A number of years ago I participated in a conversation facilitated by researchers at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., regarding the complicity of municipal police officers during Nazi rule and occupation of Europe. The parties involved were law enforcement officers studying in a police leadership master’s program and doctoral candidates in leadership and policy. Based on review of detailed information from the museum research staff, the group frankly considered the behavior of ordinary citizens who found themselves swept away from their ordinary behavior by a tide of unspeakable actions. Everyone in the room acknowledged that a range of action represented “complicity,” from actively supporting the fascist agenda to merely turning a blind eye. In between, a great deal of discussion hovered around the ethics of “doing the job” as directed: following orders, or the status quo, as justification of the actions. The group of leadership-oriented students did not find satisfaction in these excuses, yet acknowledged limited ability to completely contextualize the actions of individuals immersed in a culture so far beyond our own experience.
In the present day, there are those associated with the media who rationalize overtly questionable activities with justifications similar to those of the police we discussed. Paparazzi engage in stalking behavior made legal only by the public nature of the individuals they hound. While for some, the compliment of a throng of photographers may be welcome, in exercising their “right” to report and photograph the off-stage life of famous people, the more rabid of these “reporters” have led directly or indirectly to damage beyond exposure to public scrutiny – even to the death of their prey. (more…)