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Memories of the 28th Century

New Ethics

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Maybe it's just in this area, but it seems like the standards for ethics and honesty have changed in the last few years. While it is easy to point at Trump as the paragon of these new standards, he isn't the only one, but no one has produced such a wide range of new ethical standards. The sexual ethical standards of Hollywood recruiters were a “special case”, because they were not used in other industries to any significant degree. But Trump had the nerve to apply those standards to a casual encounter with a writer.

If Trump hadn't been found liable for defamation of character for lying about it later, then following a woman into a dressing room in a department store shows a very low level of morals and taste. I he wanted to have sex with her, then he should have the traditional wining and dining, unless he feared that his wife might have found out.

I found his new standard for honesty in financial reporting to be old hat. Decades ago, I was seeing people reporting different amounts as “fair market value” depending on who they were reporting it to. And just to make things interesting, the IRS has definitions that are unique. And there are different definitions and standards that depend on who is involved.

But the new standard on truth is pretty novel. People have used “What I say three times is true”, in the past, but it was only for special situations, not for any casual lies. But people, at least a few people, have been using the Trump style lie in all sorts of situation. Just as Trump casually lied and seemed to expect anyone who heard it to accept as truth. It used to be that liars tried to make their lies rational, believable to people who knew something about the matter, but the Trump style liars just spew whatever they want people to believe, or what they feel like saying.

In the past, lying was for special purposes, because it is much easier to be truthful and shade the facts to benefit one's position. There were a few politicians who lied whenever they opened their mouths, but they were few. The new style liar lies whenever possible, because it might be helpful. And I recently met someone who lied even when it couldn't possibly do him any good. He just lied, because he could, even though no one believed him. I hope that won't become a new fashion.

That reminded me of a telephone conversation I had with someone a few decades ago. He seemed to be trying to impress me, but he tried to use three different lies. Unfortunately, it was easy to refute the lies, and I had the facts available. When refuted, he admitted the facts and moved on to the next lie.

The other related matter is the problem of people professing to know the facts but actually being quite ignorant. One example of that is what passes as evolutionary anthropology in the general press. I get the impression that the writers known nothing of the subject, so they take each different term for humans as referring to different species, even though the terms specify a particular culture or sometimes race. But no, the writers make them all species, even though they interbred and produced fertile offspring. But I don't know whether the writers were lying or simply writing from their ignorance.
It just occurred to me that the lack of consequences makes it easy for people to be dishonest. Until within the last couple hundred years, there were various sorts of corporal punishment for serious lies and moral problems. In addition to flogging, the stocks and pillory were available for allowing people to let offenders know how much respect they had. There are written manuals and standards for those punishments, and it would be good to learn how they were used before we reintroduce them. Flogging was an excellent way to punish minor offenses; crimes that get a jail sentence these days, petty theft, assault, etc. The stocks and pillory were for moral lapses, sexual offenses and such, because they allowed the local citizens to throw stones, manure, or whatever are the offender. And before we restore those punishments, we should take a good look at the criminal statutes. There are laws on the books for things that should not be illegal, and we might want to make brothels legal again to avoid many sex crimes. It wasn't all that long ago when there were brothels on the hills between Beacon Hill and the Charles River.


  1. tailor STATELY's Avatar
    Interesting thoughts. I believe that sensational foibles are more public nowadays. As with a baseball analogy one just didn't write/spread what happened on and off the field with teammates, it was a code not to be broken. Certain other figures, politicians included, were even protected by the press for a long time. Ethical erosion will always be with us. The popular phrase "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and the street creed never ""rat out"/squeal/snitch" are tribal affectations that no longer apply to media, politics, et al. I'd hate to see pillories become popular, but nowadays the media is its own exposé, judge, jury, and executioner.

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    Perhaps the media people should be the first ones to tr out the pillories.