Philosophy 2730F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Moveon.Org, John Stuart Mill, Super Bowl

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13 Nov 2012

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Stoll 11/13/2012 8:02:00 AM
Produces three different sets of principles that all support the same
o Social contract, deontological and utilitarian
Multimedia corporations have an imperfect moral duty to promote a
diversity of views in their programming, even if doing so comes at
the expense of profits this imperfect duty to promote these views
ought to be explicitly stated in each media corporation’s mission
o Media corporations have to work diversity into their business
at the expense of profits, but how is unknown
o Imperfect duty a duty who’s content we can specify
Cases for consideration
o wished to air ads during the Superbowl that
criticized the fiscal policies of the Bush administration
CBS refused the request, even though had
the requisite funds to pay for the ad, on the grounds
that politically charged ads were not appropriate during
an event like the Superbowl responded that this assertion was
inconsistent, owing to the willingness of CBS to air an
ad funded by the federal government
o Disney
Disney refused to release Michael Moore’s film
Fahrenheit 911 on the grounds that its political nature
would alienate families that enjoyed Disney products
Moore maintains that this action was political, designed
to appease the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush then
increasing Disney’s taxes
After Moore got a distribution deal, he sought to air his
movie before the election on pay-per-view, In-Demand
refused to air the special
Political Function
o In order to assess the moral duties/responsibilities of the
media corporations in these instances, we need to be aware
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the role such entities are supposed to play in the relevant
democratic state
The ethical duties of the media come from what type of
society they are in (democratic society = democratic
o Since a U.S. President does not have to defend their actions
publicly (unlike a Prime Minister, who has to defend their
actions in front of Parliament), there is good reason to
conceive of the free press as a de facto check on Executive
The free press are the ones asking the questions about
his actions, not other politicians
With no free press nobody would ever ask about the
president’s policies, needs to be done
o Utilitarian view according to John Stuart Mill, truth in a
democratic state can only be achieved if powerful elites do
not suppress dissention, even incorrect views may contain
some kernel of truth that would be lost if the position were
Mill massive proponent of free speech in ensuring that
government and society operate smoothly and ethically
o If the Press withhold rebellious views from the electorate,
even views that are held by only a minority, the democratic
process is threatened elites are silencing dissenting views
If the press withholds mainstream views, then the
opinions are forever silenced
o To those who might object that these two case studies are
not sufficiently relevant:
The amount of money spent on advertising by both
American political parties is evidence that the case is relevant clearly, everyone believes
advertisements play a politically essential role
Evidence that films are a politically significant element
of the mass media comes from observing that the U.S.
military offers equipment to films that portray the
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military in a positive light, and withhold support from
those that are critical
o There was also a study suggesting films had a greater impact
on changing public opinion about the Vietnam War than did
television so Fahrenheit 911 is also a relevant case study
The Kantian Analysis
o Kant’s view is that at the end of the day, everyone is the
same, if one person decides to different they shouldn’t be
allowed to think that way
o Stoll cites two aspects of Kant’s ethics as being fundamental
to her analysis:
Any morally acceptable policy (reason for action) needs
to be one that all could adopt without catastrophe
Any moral motive is a motive that everyone else
who found themselves in your situation could
adopt at the same time without leading to
Categorical imperative your motives, need to be
motives that everyone else can adopt, if not, the
motive is immoral
This means, in part, that deception is morally
impermissible because deception always invokes a
contradictory policy (reason for action)
Kant says consistency in the world is the
foundation for moral motives inconsistency like
o A policy to not air political content during the Superbowl is
not intrinsically contradictory
o However, CBS did air ads sponsored by the government, so
their policy was not consistently applied and by choosing to
air ads the supported the government and not the dissenting
view of, CBS was in effect suppressing dissent,
engaging in deception making their actions toward morally objectionable
o That is, CBS was morally wrong to reject the ads
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