Off limits? Social work ethics and negative campaigns

The author of The Political Brain alleges, in regards to negative campaigns, or those that are primarily based on personal appeals rather than calculated facts:

“There is no relation between the extent to which an appeal is rational or emotional and the extent to which it is ethical or unethical. Every appeal is ultimately an emotional appeal to voters’ interests–what’s good for them and their families–or their values–what matters to them morally” (p. 14).

I think this whole question is important, not just at election time, but in terms of the ethics of social work advocacy, too, because, really, the kinds of claims that candidates lodge at each other during campaign season are not often that dissimilar than those lobbied (or, in some cases not) by opposing camps in a policy debate.

And it’s not a question that’s easily resolved, at least not for social workers, who have to wrestle with this even a little more than others who adhere to an ethic of honesty and integrity, but not necessarily to the strictures of the NASW Code of Ethics.

But, after spending quite a bit of time reading through our Code, and grappling with the literature (such that it is) on ethics and integrity in social work, I come back to the same place where I started, not too far from this author:

Negative campaigns are not necessarily unethical. They certainly can be, but so can “positive” ones, to the extent to which they are misleading, or unfair, which is certainly not the exclusive purview of “attack” tactics.

Our Code of Ethics requires more than just the factual honesty that is the key dividing line for many, though: we have a responsibility to respect the dignity and worth of every person, including the candidate (or elected official, or opposing advocate) in question, whose denigration might advance our cause.

But because we know that eliciting strong emotions is key to influencing opinion, and because of the stakes involved in the electoral and policy campaigns in which we’re involved, failing to use the most effective tools at our disposal could, in fact, be seen as even more ethically ‘suspect’ than an attack which is carefully constructed so as to be persuasive but not manipulative, powerful but not vindictive, and compelling but not “truthy”.

Obviously, in the electoral and policy arenas, social workers will have to make our own judgment calls about how to make these ethical decisions. But it’s clear that our Code of Ethics doesn’t mean to tie our hands so that we can’t, for example, expose the inconsistencies between a candidate’s voting record and stump speech, or label as racist the stereotypes emanating from the debate over Arizona’s anti-immigrant profiling bill.

There are certainly ample examples of unethical campaigning–unethical by anyone’s standards.

And then there are those, which, while technically true, would not meet social work’s standards, which require us to take into account the humanity of those who would be our adversaries.

And, then, there is the failure of some social workers to boldly speak truth to power, using the Code of Ethics almost as a shield, to save us from the uncomfortable work of going after those who seek to harm the populations our profession has called us to defend.

Now that’s unethical.

43 responses to “Off limits? Social work ethics and negative campaigns

  1. Thinking of the code of ethics in regards to advocacy is grey as you discussed. Especially the idea of “respect the dignity and worth of every person, including the candidate.” I think this may be the most difficult part most of the time. Especially depending on how you feel you need to respect the candidate. Is quoting their very derogatory or negative statement against a population that you are defending to inform your population about their views wrong? I think it must be approached with caution, with either decision you make… Not easy choices or decisions!

    • Gray is right, Kelsey! It’s obvious that there are some actions that are indefensible and others that are not ethically problematic…and then so many that are in between! Where do you get good ethical advice when confronted with those less-than-certain decisions? How do you find your ethical ‘center’?

  2. I like how you indicate that some workers use the code of ethics as a shield. I think it is an important factor to remember as a social worker you must consider the opposing candidate based on our ethics. This resonates in every aspect of social work, but is often forgotten when it comes to those who have radically different views on important topics to workers. I think that because the code of ethics does leave must in that grey area, it is important for social workers to read the code on a regular basis and know where they stand on issues.

    • I really appreciate your comment about forcing ourselves to regularly revisit the Code–it’s one of those things, I have noticed, where we can sometimes fool ourselves into ‘remembering’ that the Code says (or does not say) something, based on what we want to be able to do anything. That’s really slippery ethically, and pushing ourselves to spend time with the Code would go a long way towards keeping ourselves honest. How can you build that practice into your work?

    • I agree that it’s important to recognize the ways we might be inclined to “hide” behind our ethics from tough situations or conflict. It’s ok and in fact totally necessary for us to stand up against injustice and those who perpetrate it. To keep our stance ethical though, I think it’s helpful for us to try to understand where our opponents are coming from, but to be honest about their misgivings. For instance, I can respect that a business owner wants to make money and recognize that as valid to some extent, but when they sacrifice worker’s safety and rights for their own profit, I would feel totally justified in calling to attention the unjust ways this business owner operate, as long as I do so in a way that recognizes this person as human and is not unnecessarily demonizing. It is easy to get caught up in our own causes and pit those against us as our enemies, but as previously stated, things are rarely so black and white in social work and we have to recognize opportunities for all of us to come together in the gray areas where we can reach agreement.

      • Great points, Sandra–either refusing to engage or, conversely, reverting to the lowest common denominator of mindless attack are unjustifiable from the standpoint of social justice and also our Code of Ethics. It may take more sophistication and nuance to find a way to be principled, but that’s what is called of us.

  3. Nice post…I especially enjoy the notion that these sort of tactics don’t just go away once election seasons are over. After paying attention to a couple Kansas legislative seasons, it’s safe to say this rhetoric doesn’t go away! Another point I found interesting was how social workers must respect the dignity and worth of every person, even those we’re put against. That’s a tough line not to cross I imagine, especially when particularly frustrating tactics are being used successfully against you. But I agree with you..it’s really just a level of tact. You can be aggressive in an intelligent way and not have to stoop to playground bully type tactics. I think Elizabeth Warren and her battle against unfair practices on Wall Street is a good example.

    • I like the idea of finding mentors in the political world who can be oppositional without being nasty, even though, since we have to judge ourselves by social work ethics, those examples may not always fit perfectly.

  4. I completely agree with this. It seems the farther removed people get from school, the more they “remember what the code said. It is so important to look at it at least every once in a while. I personally went around and handed out copies of the code to other non-social workers, and asked them what they thought about it. I also keep one in my desk, and try to reread if situations come up where I am not sure what I should do. That being said, it very much makes sense that in advocacy situations the lines blur alot. It is important to remember that ultimately we are in it to serve groups that are underserved. I have a mentor who is not a social worker that has been involved in many aspects of my social career. He started out in Washington, and knows how it all works. I also bounce ideas off him in situations

  5. This post really got me thinking about how the Code of Ethics plays such a large role in social work practice, specifically advocacy. I first thought of ethical advocacy in the past as presenting facts in honest ways and not being deceitful when presenting data on an issue. However, this got me thinking about making sure that the advocacy supports the dignity of the affected population and also respects the dignity of policymakers. I think that I will be more inclined to examine the Code of Ethics before pursuing an advocacy project in the future and to also utilize it to argue for necessary advocacy measures. Ethical discussions like this assure me that I’m in the right field. I feel privileged to have strong values behind my profession to guide me in my practice.

    • Yes, Fran, I love that reflection about honoring the dignity of policymakers too. It is so tempting, I think, to conclude that this environment is just too partisan, and these times just too divisive, for us to engage as ethical social workers in the policy arena. But precisely because the stakes are so high, it’s more important than ever that we witness as ethical social workers in that arena. Thank you for sharing your reflections!

  6. I definitely agree that positive campaigns or or appeals can be unethical. The risk for passionately fighting for what is right is that we will go too far, bend the truth or facts in a way that elicits an emotional response, and ultimately end up devaluing the cause. I have seen this in documentaries and contentious social and political ads. As a consumer I am turned off and as an advocate I have a responsibility to point out the misleading meta-messages or facts that I recognize – even when I agree with the message as a whole. This is difficult but ethical. I think that the SW Code of Ethics provides us guidance primarily in human respect. To respect all humans, their choices, their lives, , and so on their opinions. We cannot ethically work against our ‘opposition’ unless we come from a place of respect, as hard as that can be sometimes.

    • I actually had that experience in class last semester, John, of showing a documentary that, while factual and absolutely committed to addressing poverty and inequality, was also unacceptably ‘demonizing’ individuals and organizations seen as complicit in the social problem (again, not untrue, but also not totally respectful of their human rights). It is off-putting, and uncomfortable, and, I think, wrong. It can be hard not to be swept up, though, in our passion!

  7. I think it is very interesting that you point out that an insult can be ethical. I completely agree. I think the key is to remember the Code of Ethics value Dignity and Worth of the Person while pointing out the shortcomings of the person. I think it is also important to be honest and not misguide the public with a twist of words. That is unethical, and social workers should expose those who do.

    • broadkawvalley

      Absolutely. I think, though, that while avoiding that kind of behavior can be difficult for social workers in the political arena, because it’s so prevalent, what’s actually harder is figuring out how to decide questions like what to do when something is clearly true, and not said with malice, but still really likely (and maybe even intended) to make the ‘opponent’ look bad. I mean, if the other candidate really did move out of the district, in violation of federal campaign laws (true story), is it OK to point that out, or do we have to let others do it? Is it any different, then, than being a whistleblower in our organizations, where we shouldn’t hesitate to point out bad behavior? What about if a candidate’s votes would absolutely harm poor children or public health or some other good? How would such a revelation have to be leveled, in order not to cross an ethical line? These gray areas are, of course, where dilemmas live, and we will have to find ways through them if we are to be both relevant and ethical in the political arena…both of which we absolutely must be! Thanks for your comment, Charity.

    • Meghan Iacuzzi

      I agree, Charity. I know social work practice in the advocacy arena can be rather gray, but not as much as it might seem to be. Personally, I do not believe calling out factual characteristics, habits, voting histories, etc. in a candidate is unethical – even if it makes the candidate look bad. The ethical line is how the the information is presented. Using that information to make broader claims about the candidate than the information actually supports is unethical. For example, a candidate’s vote to cut funding to an early education program is not evidence that he does not care about children, wants to abolish preschool programs, or does not value education. Ethical advocacy still considers context and scope. I think protecting the opposition’s dignity and worth is feasible even when presenting damaging information so long as the information presented is honest and in context. Those who deviate from that guideline need to be held accountable for unethical advocacy practice.

  8. Ellen Hamilton

    You caught me again Melinda. I won’t pretend that I have ever considered the ethical implications of political messaging. I’m a peacemaker and often avoid conflict when I feel powerless. Politics is an arena that I often feel powerless.

    However, I hope my future has some political role in it so this an important idea to consider. The more I practice as a social worker, the more frustrating I find the gap between my ethical standards and the standards (or lack thereof) of those around me. And sometimes I just get sick of hearing myself saying, “social justice,” “dignity and worth,” and “human relationships.” I would much rather everyone just knew what I know and feel how I feel!

    So how do we go about expressing ourselves and ethical concerns without all of the eye rolls and “bleeding hearts” comments? Is there a way to call out unethical political messaging and unethical policies so that we are heard? I feel this is a challenge I will confront quite often.

    • Great point, Ellen, and a really important question. Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is, when it comes to representing our values but in a way that avoids alienating others. It’s like, “How are we simultaneously true to ourselves and approachable by those who don’t automatically share our value perspective?” I’m going to keep thinking about that. I think it’s critical to how we can be relevant as a profession, including in the policy debate arena.

  9. Before reading the entire blog post, I was very wary about social workers ethically participating in negative campaigns. However, what I originally had in my mind as an idea of a negative campaign are those campaigns that essentially attack the dignity and worth of the opponent at any cost. Because one of the values of the social work code of ethics is the dignity of worth of every person, I think there is a balance and a fine line in negative campaigning. After reading your post, in my mind there are two types of negative campaigns- those that attack the dignity and worth of a person and those that bring truth and light to something, such as racist stances or comments or disparities between words and actions. I completely agree that not bringing attention to these things would be even more unethical, as these are things that will affect the populations we work with. I am definitely not one to be uncomfortable with speaking truth, so i appreciate the perspective change here!

  10. My first reaction to this post was “oh, how I wish politicians had to live by our code or at least something similar.” I get so tired of the negative (and positive) campaigning and the fact that, so often, both candidates say the same thing or they say the exact opposite thing about each other. Confused? Me too! The fact that, in our code, social workers are held to a standard to be honest and truthful means that we need to make the effort to find the truth and understand the truth, so that we can be honest about it. In politics, that is much easier said than done. But, aspiring to that is certainly a good first step. And that is the first step towards change.

    • So, Kendra, the fact that politicians don’t abide by that ethical code…should that mean that, as social workers, we have to stay away from campaigning? How much distance is required to maintain our ethics? And what is our responsibility to transmit our ethics beyond our profession?

      • No, we absolutely should not stay away from campaigning! It would be so incredible if there were more social workers in political offices!
        But, transmitting our ethics beyond our profession… that I am not totally sure how to answer. Holding others to your own standard is not always fair, but it certainly could have benefits for the politician if there were enough people who respected its value.

      • The challenge, though, is how we engage without becoming ‘part’ of that system, right? And, no, we can’t hold others to our ethical code, but do we have an obligation to practice in such a way that we not only set an example, but also build power, so that our ethical standards become less dissonant, and more mainstream? I mean, is that part of why social workers ascending to public office matters?

        On Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 9:41 PM, Classroom to Capitol wrote:

        >

  11. I love having the code of ethics to follow and refer to when those ethical dilemmas come up. However, as much as I love my ethics professors and ethics talks in general, I really struggle sometimes with all the grey areas through the frustration of dealing with individuals not holding to an ethical responisiblity. I remember our class discussion very clearly about Professor Lewis knowing inside personal information about an opponent, and having to keep that information quite so as to respect the dignity and worth of the opponent himself and his family. All this while many times opponents are not respecting our clients’ dignity and worth or let alone ours or our collogues gets very frustrating. Where is their code? It would be nice if everyone played by the same rules.

    Also, just trying to work through all the grey areas of our code is frustrating. I’m usually a very black and white person, so all the grey takes a lot of effort and thought to work through. I guess the two ways that help keep it clear for me is: 1. Keep it professional and not as much personal-meaning go by the professional and documented evidence. Like the blog says, we have a right and duty to call to attention the inconsistencies, voting records, etc., but we also have a duty to remember the humanity of our opponents. 2. Also, remember how would I approach the conflict if my opponent were my client. I mean, I have the same obligation to treat my opponent in the same respectful way as my client.

    This means no matter how hard it is, the unethical campaign they may be participating in, or the grey areas leaving room to wiggle out of following the ethical path; I still will follow my code of ethics.

    • Oh, yes, Shelly; it is hard to have to practice for the world as we want it to be, when we must live in the world as it is. It can feel like tying our hands unnecessarily, but it is also the only way we can hope to create a landscape where our ethics prevail. Maybe you can take comfort in the truth that seeing the gray areas is the first step to recognizing the tasks we confront? Thanks for sharing your journey.

  12. I keep thinking back to the Netflix series “House of Cards.” The spins, twists, unethical behaviors of the characters gets me; yet I’m enthralled with the story line. I see the humanity in each character and wonder how many individuals have profited by living unethically: especially in politics.
    Much like Shelly, I view things pretty black and white and struggle with the gray. I keep a copy of the Code of Ethics on my computer and would often reflect upon the principles to make decisions with clients. Seeking the advice from others also helped me to make decisions. Especially those outside of the field of social work. Their perspectives help me advance my values in relationship to the Code.

  13. That’s an interesting point, Rebecca, about how interfacing with non-social workers, around ethical dilemmas, can help us to clarify our own professional values…a sort of defining who we are, in relation to who (and what) we are not. I wish that I saw things in black and white, sometimes! I can find myself seeing all sides of some situations, such that I get in long inner monologues…not always the most productive, or comforting!

  14. I really love the distinction you made of a persuasive message vs. a manipulative message. However, I wonder if as social workers, we need someone to check our work. Just as we can use the code of ethics as a shield, I also think it can be used as a spear to justify our actions. I don’t have enough experience to know if this is a case that happens often with social workers, but I would be curious to hear of cases where this happened. I am also interested in any other filters we have as social workers to make sure this doesn’t happen, or if it mainly lies on us with our decisions. I could see the argument for the latter because I do believe that when we are deemed ‘professionals’ we are given the authority to use our skills and training autonomously with guides such as the code of ethics.

  15. GREAT point, Danny–yes, I think it is sometimes possible for us to fall into a trap of thinking that our Code is enough of a moral compass, when even a good compass sometimes needs to be complemented by strong advisors who can hold up a mirror–and hold us accountable. Thank you for making that point!

  16. Oh, this one is tough! When I first started reading, I thought, “well of course social workers can’t go negative,” but then as it went on, I realize, that “negative” does not have to equate to “attack.” I also never thought of positive campaigns having the potential to be just as dishonest as negative campaigns.

    What I wonder is, where is the line? If only it were that simple. I think that each person, each social worker, has to draw their own line (within the Code of Ethics, of course). Unfortunately, like many governing texts, the Code can be interpreted in a variety of ways, so we have to think what does this mean to us? I think that it is good to start with knowing what you as a social worker or person will not do. Setting these boundaries are so important before you set foot in the arena.

  17. Integrity is the key here, I think, because something can be honest but still lack integrity, if it’s shared malevolently or for unjust personal gain. What do you think? For you, where do you draw that line?

  18. The Code of Ethics does set social workers apart from other professions. It encourages and holds social workers accountable for their actions in the areas of advocacy and practice. The practice of using the Code of Ethics as a “shield” really had me thinking, not in terms of it is such an idea that we are not aware. We are aware of it, but we never speak of the Code of Ethics being something that helps us cop out of truly advocating for the client population we serve. How do we know the Code of Ethics was not just another system created to put a cap on how much the oppressed populations can have upward mobility. The Code of Ethics is good in the way it helps us to always be mindful how people are affected by social injustices. However, the way we enforce social workers to abide by the code is an issue. Why do we have to criminalize social workers who do not solve ethical dilemmas as we think they have? Why does the license have to be at stake or even serving the population? Should we not help social workers with an intervention that does not criminalize much like how we try to advocate for the various populations we serve?

    • Really important questions, Kellie, especially because I think we have to always be at least somewhat suspicious of the trappings of a profession, given the extent to which professionalism has, indeed, been used as a gatekeeper and tool of social exclusion.

  19. Pirates of the Caribbean had it right in my opinion; their code was more of a “guideline” than a series of strict rules. I think as a group, social workers like to equate the NASW Code of Ethics to a strictly binding document – and I don’t disagree that it should be taken seriously – but miss that policies are also in place to help us define expectations. With our other readings about radicalism and the ethics of our means and ends, a strict ethical code just does not have a place. Every stance a social worker takes is a value statement, and will require some appeal to society’s emotions. Hiding behind it is limiting, fearful, and unimaginative.

  20. What risks do we run, though, Erin, if the Code is seen as more of an aspiration than a mandate? What if social workers are not motivated by the same intrinsic parameters? What could clients encounter if they unknowingly approached a social worker who was deciding not to adhere to that set of ‘guidelines’? How do we reconcile the need for professional discretion with clients’ right to expect particular behavior?

    • I suppose that’s the conflict that I’ve seen through my career that I can’t exactly articulate; my own priorities change depending on the contexts, specifically in situations where organizations are prioritizing treatment needs to clients’ rights. Having spent time with clinicians who do not adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics, I’ve seen the damage done when people don’t have a codified set of values. I should keep that in mind next time I think the NASW is limiting options. Definitely gives me more to reflect on!

  21. This post makes me think of a question I have heard posed about glass-half-full people versus glass-half-empty people: Who do you think will fill up the glass full again? We put so much more value on the optimists who view the glass as half-full, but the Negative Nellies are more likely to do something to bring about change for the better.

    I know I prefer the optimists and I certainly prefer positive campaigns. I try to view others in the best light and aim to respect the dignity and worth of each person. It would be unethical to stay silent about social injustice, though, even when it has been permeated by individuals for whom I should respect their dignity and worth. Someone’s got to advocate for filling up that glass.

    Candidates try to make their opponents look like the inferior choice, while making themselves look like the better choice. This is how campaigns work. This can be done in a positive way by spouting accolades about the candidate you support. I usually like this type of campaign. As long as this is done truthfully, it seems easier to consider it ethical. It seems so simple.

    It gets ugly and uncomfortable, though, when candidates try to make their opponents look like the inferior choice. It might be important, however, for voters to be aware of policy a candidate supports that would be detrimental to them. While I don’t usually like these types of campaigns, this can still be done in an ethical manner and be very effective in what campaigns want to accomplish. Sometime it is important to acknowledge that glasses needs more water.

    Campaigns cross into the unethical, however, when they purport that their opponent is an inferior person. When we follow campaigns and watch the ads, we need to decide whether a candidate has crossed that line, especially when we approach the voting booth.

  22. Great points, Ruth, and a really important distinction between highlighting how a candidate’s policy choices would be damaging–even devastating–and attacking a person as a person. It seems that that line can be harder to draw, sometimes, than we would imagine, especially in today’s cutthroat political context. But social workers are called to be ethical even–perhaps, especially, when it’s hard.

  23. Christina Cowart

    This post is so relevant to the political climate we are currently experiencing. One of my favorite public figures and social work researchers, Brene Brown, has talked about the difference between shaming people and holding people accountable. The distinction here, I believe, is this; Shaming: Donald Trump is a bad person. Accountability: Donald Trump’s immigration policies are bad. I think the point you get at in this post is that there is a way to ethically hold people accountable, to frame their policies as racist, discriminatory, etc., without a dehumanizing, personal attack. I believe that our Code of Ethics was constructed under the expectation that social workers would be faced with this task of standing up to individuals and institutions which threaten the dignity and humanity of vulnerable populations. This process involves more than just championing good policy initiatives, but also holding accountable the architects of discriminatory policies.

    The key here, I believe, in remaining ethical as we approach negative campaigns, is to focus on their ideas, words, and actions, rather than on the individual themselves. This distinction is certainly hard to discern, but if we truly have a commitment to our Code of Ethics this is something that must be considered when constructing negative campaigns.

  24. When someone is the ultimate authority on those policies, though, Christina, can we really extricate their own values and beliefs from the damage they inflict? I mean, I really do understand that in the case of many other policymakers, where there are real cases to be made for understanding people as always-evolving, complex, multifaceted human beings. I struggle, though, with the concept that someone can really be considered anything other than objectively ‘bad’, when endowed with all of the authority to make a different choice and yet refusing to do so.

  25. Jenny D'Achiardi

    This post was thought provoking because I have always associated the social work profession with being limited as far as participating in negative campaigning. Negativity and social work seemed to be opposing forces and employing this type of platform to approach a policy or candidate felt contrary to core social work values. This view of our campaigning capacity, made me feel that as a profession, we were at a disadvantage and unable to fully access our power to initiate change. I am relieved to hear that a seasoned social worker does not believe this perception to be true and that actually, it would be unethical not to speak those hard truths. The trouble lies in finding that balance where we are honoring the dignity and worth of a person and criticizing them by exposing hypocrisies at the same time. I am certain that the candidate or policy creators we call out will feel attacked and disrespected no matter how politely or rationally something is phrased. I would like to hear more about a campaign that successfully does this. I am not sure I completely agree with the idea that the Code of Ethics does not mean to tie our hands. Perhaps the authors did not intend to do so but the reality is that this is what the Code does through purposeful ambiguity and as such, taking action to speak out against a candidate or policy that could cause harm to the vulnerable is that much tougher. While I understand that we are called to make these difficult ethical decisions, it still feels like the Code is a hindrance when it provides both a mandate to act and to not act in order to protect all parties and inevitably, someone comes out losing.

    • I think that’s fair, Jenny, to point out that, even if the ‘hand-tying’ of the Code isn’t intentional (the ‘authors’, of course, were social workers too; it’s a document created by our peers, to police ourselves), it is nonetheless extremely limiting. Maybe a part of what we need to consider is the appropriate definition of ‘negative’. And I don’t think it can be a dividing line drawn between policy positions and personal failings–consider those elected officials, for example, accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct; there, what needs to be exposed is, in fact, the extent to which they are personally ill-suited for public office. Is it more about our intent–to belittle or inform? But do the ends ever justify the means? The greatest ethical dilemma, to me, is between affirming the dignity and worth of the individual and competence, I guess, because there’s a real question as to whether we can be effective in this domain of macro social work without, at least on some level, ‘uncovering’ the unsavory (even ugly) truths. I guess my thinking about this has changed, even, since I originally wrote this; not that I come down at a different conclusion, really, but it seems like the stakes are much greater, in today’s context of no-holds-barred and perpetual campaigning, and where ‘truth’ is nearly always contested.

  26. Jenny D'Achiardi

    I like that question about intent as a barometer of ethical truth revealing. Am I sharing this with the world for the right reasons and not as a thinly veiled vehicle for shaming someone? I do see what you mean about the core dilemma being between competence and affirming the dignity and worth of the person. Are we being negligent and not fulfilling our calling when we do not share those unpleasant truths? I would say yes. I think the trick is to present the facts and let people come to their own conclusions. There is no need for us to make judgments about who that person is, just that their actions may not consistent with their purported goals.

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