If asked, I would have said that it would be impossible for even the most ethically muddled blogger to discuss Ted Nugent’s revolting “sub-human mongrel” denigration of the President and make Ted look relatively astute by comparison. And I would have been wrong.
I wouldn’t even have answered in the affirmative if I had been warned that the parody of a progressive, Phillip Bump, was on the case. Bump was last featured here when I dissected his inept attack on criticism of the Obama children’s unusually lavish vacations. In a post on Wire, however, Bump does the impossible, and in the process, actually proves the diagnosis that has been offered in many forums regarding the warped ethical values and priorities in the progressive camp. To too many of them, race really does trump everything. Moreover, the obsession with race and racism can make one look foolish even compared to Ted Nugent, who looks foolish compared to Barney the Dinosaur, Justin Beiber, Flavor Fav, Valeria Lukyanova, a.k.a. “Real Life Barbie,” Michele Bachman, or “Jackass II.”
Over the weekend, Nugent issued 44 fatuous tweets asserting that various conduct and policies of the President or his administration were “more offensive” than his racist slur to describe President Obama. This is, as any regular reader here will note, an example of my least favorite of all the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list, the dreaded #22, “The Comparative Virtue Excuse,” or “There are worse things.” Attempting this argument, in my view, is proof positive that one is an idiot or a scoundrel, and usually both. Wrongful conduct is never excusable or mitigated because other conduct is somehow more wrong. An individual who reasons in this rudimentary way can rationalize literally every kind of unethical conduct, from cheating on a spouse to serial murder (“Well, at least I’m not a mass murderer!”) I call it the “bottom of the barrel,” and so it is. That Ted Nugent sought to defend his racist and ugly slur this way is signature significance that he is an irredeemable, indefensible jerk.
If Bump had any sense himself, and he does not, he would have dismissed Nugent’s offensive idiocy by citing the rationalization at work. Instead, he commenced upon the fool’s errand of comparing each of the 44 “worse” things cited by Nugent (several of them barely coherent) to racism, which in Nugent’s case means only the vilest variety of name-calling. Here is some of the conduct that Bump argues are definitely not “worse” than Nugent’s words:
“a biased lying media”
“bribing & rewarding bloodsuckers & con artists”
“Fast & Furious”
“government out of control”
“government spying on Americans”
“the racist knockout game”
” runaway fraud, deceit, and government corruption”
“violating your oath of office”
We are talking in the abstract here, remember. Bump isn’t arguing with Nugent about his interpretation of whether the President or his administration really engaged in these things; he is truly arguing that an addled rock singer uttering offensive words is more objectionable than all of the above, each of which has tangible, in some cases devastating negative consequences affecting lives, and in some case millions of lives. Bump’s priorities are stunning in their Bizarro World detachment from reality. He writes,
“Some of these are obvious. “Presidential lies” would be less offensive than racist words because racism is worse than lies.”
Racism, even the essentially victimless variety displayed by Nugent—these are just words, after all, directed at the most powerful man in America, who can, will and does brush such attacks off like gnats— is certainly worse than many kinds of lies, like those on Judge Kozinski’s list. It is assuredly not worse than substantive Presidential lies, which affect elections, policy, finances and lives. Ted Nugent’s pathetic, nasty, self-mutilating name-calling? Insignificant. “If you like your current health care plan, you can keep it—period”? Not just offensive, but catastrophic and a mass national betrayal. To Bump, however, that Nugent’s is a greater offense is beyond debate. To whom?
Yes, Phillip Bump is more offended by the silly blatherings of a has-been singer than he is Obama lying to the electorate. Or violating his oath of office, an impeachable offense. Or politicians engaging in voter fraud. Or news media bias, which makes competent democracy unworkable. In his own ideology-poisoned way, he’s every bit as crazy as Nugent.
Is Bump typical of progressives in his conviction that so much misconduct is less harmful than racial slurs? I find that difficult, and too frightening, to believe. Any group that believes mere words are so dangerous is on the verge of advocating censorship. Ted Nugent may be a racist and a fool, but his priorities, with all their many gag-inducing flaws, are more rational and ethical than those of Phillip Bump.
And they’re not as offensive, either.