Zombie Ethics, Spoiling Things For Everyone, And The Barn Door Fallacy

With so many terrible news stories going on around the world, it is not surprising that a bumper crop of strange and stupid ones this week went almost unnoticed. In Indiana, a truck crashed and spilled 45,000 pounds of butter, whipped cream and other dairy products on an interstate. In the skies, an elderly woman went berserk on an airplane and began beating everyone is sight with her artificial leg. This, however, wins the prize: the annual Comic Con  “Zombie Walk” in San Diego went horribly wrong when a group of rogue zombie portrayers, dressed like rotting corpses and moaning, carried their method acting too far and swarmed a car containing a family with young children—a deaf family with deaf children. Ignoring the obvious alarm and terror on the faces of the car’s occupants, the Walking Dead Wannabes pounded on the car, broke its windshield, and one zombie jumped onto the hood. At that point the driver panicked, and tried to pull away from the crowd, running down a 64-year-old woman who was seriously injured as a result.

There are all sorts of arguments going on regarding whether this was really a group that was part of the official Zombie Walk, or free-lance zombies (I’m not kidding); whether the zombie attackers can be prosecuted under the provisions of an anti-terrorism law, since they were obviously trying to terrify the family, and whether the family should be prosecuted for running down the woman. I assume the family will be sued, even though they shouldn’t be.

Ethically, I’m only concerned about the last one. The driver can be prosecuted, but it would be unethical to do so. The police representative made a public statement emphasizing that “the pedestrians that were crossing the street legally have the right of way. For vehicle code and common sense, you cannot use a car to move people out of the way. Never ever can you use a deadly weapon to make a path across a crowd of people. When you are in a busy congested area, you must wait. I do not want to condone people’s impatience in justifying a car to go through a crowd of people.” Sorry, sir, but if a madman with a gun is charging my car, a Mastadon is bearing down on my family, or a zombie horde is staring to break in my car windows, I’m hitting the gas. These are the epitome of exigent circumstances. Law professor-blogger Jonathan Turley, commenting on the case, says,

The family was technically fleeing and will argue that they were engaged in classic self-defense after the man jumped on their hood and broke their window. Injuries caused by emergency situations can be excused. Even mistaken self-defense can be privileged in torts. The family can argue that they were terrified and trying to protect their children in the assault. The defense is a lack of intent and justified fear. Even under a negligence theory, many jurors would likely view their actions as reasonable under the circumstances — assuming that these circumstances are proven.

To those who say, “Oh, come on! Zombies aren’t real! There was no danger!”, I respond thusly: Once the zombie-imitators cross reasonable lines and begin behaving in a menacing fashion, no parent is obligated to see just how far they will go before removing the threat.

“Hey, they’re surrounding us!”

“Don’t worry, Dad, it’s just an act.”

“Hey, they’re pounding on the car!”

“Don’t worry, Dad, it’s just an act…they’re not real zombies. See? They are wearing make-up.”

“Hey, they’ve broken the window!”

“Don’t worry, Dad, it’s just an act….they’re not real zombies. It’s Comic Con.”

“Hey, they’re coming into the car!”

“Don’t worry, Dad, it’s just an act….they’re not real zombies. They are just nerds, like in “Big Bang Theory.” They get carried away.”

“Hey, they’re eating your mother!”

NOW can I hit the gas?

Comic Con has announced that it has cancelled another zombie walk for later this year, as well as next year’s. This is the Barn Door Fallacy (as in “locking the barn door after the horse is gone”), and it always drives me crazy. There should be nothing dangerous about the Zombie Walk, and hasn’t been, until now. Next year’s walk would have been the safest ever, with increased police scrutiny and monitoring. Nevertheless, thanks to the the warped logic of the Barn Door Fallacy, next year’s orderly, fun-loving, law-abiding zombies have to suffer because of this year’s idiotic, undisciplined, unethical zombies. The instinct to do this virtually always kicks in to respond to unfocused public outrage that demands that “something” be done, even if the “something” is misdirected, excessive, penalizes the innocent, and doesn’t address the problem. Agreed: eliminating a zombie walk has to be close to the most insubstantial harm ever inflicted by the Barn Door Fallacy, but this is a classic example of the phenomenon nonetheless.

As for the rogue zombies, they engaged in the epitome of unethical conduct for individuals benefiting from a privilege that others besides themselves enjoy and value. In such a situation, the consideration of action that places such a privilege at risk should immediately trigger an ethics alarm with the message: “It is not just my privilege at risk here, but the privilege of others. I have no right to behave in such a way that may end the privilege for everyone.”

Yet the alarm did not sound. It did not sound because these weren’t merely silly people dressed as zombies, but silly, unethical assholes dressed as zombies.

Now that’s scary.


Pointer and Sources: Res Ipsa

Facts: Deadline Hollywood


17 thoughts on “Zombie Ethics, Spoiling Things For Everyone, And The Barn Door Fallacy

  1. I have a new career goal: freelance zombie.

    I fear, however, that the closest I’ll come has already happened: seeing a former student as a zombie in a national car commercial. I respectfully decline to comment on whether he was a zombie before he took my classes.

  2. I’m going to add this:
    “next year’s orderly, fun-loving, law-abiding zombies have to suffer because of this year’s idiotic, undisciplined, unethical zombies.”
    to my list of favorite most unlikely sentences of all time.

    • I’m going to add this:
      “next year’s orderly, fun-loving, law-abiding zombies have to suffer because of this year’s idiotic, undisciplined, unethical zombies.”
      to my list of favorite most unlikely sentences of all time.
      I like it, too!
      I should have saved one comment he made about Obama that was similar.
      They must give them the flair for the dramatic in law school.

  3. Something similar actually happened on my campus one year; basically, we have a week-long Humans vs. Zombies game every semester, and we had to end a game earlier once because someone (who apparently wasn’t either a player or even a student) walked onto campus and claimed he was carrying a real gun. To make it even stranger, it was the playerbase who reported him in the first place.

  4. Maybe it is time that more idiots learn the hard way that assault and battery is a crime that victims of have a right to defend themselves against, even if it adds to the body count until they get the massage.

  5. Here is a video of the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1W6s5179uM which puts things in a different light. It looks like the driver was impatient, did not want to wait, and begin inching their car through the pedestrians. At that point, some people began to surround the car, to try to explain to the driver that should not be doing that, and the car then accelerated through the crowd, causing the injury. From the video at least, it looks like the fault was on the driver.

      • It’s obvious from the video that most of the crowd is *not* zombies. The people that go over to him to try to talk to him about not driving his car into the crowd are *not* zombies. The guy that sits on his hood (at about 23 seconds in) to prevent the driver from going into the crowd, also *not* a zombie. The driver’s story simply does not hold up in light of the video.

        • It’s not obvious to me. It’s not just the driver’ story, either—it’s the police’s story. Your version would have nothing to do with the zombie walk at all…so why is Comic Con even involved? The video is neither long enough or close up sufficiently to make the conclusion you are making. You could be right, but I don’t see how all the accounts could be that mistaken, either.

          San Diego Police say the driver was a 48-year-old deaf man who had his small children with him. “The entire family in the car was deaf, and they were scared,” SDPD officer David Stafford told Deadline. At about 5:30PM, the car was stopped at the intersection of 2nd and Island avenues, about a half-mile from the Convention Center, waiting for the marchers to lurch by. The driver told police that his children were frightened by the throng, so after several minutes, he began rolling forward trying to get out of the area. At that point, police said, several people surrounded the car and began beating on it.“The crowd started punching the windows,” Stafford said. “They even jumped on the hood of the car. They smashed the windshield.” Police say the father drove forward again trying to get away from the angry crowd, and that’s when he struck the woman with the side of his car. Some in the crowd then chased the car on foot as the family drove toward a policeman down the street, stopping when they reached the officer.

          It makes the story better, but really, whether the mob was dressed as zombies or not makes no difference at all. It wouldn’t to be. Bang on my car, break a window, jump on my hood, scare my family, and I’m out of there.

  6. There were two different videos out there yesterday where it looked more like the driver was at fault…possibly.
    Today they have been taken down.

  7. Three comments and six questions:

    1. I would never drive into a crowd of people like that.
    Even if they were hitting my car, or jumping on it.
    OK, maybe if someone was holding a gun to my head.
    But then, I don’t consider my ability to zip down a crowded street when I want to as a fair trade for someone else’s life.
    Jesus, there were people all over in that intersection.

    2. Why didn’t law enforcement close the streets in the area for pedestrians only?
    We have fairs, art shows and etc. here and cars get detoured another way.

    3. I don’t believe they were scared.
    Too many non-zombies walking around – un-scary types such as older women and families walking together.
    The whole town has been taken over by the event and the zombies and they just that moment got scared of them?
    After week?

    4. What does being deaf have to do with anything?
    Are there special laws just for deaf people?
    Are they more entitled somehow?

    I’m throwing down the BS card on this story.

    • 1. You weren’t the one in the car. You might not have shot Trayvon Martin either, but that doesn’t mean that how the actual individual in the situation felt is what matters, legally and ethically.
      2. A deaf person cannot hear what is being said, and could easily misinterpret something like this. You are responsible for your victim as you find him. Torts 101.
      3. Everyone is entitled to flee if their car is being attacked. Show me that a window wasn’t broken, and that nobody got on the car. Absent such proof, the story is obviously not bullshit, but an example of cretins terrifying a motorist.

  8. I couldn’t get past the 45 kiloton dairy bomb in the first paragraph. I didn’t think there was a truck in existence that could carry that much. Alas, it was 45,000 POUNDS.

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