July 2007 Ethics Dunces

Ariana Huffington

Huffington, a pragmatic ideological side-switcher (remember her Comedy Central debates with Al Franken, with her on "the Right"?) who founded the Bush-basher paradise website "The Huffington Post," was outraged with neocon Bill Kristol's recent Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post that argued that Bush's presidency would ultimately be scored a success. Did she then make counter arguments, write a balanced and reasoned response, or simply use well-chosen facts and figures to put Kristol in his place? No. Instead, Huffington wrote this on her blog:

"I had a preview of this deluded triumphalist drivel a couple of days earlier -- on Thursday afternoon specifically. Even more specifically, I was on the 4:00 pm Amtrak Acela from New York to Washington. "Kristol was sitting a row behind me, talking on his cell phone with someone who apparently shared his optimism. 'Precipitous withdrawal really worked,' I overheard him say, clearly referring to the president's use of the term in that morning's press conference. 'How many times did he use it? Three? Four?' he asked his interlocutor, and the conversation continued with a round of metaphorical back-slapping for the clever phrase they had 'come up with.'

"I, of course, have no idea who was on the other end. Tony Snow, perhaps?"

Gee, Ariana, why didn't you just tap the phone and find out?

When someone is having a phone conversation in a public place, it is both rude and wrong to listen in. It is plain outrageous to publish what has been overheard. The correct and fair response for Huffington would have been the one dictated by the Golden Rule: alert Kristol that he could be heard, and then make a genuine effort not to listen. Under no circumstances is it fair or ethical to publish the result of eavesdropping on a private conversation. But Huffington has clearly adopted the ruthless attitude of her new friends at the Daily Kos and Move-On.Org that individuals with whom you differ philosophically and politically don't deserve common courtesy, consideration or fairness, because they are bad.

Here at the Ethics Scoreboard, on the other hand, we regard people who listen in on private conversations as Ethics Dunces, and say so. Courteously, of course.




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