Ashley Madison VS Donald Trump: Want VS Need to Know

Guest Post: Allison Dikanovic, journalism student

I sipped coffee on Sunday morning, scrolling through headlines instead of working on my media ethics presentation. Suddenly, I felt the coffee churning violently in my stomach as I watched a video of a major presidential candidate flaunt his ability to sexually assault women without repercussion.

Though not surprised, I felt a breed of contempt for Donald Trump that I had yet to experience in such a personal way.


Source: The Washington Post 10.10.16

Despite my anger and hurt, I couldn’t help but think that I am happy the whole country is watching this. I am happy that we can hear and watch those words come from his mouth and deal with how horrible that feels. If all of Trump’s hateful comments over this past year have failed to put up red flags in voters’ heads, then this finally might. This is something people need to hear.

That was when the concept of “need to know” vs. “want to know” made sense to me. I thought of the journalists’ decision to publish that video.

This information was necessary for public knowledge beyond personal curiosity or desire to gossip. The journalists were obligated to publish it because it is reflective of Trump’s character. Knowledge of character is necessary when the person may quite possibly be elected to the most highly esteemed office in our country.

In November, we will not only be electing an individual. We will elect the systems and structures that each stands for and hopes to perpetuate or change. Voters need to know if one of the primary candidates explicitly and boldly supports an oppressive, patriarchal rape culture that devalues half of the country’s population.

The response I had to the video also provided insight into how I viewed our case study, the Ashley Madison data breach. Utilizing Rawls’s veil of ignorance, I can see reasons why I would have hesitated to release the names of registered Ashley Madison members if I was a journalist assigned to cover the hack. I understood that in most cases, it was a “want to know” matter.

However, for Trump, it is incredibly difficult and could even be considered unethical to employ the veil of ignorance. The behavior of Ashley Madison members affected select individuals, whereas Trump’s behavior could affect every single person I saw when I looked around that coffee shop on Sunday morning and every person I’ve seen since.



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