Are “Ethics Experts” Unethical?

The New York Times has a variety of “experts” providing ethics and etiquette help, all of which seems to be written by an infinite number of monkeys randomly hitting keyboards. For example, Randy Cohen was the Sunday magazine ethics columnist for a decade, and he had zero credentials for the job. He had been a writer for, I think, David Letterman. When I questioned him once for taking gratuitous shots at people in his column responses,  asking him if that constituted an ethical role-model, he told me belligerently that he was under contract to the times as a writer and had no responsibility to be a role-model or exemplar of any kind.


Someone named Chuck Klosterman now writes the column, and among his credentials is the book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto. This past week his reader questions (I am not making this up) concerned whether someone should tip the driver who delivers the luggage that was lost by the airline which then hired him to deliver it, and whether someone should post “flattering naked photos” of herself on the internet, or would that be too narcissistic?

We’re killing trees on this stuff these days, inane questions with pseudo-serious responses from people who have nor credentials in the area other than their paycheck. I raise this because it permeates a great deal of what we read and hear, and it continues the deadly admixture of news and editorial, of fact and opinion.

“Don’t believe everything you read” is morphing into “Don’t trust anything you read.” We elevate the banal to the respectable, and arbitrarily anoint the experts. I don’t know about you, but the Magic 8-Ball is looking better and better.

© Alan Weiss 2014


6 thoughts on “Are “Ethics Experts” Unethical?

  1. One of my brothers passed this one on to me a while ago: The theory that an infinite number of monkeys randomly hitting keyboards would reproduce the works of Shakespeare has been disproved – by social media.

    • That’s great! or it “produces mass paranoia”

      Re: ethics, how’s this for an oxymoron: “legal ethics”? It’s the greatest irony when lawyers run ethics courses for themselves and others.

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