NBC’s Ethical Demise

The latest disclosure in the Trayvon Martin killing appears to be that NBC selectively edited then aired the 911 call made by George Zimmerman resulting in the impression that Zimmerman voluntarily identified the suspect as “black” rather than responded to the dispatcher’s question as to whether the suspect was “black, white or Hispanic?” So the facts turn out to be different than the illusion.

Funny thing about facts. They often do that.

As a former practicing attorney, I can tell you that the facts are seldom apparent. They require a diligent and determined effort if they are to be uncovered. It’s why we have pre-trial investigations, a formal process of discovery, trials by judges or juries who act as arbiters of the facts as presented. Even after all of that, we remain conflicted when the death penalty is at stake because we know, in our hearts, that even after the most thorough effort sometimes facts, and therefore the truth, still remain undetected.

But undetected facts are quite different than deliberately obscured facts.

What one or more persons at NBC did in editing that 911 call was deliberate. It was either a knowing falsehood, with the intent to mislead, or it was incompetence. Either way, there’s no justification and no excuse for the damage done.

I frequently speak professionally to organizations on ethics. In fact, I developed a system called Ethics-To-Go© because, in a highly technological and rapidly shifting world where trends change daily, we need “user-friendly” ways to hold onto what we value.

Everywhere you look, we are deficient in ethics. There is an absence of ethical behavior in both our public and private leaders. These individuals, however, are not the cause. We are. We get the leaders we deserve. So long as we do not demand of ourselves the highest ethical (and moral) behavior we can expect no more from those who aspire and rise to positions of authority and power. They are merely our reflection.

NBC, by its malfeasance, has contributed not only to the lowest common denominator but also to the violence erupting nationally. By their act they bolster those who believe this crime was all about race rather than about fear and aggression and in so doing, fan the flames of racial hatred and violence.

Thus far, there are several take-a-ways from this as yet unfolding story.

  1. We are not a nation of vigilante justice.
  2. Violence begets violence.
  3. Allowing the process to unfold is critical.
  4. Manipulation of the truth results in staged chaos.
  5. We cannot reply upon the media.

I suspect there are more take-a-ways yet to come.

In the meantime, let’s be grateful that there’s enough light around to illuminate all this darkness. Let’s also be committed to being the Light so we enlighten ourselves and others. It is only by embracing personal responsibility that we can hope to someday get the leaders we want and deserve.

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