Below is the take-home final exam for SMPA 3348, Political Communication Ethics. Those new to the class might find this case study and “Goalposts and Guardrails: A Mixed Metaphor Guide to Ethics in Advocacy” by Elisa Massimino in Political Communication Ethics: Theory and Practice helpful as you tackle the question.
Framing is a powerful persuasive tool – if you can determine what the debate is about, you are more likely to win the debate. Framing also means determining what you don’t want the debate to be about. In the below, if the debate is about free enterprise it is not about civil rights, dignity, or humanity. Your frame might help you win the policy, but what do you lose in the process? What does the victory (or loss) mean for the next debate?
Your training in political communication and journalism, combined with your background in ethics, leads to a lot of people calling you for advice. The good news is that many of those people are willing to pay you for your input.
The recent Governor Ron DeSantis/Disney mess has created political headaches for people beyond Disney and Orlando. As with all issues, the current kerfuffle is multidimensional. It is “about” Governor DeSantis’ political ambitions, Disney’s commercial interests, respect and support for the LGTQI+ community, the appropriateness of government incentives for private companies (Disney isn’t the only company in Florida benefitting from legislative largesse), and more.
You are approached by someone who says they are working with the Log Cabin Republicans who wants your help stopping the attacks on the LGBT community in the wake of “don’t say gay” and its backlash. The representative says a group of anonymous donors, most of whom are politically conservative or libertarian, would like you to run a campaign that focuses on the economic benefits that inclusion brings. For example, Gay Days at Disneyworld attracts tens of thousands of people every year – each of whom spends thousands of dollars during their stay at the Disney parks. Punishing Disney for being LGBT-friendly (the letters the Log Cabin Republicans use) is counter to free enterprise and is none of the government’s business. Your fee for running the effort could pay off your student loans.
Before deciding if the framing is strategically smart, you have to decide if you are going to take on the project knowing that the frame is pro-free enterprise and without knowing who is funding the effort.
Do you take on the project? Why or why not?
You answer should demonstrate that you have done and thought about the class readings, that you have considered the conversations we have had throughout the semester, and it should not violate the ethical principles on which you told me you stand. You are welcome to bring in readings from outside the class – you are not limited to MPA 307 [our classroom]. You may also discuss the essay with your colleagues, but your final project must be your own.