JFK accuses media of sensationalism, triviality

This is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s primary run in West Virginia, where a large focus of his time was spent responding to fears over his Catholicism. This is from remarks titled “ The Religion Issue in American Politics” that JFK made at the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, DC, April 21, 1960:

What, then, is the so-called religious issue in American politics today? It is not, it seems to me, my actual religious convictions - but a misunderstanding of what those convictions actually are. It is not the actual existence of religious voting blocs - but a suspicion that such voting blocs may exist. And when we deal with such public fears and suspicions, the American press has a very grave responsibility.

I know the press did not create this religious issue. My religious affiliation is a fact - religious intolerance is a fact. And the proper role of the press is to report all facts that are a matter of public interest.

But the press has a responsibility, I think you will agree, which goes far beyond a reporting of the facts. It goes beyond lofty editorials deploring intolerance. For my religion is hardly, in this critical year of 1960, the dominant issue of our time. It is hardly the most important criterion - or even a relevant criterion - on which the American people should make their choice for Chief Executive. And the press, while not creating the issue, will largely determine whether or not it does become dominant - whether it is kept in perspective - whether it is considered objectively - whether needless fears and suspicions are stilled instead of aroused.

The members of the press should report the facts as they find them. They should describe the issues as they see them. But they should beware, it seems to me, of either magnifying this issue or oversimplifying it. They should beware of ignoring the vital issues of this campaign, while filling their pages with analyses that cannot be proven, with statements that cannot be documented and with emphasis which cannot be justified.

I spoke in Wisconsin, for example, on farm legislation, foreign policy, defense, civil rights and several dozen other issues. The people of Wisconsin seemed genuinely interested in these addresses. But I rarely found them reported in the press - except when they were occasionally sandwiched in between descriptions of my hand-shaking, my theme-song, family haircut, and inevitably, my religion.

At almost every stop in Wisconsin I invited questions - and the questions came - on price supports, labor unions, disengagement, taxes and inflation. But there sessions were rarely reported in the press except when one topic was discussed: religion. One article, for example, supposedly summing the primary up in advance, mentioned the word Catholic 20 times in 15 paragraphs - not mentioning even once dairy farms, disarmament, labor legislation or any other issue. And on the Sunday before the Primary, the Milwaukee Journal featured a map of the state, listing county by county the relative strength of three types of voters - Democrats, Republicans and Catholics.

In West Virginia, it is the same story. As reported in yesterday’s Washington Post, the great bulk of West Virginians paid very little attention to my religion - until they read repeatedly in the nation’s press that this was the decisive issue in West Virginia. There are many serious problems in that state - problems big enough to dominate any campaign - but religion is not one of them.

I do not think that religion is the decisive issue in any state. I do not think it should be. I do not think it should be made to be. And recognizing my own responsibilities in that regard, I am hopeful that you will recognize yours also.

Sounds so timely—especially if you substitute religion for whatever (e.g. race). And considering these remarks were made 50 years ago, does that mean we can’t blame bad journalism for the downfall of news?

History is an art form rooted in scholarship

A personal statement from a Public History grad student (taken from their Facebook Page):

I am interested in using history as an instrument for social change; history with a pragmatic purpose. The power of the past can be used to engage the present in ways to fight corruption, aristocracy, inequalities, racial/gender divides, and other forms of oppression and exploitation. I believe history is an art form rooted in scholarship.

Ethical omissions

Again from Marianne M. Jennings’ The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse: How to Spot Moral Meltdowns in Companies… Before It’s Too Late:

Some years ago a former dean asked me to look into a new way of teaching students business ethics. He wanted to stop sending our students over to the philosophy department for their ethics training. His reasoning was that “they go over there, find out capitalism is a tool of the devil, and then switch majors.” His theory had one more part to it. Those who did not switch majors and returned to study business came back with a guilt complex. They assumed, based on the views of their philosophy professors, that they had already sold their souls to the devil, so what possible difference could a little cooking of the books mean in their eternal damnation? So, those who remained became comfortable with crossing ethical lines.

Ethics instruction during the era in which the crop of officer felons was trained was not virtue ethics. Rather, these students were given a heavy dose of social responsibility and little or no discussion of the ethical issues in financial reporting. Their ethics instruction focused on these distinct areas:

  • Environmentalism
  • Diversity
  • Human rights
  • Philanthropy
  • Giving back to the community

The ethics books and curriculum of this generation of business leaders (and regretfully, still today) define doing the right thing in these areas as ethics writ large. Moral relativists are hesitant to establish bright lines between right and wrong, except in areas they deem appropriate. These topics and guidelines for business ethics come directly from the AACSB accrediting body for business schools, which mandates the following content in the business-school curriculum if the school desires AACSB accreditation for its programs:

  • Ethical and global issues
  • The influence of political, social, legal and regulatory, environmental and technological issues
  • The impact of demographic diversity on organizations

Those trained under this pedagogical philosophy will order, “No sweat shops,” but could never bring themselves to say, “Always be honest.” They can condemn lumber companies for destroying the rain forests, but they would never suggest that corporate executives should control their conduct in their personal lives. To students trained in this era of business-ethics instruction, a demented sort of logic and attitude has resulted. As long as the company had a good record on community development and contribution, a little fraud was fine. They were not trained to ask the question “Does social conscience in some areas atone for the lack of moral conscience in finances and financial reporting?” Fannie Mae was named number one by Business Ethics magazine in its annual list of the most ethical companies in America in the same month that Fannie Mae’s multibillion-dollar accounting deception was unfolding. The CEO was forced out by his board because of questions about the firm’s financial reports even as the same group that created the parameters of ethical behavior in such a facile and arbitrary manner was honoring the company. True, few organizations have done more to help individuals get affordable housing than Fannie Mae. But recognition for a job well done does not justify misrepresentation in the marketplace.

Corporate social distractibility

From Marianne M. Jennings’ The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse: How to Spot Moral Meltdowns in Companies… Before It’s Too Late:

Sign #7: Goodness in some areas atones for evil in others

…Beware the socially responsible company. Watch out for the big donors. There is a certain con component in the Yeehaw Culture. The con men and women of the Yeehaw Culture have figured out a formula for drawing attention away from company performance and, in many cases, its financials. Even without the Yeehaw Culture, this dedication to causes and charity seems to be a distraction from running the business. The result is not just a lack of focus, but also a diversion of funds that were needed for simple things, including, for example, the employees’ pensions. That distraction comes in the form of virtuous efforts in the community, charities, and all those social goals one can now find on pretty much every company’s website. Stunningly, that information will be located on the investor-information home page. As cynical as it seems, skepticism about social responsibility and philanthropy may be one of the most certain determinants of a Yeehaw Culture. If you find these present in a company, check for the other factors of ethical collapse because the generosity and service may be a cover in a troubled soul and even more troubled books.

The term “yeehaw culture” comes from the Wyoming Law Reviews’ “Restoring Ethical Gumption in the Corporation: A Federalist Paper on Corporate Governance—Restoration of Active Virtue in the Corporate Structure to Curb the ‘Yeehaw Culture’ in Organizations”. It’s also the cry of Billy Crystal in City Slickers.

The book also encourages researching the community connections between management and charities.

Via Earl Stewart on Cars.

I am now a Technology of Participation facilitator

Last week I completed a 2 day Technology of Participation Facilitator training. Developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs, the Technology of Participation is a series of practices and principles for leading groups through inclusive and participatory dialogues and planning. The training was led by Nancy Jackson and Ruth-Ann Rasbold, who were excellent.

One of my first questions in the training was the ethical/political dimension to leading participatory methods (after an early morning drive to New Hampshire, I was feeling punchy). Here are the circumstances when participation doesn’t work (from the facilitator handbook):

  • there is no intention of using the information gathered, the plans made, or the excitement generated when people become involved.
  • people are attached to a particular outcome.
  • truth telling is not an accepted norm in an organization.
  • people are so busy, they are unwilling to set aside the time needed to engage in participatory processes or follow through on their collective decisions.
  • there is no apparent need to do things differently
  • the leader does not champion participation
  • people want a quick fix to a deep problem
  • participation is performed around a non-issue or merely a surface issue—that is, when the focus is to “straighten something out.”

from Participation Works: Business Cases from Around the World, James P. Troxel (ed.) with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, Alexandria,Virginia, Miles River Press, 1993, p. 28.

I participated in the facilitator training both because of my enjoyment in facilitating small groups—and my desire to improve my methods and confidence for facilitating larger groups—and that my boss is also trained in the Technology of Participation and I’ve quite enjoyed being a participant in the use of these methods.

Principles of Organizational Development Practice

From the Organizational Development Network:

Definition of OD

Organization Development is a dynamic values-based approach to systems change in organizations and communities; it strives to build the capacity to achieve and sustain a new desired state that benefits the organization or community and the world around them.

Principles of Practice

The practice of OD is grounded in a distinctive set of core values and principles that guide behavior and actions.


The practice of OD is grounded in a distinctive set of core values and principles that guide behavior and actions. Values-Based Key Values include:

  • Respect and Inclusion – equitably values the perspective and opinions of everyone.
  • Collaboration – builds collaborative relationships between the practitioner and the client while encouraging collaboration throughout the client system.
  • Authenticity – strives for authenticity and congruence and encourages these qualities in their clients
  • Self-awareness – commits to developing self-awareness and interpersonal skills. OD practitioners engage in personal and professional development through lifelong learning.
  • Empowerment – focuses efforts on helping everyone in the client organization or community increase their autonomy and empowerment to levels that make the workplace and/or community satisfying and productive.

Supported by Theory

Draws from multiple disciplines that inform an understanding of human systems, including applied behavioral and physical sciences

Systems Focused

Approaches communities and organizations as open systems; that is, acts with the knowledge that change in one area of a system always results in changes in other areas; and change in one area cannot be sustained without supporting changes in other areas of the system.

Action Research

Continuously reexamines, reflects and integrates discoveries throughout the process of change in order to achieve desired outcomes. In this way, the client members are involved both in doing their work, and in dialogue about their reflection and learning in order to apply them to achieve shared results.

Process Focused

Intervenes in organizational or community processes to help bring about positive change and help the client work toward desired outcomes

Informed by Data

Involves proactive inquiry and assessment of the internal environment in order to discover and create a compelling need for change and the achievement of a desired future state of the organization or community. Some methods include survey feedback, assessment tools, interviewing, focus groups, story telling, process consultation and observation.

Client Centered

Focuses on the needs of the client in order to continually promote client ownership of all phases of the work and support the client’s ability to sustain change after the consultant engagement ends.

Focused on Effectiveness and Health

Helps to create and sustain a healthy effective human system as an interdependent part of its larger environment.

The Economy: it’s made of people

William Bloom:

“…people do not work and create the economy because they want to support the economy. They create and relate—and this in turn, creates the economy.”

From David Boyle’s The Little Money Book. His commentary on the quote above: “So don’t be taken in by economists. We created the economy around us, and if we want to change it, we can do just that.”

Mendacity in order

Augustine of Hippo’s taxonomy of lies, deduced from his book On Lying (De Mendacio) (395) in order of descending severity:

  • Lies in religious teaching.
  • Lies that harm others and help no one.
  • Lies that harm others and help someone.
  • Lies told for the pleasure of lying.
  • Lies told to “please others in smooth discourse.”
  • Lies that harm no one and that help someone.
  • Lies that harm no one and that save someone’s life.
  • Lies that harm no one and that save someone’s “purity.”

Svenn Lindskold and Pamela Walters reduce those by 2—though Augustine’s previous work is uncited— in “Categories for the Acceptability of Lies” (1983). Listed from least permissible to most.

  1. Telling a lie that hurts someone else so that you can gain. In social motivational terms these categories can be said to range from
  2. Telling a lie that, if successful, could cause others to do something that benefits you while, at the same time, harming themselves or causing themselves a loss.
  3. Telling a lie to make yourself appear better than you really are or to protect some gain, acquired some time ago, to which you were not really entitled.
  4. Telling a lie that will influence others in an official position in such a way that you will gain by their response to you, but they will not be harmed.
  5. Telling a lie to protect yourself or another from punishment or disapproval for a minor failing or blunder which hurts no one.
  6. Telling a lie to save others from minor hurt, shame, or embarrassment.

Leaders and privileged voices

From Active Voices: Composing a Rhetoric for Social Movements by Sharon McKenzie Stevens. Chapter 2, “Vernacular Rhetoric and Social Movements: Performances of Resistance in the Rhetoric of the Everyday”, by Gerard A Hauser and Erin Daina McClellan (emphasis mine):

In the communication tradition of rhetoric, studies of social movements mostly have focused on the discourse of leaders, on single events, or on movement strategies. Although leader rhetoric is significant in shaping a movement and explaining its causes and objectives to an observing public, it provides a specific interpretation of what caused the movement, what it means to those involved, and what it aspires to achieve. As Touraine (1983) has shown, when the movement’s rank-and-file is invited to explain it, they often give different accounts once the leader leaves the room. Ignoring rank-and-file voices in the rhetorical criticism of social movements is problematic. It leads to a skewed picture of the public sphere by defining it in terms of privileged voices. Even in social movements, leaders have greater access to the podium, press,and public attention than those whose resistance is expressed in rhetorical exchanges of the everyday. Second, it misses resistance found in seemingly mundane expressions, such as modes of politeness that, to the knowing eye of the oppressed, convey an ironic critique of domination but, to the blind eye of the censor, evade detection. Third, they ignore Bakhtinian-like dialogizing exchanges between the dominant and dominated within and across classes. Fourth, a focus on leader statements interprets bodily displays of opposition through the filter of a movement’s formal rhetoric rather than regarding them as rhetorical performances in their own right. FinallyL ignoring rank-and-file voices deflects attention from the hidden transcripts of resistance developed in hush harbors and the underground that later puncture the patina of the official realm as public expressions of discontent. Here we wish to clarify that our point is not to dismiss leader-focused studies of movements, but rather to indicate the need for greater attention to the vernacular rhetoric that occurs among social actors who are part of a movement.

Quotes on self

Tales of the Hasidim by Martin Buber:

The Query of Queries: Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, ‘In the coming world, they will not ask me, “Why were you not Moses?” They will ask me “Why were you not Zusya?”’

Carl Rogers on the seven stages of change (cribbed from here, who cribbed it from Making Sense of Change Management by Esther Cameron and Mike Green):


  • an unwillingness to communicate about self, only externals;
  • no desire for change;
  • feelings neither recognized nor owned;
  • problems neither recognized nor perceived.


  • expressions begin to flow;
  • feelings may be shown but not owned;
  • problems perceived but seen as external;
  • no sense of personal responsibility;
  • experience more in terms of the past not the present.


  • a little talk about the self, but only as an object;
  • expression of feelings, but in the past;
  • non-acceptance of feelings; seen as bad, shameful, abnormal;
  • recognition of contradictions;
  • personal choice seen as ineffective.


  • more intense past feelings;
  • occasional expression of current feelings;
  • distrust and fear of direct expression of feelings;
  • a little acceptance of feelings;
  • possible current experiencing;
  • some discovery of personal constructs;
  • some feelings of self-responsibility in problems;
  • close relationships seen as dangerous;
  • some small risk-taking.


  • feelings freely expressed in the present;
  • surprise and fright at emerging feelings;
  • increasing ownership of feelings;
  • increasing self-responsibility;
  • clear facing up to contradictions and incongruence.


  • previously stuck feelings experienced in the here and now;
  • the self seen as less of an object, more of a feeling;
  • some physiological loosening;
  • some psychological loosening – that is, new ways of seeing the world and the self;
  • incongruence between experience and awareness reduced.


  • new feelings experienced and accepted in the present;
  • basic trust in the process;
  • self becomes confidently felt in the process;
  • personal constructs reformulated but much less rigid;
  • strong feelings of choice and self-responsibility.

Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster:

All men contain several men inside them, and most of us bounce from one self to another without ever knowing who we are. Up one day and down the next; morose and silent in the morning, laughing and cracking jokes at night. Harry had been low when he talked to Tom, but now that his business venture was in the works, he was flying high with me.