3 days ago

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.

5 months 3 days ago

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.

5 months 3 days ago

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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