Group think has been at play for a long time. Ethics Unwrapped (EU) of the McCombs School of Business says, “Indeed, groupthink can cause us to value harmony and consensus over independent judgment, and can lead to unethical behavior.”
The University of Texas website highlights the Astros’ scandal from November 2019 as a case study. According to the case study, an Astros rookie developed an electronic “codebreaker” in 2016-17 to read opponent’s hand signals from catcher to pitcher. To some degree, reading hand signs was allowed from first base, according to the sport’s rules. What was not allowed was any electronic reading system. EU notes, too, that in 2017 “Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the Red Sox and issued a strong warning to all teams against illegal electronic sign-stealing.”
The Astros’ scandal became public on November 12, 2019, “when former Astros’ pitcher Mike Fiers blew the whistle in an interview published in ‘The Athletic,’” writes EU. From there, consequences of behaviors were doled out as the investigators established the whole club knew of the unethical electronic reading codebreaker and did not alert authorities and did not come clean until pressured.
Consequences for this unethical behavior were that “MLB fined the Astros $5 million, and stripped the club of its first- and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021.” The Astros’ manager and general manager were suspended and ultimately fired, too. Others hired by other clubs were let go— no matter their being recently hired.
EU reports, “The damage done by the Astros is significant. Former major leaguer Doug Glanville said the Astros’ “selfish act makes everyone question the validity of the future and the truth of the past,” concluding that Major League Baseball (MLB) now faces an existential crisis.’” Stephen Vogt, Arizona Diamondbacks, believes the ball club’s honor is wrecked. Some little leaguers are not able to use the “Astros” as their team name. Some Astros in public are harangued until some had to leave the MLB all together, EU reports.
We can see this unethical consequence in literature, as well. In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the crew of the Pequod choose not to go against the crazed Captain Ahab even though his hatred of the White Beast has possessed him, and he is no longer a rational captain. Could he have tricked the crew with the promise of good pay and “gold doubloon” tacked on the post for whoever spots the great white whale? The consequence is that the crew dies, all but one, Ishmael who is saved by a coffin. The whole story rings of cultism, in my opinion.
In Margaret Atwood’s, cautionary modern story called The Handmaid’s Tale, we also see this unethical behavior and cultism that includes society gone amuck, isolation, dismissing truth seers, and promoting sexual abuse.