Ethics Verdicts On The Elan Gale vs. Crazy Woman In Seat 7A Air Battle

Update (12/3): This incident has been revealed as a hoax.

The ethical analysis stands.

Yes, this is stupid, but it is the day after Thanksgiving, I’m still hung over from l-tryptophan, and there are ethics lessons to be learned everywhere, even in disputes between crude TV producers and hysterics.

You can read the details of this story here and the live tweets it generated here—Gale, a reality TV producer, gave a blow-by-blow description over Twitter.

In brief:

  • A plane on its way to Phoenix was delayed on the ground and one of the passengers angrily and loudly protested to the flight attendants that she was going to miss Thanksgiving dinner and what were they going to do about it?
  • Gale, as well as the rest of the passengers (presumably) found her self-centered hysteria offensive and made his point by sending her a complimentary glass of wine, some little bottles of vodka, and this note:

Gale note

The woman was not amused, and sent him this in return…

Gale return note

…prompting this…

Gale note3

….to which she retorted…

Gale note4

Gale’s last note said,

“Dear Diane. When you speak to the authorities, please make sure they arrest you for cannibalism because you just ate my dick! Love Elan.”

After the plane landed, Diane walked up and slapped Gale across his face.

She was immediately detained by a gate agent, who asked Gale if he wanted to press charges. He declined, only saying that he was happy that she had missed her connecting flight to Sacramento. His final message was:

“Diane, allow me to introduce myself. I am TheYearOfElan. Look me up online. read every tweet. Read every response. And maybe next time you’ll be nice to people who are just trying to help. PS Eat my dick. Love Elan.”

The ethics scorecard:
1. The easy one: Diane’s behavior on the plane.
Verdict: Irresponsible, obnoxious, unfair and disrespectful to her fellow passengers. It’s Thanksgiving: everyone is trying to get home, and even if they aren’t, everyone, on any plane, is inconvenienced when it is delayed. Shouting at attendants who have no control over it is inexcusable.
2. Gale’s gift of the wine.
Verdict: By itself, this would have been a responsible, kind, possibly calming gesture. Unfortunately, it was accompanied by..
3. The initial note.
Verdict: Up until the last line, the note is fair and responsible. The woman deserves to be shamed, and Gale is being socially responsible for taking the initiative of letting her know that her conduct is unacceptable. The last line, however, undoes any good it might have accomplished. It’s a gratuitous insult, though one that is deserved in her case. Now the note is just payback, and risks escalating a bad situation.
4. Diane’s return note.
Verdict:  Tit for tat: retribution, not ethics. Disrespectful and unfair. The proper response was “Thank you for the wine.” However, Diane had already proved that rational conduct was not her forte at the moment. Thus her response, completely predictable, was an insult in response to his rebuke. Her call for “compassion” is funny, as she is the one notably devoid of empathy: everyone, including Gale, is being delayed in their Thanksgiving plans, but to her, only her inconvenience matters. Gale hasn’t shown that he’s a horrible person, she has.
5.  Gale’s “Eat my dick” note.
Verdict: NOW we know he’s a horrible person, or at least one of the increasingly common socially-challenged among us who can’t deal with any conflict without resorting to obscene, uncivil language that accomplishes nothing other than bringing the entire episode into the gutter. Call it “Baldwinning.” This, however, is worse than just uncivil and misogynist, it’s wildly irresponsible. The woman is quite possibly unhinged, Gale is in a packed airplane, and he is intentionally goading her. His smug derision could easily have triggered an incident which would have forced an emergency landing that would have wrecked everyone’s Thanksgiving, all for his amusement. Making bad situations worse is unethical.
6. Diane’s return note.
Verdict: Ethical. Gale’s vulgarity was inappropriate, and crosses the line into harassment. The airline (United) should ban him.
7. Gale’s reply
Verdict: See # 5. He isn’t even being clever.
8. The slap.
Verdict: Unethical, of course. At least she waited until the plane landed, no thanks to Gale.
9. Gale’s response
Verdict: Mixed. Not pressing charges was kind and fair: he knew he provoked her. Expressing pleasure at her missing her flight is mean-spirited, as taking satisfaction in the misfortunes of others always is. Wanting someone to be unhappy just so you know they are miserable is an unethical instinct, the opposite of kindness and compassion. Neither of these two combatants have any compassion, apparently.
10. Gale’s final note.
Verdict: Yechh. Pompous, immodest, nasty and more pointless incivility and vulgarity. Ooooo, he’s a reality show producer! THAT should put Diane in her place!
I don’t want to be in a plane with either of these people.
Pointer: Fattymoon

39 thoughts on “Ethics Verdicts On The Elan Gale vs. Crazy Woman In Seat 7A Air Battle

  1. I always feel like it is my job to either diffuse or ignore the situation to keep it from escalating into ugliness.
    Although my deepest heart feeling on the matter is to do something even worse.
    Talk about conflicted!

  2. Ah ha ha ha ha ha what a great deconstruction!

    I too wouldn’t want to be on a plane with either one, but being at quite a distance from it, I can at least take pleasure in your analytically thorough dissection of the interchange.

  3. Diane, allow me to introduce myself. I am TheYearOfElan. Look me up online. read every tweet.

    I swear, if anyone ever referred me to their Twitter account to prove how important they are, there is no way I’d be able to keep a straight face.

    It reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch:

    “I’m internet famous!”

    “What does that mean?”

    “It means I’m not famous.”

      • Quite true, but referencing one’s Twitter account just doesn’t seem all that intimidating.

        For example, a legal missive from Ken White or Marc Randazza would be enough to make me quake in my boots, but if they added a postscript saying, “You might want to look at my Twitter account,” that would take some considerable edge off the letter’s menacing effects.

  4. I’d much rather hear Ken White say, “Take a look at my Twitter feed” than “take a look at this motion I’ve filed in Federal court”. If the latter sentence was uttered to me by both Ken White AND Marc Randazza, I’d give some serious thought to becoming a fugitive.

    I do get what you’re saying, but the argumentum ad twitter doesn’t always hold water. I’ve seen too many nerd flame wars with the claim, “I’m right and he’s wrong! After all, I have twice as many followers on Twitter than he does!”

  5. You know… if the glass of wine had been accompanied by some genuine sympathy – that there are many people in her situation all around her, that she’s not the only one – that it’s impossible to help all, but at least one can be helped, their lives made just a scintilla better… it might have had a happy ending.
    A narcissist calmed down and reminded that others exist; an upset person feeling maybe a little good about the world; fewer harassed airlines staff, maybe even a few words of sympathy to them and apology; and the joy to the giver from doing a small, random act of kindness.

    But while kindness is contagious, so is assholery.

    • But while kindness is contagious, so is assholery.

      Zoe, these eight words are now one of my most favorite-est things ever posted here. I nominate them as Comment of the Day.

      Thank you.


    • “But while kindness is contagious, so is assholery.”

      Good and concise.

      Narcissism, the plague of our hyper-material society, tends to create scenario of ‘fake kindness’, ever ready to tip immediately into assholery. Whereas people guided by an others-oriented world view, even amidst assholery, those people constantly seek outs for diffusion of the situation, even while knowing that on occasion, assholery can be justified.

  6. The whole thing strikes me as the actions of someone who thinks its funny to pick on people who they think are not as good as themselves. What bothers me even more are all the people who are posting about this incident on line saying “good for her”. No one knows the reasons behind this woman’s panic and behavior, she may have anyone of numerous fears that are triggered by being in an aircraft and flying, and to take joy in someone making it worse instead of trying to help the woman , and thereby calm the situation for the whole aircraft, is mean spirited and obnoxious.

      • That is the kind of pansy-ass hand-wringing, the sort of simpering “if a woman doesn’t like it then it is sexist and creepy” bullshit that lead to unfortunate comments being made by me at Popehat…

        Whatever jackass wrote that needs to go find a deep dark hole to live in to protect themselves from “the mean people” instead of infecting society with their idiocy…

          • Oh well she has cancer… Well that changes everything


            I don’t care what she suffers from, she was a raging bitch on the plane (I lost all possibility for sympathy when the flight attendant said that everyone wanted to get home to family and she responded with “this isn’t about you”). Yeah the guy was a little ruder than he needed to be (as I said before, I would have said stuff out loud, instead of going the passive-agressive note-passing route), but she is still a moral actor who is capable of controlling her own actions.

            She was “contrite” about how she acted? Can’t help but notice that sure as fuck didn’t stop her from acting like that in the first place.

      • Let me see, that’s the FOURTH link you’ve posted to that story in the last hour, Mark. 1) Is Ophelia your sister or something? 2) We got it.

        And also this: I doubt the “facts” cited by the relative, or even that she is a relative. But excepting arguendo that she is, is suffering from cancer, is “contrite” and is someone’s favorite aunt (Idi Amin was someone’s favorite uncle, I hear), so what? None of this confers license to act like a jerk anywhere, especially in an airplane where other people’s safety is involved, or to go around slapping people. This is the entitlement mentality that is a scourge of society. I’ll bet that many of the passengers had illnesses, family tragedies, personal crises and more to deal with, and if all of them acted like Aunt Diane, that plane would have been Bedlam. She’s contrite? I haven’t read about any apology to the airline, its passengers of the attendants.

        This is excuse-making of the most blatant sort, and also an exercise in shifting guilt. Do I, or should anyone else, feel badly about criticizing outrageous conduct because it emanated from a sick woman? NO.

        • Jack:

          I apologize for my multiple and redundant posts, annoying I know.

          I ended up over-posting because the danged blog UI kept insisting I “log in” after I attempted to post and, once I did, it was not evident to me that my pre-log in post had actually taken or not … plus it was in the wee hours and I was simply dicking around on my iPad to kill time while battling insomnia.

          It was new information in the mix that had me consider the whole exchange in a new light and I was just inspired to share it. It could very well be bullshit too, I checked Snopes before I shared–or unintentionally and annoyingly over shared–the info.

          Both you and ablativmeatshld make some valid points, that the woman arguably was as over the top as Elan. His audacity was a response to hers. I suppose I like to think I can find ways in life to take Salvatore Bono’s words to heart, “I’m gonna make that other cheek mine.” Maybe that makes me a pussy in the eyes of the ethics tribunal here assembled; so be it. If the woman truly does have a cancer, that doesn’t excuse her behavior but it puts it in a new light for me and allows me to be a little more sympathetic to her behavior than if she was simply pissed at the inconvenience everyone else was suffering. Obviously that’s not the case for you.

          I never finished Hamlet, so I don’t completely understand the Ophelia reference (I’m humbled by your erudition though).

          Have a nice day.

          • 1. I figured it was something like that. Just giving you a hard time—no apology necessary.
            2. As I indicated in the comments, someone, like Elan, should have told the woman–orally, in public– to calm down, that everyone was in the same position and that excessive complaining just made things worse. She required a response—“the other cheek” is not a useful course here.
            3. They were equally over the top–I think he was worse, by the time the episode played out, until the slap.
            4. I am VERY sympathetic. I had an aunt who was slowly dying of lupus most of my childhood, and she was often impatient and hysterical.We were tolerant. She still made my mother cry and hurt the people who loved her. I understand why, and I was and am sympathetic. It still wasn’t right, and she still was accountable for taking out her problems on the innocent. Right?
            5. Ophelia was the first name of the author of the story you linked to.

            I am grateful that you did. It adds to the complexity of the incident, and was worth considering. Thanks.

  7. We have no idea about the veracity of the stories being told “around” this situation – so a working hypothesis must be that everything is being told as it was.

    In his account, early on, Elan Gale tells us that Diane was “wearing a medical mask over her idiot face”. From this phraseology, I think it’s reasonable to assume that he was feeling more than simply “what a nuisance this woman is” and had made it more personal.

    In addition, the fact that a medical mask was required should have evoked a little empathy. After all, Diane hadn’t actually injured anyone and airline staff are trained to handle obnoxious passengers and were likely taking the outburst in their stride. The medical mask showed she wasn’t well.

    At this point it appears her rant was over. So what did Elan Gale do? He sent some wine and a note to Diane. I think analysing the note line-by-line and concluding that the last line was the downer is wrong. It seems to me that the whole tone was leading up to the last line – which was the whole point. He was saying “I hope this wine will help keep your stupid trap shut” – except using more words.

    Diane responded having understood the meaning of the note – also she clearly was irrational at the time and yes, she could have been more polite. So what does he do next? Sends another note ending with “eat my dick”. Now in some parts of the world, this may be seen as a little light banter, but taken at its face value – isn’t it sexual harassment? If not, why not?

    What happened next is unclear, but further “presents” of vodka and the taking of photograph(s) shows an escalation of the harassment actions by Elan Gale.

    As for Ethics, I would maintain that the old Golden Rule is appropriate – if Evan Gale had been in the same situation (dying from cancer, plane late, missing connection to final Thanksgiving) and the general pissed-offness of this circumstance had lead to an ill thought out rant, and he’d been targeted by some mouthy feminist, would the conclusion have been the same?

    No one has to agree with me, obviously.

    • I more or less agree wholeheartedly.

      1) I didn’t focus on the mask comment. Some germophobes wear those masks on planes, since the re-circulated air is an infection peril, and I didn’t consider it in the context of her being seriously ill. I’ll give Elan the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t either.

      2) The note, if you eliminated the last couple lines, would have been benign. You are right that with the last lines, it seems clear that rebuke was the intent all along.

      3) I think you have to leave the cancer issue out of it. Her conduct is her conduct—her health issues provide an explanation but not a justification.

      4) The answer to your last question, if directed to me regarding my conclusion, would be a resounding “Absolutely.”

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