Monday, January 15, 2007


This story is not the first about individuals who identify with captors, but it raises questions about the human mind and how impressionable it is. Under duress, some individuals will do whatever they are told, and they don't seem to show conflict as a result of it. Think back to the Patty Hearst incident and to the Stockholm Syndrome.

What bothers me is how much this identification affects individuals in organizations engaging in unethical actions -- say, Enron or Worldcom? Patty Hearst went to jail for her actions, but there are those who say she didn't know what she was doing. If that contention is true, where does moral responsibility cease under pressure?

The answer appears to be that we don't know. But, as PR practitioners, we are in a "line of responsibility" if we comply with demands to perform unethical actions, such as deliberately disseminating false financial information or providing false reasons for why an executive has left a company. There is a point where "going along" goes too far.


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