Media Ethically Challenged
posted by December 4 at 13:37 PMon
Usually, I love the Ethicist. His pithy, pun-filled responses to readers’ ethical questions are typically right-on. However, this Sunday’s column about child pornography was a total head-scratcher.
Here’s the ethical dilemma: An Internet technician found a trove of what appeared to be child pornography (“young children—clearly less than 18, maybe early teens”) on his boss’s work computer. He asks, “Must I call the police? I think so, but I need my job.”
Cohen’s perplexing response: Since the situation is “fraught with uncertainty” (e.g., the porn might depict really, really young-looking adults; or the boss might not have paid (!) for the images, making his possession of them somehow more ethical), the technician should look the other way. Basically, Cohen’s argument is that if he turned his boss in, the boss could face icky repercussions.
Even if your boss were acquitted of criminal charges, the accusation itself imperils his job, his reputation and the company. If convicted, he faces years in prison. […]
Since you have no reason to believe your boss has had improper contact with children, you should not subject him to such ferocious repercussions for looking at forbidden pictures. […]
Your best recourse? Alas, silence.
Alas for whom, exactly? The reason our society has “ferocious repercussions” for looking at “forbidden pictures” of adults having sex with children is that the production and distribution of such images victimizes children (and promotes children’s victimization, by creating a market for it). If we aren’t talking about child porn, he hasn’t done anything illegal. Yes, porn charges would damage the boss’s reputation, but… If we are talking about child porn, the ethical obligation is to the children being victimized, not the boss’s reputation.