Fitzpatrick Ethics Essay

Occupy: a verb that means to fill or take up.  This word was just a word, until angry Americans decided to take matters into their own hands and make it something more.  The “Occupy” movement or more commonly known as “Occupy Wall Street” protests have become a worldwide phenomenon effecting millions of people as they protest banks and other economic issues.   The most popular tagline for the protests is: “we are the 99%” the crowds are large and their messages are unclear, but one thing is for certain, this is a protest that has represented the use of social media and advocacy.

Even though the direct goal of the movement is unclear, this movement is a great opportunity to apply the article, “Ethics in Public Relations” by Kathy Fitzpatrick to a current situation.   Fitzgerald created four principles that are important to the concept of the marketplace of ideas: access, process, truth, and disclosure.

Truth: According to Fitzpatrick, the marketplace of ideas relies on the idea that the “truth” will emerge from the marketplace.   The “truth” comes about through the differing opinions of the people and through their exchange of words they are able to come to the truth.  I agree with Fitzpatrick’s reasoning for this principle, I believe that with a constructive environment that the truth could be found through conversation.  The problem with the occupy movement is that it is not specific enough; due to this there is no foundation for the truth to be found.  An example of the differences of the ideas of the movement are shown on the website dedicated to the organization of the movement.  Throughout the forum there are so many different unrelated comments that it is very difficult to follow and understand.

Process: The principle of process heavily relies on a public forum where people can exchange ideas and the media can receive information from thus forum. It is important that the advocacy and process promotes public dialogue and debate.  Even though the occupy movement is incredibly unorganized it does provide people a place to debate and speak with each other on issues that they personally have.  The movement provides different outlets for the forum to take place, through the website, the actually public forum, the chat,  and social media (ie: facebook and twitter) people are able to share ideas and the media is able to gain information to report.

Access: The principle of access is important to the marketplace of ideas because it essentially provides the exchange of ideas.  The ability to have access to the marketplace is what allows people to exchange their ideas.  The occupy movement is available to promote this access, and out of the four principles the occupy movement best accomplishes this idea.  The promote access to their cause and the marketplace because of there protest and high volume crowds it is hard to escape them.

Disclosure: The principle of disclosure provides timely and important information so that people can make effective decisions.   It provides facts and relevant information to aid in the process of deciding if the cause is one to invest in.  The occupy movement does not provide this principle.  The unorganized chaos that the movement provides does not execute proper disclosure.  If no one knows what they are fighting for how are they able to accomplish their goals?

In Fitzpatrick’s sections, “Converging Legal and Ethical Standards” and “Principles in Practice”, Fitzpatrick makes assumptions to prove her theories are true.   In the section “Principles in Practice”, she refers to front groups and says that they completely contradict the four principles.  However, front groups are created on behalf of a cause.  The four principles of truth, process, access, and disclosure advocate for groups such as front groups to communicate their concerns so that the marketplace can thrive.  If front groups are not managed properly and people are not actually members of such groups then the idea of  the groups is unethical is legitimate.  It is not fair to assume that all groups that focus on issues that citizens would care about are all front groups and that they are violating the four principles.

In the same section, Fitzpatrick explains that the in the case FCC vs McConnell Supreme Court voted the new disclosure law that stated that “front groups” had provide information about who was involved with their group to prove that actual people are active participants in the group.  She went on to state the reason that the Supreme Court voted that way is because they “obviously” support the value of allowing citizens to consider where they get their information.  Fitzpatrick cannot assume that is the reason that the Supreme Court voted the new disclosure law.  In order for Fitzpatrick to make an informed critique of the case, she would have had to get her information from the Majority Opinion Assignment/ Concurring , which states the reasoning of why the justices voted the way they did.  By Fitzpatrick making this assumption she violates her own practice of disclosure, in which the facts are meant to be the aid in decision-making.

In the section, “Converging Legal and Ethical Standards”, Fitzpatrick says that Public Relations people do not enjoy being referred to as the “fourth estate”.   The fourth estate is essentially an unrecognized position that contributes to the “checks and balances” because of their say in what happens in government.  The fourth estate is typically represented by the media.  It is unrealistic for Fitzpatrick to make a remark that those involved in public relations do not want to be associated with this idea.   If the job of a public relations specialist has to do with government or the news, then why wouldn’t they want to have an influence?  Is it fair for Fitzpatrick to speak on behalf of the entire public relations world?


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