June 27, 2022

Ethics and morals should go hand in hand, as the book describes in chapter 1; “It is important here to distinguish between ethics, a rational process founded on certain agreed-on principles, and morals, which are in the realm of religion.”(Patterson et al., 2019) As I move up in the journalistic world, I plan to use integrity and honesty above all. Never abandoning my moral principles, which are guided by a higher power, or “self”. Having moral principles and being consciously aware of the ethical decisions we make, will help us avoid controversy and help expand the role communication has in our individual lives.

The one thing that I would like to clarify is my personal view on the notion of “religion”, there is a stigma that seems to be prevalent amongst society that religion is an organization. For me personally, I think religion is something that is found inside and created on the outside of (us).

Thomas Pain once said; “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church.” In his book Age of Reason, he paints a picture that religion is inside our own minds, and how we think about the world around us. He also said in his book “On Religion”,

“Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

Enslavement of the mind comes more often in religion, religion should not be the guiding factor in your moral decisions. Some “Gods” wish death upon people who do not worship and believe in them, promising eternal damnation and hellfire if you do not submit to their will. These principles and concepts can be found in the core belief of every religion.

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” -Thomas Paine

Using Kant’s Categorical Imperative; which first, “asserts that an individual should act as if the choices one makes for oneself could become universal law. The second states that you should act so that you treat each individual as an end and never as merely a means.” (Patterson et al., 2019) We can learn to teach religion as something that is “self-taught,” rather than something that has to be found in a Church or Temple as literal doctrine.

I often think that people assume that any single religion has all the answers, and it is their right to inflict those answers on people not asking any questions.

I also like Kant’s ethical theory which; “is based on the notion that it is in the act itself, rather than the person who acts, where moral forces resides.” (Patterson et al., 2019) Actions do indeed matter more than the thoughts, but if we allow our thoughts to control us, we will oftentimes act them out. I have been to war, and I have seen the rigors of combat first hand and the cost it has not only on those who wage it, but the innocent who are just in the way of it.

I used utilitarianism once to justify the necessity of war, now this is indeed controversial. But what is moral, can be explained by Mills when he said; “Our moral faculty, according to all those of its interpreters who are entitled to the name of thinkers, supplies us only with the general principles of moral judgments, it is a branch of our reason, not of our sensitive faculty; and must be looked to for the abstract doctrines of morality, not for perception of it in the concrete. The intuitive, no less than what may be termed the inductive, school of ethics, insists on the necessity of general laws. They both agree that the morality of an individual action is not a question of direct perception but of the application of a law to an individual case.”(Mill, 1863) This shows that when done in accordance with moral law, knowing what is right and what is wrong, we can make decisions that benefit the overall collective majority.

Sometimes you have to make hard decisions, and having a moral compass to guide you in those decisions, will allow for less turmoil in one’s life. We could also use the Concepts of “Circles of Intimacy”(Patterson et al., 2019) also following these guiding principles.

Using this concept will help me to make moral and ethical decisions, since to me morality is doing what is right all the time. I can avoid invading someone’s privacy by using ethical decision making based on moral judgments. Oftentimes we are quick to judge, are fast to assume that we have the right answer, if I use the basic fundamentals of Utilitarianism, the view that an action is right, if it produces greater overall happiness for the majority, than if it were not performed at all. Then I can make more ethical decisions, the right to “know,” versus the right to no. I like to think that information should never be withheld, and if we want to stay out of the spotlight we should critically examine our deepest thoughts always before acting them out.

I like the quote from Epictetus when he said; “learn the meaning of what you say, then speak.”

Tells me that oftentimes we react, rather than internalize what we are receiving and responding accordingly. Reactions usually come without hesitation, so if we learn to base our reactions off patterns of moral decision making, then we learn to better respond overall.

I like to tell myself to “divorce provocation and reaction, avoid distraction.”

When we are distracted, we will often subjugate ourselves to instant reaction, when faced with controversial topics or messages. Using these concepts, I can better articulate a plan to become what I have heard others call, a social justice warrior. Taking the gauntlet per se, of the citizen journalist, since I have seen a lot of integrity and morality being lost within a modern day society. Specifically within the news media outlets.

Always question the reporting done by news organizations. I remember September 11th 2001 very well, I remember watching several news stations and thinking to myself, “why are so many news organizations just filming the Trade Towers on a Tuesday morning?”

We need to have the right form of social justice and not just become a lynch mob, set out on a path to self destruction. In the book “what is social justice”; they make the claim “social justice is, and is normally understood to be, a question of equal opportunities.” (Brian, 2017) So what defines social? And what is just? Social as defined by Marriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary; states, “2 a: marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates.”(Marriam-Webster, 2008) The definition is longer but this definition tied together with justice; which is defined as, ”1 a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”(Marriam-Webster, 2008) Together would conclude that social justice is a means to work within a society to conclude what is just.

Whether it be reward or punishment, allowing for citizens to take a social stand on justice, will allow for a more impartial bias and a larger audience. Which is where discernment needs to be utilized when taking to social media platforms, as the book points out, “The ubiquitous nature of social media and other forms of nearly instantaneous news and advertising consumption raises another issue: fake ads.”(Patterson, 2019)

Social media has allowed for instant dissemination of information, whether it be factually relevant or even real at all. So for me personally I try to view social media more as an open source channel. Meaning, that it allows for me to communicate with people far away, who I would have never spoken to, had I not had the use of social media, but with the use of social media doesn’t necessarily make me an expert on social justice. Just because I feel my beliefs and ideas are right, does not mean that others are wrong. So I try to use social media to better understand communication and citizens amongst society as a whole.

That is where utilitarianism comes in, when we benefit the majority, sometimes we can justify the cost to the few. Can war be justified? I try to rationalize it if anything, because of my experiences in war, I think that I have more of an objective viewpoint on the overall morality of war. Does that make me an expert? According to Douglas Walton in his book Appeal to Expert Opinion;

“Many of the things we accept are, inevitably, accepted on the basis of authority. If I get a diagnosis of my illness from a physician, I may get a second opinion, but even that opinion has been put forward by a certified expert.”(Walton, 1997)

Just because people are in positions of authority, does not mean they have moral integrity. Or even an ethical value system, some people just want to do what they do, regardless of how it affects others. I like to take even an objective standpoint on my own individual beliefs, how I see things is different from how others see the same things. I try to place myself in their shoes, as if I were them, observing my actions from a different perspective.

In conclusion; the book helped me understand the role I want to play in journalism, not so much a “The Social Justice Warrior Handbook” But someone that provides information to citizens regardless of backgrounds, some Nations have restrictions on their information and limitations on what they receive. As Americans we have our First Amendment Rights, which grant us the ability to speak against things we do not agree with, to speak out against atrocities! It also provides us the ability to freely move our thoughts amongst society, meaning that no one can restrict what we say. But for me, this course has taught me a better approach on “how” to say what I am saying, verse “what” I am saying. It is not what we say, rather how we say it. Using morals and ethics combined is a good starting point.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Patterson, P., Wilkins, L. C., & Painter, C. (2019). In Media ethics: Issues and cases (p. 4, 66, 143). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Mill, J. S. (1863). 1. In Utilitarianism (p. 6). John Stuart Mill.
BRIAN, B. (2017). Why we need a Theory. In WHY SOCIAL JUSTICE MATTERS (p. 7). Place of publication not identified: RAWAT.
Walton, D. N. (1997). 1. In Appeal to expert opinion: Arguments from authority (p. 1). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Social, Justice: (2008) In Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Incorporated.