The decline of public moral standards that can facilitate a convicted criminal like Abramoff's redemption on television news began with the moral relativism
of the 1960s, says sociologist John Macionis of Kenyon College in Ohio. "We live in a world where it's much harder to define good guys and bad guys,"
In the 1960s, the loud public rejection of the War in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the birth of the women's liberation movement, and other social phenomena led to a rejection of conventional value hierarchies, Macionis says.
The subsequent pervasion of moral relativism created an atmosphere that made people uncomfortable passing judgement on crooks, he says.
"The so-called conventional good guys, we started to think they may be really bad guys," Macionis says. "And the bad guys: they could be seen as just saying 'hell no, we won't take it any more. [Being a bad guy] doesn't seem to disqualify anyone anymore."