Considering Professional Ethics: May 2024

A New Profession to Consider: The Voting Public 

Comments from David Goldman (FASPE Chair) 

I write to ask, plead, for rationality in a world where the confluence of misinformation, demagoguery, and dangerous allusions bombards us. Seriously, what are we to do? Let’s begin by acknowledging that this is not new. We are reminded of FASPE Journalism Faculty member Andie Tucher’s recent Not Exactly Lying: Fake News and Fake Journalism in American History. Demagogues are not new, including in the United States. 

However, are the stakes higher today? Is this misbehavior more rampant, even more predominant and effective now? Does social media amplify while supposedly mainstream media is too often complicit (even in the name of supposedly cautious objectivity)? Yes, yes, and yes. 

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Now, unlike any other time in our history, the very basics of our democracy are being threatened as a result of the very nature and intent of the misinformation and demagoguery. No, the elections were not, and there is no threat that they will be, rigged or stolen. No, the American system of Justice has not been converted into a banana republic of political witch hunts. No, QAnon is not real.

We need timely ways of thinking about this recurrent problem. Perhaps the answer lies in thinking about a different group of professionals, the consuming public, the voters

FASPE defines professionals by reference to those who have influence in their communities (defined broadly). We demand professionalism and expertise from those who have such influence. Thus, we now ask for that professionalism from those with the ultimate influence, the voting public. That responsibility lies with all of us–to take our role, as voting professionals, more seriously. Our decisions, as a voting public, affect our shared future.

Why are we, the consuming public, tolerating and even buying shoddy products? We know better, don’t we? We know better.

We ask for truth in advertising when we buy a car, yet we are pulled into (and tolerate) a hurricane of lies in the political sphere. We expect to have the freedom to choose which products to buy, yet we blithely permit new legislative restrictions on voting and corrupt gerrymandering that diminishes or even cancels our right to choose. We account for bombast from underhanded product sales tactics, yet we are drawn to political demagogues. We rely on a system of regulation that roots out the dangerous products on the market, yet we continue to accept candidates whom we know to be corrupt thugs and candidates whose words and behavior scream danger to democratic principles. We reject sales tactics that rely on racist, misogynistic ideas; we reject othering or discrimination of all stripes, yet we vote for candidates who blatantly (or not so blatantly) travel in such territory. On the other hand, our better selves are even willing to sacrifice and pay a bit more for our products in order to protect the workers who produce the products and to ensure the basic legitimacy of the marketplace, yet we all too often select candidates solely based on our own petty and selfish prejudices (and pocketbooks).

We, as voters, must demand and vote for products that are not based on misinformation, demagoguery, and dangerous allusions even where those products may seem to satisfy our individual desires at the moment. We as voters need to question our ethics as we practice our profession.

"Considering Professional Ethics" is a monthly essay shared in the FASPE e-newsletter. Click here to sign up for future newsletters.

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