Culpable deniability is an interesting concept that reached its zenith in 2009 at the height of the Iran-Contra affair. This term implies that someone can be held accountable because they stood by and watched while others participated in an illegal or immoral activity.
The foundation of culpable deniability is plausible deniability and allows leaders to deny blame for questionable activity taken by others, activity that they should have been aware of but were not. They were willfully ignorant.
Is willful ignorance an abdication of responsibility?
In medieval Japan, emperors were placed into positions of leadership by the regents at a relatively young age, sometimes as young as six or seven. Their position was largely ceremonial, and they would usually abdicate their emperorship in ten years. After which they would live out their lives in pampered retirement. Former Japanese emperors usually had more power in retirement than while on the throne.
So a retired Japanese emperor, wielding more power behind the political scene, becomes a shadow leader.
“Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, do no evil.”
In the Buddhists origins of this phrase the meaning is refrain from harboring negative thoughts. In our Western culture, this phrase means to turn a blind eye towards impropriety.
At what point does ignorance lead to a moral imperative to speak up? When will it be your turn to speak up?