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The Insider: Ethical Perspective Essay

1458 words - 6 pages

The Insider is a film filled with ethical dilemmas, suspense, and controversy. It is based on a true story related to an episode of the CBS news show 60 Minutes that never aired. The plot puts Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) at odds with Brown & Williamson, the third largest tobacco company in the country. Wigand was fired from his position as Vice President of Research and Development, at which he was instructed to hide information related to the addictive nature of nicotine. The plot takes off when Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a producer for 60 Minutes, discovers that Wigand has a story to tell. The best way for Wigand to tell that story is with the help of Bergman, via an interview ...view middle of the document...

In that testimony, the "seven dwarves", the name given to the CEOs of the seven largest tobacco companies, delivered a statement on the addictive nature of cigarettes. They all claimed that "cigarettes and nicotine do not meet classic definitions of addiction."
That deceit was not enough. Brown & Williamson also took whatever steps necessary to protect their secret. For example, they threatened Wigand and his family’s safety, got the state of Kentucky to issue a gag order on Wigand to block him from speaking publicly and attempted an image assassination campaign to discredit the information Wigand decided to leak.
The juxtaposition between Wigand’s perspective and their attempts at deceit is the lynchpin for Brown & Williamson’s image in the film. Wigand is portrayed as the victim, which implies that the viewer should see Brown & Williamson as the villain.
As the conflict between Brown & Williamson and Wigand escalates, CBS Corporation also comes under scrutiny when they block the airing of Wigand’s interview with 60 Minutes. Bergman, acting from an obligation to bring the truth to light, aggressively protests the decision. He uncovers facts that suggest that CBS Corporation’s motives for not airing the interview, despite its potential impact, is to not risk a lawsuit from Brown & Williamson that could disrupt a pending merger with Westinghouse. The conflict between Wigand and Brown & Williamson and CBS Corporation’s resistance to airing Wigand’s interview lead to a sharply negative portrayal of business in the film.
Ethical Dilemmas
1) Brown & Morrison’s determination to keep research information about the effects of nicotine hidden from the public.
The tobacco company does absolutely everything in their power to keep the public from knowing about the health effects of nicotine. In general terms, the film states that the seven largest companies spend $600 million per year in outside legal counsel, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from illnesses related to their product and they have never lost a lawsuit! At a detailed level, their actions against Wigand display their voracity. To summarize, they fired him as soon as he disagreed with them, threatened him and his family to get him to not leak information and filed a gag order to stop him from talking to the media. They took a firm stance on what they would tell the public, which was nothing. Their sole interest was to protect profits.
This issue was resolved at the end of the film when 60 Minutes finally aired Wigand’s interview. That was the first point at which the public heard a credible, third party account on the effects of nicotine.
This issue should have been resolved long before Wigand became the whistleblower. It seems amazing that the Food and Drug Administration or another governmental agency never investigated. Even despite that, the tobacco company should have been honest about the effects of nicotine. Instead, they knew they...

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