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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:05 PM   #1
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Ethics question: Would you work for an organization you disagree with?

I ask this because I've been offered a job working on a video that is essentially a propaganda piece on the wrong side of a social issue that I feel passionately about. It's not for the KKK, but what if it were? I'm telling myself that I believe in free speech and everybody has the right to have their argument heard, and frankly, I really need the money. How do other people handle this? For the record, if it really were for the KKK no way would I do it. Just wanted to make that clear. Where is that line though? I'd really appreciate other people's insight on this.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:10 PM   #2
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If you really don't agree or can't abide by their positions, I think that would affect the quality of the work you could do.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:20 PM   #3
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Well Richard, I'm a sound person, and I hate bad sound. I hate it. There is no way I could tolerate getting them anything but the best sound possible. So, I really don't think my work would be compromised. I hope that doesn't sound flip.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:54 PM   #4
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Hi Marco.............

If you don't believe in the message, don't do it.

You're the one that has to live with whatever your work achieves.

If you cannot abide that end result, walk away.

Just MPO.


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Old January 10th, 2009, 12:04 AM   #5
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Think of how you would feel if you were black and you found out a friend did a promo for the KKK? Could you still be friends with that person? For this reason I would not do it.

But I have to admit there's a part of me that says it would be fascinating to look at the KKK more closely and try to understand how their side of the story developed because you learn the most about yourself from the people with whom you disagree the most.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 12:39 AM   #6
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Marco,

Well, I was thinking more in the line of directing/producing sort of work, but still (not knowing EXACTLY what we're dealing with) I would think that your 'heart' wouldn't be in it, and that sort of thing tends to slip into our work ... in one way or another.

The fact that it bothers you enough to ask for opinions about the ethics, indicates that its REALLY a problem for you, and not a small one

I mean, I wouldn't have any trouble shooting or directing say, a piece for a political candidate on 'the other side of the aisle' ... I don't agree with the politics, but I'm okay with agreeing to disagree on some issues for instance. It probably wouldn't bother me. (Though I probably couln't write the piece.) But a PARTICULAR person, even if they were on this side of the aisle, I might not work for. I'd find a way to be busy.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I could certainly work on a shoot that advocated vegetarianism. It's just not that big of a deal in my book - not the 'hill I want to die on'.

There are no conflicting needs, only conflicting strategies.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 12:42 AM   #7
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I'd like to think that our efforts in a productions are more of a reflection of ourselves than most " jobs ". The creative part of us, adds a degree of our own flavour in each production.
Also this medium we use to tell a story or display a perceived truth should require us to live up to our own personal standard.
Deciding on our standard is a huge part of professional integrity.
I won't do anything I can't deal with.I refuse to promote the things I don't believe in both verbally and professionally.Hope you can do the same.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 01:16 AM   #8
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I think that this is a position a lot of attorneys find themselves in. These people aren't stupid and I'm sure they know in their hearts that they're defending someone who's as guilty as sin - but our system says that everyone has a fundamental right to an effective defense in court because to do otherwise would subvert the system and allow innocent people to be convicted.

I think people have a right to have their stories told and told well, as long as the telling isn't in itself illegal or unethical.

What would you think of a doctor who stood by and let a rapist die for lack of medical attention? Regardless of what the doctor personally thought of rapists.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 02:25 AM   #9
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Jim has a point.... but physicians take an oath to protect life and do no harm. If a patient presents himself or herself they have little choice, as opposed to you in the current situation.

I'm a lawyer. (Don't tell my Mom. it would break her heart - I lie to her and tell her I play a piano in a whorehouse). I have a similar story. Years ago I was court appointed (again not my choice as compared to you here) to represent a gentleman of advanced years who wrote a will leaving everything to his very young voluptous nurse and was giving her large sums of money as things went along.. During his lifetime (rare) that situation was challenged by his heirs and I was charged by the Court to represent his interests.

Now had I thought him truly unable to make rational thoughts, I would have said so, but frankly I have seen men half his age succumb to that affliction in the presence of a beautiful woman and in addition did not find him obviously incompetent... I represented him vigorously. I lost (I was not ashamed or distraught at the loss). I did my job to the best of my ability. But then, I didn't get to decide whether to take this client or not - I was court ordered into this. However...You have that choice. It is all about making that choice. It is not unethical to choose to do it. It is all about your own personal morality and whether it offends YOU.... in my book.

Postscript. About a month after the trial the old man died. About 6 months after that I was mailing a package at a "Mailbox" kind of place and the proprietor recognized me. I did not recognize him. He was the son of the old man. He said the family respected me for vigorously doing my job and giving the old man (his father) the dignity of a strong defense. He thanked me with tears in his eyes.

Make of that what you will.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 09:36 AM   #10
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If I don't think I would be comfortable putting my name on a project, I don't do it.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 10:29 AM   #11
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Hi Chris - I figured a piano player would chime in!

I think the whole point of what we're saying is that it's up to the individual to make the final decision to tell or not tell the story, but that either way one decides is OK. I wouldn't hold it against someone if he told the story of the KKK nor would I hold it against someone who refused to tell the story. I just think that the decision needs to be based on a balanced assessment of one's personal beliefs and one's perception of the rights of the potential customer to have the story told as well as possible.

This discussion does however open an ethical can of worms. Should a Jewish fim-maker refuse to direct a film portraying Hamas as a champion of the rights of the Palestinians? If he/she did make the film would it imply that he/she was any less Jewish or any less a supporter of Israel? Or does being Jewish necessarily imply that one should be a supporter of Israel?

No good answers, just good questions, I'm afraid. Thanks to the OP for asking.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 10:32 AM   #12
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it's easy to say when you're not the one who really wants that money, but I think you have to stick to your beliefs, and if you take the job, you are helping to promote whatever that cause it that you don't believe in, so you're being paid to do it but that's what you are basically doing. and once you get past this time and that one payment, you can't take your work back and what you did back, it's permanent, and it's has and will continue to help that cause. its hard to turn down money and easy to say if you're not the one faced with the decision, but hang in there if you can.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 10:45 AM   #13
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Simple. If you have to ask then obviously money is more important than principles to you. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 04:28 PM   #14
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OK,
Let see...

!. Attorneys have a special thing called privilege which allows them to do things most of us would get in deep trouble for (like blaming the VICTIM and dragging them through the dirt in "defending" a crimina), or would find thoroughly distasteful. It's part of the "justice" system, and is a poor example...

2. Doctors also take an oath, and while some refuse to perform certain procedures, it can result in deep professional consequences. Again, not a good analogy.

3. Videographers are "independent business people" - no oath, no special laws with either requirements or privileges per se... generally the right to refuse service is up to the proprietor, as long as you're not discriminating on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age or disability....

The problem I see is that practitioners in point #1 can probably find one or more of those "discriminations" in just about any exercise of your right to refuse service. The example of wedding videographers in TX (IIRC) that refused to shoot a civil union on grounds of their disagreement with the lifestyle choice comes to mind - they lost, and a substantial sum...


SO I think rationally you have a choice - if the "cause" you're being asked to shoot for is not illegal or immoral (keeping in mind that both can be alarmingly "flexible"), and you need the money, hey, it's money and you're a business. If you aren't comfortable putting your name on the finished product, be straightforward about it, and make that a part of the contract (business deal). Then treat them as you would any other client, take the money and move on.

I know that that may be somewhat cold and distasteful, and the aspect of your "product" being used to promote something you don't agree with presents a quandry (no doubt why you asked the question...).


Just to ask this a different way, mainly to encourage thought... an enterprise that makes knives doesn't have any control over how their product is used, and certainly knives are dangerous <wink>, but they continue to produce knives and make money from that enterprise. I have several knives myself <wink>. I've cut myself enough to prove they are dangerous. Philosophically I accept that I don't want just everybody running around with dangerous knives, yet I must allow for their right to have and legally use a knife, or my right to have a knife (or perhaps a REALLY dangerous hammer or screwdriver!) is compromised.


Without knowing the exact circumstances it's hard to say for sure, but be sure you're not "discriminating", for your business sake. That can come back to haunt you.

When all else fails, try the golden rule standard - are you treating the customer the way you would want to be treated?? That MAY enable you to work for someone you philosophically disagree with, but deal fairly and honestly, while still looking yourself in the mirror...

Then again I stopped patronizing a certain restaurant chain for quite a while because I found their advertising distasteful... no matter how much I might like the food, I found it difficult to support their "message". So in the end it is going to be a personal choice, as long as you dont' discriminate.

Hope that helps, rather than adds to the confusion...
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Old January 10th, 2009, 04:32 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick L. Allen View Post
Simple. If you have to ask then obviously money is more important than principles to you. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked.
That's a bit harsh... we all choose whether to work and pay our bills, and don't necessarily always agree with our "employers" or clients. If you're telling me you agree with your clients on everything, I call BS...

Not that principle isn't important, but one has to choose their battles. And when there are bills due and legitimate paying work... I can see the dilema.
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