Tuesday, December 05, 2006

End of the semester Ethics

Well, apparently these blogs have now merged with google??? Okey-dokey... Well, since it is the end of the semester, I thought I would throw in one more blog just on ethics in general, and my thoughts... This isn't the first ethics class that I have taken. A few years back I took a philosophy of ethics course, and I have to say, it was one of my favorite classes. I suppose before that point, I had been familiarized with "morals". I have always kind of thought of morals to be the micro, and ethics to be the macro on the right/wrong scale, and so delving into the study of ethics for the first time was absolutely fascinating. With each new philosopher that we learned about, it was like learning to veiw ethical behavior with a different set of eyes. This, however, has been my first ethics class relating to business. I have been familiarized with research ethics and what not, but never actual business ethics. I was reading through one of Professor Lambiase's blogs, in which she discusses some of her veiws pertaining to ethics, and I found it interesting that she pointed something out that I had been struggling with... Money... Money being the root of evil in ethics... I suppose it is obvious, but having taken ethics classes, you learn to veiw unethical behavior in terms of just what you are and what you aren't supposed to do, and why you are not supposed to do it. I have never really examined the the motivations FOR participating in unethical behavior... At least not in abstract terms... But as I was attempting to examine Michael J. Fox's behavior under the ethical theorums that we have been discussing, the same thought kept coming to mind... He isn't doing it for money, and he isn't doing it for power, so how can it be unethical? But then I would inevitably think to myself, "it has to be more complicated than that." And while in Fox's case I do think that it is... I believe that his behavior is ethical because he is lobbying more for his cause than he is for any one particular candidate... I am beginning to think that in business, most of the time, it will boil down to money, or to power (although the two are inevitably linked!) Geez, it is really such an obvious thing! I have been in college for so long at this point (due to switching majors, I am coming up on my 6 year anniversery with UNT) that I have finally come to this conclusion: if you spend six years being taught to think outside the box, you find it difficult to get back in when you need to, lol...
Anyway, I digress. Back to Ethics... Professor L. mentioned in class the other day that the world works under a utilitarian framework, and that the communitarian framework is really what we should strive to function under. I would have to say that after attempting to apply these principles to an actual event, I have come to the same conclusion myself. The old "gotta break some eggs" euphemism really does seem to apply to everyday situations. I suppose that this is because communitarianism functions under the premise that there is one, consistent, agreed-upon-by-all set of ethics, and living in the mixed-salad society that we do, it is difficult to imagine everyone agreeing on what is best for "Us"... Because when it comes down to it, Americans like to compartmentalize themselves. We like to identify with this group or that group, I suppose because that is, what we have been raised to believe, makes up our identities. Republican/Democrat, Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/etc., Liberal/Conservative, White/Black, Male/Female... Check a box, it makes up who you are in our society of demographics and statistics. Perhaps we should include a box for ethical preferences now... Hey, maybe making that a category into which we could compartmentalize our identities would intice people to internalize ethical concepts... Good luck, right? My overall point is that to analyze the Fox case under the communitarian perspective, I literally had to identify "communities" who held some stake in the event, and then determine their motives for having that stake, and all that I really came back around to was that each of the communities functioned, in and of itself, under a utilitarian perspective, and there fore would not have an ethical problem with Fox's actions, were they to have the need to use those tactics themselves!!! Ugh, I am giving myself a headache!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Genital Mutilation

Well, this is just going to be a quick post, because this topic has already been so widely covered. We spoke in class on Monday about female circumcision and its atrocities... I think Kasey and I were the only ones in the class with this "what?" look on our faces. I have spoken before in my posts about cultural differences what not, and I think this is just another example.
There are various types of female circumcision. It can be a removal of the labia, a removal of the clitoris, a stitching of the vaginal opening, or any combination of the three. It varies from culture to culture. I think that as westerners, when we hear about these things taking place, we see it to be a form of violence against women. And yes, the practice of female circumcision, in some cultures, is related to female oppression. The removal of the clitoris, in some cultures, is done to remove sexual temptation. However, in order to deal with this issue accurately, we must understand other cultural aspects that revolve around female circumcision. For instance, many of the cultures that practice this (and many cultures around the world, period) place a high value on female virginity. Our own culture is guilty of this idea, although perhaps to a lesser extent in recent years.
In conjunction with this idea, the economic success of individual families is many times highly dependent on their ability to "marry off" their daughters, as they are not financially prepared to take on a life long obligation to their female children. The stitching of the vaginal opening is symbolic of virginity, and those women who have not undergone this procedure are deemed unfit to marry, as it is possible that they have been sexually active. The stitching provides insurance that the woman is still a virgin.
In the instances where a woman has not been circumsized, she then cannot find a husband, and many times is not eligable for any kind of work that includes a decent income, due to the fact that she is female, and hence, her parents are left with the financial burden of caring for her for the rest of her life.
Personally, I do have one big beef with female circumcision as it stands, and that is that in many countries, it is performed not by medically trained physicians, but by midwives who have only apprenticed and use only local anesthetic (and in other instances, twigs and rocks are used as tools for the procedure). If a culture is intent on practicing female circumcision, I believe it should be a standardized practice, performed by individuals with extensive knowledge of the human anatomy. That is just my western opinion however.

And now, onto male circumcision and how it relates to this discussion. Our American opinions on male circumcision could be termed surprisingly simular to those attitudes applied to female circumcision in other cultures. Many people seem to think that men who are uncircumsized are unclean, despite the fact that this has many times been said to be a myth. Is this really so very different than, perhaps middle eastern ideas involving the "uncleanliness" of a woman who could POSSIBLY have had sex? I don't think its a far cry. We may not term uncircumsized men unsuitable for marriage, but we carry a simular belief in WHY we think men should be circumsized.
And there are cultures where men have a FAR worse deal as far as what is expected for their genitals. In one culture, the men bleed their penises once a month because they believe that menstration is a cleansing process, and because they do not naturally menstrate, they cause what they believe to be a simular occurance.
The fact of the matter is that, in a perfect world, we would all be allowed to make our own decisions about what is done to our bodies, without our culture or our government or our families telling us what is right. Male, female, whatever, it shouldn't matter. I am not lobbying for any kind of genital mutilation, and I am not attempting to give my opinion on the practice one way or the other. I just think that if we are going to talk about other cultures, we need to really delve into the issues, instead of just analyzing things through our own culturally biased set of eyes. And we cannot help but be culturally biased. I think that in some ways, it is natural to assume that your culture has it right (false though it may be). But as we talked about in class today, we are all different, and it is important to really come to understand those differences.


Well, today's assignment for our blogs was to speak with another classmate, with whom we have not previously spoken, and to attempt to discover differences between ourselves and the other person. Kimberly and I spoke for a while, and I hate to say it, but no severe differences popped up! However, here is what I learned about Kimberly, and I will see if perhaps there are differences beneath the surface. I learned from our conversation that Kimberly is 22 years old, although says that she keeps referring to herself as being 23 by mistake. Funnily enough, I did the same thing for months prior to my 25th birthday. I know that for me, I was just so shocked that my 25th birthday was looming that everytime my age came up I couldn't get the number 25... 25... 25... out of my head. It finally came last week, and guess what... I feel older.
I also learned that Kimberly is from a small town called Groesbeck, and that she was brought up in a Southern Baptist household. I was raised in a (quazi) Catholic household. However, due to exposure to other things, I have become more eclectic in my religious philosophies, and Kimberly seemed to share the same inclination. She is still conservative in some respects while liberal in others, and believes in the need for personal growth and seemed to have an aversion to blind obedience. I have to say, I agree. We didn't go into great detail about particular issues, but we both agreed that our political affiliations were issue based.
Kimberly also told me that she plans to move to New York after graduation to experience a "more wordly and open-minded" atmosphere. Again, funnily enough, years ago when I was a photography major, New York had been my big dream as well. I thought that I would move there and take my very best shot at becoming a photographer for the Rolling Stone office. I think that there is something beautiful about New York and it's reputation for having such a fast paced, cut throat environment. Even moving there and failing seems romantic.
Because we had limited time to discuss things, I can only identify so much. I know that Kimberly and I, at the least, share simular veiws on how we frame our beliefs, i.e. openmindedness, a lack of blind obedience to, or a lack of wholly identifying with, any religious or political organization. As for differences, she was raised in a small town and brought to a larger city in pursuit of education. I was raised in a suburb of a big city and found my way to a smaller town in pursuit of education. She was raised in a Southern Baptist house, and I was raised in a Catholic house. However, again, due to exposure to other ideas we both became eclectic in our beliefs. I do have to say, however, that my upbringing did not really include strict Catholocism. My mother was raised in an Irish Catholic household, and we attended catholic church, but those veiws were never pushed on me.
During class today, one woman was talking about how exposure to others who are different than ourselves contributes to tolerance, and I think that this is a very true statement. We are all college students, and it doesn't take more than one or two anthropology classes to drill into your head the idea that most of what you take to be true is culturally and societally created. Once you realize this, it makes discriminating negatively between individuals a little pointless.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Links to my Case





This one is a video clip of both Fox and Limbaugh


Video clip of Fox responding to the comments:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And I can't figure out how to get my picture onto this blog...


Globalization... What a difficult thing to define. I suppose the broad definition would be the merging cultures to create one large global culture (which would obviously be detrimental to the diversity of the human race). I found it somewhat funny that the discussion in class today revolving around "globalization" somehow moved directly to ethnocentrism and culture shock, but only within the context of our own culture. Even within the concepts of culture shock and ethnocentrism, which are issues dealt with thin the spectrum of globalization, we did not begin to touch the tip of the proverbial ice-bergh. All that seemed to appear and reappear were differences existing between city life and country life in America. While these could be considered two subcultures within our overlying culture, common threads of culture run through both. For example, personal space issues: whether you live in the city or in the country in America, there exists the same concept of personal space. If someone enters your "bubble" you feel uncomfortable, and usually enough to step back to regain your space. However, what is considered to be an appropriate amount of personal space varies from one country/culture to the next. I visited Portugal this summer (my fiance is stationed in a group of islands called The Azores, which Portugal owns) and the concepts of personal space on the island were different than what I have grown accustomed to. While standing in line at a restaurant, I actually had a man MOVE ME. No "hello", no "excuse me". He just put his hand on my back, and pushed me in the direction that he wanted me to go. As an American, of course, my first reaction was to be offended. This is not the standard of respect that I grew up with. However, to this man, I was simply in his way, and so, to get by me he just repositioned me. Within the context of his culture, this was not offensive.
The point that I am attempting to get at is that, within the context of globalization, THIS is culture shock. Throughout all cultures, subcultures, such as college campuses, country life vs city life, etc., can be found. The merging of cultures within the context of globalization would refer to the merging of primary cultures.
Another important issue, relating to our class this semester, are the differences between cultures regarding the concept of the importance of the individual vs. the importance of the group as a whole. I will just talk briefly about this, since it is such a large issue and not terribly relevant to ethnocentrism or culture shock. It is just something that I happen to find interesting, and something that I believe greatly contributes to ethnocentrism.

When we veiw other cultures, we are veiwing them through eyes that we are not even aware that we have. Certain ideas, such as the importance of individualism, are so ingrained into our being and our ideas of self that we take them to be universal truths. However, the importance of individualism varies. Some societies are more focused on the community as a whole, and less focused on the reality of the individual. When this is true, things that we find to be terrible and autrocious are, in these cultures, more accepted, because the same concept of empathy for the individual is not as strong. This is not to say that empathy is non-existant in these cultures. It is merely to say that it is not present in the same way that it is within our culture.
I bring this up because when dealing with issues of ethnocentrism and culture shock, it is important to critically think about, and then to maintain awareness of, where our ethnocentrism might come from. And if one is going to practice global business, and in particular to us, global PR, one must be prepared to encounter major differences in cultural standards.

Another point that I would like to talk about is the article that was brought up about the child in Africa who was sold into slavery, and is now shoveling water out of a boat all day. While I, as an American, do find this very offensive and inhumane, within the context of globalization, relating to ethnocentrism and culture shock, I want to mention the idea that the attachment that we have to children is a western concept. As Americans, we have been brought up to believe that "the children are our future", and that childhood is precious and that children are to be protected from all "evils". I must again, throw in a precurser to what I am about to say: These are all values that I hold as well. However, these are not universal ideas. Not every culture has the same attachment to children and to childhood that we do in this country. In certain cultures that have very low infant survival rates, mothers do not name their children before they reach six months or a year in age. Simularly, in certain cultures, failure to thrive babies (which are more common obviously in cultures with low infant survival rates) are often stuck in a corner, so to speak, while the mother cares for the children who have a better chance at survival. Resources are alloted to those who will benefit most. Of course in these cultures the practices previously mentioned are formed out of necessity. And as westerners, these practices are appauling to us. They are, however, one example of a difference in philosophy regarding children between cultures.
Anyway, enough rambling. These are simply issues that occured to me as a result of class discussion today.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Porn Industry

The topic covered in class today, regarding the channeling of pornorgraphy through hotels and other large businesses is obviously one that covets much debate. Yes, there is money to be made when making pornographic materials available to clientel, and there is something to be said for the fact that it IS a legal industry, and therefore citizens of this country reserve the right to veiw these materials as they see fit. This, however, does not make the industry itself an ethical one. Through a communitarian perspective, it can be argued that the images and ideas portrayed in pornography, though not necessarily explicitely stated, are not beneficial to our society as a whole, and in particular, they are not beneficial to women as a gender. Like so many industries today, women in pornography are portrayed a objects. They fullfill a classic archetype, which we have seen throughout the centuries in fictional material, this being the archetype of "whore".
It might be interesting to research the statistics regarding the number of women who can be found writing, producing or directing pornographic materials. I say this because one major criticism that has been put forth by the feminist movement is the idea that in entertainment industries where men have been the predominent source of creativity (classicaly, this refers to literature) it can be found that women represented in these works typically fit into one of two categories: the madonna (insinuating virtue beyond question) and the whore (in which the woman serves no other purpose than to fullfill a sexual need). The problem in this is that these characters are unidimensional. They are not portrayed as human beings, but as objects, and just as this has been true throughout works of literature in days of old, it is true of pornography today.
Now, it can often be confused when speaking of feminist ideology that one is insinuating that men are the root of the evil, and that women are innocent bystanders who are merely carrying the burden. This obviously is not true of the porn industry, as these women are active and willing participants in their own objectification. So to be clear, I am not man bashing over here. It is merely an interesting thought, to wonder if the things that were once true of literature could be carrying over into the porn industry today.

I found a website that seems to have some interesting statistics on the use of porn, the profits made through adult materials, etc. etc. The following is the link to the site: http://www.porndestroyswomen.org/
Each statement is sited and the resources seem to be academic in nature, but I did not go through and varify each one.

The following are a few of the statements made on PornDestroysWomen.org . They are taken ver batim.

"-Regular users of pornography are more likely to think of women in stereotype, (1) as "socially non-discriminating, as hysterically euphoric in response to just about any sexual or pseudosexual stimulation, and as eager to accommodate seemingly any and every sexual request." (2)
-Regular users of pornography are more likely to have sexually callous attitudes and accept the rape myth (that when a woman says "no," she means "yes.") (3)
-Regular users of pornography have increasingly hostile and aggressive sexual fantasies. (4)
-Regular users of pornography are less likely to convict for a rape, and less likely to give a harsh sentence to a rapist if in fact convicted. (5) Conversely, individuals who do not use pornography are more likely to convict an accused rapist. (6)
-Areas with pornography outlets and sexually oriented businesses experience significantly higher sexual offenses and property crimes than areas without such businesses. (7)
-Some "adult" bookstores derive significant income from peep show booths, some with "glory holes" to provide anonymous sexual encounters. According to Dr. Stephen Joseph, former Health Commissioner of New York City, "The proprietors are essentially operating an AIDS breeding ground, with profit being the driving force." (8)
-Clinical research shows that pornographic images create chemically encoded messages on the brain that can remain through adulthood. Human memory is formed in part by the release of the chemical epinephrine which, upon emotional arousal, leaves behind an imprint on the brain. (9)
-While spending three evenings watching sexually violent movies, male viewers became progressively less bothered by the raping and slashing. Compared to others who were not exposed to the films, the also, three days later, expressed less sympathy for domestic violence victims and they related the victims' injuries as less severe. (10)
-As pornography became more widely available during the 1960s and 1970s, the rate of reported that rapes sharply increased—except in countries and areas where pornography was controlled. In Hawaii, the number of reported rapes rose ninefold between 1960 and 1974, dropped when restraints on pornography were temporarily imposed, and rose again when the restrains were lifted. (11)
-Sales of sexually explicit magazines (such as Hustler and Playboy) in the fifty states correlate with state rape rates. After controlling for other factors, such as the percentage of young males in each state, a positive relationship remained. Alaska ranked magazine sales and first in rape. Nevada was second on both measures. (12)"


Reading through these statements made on porndestroyswomen.org , it becomes increasingly disturbing to know that there are so many large scale corporations, which we use and associate ourselves with everyday, who are profiting from the distribution of these materials. At what point does the almighty dollar subside to what is best for the people in this world? And at what point in our history did it become more important? We know that there was a time that, not necessarily ethics, but personal morals, goverened what we did and did not do. In many ways, as a country, we have lost the internalization of these concepts in our citizens. In one respect, this loss of internalization of specific moral codes fosters more freedom for choice and personal belief. On the other hand, at what point do we become too free? The responsible solution, I suppose, is to lose the internalization of moral concepts, and to gain the willpower to become critical thinkers... To ask,"Is this what is best for our country, our children, and ourselves?" And what are we to do when we come to the conclusion that perhaps many of the large economic powers in our country are taking profit a few steps beyond reason?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Proving Libel

The situation: "Surfing chat rooms on the internet one day, you come across a message about your boss, the head of a consulting firm. The poster of the message, another employee, wrote that your boss is 'so dull that a 5-watt lightbulb gives him a run for the money'. Keeping an eye on the chat room, you discover thirty defamatory statements about your boss and the company in the next few days, all made by the same employee. When you inform your boss, his first reaction is to phone and call the attorneys. What should you advise him? Consider whether he might be able to prove the six elements of libel: publication, identification, defamation, fault, falsity and injury. What category of plaintiff is your boss likely to be? What other factors should you consider in deciding whether to pursue legal action?

Publication: This can be proven, because a third party, beyond the plaintiff and the offender has seen the message. According to the standards of libel, if only one person beyond the plaintiff and the offender has seen the message, it has been published.

Identification: This can be proven because both the superior in question, and the company, were specifically named. The employee has not only identified her boss by name, but has given the company for which they are employed, and more than likely, the position that he holds over herself. This specifies who she is talking about beyond doubt.

Defamation: This one is tricky, because the only specific information that we have regarding what was said was that she mentioned that her boss was dull. She is clearly attempting to skew the perceptions of others towards her boss, but we do not know if she has said things that would hold him up to public ridicule. If her statements lean towards her boss being dim, which could also be said of the lightbulb comparison, then the statement could be termed defamation of character, as this incinuates that he is of below average intelligence, and could lead to the perception that he is incompetant. The employee in question has also made a number of negative posts about her employer, which would incinuate malicious intent.

Fault: Because (if I read this correctly) the boss would be termed an all-purpose public figure, malice would have to be proven in order to prove fault. I do believe that multiple publications of defamatory material would be termed malicious.

Falsity: Because we cannot see from the excercise what statements were made in other posts, it is difficult to say whether falsity can be proven. The statement made about the boss being dull is a subjective statement, and therefore, as a matter of taste, cannot be "proven" one way or another.

Injury: Because, as I stated previously, malice can be proven, the courts would assume a general injury to the plaintiff.

Advisement: I would advise my employer to consult an attorney when looking at the statements not mentioned in the excercise. From the information given in the question, four of the six elements of libel can be proven, and with very little information. Therefore, the chances that there are libelous statements contained in the 29 other posts are probably pretty good.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Comparing/Contrasting CIPR, PRSA, and IABC Codes of Ethics

In reading through the codes of ethics for each of these organizations, there seemed to be a few re-occurring themes. Things such as sensitivity to cultural values and beliefs, as well as personal taste were found in all three codes. Accuracy in the relaying of information, whether it be between businesses, to the public, when dealing with the media, and so forth also seemed to be a major priority. PRSA and CIPR held similar codes of ethics/conduct, while IABC seemed to focus primarily on ethics within business communications. IABCs code of ethics contained three main principles to which their members must adhere, and these principles are as follows:

1. Professional communication must be legal.
2. Professional communication must be ethical.
3. Professional communication must be in good taste.


In the preamble to the code, it is stated that the code of ethics that is to follow is based on the assumption that "just societies are governed by a profound respect for human rights and the rule of the law" (www.IABC.com) . When looking at the preamble, it seems as though the code is to be based primarily on what is legal, when what is legal may not necessarily spell out what is ethical. It is my opinion that the code of ethics contained in the IABC web site falls slightly short of what a code of ethics, especially in a field such as public relations in which ethical practices have in the near past been a source of contention, should be.
In addition, IABCs code of ethics seems to be limited to ethical practices within the realms of communication. Both PRSA and the CIPR integrate things such as continuing education and research (PRSA) and competency (CIPR) into their models.
All three models, however, hold a policy that, should a member be found, after a period of deliberation, to have broken the code of ethics, membership to the organization in question will be terminated.