You know what you did…and so will everyone else…

Question 1: How responsible is the media for cynical attitudes?

In today’s society, words can spread like wildfire, especially when it comes to “hot news”.  Think about how many news channels, magazines, websites, social networks, and people you know of.  That why it is so easy for news to get around.

In “Managing Business Ethics”, Trevino and Nelson mention a survey conducted by the Media Research Center.  “The Media Research Center conducted a survey of 863 network TV sitcoms, dramas, and movies in the mid-1990s.  Nearly 30% of the criminal characters in this programs were business owners or corporate executives” (10).  As I was reading this statement, I couldn’t help but think of the “Greed is Good” speech from Wall Street as well as the storyline of a recent movie release, “The Promised Land”. In the “Greed is Good” speech, Gordon Gekko portrays a powerful (and greedy) business man, which could definitely influence what viewers think of corporate executives after leaving the theater.  I also wanted to bring up “The Promised Land” in this blog post as this film brought environmental ethics into play.  While a “big business” was still involved, trying to buy up a typical small town in Pennsylvania, viewers of this film were exposed to the negative impacts of fracking throughout this film by characters who would not sign a contract with the company.  Characters talked about what happened to their towns after fracking had been permitted, and I even saw pictures of worse-off farm land and dead cows.  I highly doubt people walked out of the theater thinking fracking was totally harmless.  Fracking is currently a very controversial discussion, and it will so for years to come.  This movie gave powerful insight to the damage fracking (and the businesses in charge of it) have on land throughout the United States.

Jerry Sandusky is a man who has now become a common example for “unethical behavior” after taking advantage of younger children during his coaching career at Penn State.  His case also demonstrated how inaction is often as powerful as action; many officials and bystanders were charged with perjury for covering Sandusky or not reporting his behavior to higher authorities.  I figured the name “Sandusky” might ring a bell for most people reading this. The Sandusky case is one that just about anyone I talked to this summer seemed to know about.  It came up at lunches at work, with friends at the mall, or even in short car rides if something was broadcasted on the radio.  Why is that?  The power of media.  Just about every detail, update, finding, witness, new statement, and interview was presented to the public through magazines, news reports, websites, and even my Facebook newsfeed.  Facebook, a supposed “social” network, actually turned out to be a source of information and a forum for debate.  Over the summer, I would log on and see paragraph-long statuses with opinions on the case.  After seeing so much coverage on this case, I cannot deny that my view of Sandusky was significantly tainted.  The Sandusky case has demonstrated that no unethical behavior will fall to the wayside forever.  Secrets find their ways of surfacing, and reputations fall.

Question 2: Why is the sociological imagination important?

“You shouldn’t care what people think.”  We’ve all heard this line, and have probably even had it said to our faces.  Let me tell you: this is terrible advice.  The sociological imagination is incredibly important.  You should absolutely care what people think of you; how many people like to have bad things said about them?  Not many.  The world does not revolve around you.  It is important to realize the impact of those words, choices, actions, and inactions. It is a lot harder to build up one’s reputation than it is to ruin it.  Make one “bad” decision and it might be remembered forever.

If everyone were to properly utilize his or her sociological imagination, I would like to believe this world would run more smoothly.  Our society would be made up of more thoughtful, analytical, caring people and much of the drama in our lives would not exist. Had Clinton utilized his sociological imagination during his presidential term, his life would probably have been a whole lot easier.  By having his affair with Monica Lewinsky, not only did he impact his relationship and trust with his wife and family, but he also lost the trust of thousands of Americans as well.  This affair tainted citizens’ images of him as a person and as a leader from that point on.

Question 3: Is it worth it to sacrifice ethics for achievement?

While it may be tempting in the short term, watch out.  As the saying goes, “Karma’s a b*tch.”  After doing a bit of brainstorming, I feel like I have a case here.  “[…] our society, with its emphasis on money and material success, is rearing young people who strive for achievement at any cost” (Trevino and Nelson 10).  Let’s take the case of a young adult named Sam Eshaghoff.  I remember watching his interview on 60 Minutes and feeling shocked that he was able to get away with his scheme and “business” as long as he did.  Within a few short years, Eshaghoff took the SAT and ACT approximately 20 times, with a score usually between 2170 and 2220, for clients willing to pay $2,500 and was able to keep things under the radar.  However, all good things come to an end, including his seemingly easy-to-maintain business.  He used to have a bright and clear future including an undergraduate degree from Emory and many potential career paths.  Now he is dealing with an arrest and negative media exposure.  So, was all of the money really worth it?  It sure does not seem like it to me.

Outsourcing is another ethical issue that is pretty hard to avoid; at the moment, I am wearing a t-shirt made in Mexico and neon running shoes made in China working with a computer and pen which were both probably made overseas as well.  Hundreds of companies abuse the opportunity to obtain cheap labor costs and outsource the manufacturing of their products.  These wealthy corporations pay their workers pathetic wages and force them to work in unhealthy conditions.  Workers are forced to work in dirty environments for long hours at a time and are often mistreated by their superiors.  As many of you have probably noticed, companies that outsource their manufacturing often still perform well financially but are negatively talked about in society.  Some people have picked up on this reaction to outsourcing.  Since their discoveries, they have ensured manufacturing will only occur in the United States not only to provide jobs to Americans but also for advertising purposes in hopes of swaying consumers to purchase their goods.  Companies that are known for manufacturing their goods in America include Volkswagen, American Apparel, and LL Bean.

To finish my answer to this question, there are ways to be successful without having to sacrifice something as important as ethics.  As Mills mentions in “The Sociological Imagination”, “They do not seem to know that the use of this imagination is central to the best work that they might do.”  Be creative.  Think outside the box.  Be aware of who is affected.  Know your impact.  If you put in the time to exhaust all ideas and options, usually there is a good and fair path to take.


9 thoughts on “You know what you did…and so will everyone else…

  1. Very thorough answer to #1. I don’t think the victims of Sandusky felt all secrets come to light. The nature of the problem at PSU was how long it took to come to light and how powerful interests worked assiduously to not acknowledge the problem.

    I am often surprised that you all know the Gecko speech. That movie is from 1987! Why is it so well known?

  2. I had not thought of sociological imagination as a safeguard against stupid (or poor) ethical choices. Some of the SI questions from that period in my mind are more centered on why sexual scandals are prevalent among politicians. That kind of question gets at how Clinton can be understood on his own terms but also as part of the public issues of male power, sexual desire, youthfulness, and so on. You may not know or recall that as Congress geared up for its investigations, several of the House prosecutors had their OWN sexual scandals come to light.

    For me, if Clinton had used more SI, he would have thought about ways to alter the roles of interns so as to deflate the adoring inflation of male political egos. He might have thought of how his own sexual desire intersected with political power to make him more vulnerable to mistakes or lapses.

  3. LOL. Where do you get all these sayings? Karma is a bitch? I don’t think a devout Hindu would say that. I am trying to imagine someone in India saying “Jesus is so pimp.” Or a t-shirt that says “I went to Monotheism and all I got was this ONE lousy t-shirt.”


    FYI WordPress does emoticons.

  4. Bold question! Not sure we can get to the answer in one post, but Sam’s example is illustrative. I wonder who would feel good about themselves having gotten into college on bogus scores.

  5. I’m most interested in your second question and its answer. While I personally strive to have a great reputation I think it is at times important, even necessary, to forget what others think as that is how great innovation occurs (imagine if Darwin listened to everyone else). However, I agree with you that you can use SI when making “good” or “bad” decisions. I can’t imagine that Darwin (staying with my example) thought “wow this discovery is going to change the world for the worse.” Rather, by using his SI he was able to imagine the future benefits that such a discovery would bring. Therefore, I would recommend thinking not of what other people think of you, but rather what your actions will mean to them.

      • No. I think Darwin had to put aside what others thought of him in order to put fourth his theory. I also think that there would be few cases where someone using their SI, Darwin in this case, would say or do something if they thought it was going to have a negative impact on the greater scheme of things. If Darwin could not see past the initial opposition and resentment who knows where we would be today.

  6. Jennie, first of all, I’d like to say how much I enjoy your engaging title for this post. There is no way that I would be able to just skip by this one. I really like the part of Question 3 where you talk about the SAT scandal with Sam Eshaghoff. I realize that now, the competition for getting into a good college is at its highest. I talked to my aunt the other day and she told me about all the community service my cousin has been doing and how she has to start recording it for college applications. My cousin is only in 5th grade! The pressure placed on students to achieve well in school may drive them to sacrifice ethics. That is probably why Sam had such a good business going for himself. He probably could have even charged more for the scores (but that is beside the point). In summary, those kids that used the false scores made an unethical decision in order to excel. Businesses do things like this all the time; do anything to make more money. But in the end, it will not work out for anyone. Those students and those companies have to face the consequences of their actions, because inevitably, there are always consequences.

    • Haha thanks Meg! I was really hoping my title would catch people’s attention, so I’m happy to see it worked! You’re absolutely right that competition for getting into colleges is at its peak. It is crazy how much people are trying to strategically plan how many AP classes they have to take, what activities to participate in, how to “demonstrate leadership ability”, and of course how to nail the SAT and/or ACT. I can’t believe your cousin is already recording things to put on college applications! I feel like I only really started thinking about college during my freshman year of high school when picking classes, but I guess looking back on my childhood, the things that I got involved in early on definitely played key roles later down the road. At least I can feel pretty good about the fact that I got involved in activities and sports purely because I enjoyed them, not because I was trying to look good on an application 5-10 years down the road. I remember seeing Sam Eshaghoff interviewed on 60 Minutes and thinking, “Wow, those clients were THAT desperate to beat the system?” followed by, “Well, I’m pretty glad they got caught.”


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