“They told me to do it” is not a valid reason

Apparently, a radio station in Calgary held a contest where they would either give away $5,000 or burn it, depending on how listeners voted. And apparently, 54% of listeners voted to burn it, so that’s what they did.

Calgary radio station under fire for burning $5,000

This story is, quite simply, fascinating to me…because it highlights a particular brand of selfishness that I’ll never be able to understand. In order for the radio station (DJs, marketing staff, managing director, etc.) to do this, they have to believe that the publicity they’re getting from burning the money is better than anything else they could have done with it, whether that meant donating to charity or whatnot. I can only assume that charity was a considered option, both because radio stations tend to be very active with charitable initiatives, and because someone would have suggested it at some point…which means that someone turned it down.

And I just don’t understand that, so I can’t even begin to counter it. You can’t have a debate without having some common ground to start with, and there’s no common ground between the station and the people who are upset with this stunt.

All I can say is that I’m disappointed that so many people failed to meet their social responsibilities. They chose to serve their own needs rather than using their power to help others, and I’m saddened every time I hear something like that. It’s one of the things that holds us back the most.

I’m not surprised that the DJ quoted in the article is defiant, or that he’s resorting to a “they told me to do it” defence that absolves himself of blame. I feel like you’d have to be the sort of person who can’t admit fault to pull off a stunt like this and think it’s okay. Blaming others for your own actions…well, that just kind of fits, doesn’t it?

That being said, there’s an element—just a hint—of truth to it. Not to say that the people who voted to burn the money are directly at fault, but that they played a part in it. They were given a binary choice: vote to burn the money or give it to someone who probably won’t be the voter. These are some pretty lousy options, but I’m sad to think that a lot of people went with the  “if I can’t have it then no one can” approach. That’s also pretty selfish.

So, where do I stand with all of this?

I’m going with an optimist’s viewpoint, and I’m looking for a win-win scenario that explains, and helps me to rationalize, what I perceive to be bad behaviours. So, I’m holding out hope that this is a prank, and that the money hasn’t actually been burned. After all, it’s not like it would be hard to fake a video, so the supposed evidence means very little. I wouldn’t be surprised if the prank is revealed after the station feels that it’s gotten enough publicity.

Of course, it’s also possible that such an announcement would be a case of the station running damage control; that the money was burned, but that they’re going to pony up $5,000 and claim that it was all a joke in order to save face. There’s no way to know if that ends up being the case, short of finding out where they hid the money in their books.

But if the money was really burnt and the station is managed by smart people (a highly questionable “if” at this point in time), they’ll admit that it was stupid while also donating $5,000. In the long run, they’ll gain more from that than trying to perpetuate a lie.

And that’s enough about that.

Russ