If living near the District of Columbia doesn’t transform you into a right-wing nut, it’s probably because you quickly learned not to read the columns in the Washington Post Metro Section. There refugees from the darkest, looniest corners of the Sixties have held sway for about fifty years, making illogical, emotional, angry and reliably leftist arguments, often in semi-literate form. The Post obviously believes, with good reason, that these would embarrass the paper if they were allowed to invade the Op-Ed Page, so they are buried in the middle of the paper.
The Post has a passel of these writers, who only occasionally venture into the land of the fair and reasonable. About 30% of the time, their creative output is devoted to race-baiting. I decided decades ago that my sanity and political equilibrium depended on my ignoring these daily sanity-bombs, way back in the days when a community-revered wacko named Dorothy Gilliam regularly defied logic in her 700 word rants. I now only learn about the most absurd of these columns only when a Post letter-writer flags one of them as particularly mind-blowing.
Coutland Milloy has been the main offender on the Post’s Metro page since Gilliam retired to the Big Angry Leftist Padded Room in the Sky, and he was in top form last week, when he addressed the recent problem of city buses being pelted with stones in some of the poorer areas in D.C. Read his piece if you dare: his basic premise was that it is significant that at a public hearing about the problem, nobody “spoke up for the kids” or discussed “why” the rocks were being thrown. You don’t really have to read the essay to guess its larger thesis: the areas are poor, city resources are misaligned, gentrification is breaking up neighborhoods, kids are frustrated, so it’s not the kids fault that they are attacking Metro buses. In the printed version of the Post, his column was titled “Don’t Pin the Rock Problem On The Kids.”
The “rock problem”? Can we stipulate that whatever the problem is with Metro buses being pelted with rocks, the rocks aren’t to blame? Milloy—I would say “incredibly,” but this is the Post Metro Section after all, and the spirit of Dorothy Gilliam is strong—never impugns the individuals who are actually throwing the rocks in any way. It’s the city’s fault; the school’s fault; and it goes without saying, if you read Milloy with any regularity, that it’s white people’s fault. I comprehend the logic of root cause arguments, if not always their applications, but they still never excuse or justify violent or criminal action in response to underlying stimuli. “Why” are the kids throwing rocks? Well, whatever the reason may be, their “solution” to the problem they discern is by definition idiotic, counter-productive, mis-directed, dumb, and, oh by the way, dangerous and against the law. These things, to a rational commentator, should dictate no quarter whatsoever, regardless of the conditions that may have sparked a violent tantrum that would justify punishing a 5-year-old. Not Milloy, however. Here is how he ends his column:
“We cannot take any more violence,” Jeter, the transit union president, said once the hearing began. The kids surely could have said the same thing. But while bus drivers could threaten to curtail service if their grievances weren’t addressed, the kids had no such recourse.
Except that throwing stones is not a valid recourse. It is not a strategy, not a solution, not a plan. It’s a violent act and a crime, and Milloy was obligated, as a public commentator, to say so, unequivocally, at the outset, whatever additional points he wanted to append. Otherwise, he is tacitly endorsing terrorism, or the rationale behind it, and excusing violence as a reasonable response to life’s problems.
Your Ethics Quiz, therefore, is this:
What rationalization allows Milloy to do this without stroking out or finding it impossible to look at himself in the mirror?
You should consult the Ethics Alarms rationalization list here, staying alert to hybrids. If you think this is one that the list has omitted, define it, please, and I’ll enter it as “Milloy’s Delusion.”
The prime candidates, as I see it, are the ‘They’re Just As Bad’ Excuse, “Tit for Tat,” “I have No Choice,” “There Are Worse Things,” and The Favorite Child Excuse. None seem to fit exactly. I have long considered adding a variation of the ‘They’re Just As Bad’ Excuse called “Look Over There!,” when bad conduct is glossed over by changing the subject, and maybe one this should be named in honor of Milloy.
It is also possible that his argument, such as it is, is too irrational to even qualify as a rationalization.
Let me know what you think.