Peter Morgan and Glenn Reynolds, from their book The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society (available online “Chapter Five: A Plague of Originality”).
In fact, appearance ethics not only fail to foster better behavior in those they govern, they also undermine the behavior of those who apply them. One of the chief appeals of appearance ethics to its enforcers (who include the corps of press and commentators) is that much like reprinting press releases as news judging appearances requires little knowledge of substance, allowing one to discuss the issues without the need for bothersome research or thought. Classical thinkers on ethical matters had a term for this tendency to avoid hard work. It was called laziness, and it was not considered a virtue. Another appeal of appearance ethics is that it provides something to talk about: when appearance ethics are the rule, even an unsubstantiated accusation can be said to create a bad appearance. Thus, even an unsubstantiated accusation provides grist for the mill of news flashes, op-eds, and talking-head shows.
The classical term for this sort of behavior was malicious gossip and it, too, was not considered a virtue. This powerful appetite for accusations based on appearances itself encourages bad behavior: when the prevailing attitude is "where theres smoke theres fire" we should not be surprised to find a brisk trade in smudge-pots. This was known as temptation.
That all of these human characteristics exist should come as no surprise. That they exist, by design, in an area dedicated to the improvement of ethics would have surprised classical thinkers. We should be concerned that it goes unremarked today.
Seems apposite to recent discussions about ethics in anthropology. Self-proclaimed ethics defenders rely upon a widespread willingness to judge appearances, rather than do the hard work of engaging with evidence.