The Ethics of Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand, once a “Funny Girl” and not so “Funny Lady,” now channeling Che Guevara (see her appearance at the Oscars), does not understand apologies. Her apology regarding her bizarre remarks about Michael Jackson and the documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” were an act of moral disengagement, not remorse, “I am profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding I caused by not choosing my words more carefully about Michael Jackson and his actions.”

Choosing your words carefully? Ms. Streisand said that the boys in the documentary who spoke of their molestation (something a bit more than actions) were at least not killed by what happened. Ah, escaping death is the measure for appropriate conduct. Then there was the passing judgment on the parents — their fault for allowing the kids to stay overnight. And the kids? Well, in Ms. Streisand’s mind and words, they were “thrilled” to be with them.

An apology means that you are sorry for what you said because it was wrong. You are not sorry for misunderstandings that resulted. You say you were wrong in what you said because “deep remorse” is not possible unless and until you acknowledge the errors. Saying you did not choose your words carefully does not address content.

Meanwhile, Diana Ross is tweeting her song titles to end the conversation, “STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE.” It is not clear that halting discussion of what these men say happened to them as young boys in Mr. Jackson’s home is a resolution. The failure to review whether the criminal justice system and we as a society responded appropriately at the time awards an escape from the uncomfortable introspection we need to do. Ms. Streisand and Ms. Ross surely understand, as women who have portrayed victims of injustice, that films serve as a force of reckoning, review, and change. Denial and plugging our ears while humming tunes from the Supremes do not get at the issue of pedophilia and what we are doing or perhaps not doing to address it.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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