« Ethics | Main | Ethics, Nail Guns and Technical Writing »

Ethics of Expedience

What is your reaction to this article on the ethic of the post-industrial workplace? Do you think Katz is right in questioning the place of speed and efficiency? Do you think he goes to far when he compares the everyday American workforce to that of the Nazis? Were you offended by his study and article (if so why)?


We tend to look down upon those guided by expediency, feeling they are only acting for themselves, but little do we notice the expedient nature of our technical writing. Katz’s example of the Nazi memo is an example of technical writing with complete absence of ethics. Indeed, the memo was properly constructed: the purpose was stated immediately, a solution was given, and arguments to back up the solution were provided. It is not the construction of the memo that is problematic, it is the content. This memo just shows how narrow our focus can become when we are trying to get something, that we often lose track of what our writing really stands for. The western culture is a victim of this overly focused, one-track mind effect. As Katz’s example points out, the author is writing to appeal to someone who is higher up in the Nazi regime. Basically, he is writing this because he feels this suggestion will somehow benefit him. Although this comparison is a bit exaggerated, these types of actions happen all of the time in our culture. When the option to benefit one’s self comes along, often we forget about what is ethical and it really shows through in this memo. If a person was asked to identify key components of good technical writing, I highly doubt ethical content would be at the top of the list, or even the list at all. Due to the expediency of our culture, an emphasis in technical writing has been placed on proper structure, correct grammar, and logical statements and arguments. At the end of the day, this type of writing gets the job done, whether it is a charity asking for donations or a call of action to increase the “efficiency? of a mobile gas chamber.

After reading the article, them memo was clearly stated throughout the reading, but there were clear poor organizational skills. The introduction, important facts to know, and conclusion was stated, but the memo seemed to be too long for the content. Memos are supposed to be short and to the point, so it was difficult to stay focused when reading it because of the length. Katz did point out a good part in the article that the main problem of the article is that the memo is too technical and logical. He also states that the writer shows no concern that the purpose of the memo is only the modification of vehicle efficiency, but also to kill victims. In terms of comparing the American workforce to that of the Nazis, the writer mentions examples, but doesn't go too in depth of the explanation. One suggestion that I would make would be to point out the comparisons so that the reader will have an easier time on identifying them.

This was a very interesting look at deliberate rhetoric. I was surprised that Katz believes that everything was Aristotles fault at first, but after really giving the article more thought, it did make me realize that our culture today is sometimes focused on the wrong things. Expedience is always a positive as long as nothing important is overlooked. The example was a perfect display a huge segment being overlooked. The memo disregarded that the message was to find a more "efficient" way to murder a large mass of people. This made me think of the many deep pocket CEOs and owners who had to step on others to reach where they are now. I hope society realizes that being humane is not a sign of weakness, it's human. As for the relationship between the American workforce and Nazis, there are instances of being expedient for the benefit of "one" and overlooking others, but there are still good people remaining out there and hopefully the good will overpower the bad.

The Nazi memo around which this article is written is a frightening look at the true power of deliberate rhetoric. While the article is looking at a most extreme case of unethical technical writing, Katz brings up a good point when he describes how the writer of the memo uses language that transfers the responsibility of his logic to the organization he represents. In our society, expediency is not often seen as a negative quality when it is the obligation of an employee to be expedient in their work. In this way, it is truly daunting to think of the power of rhetoric. Technical writing is presumed to be fact and taken as such. The perpetrators of the Holocaust were for the most part once ordinary men and women. Under the thralls of a few charismatic oppressors they were convinced to commit horrible atrocities. What of the overpowering corporations that exist today and have incredible abilities to sway opinion and actions across the globe? Is it not a similar situation in terms of expedience? While in the present situation the means to obtain power or other desires are on a drastically more ethical scale than the genocide of innocent people, expediency is used today in the same way to present problems and stipulate preferred actions.

After reading the entire article I can understand where Katz is coming from when he compares the American workforce to that of expediency as the basis of the holocaust. Although it is an extreme comparison and could be considered highly offensive to those that have been affected by the holocaust there are similarities on the ethics of expediency in technical writing that have guided unethical decisions in our society as well as the Nazi society at the time of the holocaust. Katz believes that the same guidelines that govern technical writing with a focus on expediency were the same guidelines that warranted the holocaust. He also believes that our culture has a focus on economical expediency in that our decisions are money driven without thought to human welfare such as the example of the Pan Am Airlines. Yes, I do believe that our culture is focused on economical expediency but I don’t necessary think that expediency is always a bad or unethical thing. I think what can make expediency harmful to the welfare of humans are the ones with the power to make decisions.

well my reaction to this article on the ethic of the post-industrial workplace is simply just wow. I never thought someone could ever think of something like this. It gives a different perspective in the way we look at things. When it comes to what I think about Katz's questioning the place of speed and efficiency. In a way the Nazis were proficient in what they did. Not to get it wrong what they did was wrong and should never be done to anyone. The facts remain, the Nazis were well organized and preformed at to zenith of what we want when we think of work place efficiently. This is a different way of thinking and comparing it to how the work place is in the United States. America has changed dramatically, due to higher training levels, more college graduates, and higher improvements in technology in the work place. In the U.S. it seems like more and more people are working longer hours than before. With the technology improvements production outputs are higher. Reading this brings to my attention the fact that people will do anything and write anything when they have to. So as a technical writers we must think ethically about what we are writing. I don't think he goes to far when he compares the everyday American workforce to that of the Nazis. People are working more and more to get payed. People are working more efficiently, but i guess comparing Americans to Nazis goes a bit far. If what the Nazis did in Germany took place in the U.S. I believe people would revolt. No I was not offended by his study and article. This was just another way of looking at the way things are in the world. There's all ways two ways to look at an issue. One is left winged, the other is right winged. So just because I disagree and don't like what I'm hearing doesn't offend me. We must have new ways of looking at things. It's like Yin and Yang.

I think the article offers many different viewpoints that can easily be misleading. First, it appears as if the article is making efforts to say that the simple existence of the memo is unethical and should further our highly emotional reaction to the time period by associating the contents of the memo as a confirmation the evils of the time period. The whole Nazi system was bad and so any analysis of this writing outside of the purely technical -- I feel -- takes the text out of context. Would technical writings/memos during the Soviet time or the US Trail of Tears make the author’s message clearer? Perhaps not. Perhaps the message that we should take away from this article is that the fact that memos and technical writing have been used for decades and centuries. Intuitively, that shows the importance of learning how to write memos and why. Second, I think the author's poor use of Cicero quote above the memo truly shows the emotional aspect the author intended to charge within the audience as they read the memo. An ethical quote coming from Cicero is slightly ironic, but I digress. In the end, it was really distracting and somewhat irrelevant to the message at hand. Last, I think that it went a little far associating the modern American workforce efficiency with the Nazi Final Solution efficiency; especially with the writings of Aristotle as a justifier.
The more that I have thought of the article, the less offended but more annoyed I’ve become, and for reasons touched on by my post. Some of the arguments seemed stretched to me, and that the author was arguing more the ethics of the Nazi time and contributors than the ethics of the memo. Which I feel is emotional fanaticism.

compairisons of aristotle and hitler, that takes the cake!
well, the article seems to compare the technical writing ability to solve a "problem" in a similar fashion to how we use office memo's and other technical writings to inform or solve business problems. This technical problem of extermination of jews is strange to read, especially how you get the idea of what the vehicle and parts inside the vehicle are used for without having any specific explanation on what the "cargo" is.
The ethics behind the article is just disgusting. It makes me think of more documents like this that you might find from banks (not to kill people) but how to swindle money or property from home buyers in this most recent loan scandals. Imagine talking about a problem of creating more revenue, and how to lift if from unsuspecting buyers in a technical letter/memo.
Thinking more about the rhetoric of Aristotle as it relates to a proposal being just or unjust, neither matter as long as means are expedient. I generally get this idea and feeling from large a corporation (I hate to be slamming the system) that have a quota or a desire to be #1 and anything in their way, ethical or not has no meaning, as long as they get to their goal.

I think that this article really makes you think about the values of our society. I completely agree with Katz's in that America is focused on being ahead of everyone else that our end goal in life as americans has become make as much money as possible. I can understand how Katz's looks at the American workforce and relates them to the nazi's. Everyone is so focused on doing whatever will make the most money that people naturally turn their shoulders on wrong behavior. I imagine that there are many instances daily where American workers are forced to do things differently just to increase efficiency. I didn't find this article offensive at all. I think that it gives a realistic viewpoint of how upside-down American morals are.

I think that this article shows that our society is driven by money. Where I work, people do all they can to make more money and I am sure this is true in most other workplaces. Many people even steal money- even though they don’t consider it stealing- like discounting a tables’ food if they left you a bad tip, so they get more money. I see it all the time. I agree with the article that some things in our society are somewhat comparable to Hitler’s’ ideas and the way he manipulated his followers. For example, in the article it talked about how the elections are like that. I do think that Katz is stretching when comparing Hitler to our workplace of today, but I can see why he would think that. I would say that this article does not offend me. I have seen many more things that are offensive.

I visited a concentration camp in Germany in 2002 for a school trip (we didn’t just go to see the concentration camp, it was just one thing we saw). Anyway, I thought I would add some pictures of it. It was an amazing site to see, but not in a good way. The first picture shown has a horrible story to it. The Nazis would line up the Jewish people in a straight line, and they would have to push the person in front of them off the cliff and into the water. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. I can’t believe what the people had to go through. The other pictures are of the camp itself.

Well, I can't figure out how to put pictures on here. Erin, please let me know so I can put up these pictures, thanks.

My first reaction was, I should not have put off reading this until after working 10 hours. It was exhausting to read Katz’s article. I do agree that he is addressing a very important look at deliberate rhetoric, but he tends to repeat the same arguments over and over with variations that did not add a lot more insight to his original argument and analysis in the first five pages. He convinced me of the dangers of leaders in the Nazi regime who were allowed to hide behind technical cold rhetoric while committing abominable inhumane acts. I don’t take issue with his intent to expose and enlighten us with his findings, but his message could have been less repetitive. The goal of efficiency and expediency used by the Nazi regime to control and desensitize their military and executioners was not in deliberate rhetoric alone. Somehow the leaders were able to achieve a desensitized and detached society of people who deliberately looked the other way – our own country included. The Vatican, the leaders of surrounding countries, along with the United States were at least somewhat aware of the atrocities that were occurring and did not have the excuse of being brainwashed with systematic propaganda. We have enough examples of atrocities against humanity since then to wonder if our society has not really been paying attention to the parallels. It was not long ago that we were bombarded with terrorist orange/red alerts – deliberate rhetorical scare tactics and a majority of our country was led to believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and even though there was evidence to the contrary by United Nations inspectors in that country at that time. This lack of evidence was reveled, along with no evidence of Iraq being involved with the 9-11 attack. We were informed enough to not be blindly led into a war. We can’t put all the blame on the Bush administration. We seem to live in a country that is wrapped up in individual and corporate achievement so much that as a whole we have lost the ability to muster outrage and protest the awful political and social damage we witness daily on the news. As far as Katz comparing the similarities in the workforce – I agree that corporate America, as well as the global economy is guilty of basing management decisions on technological expediency and bottom-line profits. That is being demonstrated in the majority of our mid-range salary level jobs going overseas to save money. Some savvy financial experts have cost/benefit analyzed our country out of a sustainable livable wage workforce. But I’m sure their memos to the corporate leaders were effective, deliberate rhetoric on the efficiencies that best serve the company and industry – disposable workforce.

After reading this article my reactions towards Katz’s example of the Nazi memo was that it was an example of technical writing with a complete lack of ethics. The memo was clearly and properly written, it states in the introduction what the purpose of the memo was. It also gave solutions that were backed up with arguments that supported the solution. The only predicament with the memo is that its content was unethical. The memo amplifies how we tend to go after what we want and while at it forget about the ethics of what writing stands for. In the memo the author was writing to someone who is in a superior Nazi regime. The author wrote this memo in hopes that his solutions that he presented in the memo would bring benefits to him. It is typical when benefit is in the equation, one seems to forget the ethics of their writings and this is exactly what happened in this memo. As Katz’s compares the daily American workforce to the Nazi’s workforce I think his purpose was to show that working harder and more hours in order to get more money are what motives people all around globally. However comparing what the Nazi regime did in Germany was a bit extreme, but then again slavery did take place in the U.S. which I believe sadly is a comparable event. I personally was not offended by this article the way I see it what might be moral and ethical to one personal might be unethical and immoral to others beliefs. It does not necessarily mean you have to be offended by their opinions because at the end of the day you are entitled to your own opinion and thoughts.

In laymen terms, Katz’s article comparing and contrasting the use of technical writing, or rhetoric, in terms of ethic expediency was nearly too literate for me to read. Please, excuse me if I missed the point, but I’ll try to contribute my two cents.
The memo and article relates to the “American workforce and technical communication? by showing the amazing effects of excellent technical writing skills. The extreme example that Katz’s provided, proved to readers the effectiveness of rhetoric and how it can encroach on ethic expediency to many appeals. In today’s workforce, technical writing disguising self favoring intentions with questionable ethic in a seemingly professional manner is not uncommon. A few scenarios that come to mind are business negotiations, product warning labels, and salesmen.
During negotiations between businesses, both parties exclaim the benefits the other party is receiving without disclosing their personal gains in the process. As for the product warning labels scenario, it’s common sense (and scientifically proven) that carcinogens cause cancer, but with the use of ethically questionable rhetoric, tobacco companies are able to use the word “may?. Lastly, salesmen are the masters at verbal rhetoric. I’ll let you insert your own explanation here………

My reaction to Katz’s article is that it is exhausting yet impressive. Not only was it emotionally draining, but also mentally strenuous. It was extremely wordy, with sections that seemed to repeat themselves. While his Nazi/American culture comparison was deemed somewhat extreme by some, there is truth at the heart of it. I do believe that his point is accurate. He wrote an article about what I have thought for some time, but his version was much more sophisticated and articulate. I do not think that Katz goes too far when he compares the American workforce to the Nazis. I have always wondered why people work so hard in this country. The only thing that money can truly buy is security. Other than that, people use their paychecks to buy STUFF which takes up more TIME because you have to MANAGE it, which takes TIME away from simplistic ways in which to ground oneself and be there for loved ones. Growing up in a rural environment kept me away from fancy billboards, MTV, and the 9-5 rat race, for 18 out of my 22 years in this world. Sometimes I wonder how insane I would have gone living in such a superficial and busy society. Europe’s workforce not only gets a significant amount more of vacation, but is also provided with PAID maternity or family needs leave. In the United States, all you get is your job back, but you lose the financial security your job once provided. Something you would need after bringing another life into this world. I was not offended by his article, but somewhat angry because I know it to be true.

After reading Steven Katz’s lengthy and repetitive article, I would definitely say he has gone too far in his comparisons of the American workplace to that of the Nazi regime. I do not think the minor similarities of the internal workings of the American workforce and the Nazis are an adequate amount of shared qualities to warrant a full-blown comparison of the two organizations. Speed and efficiency are valued by many organizations and cultures in order to successfully function. The role of ethics is what needs to be examined among both groups. The American workforce has made great stride to uphold a standard of ethics seen as just and fair by many, as for the Nazi’s I do not believe that justice and fairness were qualities supported by their standard ethics.