Golden Morals: What Publicists Can Learn from Philosophers

Exploiting people for fame, power or gain will eventually destroy you.

Posted Mar 31, 2018

By guest blogger Tiffanie Gonzalez-Quevedo

Do you make up a façade to make yourself more appealing to your audience? Do you lie in the face of others for better business? Do you bracket what you believe is right in order to have your ten seconds of fame at the cost of others?

I’ve always believed in treating people with respect and taking responsibility for my actions. I believe you should live your life treating others the way you would want them to treat you. While studying ethics at the University of Miami, I was surprised to discover that the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant was the founding father of the moral principles I’ve always believed in. Kant formulated a supreme principle of morality, a golden rule: “Act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end, and never as only a means.”

Kant argued that whether or not we ought to do something isn’t really a moral choice contingent on our desires. He formulated three versions of his golden role, the categorical imperative, which all hold unconditionally and universally. The categorical imperative is basically saying that you should not use people merely as means to fame, power or gain. Being categorical, Kant’s golden role differs from conditional rules such as: if you want money, then you should get a job; if you want to do well in school, you should study. These are hypothetical imperatives, meaning that they are commands you should follow but only if you are in the specified situation. You do not have a duty to study if you are not even in school. The difference between hypothetical imperatives and the categorical imperative thus is that the categorical imperative is something you must follow unconditionally, like a golden rule.

Journalism, as well as my own career field of choice, Public Relations, have reputations for bending the truth or hide the lie, beat around the bush. This is exactly why a code of ethics and morality is needed. In fields like journalism and public relations that can seem shady at times, it’s paramount to always bear in mind how your motives and actions affect others. I was once told by an old businessman “Once you start making money does it really matter?” This, I believe, is an example of a person who has no moral code of ethics to guide his actions in his professional life. Being true to your principles and not changing them once you start to succeed professionally can be difficult. A deep-felt desire to reach the top can lead us astray. This is why Kant reminds us that in order to do what is right, we must use reason, not desire. Using reason to guide you will keep you from being a slave to your desire for fame, power or gain and from bending the rules in the process.

I try to stay updated on current news, both political and social, following many different news outlets with different political agendas, such as Fox, CNN, and New York Times. It is not surprising to me, however, that there is a major public backlash against mainstream media and news network. The majority of them only report convenient truths. A convenient truth is a truth that caters to the viewers and confirms what they already believe is right. Only reporting convenient truths is a way of using people (the viewers) merely as a means to an end (better ratings), so it violates the categorical imperative. To avoid using people merely as a means to an end, journalists have a duty to tell the whole truth. While news networks clearly have a strong interest in improving their ratings, their deceptive approach does more harm than good in the long run. Eventually, people will see right through their exploitative tactics. Respect for viewers requires telling the whole truth and not using convenient reporting as a way to success.

An implication of the golden rule that I try to live by is this: be transparent and the rest will follow. Not straying from what’s right will never fail you. Others will eventually appreciate your honesty and admire you for your firm beliefs. Having this mindset will convey to others that you are not willing to belittle yourself or compromise your morals for money, power or fame. Kant tells us that you have a moral duty to do what is right, even when there is no benefit to you, and I could not agree more.

Tiffanie is a junior at the University of Miami pursuing a degree in Public Relations. Born and raised in Miami, FL, her Cuban roots lead her to a passion for dancing, socializing and Publix croquettes.