Michael Bugeja

Michael Bugeja

Michael Bugeja is the author of "Living Media Ethics" (Routledge/Taylor & Francis) and "Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine" (Oxford Univ. Press). He is a regular contributor to Iowa Capital Dispatch and is writing a series of columns on the topic of "Living Ethics." Views expressed here are his own.


Identity: Who are we behind the masks, shields and social distance?

By: - August 27, 2020

We think about this incessantly but seldom, if ever, mention it, except perhaps to a confidant in existential moments. We have had many of those in the age of coronavirus whose masks, shields and social distance provide the perfect camouflage for contemplation. Who are we and why? When, where and what shaped our experiences and […]


Free press v. free will: Do we have either?

By: - August 6, 2020

The 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) maintained that we all have free will. At issue, he says, is who or what shaped that will. In his book “Essays and Aphorisms,” he writes, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” In other words, perception […]


What the media call ‘divine’ justice in politics and pandemic usually isn’t

By: - July 3, 2020

Media have been using, and misusing, the term “divine justice.” The New York Times cited the term in a report titled, “‘A Bit of Divine Justice’: Trump Vowed to Change Libel Law. But Not Like This.” The president, a libel defendant, lost a decision to victims of sexual misconduct who now can sue when called […]


What makes a journalist — the person or the device?

By: - June 8, 2020

Reporter arrests and assaults continue to rise during ongoing George Floyd protests with more than 300 violations of First Amendment rights, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Incidents have been captured on video. This compilation includes the blinding in one eye of freelance photographer Linda Tirado. Des Moines Register reporters Andrea Sahouri and Katie Akin […]


Moral absolutes: Where do you draw the personal and political line?

By: - June 1, 2020

Before the coronavirus dominated the news, politics did, with Democratic presidential candidates promising (among other things) free college tuition, debt relief, comprehensive health care, gun control, climate restoration and $1,000 a month universal income. President Trump was less specific. He promised to keep America great. Rival Joe Biden promised to resurrect American norms. That may […]


Use universal principles to balance pandemic news

By: - May 19, 2020

It is springtime during the coronavirus and the news is saturated with accounts of indignity, falsehood and violence — journalism mainstays since colonial America, especially in election years. As I write, society is dealing with the indignity of COVID-19 deaths necessitating “the lonely reality” of online funerals in some states. We continue to hear false […]


Are we forgetting the role of civic virtues?

By: - May 1, 2020

American civic virtues find their roots in ancient Rome during and after the reign of Julius Caesar, assassinated by 60 conspirators in 44 B.C. Civil war erupted in the aftermath starring some of history’s greatest iconic figures, still known by celebrity first names: Brutus, Augustus, and Cleopatra. During this era, another first-name icon, Cicero, proclaimed: […]


Reciprocity and protectionism: Where does that leave the ‘golden rule’?

By: - April 12, 2020

If this column were about trade agreements, it would have been titled, “Economics of Reciprocity and Protectionism.” These terms have ethical and economic meanings. The ethics of reciprocity concerns “The Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. All major religions and philosophies have some articulation or variant of the […]


Adaptive Ethics: Losing fear and living mindfully

By: - March 27, 2020

The ancients knew something that we have forgotten in our daily digital skedaddle. Smartphones tell us where to be and what to do every minute, pinging us incessantly with pesky reminders about meetings, appointments, notifications and incomplete chores, assignments and deadlines. On top of this, we make lists. There are apps for that, too, under […]

A woman holds her hands in front of her face.

The lurid legacy of coronavirus: fear of humanity

By: - March 16, 2020

Do you remember thriving downtowns, even in rural areas, with cafes, diners, restaurants and maybe even lunch wagons; hardware, clothes, book and department stores (some with lunch counters); TV-, car- and shoe-repair shacks; smoke, pet, barber, beauty, music and antique shops? Then the mall opened. Maybe a Walmart superstore, and slowly several of those hometown […]


Easy ethics, hard choices

By: - February 26, 2020

Few things in life come with clear, concise and reliable instructions. Babies do not; they arrive without warning, and you need a library to raise them. Instructions change with each generation. All self-help genres — how to marry, divorce, get well, get rich, get smart, eat better, stay fit — require new editions. That is […]


‘App-ocalypse’ in the Iowa caucus

By: - February 4, 2020

We’re all living in accelerated digital time. Technology does that. We want what we want when we want it: on demand.