The MacDonald’s Beating Video, Another Dead Canary in The Ethics Mine

Vernon Hacket: videographer, violence afficianado, shameless bystander

Last week, In the early hours of  April 18,two teenaged patrons at a Rosedale, Maryland MacDonald’s brutally beat Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, into a seizure. The attack was captured on a video recorded by Vernon Hackett, one of the MacDonald’s workers, on a cellphone camera. Other employees can be heard laughing on the video, and Hackett apparently is heard warning the attackers that the police are coming. He has been fired by the restaurant’s proprietor.  (More on this here.)

His firing was well-deserved, but it doesn’t begin to address the disturbing implications of the incident. Though he had no obligation in his job as a McDonald’s staffer to risk injury or liability to intervene in a violent fight, he had a human obligation to do so, as did everyone else on the scene. Instead, Hackett displayed the cold, uninvolved demeanor of a professional journalist, who regards as primary his duty to record the event. Of course, Hackett is not a journalist. Universal access to cell phone video cameras, combined with the opportunity for YouTube fame and maybe resulting riches, now tempt non-journalists to allow tragedies to occur as they act as entrepreneurs and voyeurs rather than rescuers. If Hackett had a blog, he might argue that he was, in fact, acting as a journalist.

America is breeding a culture that encourages individuals observing a vicious attack to think, as a first response, “Wow, I’ve got to get that on video!” rather than “I have to stop this.”  That means that America risks becoming a nation populated by self-centered, conscience-free ethical equivalents of the walking dead, who lack the ethics alarms that their ancestors had when they came out of the caves. There is no ethical justification for Hackett’s behavior. It violates the Golden Rule. It exploits another human being for personal gain, one of absolutism’s ethical taboos. There is no system of ethical balancing that would justify it. Yet his conduct is being encouraged by increasingly powerful forces in American culture.

Most of the current debate about the incident has now turned to the question of whether the attack was a hate crime or not, since the victim was a transgendered male. This is the ethics equivalent of arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. By all means, let’s waste time and energy arguing about whether it’s worse to beat a transgendered individual into unconsciousness than to beat anyone else. Is it a “hate crime?” Is someone arguing that Ms. Polis was attacked because the teens wanted to get to know her better? The hate crime designation is about gender and race politics together with criminalizing thoughts and feelings. It is always a false issue, but here it diverts attention from the true significance of the incident. At a point that may not be so far away, there may be a critical mass of  Vernon Hacketts in society, and at that point, the United States will no longer have a viable culture. Hate crime laws aren’t going to do anything to stop the trend.

What will?

14 thoughts on “The MacDonald’s Beating Video, Another Dead Canary in The Ethics Mine

  1. I think there is a very limited, narrow instance when his actions could be deemed ethical. However, that would have required 1) a fear that he himself would have been killed, 2) his statement that “the cops are coming” was a ploy to end the attack, not to evade justice and 3) his video of the attack was filmed as evidence and turned over to police and not used for personal benefit.

    It doesn’t sound like he was doing any/all of the above, so yes, I agree with the post 100%.

  2. What will? The education of a populace that refuses to allow itself to be educated.

    I agree that ARGUING about whether the incident was a Hate Crime or not is a diversion and does detract from the total focus. And I accept that, by your definition, the ethics of the designation of “hate crime” in the first place is also called into question. However, if this incident occurred, as the article strongly suggests, because two biological females were enraged (and encouraged in their attack) by the presence of an M-F transgender person using or attempting to use the “Ladies” toilet — something we may or may not find relevant as the case progresses to court (if it does so) — then having the power of a “Hate Crime” designation may be of considerable help to the prosecution. Otherwise, we are back in the days of the egregious “homosexual panic” defense, or just the good old fuck-the-freaks attitude that still pervades a large portion of our society, many of which get to sit on juries. So far, the presence of that overweening destructive emotion, hate, as a singular motive for a crime, seems to have saved some lives, some sanity, some safety. I would rather see Sex Ed broadened to include real sexuality in all its common forms. But that isn’t happening. So Hate Crimes is the next best thing. Unethical, utilitarian.

    and I have to add that since transgender people are getting beaten up all the time, everywhere, with lots of do-nothing witnesses, and cases that rarely get to trial if they’re even reported other than in the gay press — this one is getting the attention not just for the video nor the location, but because the attackers were female. Bitch fight, yeah yeah! Just girl play, man. Nothing serious, bro.

    • You’ll have to show me how people, transgender or otherwise, are getting beaten up “all the time” without consequences. If the victims aren’t getting legal help, it’s because they have decided not to. A guy threatened me in the parking lot last last week, and I said, “Go ahead. Hit me. I’ll sue your ass, get you thrown in jail and own your house.” He left. But that’s what I would have done.
      Beating up someone is wrong and equally wrong for any reason. It’s worse to nearly kill someone because they are gay or black than to beat them because they are pretty, smart or rich? Not in my book.

      Hate crimes are unconstitutional, because they punish people for what they are thinking. Hate is a constitutional right; it’s beating up people that’s against the law. I don’t see that they accomplish a thing, except to send the offensive message that the law cares about some people getting hurt more than others, and that you better watch out for those politically-incorrect thoughts, because this is America.

      I don’t deny that the girl-fight voyeurism is part of it, but knock-down drag-out fights between women is still culturally rare, and this inherently newsworthy.

      • I think it’s worse to beat someone for something that doesn’t affect you than for something that does. Beating someone because they’re black (or pretty, smart, or rich) is worse than beating them because they owe you $500 for coke… not that I’ve beaten anyone for being behind in getting me my money or anything…

        Hate crimes aren’t punishing people for what they are thinking, it’s punishing them for why they performed certain actions. Like the difference between Murder 1 and Murder 2. My beef with hate crimes is that they only protect against violence targetting specific minorities when it would make more sense to apply to violence targetted at any individual because of the group they belong to, not who they are.

        • Murder 1 and Murder 2 are mostly distinguished by HOW the murder is done , not why. Why someone kills, unless the why is mitigating, like self-defense, shouldn’t make any difference at all. It’s better to kill someone for a jacket than because he’s Jewish? You opinion, and welcome to it—not in my book. They are equally reprehensible.

  3. Okay, I’ve had it. I had a great response written but it was deleted through no fault of my own. I blame the blog, by the way.

    Long ago, I went late at night to the Safeway to buy milk for my son. It was pouring rain. I noticed then an empty car parked in the pick-up lane (undercover, by the way). When I left I saw same car being loaded with about 20 bags of gorceries. Tired, cranky, I took down the tag number and gave it to the manager of the Safeway. Then I walked outside and expressed my disbelief that anyone could be so selfish on a night like that to simply park in the pick-up lane and then do her massive shopping.

    Her response was that I should “shut up” or she would “slap my face.”

    Well, something snapped in me. I told her to go ahead and slap my face, that the Safeway people had her tag number, that I would press charges for assault, and that I hoped she could find someone to change the diapers for all those babies she must have considering the number of diapers she bought.

    She repeated her threat. I challenged her: Come on. Hit me! I’ll have you in jail for assault before you can snap your seat belt! Hit me! Hit me! I’d love to see a moron like you in jail!”

    She didn’t hit me. She drove away. I was complacent.

    But the bottom line — transgender or otherwise — we are losing all civility in our personal discourse with strangers. It’s one big competition. It’s ugly. And I hate it.

  4. You could offer all sorts of reasons for why the victim was attacked. Female, bisexual, white… whatever. But none of that is relevant. The fact remains that a female customer was ruthlessly and viciously attacked by multiple assailants in a restaurant and nobody came to her assistance. Not employees, not customers, not police… no one. Even while she lay on the floor in convulsions- nothing.

    The coldness displayed by the employee who recorded it all is reminiscent of Monsieur Rat (his real name!), the pappo who felt the pulse of the dying Princess Diana in her smashed car, then backed off and continued to take pictures. His excuse? It was his duty “as a journalist”! That MacDonald’s employee didn’t even have that feeble excuse. I would have said to both of them: “What about your duty as a man? Doesn’t that outrank all else?”

    Is this the Stockholm Syndrome alive and well? Is this the callousness of people raised in a culture that projects and glorifies images of gross violence routinely? I doubt that it was a “hate crime” against deviants, as this woman had little to identify her has such. I did note, though, that no group stepped forward to make it a race issue; she being white and her attackers black. However, once it was established that she was “bigendered”, THEN the drum started to beat.

    It wasn’t bad enough to be beaten up in public. Now it comes down to exploitation by groups with an ax to grind. Would we be hearing so much about this if she’d been just a normal white girl who’d stepped in for a burger? But it should be so for anyone. When violent crimes can be committed under such circumstances, then no one’s safe. The people at that MacDonald’s should think about that next time.

  5. WOW! After commenting on your article “The Hazing Abuse of Michael Warren” in which you subtly played the race card TWICE in one paragraph, I decided to check out some of your other posts.

    Reading the rest of your blog was obviously a mistake. You hint that race was a motivator in the Hartwick Hazing incident, but think that arguing whether or not this was a hate crime is irrelevant??? Do you even read what you write?

    The transgendered individual was beaten because she was using the lady’s room and refused to leave (Rosa Parks anyone?). You could even argue (as you blindly did in your Hartwick article) that RACE was a factor. In a facility populated by those of a darker skin color, a white girl was brutally beaten while those around here stood around, laughed, and recorded it. Maybe those who beat her weren’t racially motivated, but one could argue that those refusing to help had race in mind.

    OF COURSE this is a hate crime. She was beaten because she’s a male who identifies as female. Because she used the woman’s bathroom. To argue that this is irrelevant (because the crime was committed regardless) is a complete slap in the face to every person who has been discriminated against based on their sexuality.

    I find myself confused though, because I agree with your other points. Perhaps you should just stop mentioning race and gender as motivating factors? You can’t seem to get your opinions straight.

    • Whoa! Hold it. Are you saying that the “she” was physically a “he” and invaded the women’s restroom? If that’s the case, then it puts a whole new perspective on this. It would actually supply a motive that went beyond blind “hate” or bias. It’s one thing to attack someone for no reason other than race, alleged sexuality or robbery. It’s another when a male deviant enters the prescribed sanctuary of females… and where children may be. If this was the case, then it explains a lot. It doesn’t justify the use of force that was rendered, to be sure. But when such individuals undertake actions that threaten women and children- and when it happens in a place for which there may be no legal recourse- then such things are liable to happen.

        • Having read further into this story from other sources, it becomes increasingly clear that race was not an obvious issue in this. The issue was apparently that a surgically altered man invaded the women’s restroom, which initiated a violent altercation. Did that justify the beating that followed? Decidedly not. Did, however, it raise an inevitable concern (and disgust) among patrons? Certainly. If there’s one thing that stirs a natural violent reaction among human beings, it’s a perceived threat to women and children. An overt deviant placing his/herself in a female restroom- an understood (once!) sanctuary for women and girls- represents such a threat. Where such “gender neutral” facilities exist or the perception among homosexuals exists that they are free to patronize them in accordance with their “gender identity”, the provocation likewise exists.

          This should surprise no one. What’s surprising is that more of this has not occurred. Maybe that’s a credit to American citizens’ inclinations to be law-abiding. But this sort of thing pushes tolerance to the breaking point. As I’ve often pointed out, where one form of perversity exists, all potentially exist. If my wife or daughter had been in a public restroom and I had seen some “sexually ambiguous” sort attempt entry, I can tell you that I would have barred he/she/it until my family had departed. Then, if the management was incapable or unwilling to do anything about this, I would have withdrawn my custom. But I WOULD have prevented a known deviant from entering. A man has certain responsibilities to the females of his family and his neighbors.

    • WOW—genuine race-baiting! There is no race card played, intentionally of otherwise, in the post to which you refer…if you see one or more, it’s your problem, not mine. I’ll read it again from a “racism explains everything angle” and see if I can find what you refer to. [back in a sec…] I’m back, and you’re good.I mentioned race exactly once, and you found another imaginary race card somewhere in there. Get thee to a psychiatrist. I mentioned that hate crimes legislation were a bi-product of race and gender politics (I should have added pandering), and that is 100% accurate. I’ve been following the hate crime foolishness for over a decade. When Pres. Bush opposed the hate crime law in Texas, Democrats ran an ad with the daughter of James Byrd suggesting Bush didn’t want to see his killers punished—as if pulling a man’s head off with a chain isn’t a first degree murder unless it was accompanied by racism. “Pulling the head off a white hetero, now that’s bad. Pulling the head off a black man or a gay man, that’s, well, that’s just unacceptable!” Give me a break.
      You don’t get what is unethical, unconstitutional, offensive and intellectually dishonest about the whole concept of punishing crimes according to what feelings accompany them, fine–you have lots of company. But don’t comment here unless YOU read what I write. I didn’t say that the hate crime issue was “irrelevant,” I said it was a distraction. I said that a beating doesn’t become worse because of the identity of the victim, and that’s true, whether you can comprehend it or not. And my point is that people being willing to watch someone get brutalized and not lift a finger is a bigger societal issue than the false hate crime distinction. If we make it clear that beating anyone is wrong, we don’t have to argue that beating transgendered men is even more wrong than beating Swedish repair men.

      I expect a pretty high level of enlightenment from a guest here who has the stones to begin by insulting me for something that isn’t even in my post. Your comment is intellectually lazy and factually wrong: as of right now, all speculation on the reason for the fight is just that….and I don’t care what it was anyway: nothing justifies it. The Rosa Parks comparison, even using your non-facts, is ridiculous. Was this a “no transgendered” rest room? Funny, I don’t believe McD’s has any. Where is a transgendered male supposed to go? I’d go where she did…the lady’s room. But she was hardly making a civil rights statement…and didn’t need to. Your comment doesn’t even make a coherent point.

      Unlike you, I don’t presume race is a factor unless there is solid reason to believe that it is. My commentary was on one issue, the one I chose to write about—refusing to stop violence that one can stop—and a tangential matter, the objectionable nature of hate crime legislation, regarding which this incident is a pretty good example. You read it the post carelessly and misrepresented it. Read the comments guidelines next time.

      I can’t wait.

  6. Jack, it’s happened here! In your post you noted that elsewhere, the debate had devolved into why did the attack happen, or was there provocation. Later, maybe, when the dust has settled and it’s been a long day and now it’s time for a cold brew and some great time-wasting conversation, well, maybe. But until then the only facts that matter are these: Somebody was getting the stuffing beaten out of them (why doesn’t matter, we have the police and courts to sort these things out). Somebody else saw this and, instead of using his cell phone to call the police, used it to record the event (in other words, he had the means to summon the proper authorities literally in the palm of his hand, and doing so could have been done with no danger to himself). In addition to his human duty to intervene he had a duty to his employer who, I am almost certain, does not regard beat-downs in the store as just another form of customer amusement. Vernon Hackett had a duty to at least summon the police. As far as his personal ethics (or lack thereof) are concerned, case closed.

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