Palin’s Trap: Is Baiting Critics To Expose Their Double Standards And Hypocrisy Ethical?

1618609_10153003604393588_4015203188305261638_nWell, well, well!

It seems that Sarah Palin had a ready response to the critics, including PETA, who attacked her for her Facebook post featuring son Trig using the family dog as a stepping stool. She immediately posted a photo tweeted by darling of the left, gay comic Ellen DeGeneres. last summer. Amazingly, PETA, which made Ellen its 2009 Person of the Year, and the others who were horrified at Trig’s actions and his mother’s endorsement of them, didn’t find DeGeneres’s photo sinister in the least.

Imagine that!

I agree with those who believe that Palin set up her enemies for this smoking gun proof of their hypocrisy and double standards. Palin and Rush Limbaugh are more skilled at baiting liberals than any public figure since William F. Buckley.

Was it unethical for Palin to set this trap? Emphatically no, and not because Palin has been the victim of more vicious and unfair double-standard bias than any political figure within memory. Exposing hypocrites is a public service.

Well played, Sarah.

Next time, though, try to avoid having to step on the dog to make your point.


Pointer: Althouse

47 thoughts on “Palin’s Trap: Is Baiting Critics To Expose Their Double Standards And Hypocrisy Ethical?

  1. I will point out that there’s a pretty substantial difference in the relative sizes of the kids and the dogs in those photos: I’m substantially less worried about the dog in this one getting hurt than I am about the dog in Palin’s.

    I will, however, also remark that most people with disabilities won’t find the photo of Trig “inspirational” in the slightest — and a whole lot of us will react with simple disgust.

    • I’d agree with the dog comment, although neither dog is in distress, and the principle of teaching kids not to step on dogs…or to represent to others that they don’t think its cute and acceptable when children do so…also applies in both cases.

      I think it’s unethical to post children’s photos on the web without their consent, and again, I’d apply that to both photos.

      • We have two labs, a male and a female. Our toddler loves the female lab like crazy. He crawls all over her and lays down next to her and she tolerates a great deal. Occasionally we catch him trying to use her as a step stool to get onto the couch, which we quickly reprimand, yet she tolerates every last bit of it. Once we was sitting next to her and he threw himself back at substantial speed and his head hit just beneath her rib cage pretty solidly… she didn’t make a fuss. I don’t think dogs in distress, discomfort, or pain will always show it. That lab of ours (the female) is incredibly tolerant, especially of the toddler’s antics.

        The male dog is a different story. As playful, even painless play, as the toddler wants to be with him, the male will have none of it and quickly vacates the premises.

      • I’d qualify that: Neither dog is in apparent distress.

        As for the children’s photos, there’s a qualitative difference there as well: the kid in Ellen’s picture is neither identifiable (no face!) nor identified… and there’s no indication (that I’ve seen) that Ellen even knows the kid’s identity (or was involved in any way with the taking of it: for all I know from what I’ve seen, she might have just seen it elsewhere on the ‘net and retweeted it).

        • I don’t think that alleviates Ellen’s participation. Spreading an image, without using it as a “don’t do this” lesson or as an informative tool, therefore supports the image (and the conduct in it).

          • Perhaps, but there’s a tremendous difference in the magnitude of the participation — and, frankly, a quantitative difference of that magnitude becomes a qualitative one.

            • Ignoring the spreading of a child’s image without their consent, this is still solid proof of the hypocrisy of the Left. Leftist darlings get a pass when they show a animal being misused, Right wingers get skewered. It happens on all levels and in all scenarios…

              How many times does Joe Biden’s utter buffoonery get a pass as “ah, that’s old uncle Joe!”, whereas Dick Cheney was clobbered at every turn.

              • If you honestly think I qualify as on the Left by any reasonable definition (or on the Right, for that matter), I have a quitclaim deed to a bridge you may want to consider purchasing…

                    • My mistake. I was referring to the topic of the brouhaha raised over Palin’s picture (arguably an unethical picture, as we’ve discussed) and the brouhaha not raised over DeGeneres’s picture (also arguably an unethical picture, especially by the standards used by those crucifying Palin).

                    • The issue there, as I mentioned repeatedly, is that the magnitude of the ethical violations — and the extent of the conduct — are massively different, even if there are parallels. That makes the difference in response a poor argument for the left’s hypocrisy (note that I don’t disagree with the conclusion — I’m firmly of the opinion that both sides are extraordinarily hypocritical).

                      To explain my argument here with a (admittedly much more extreme) parallel example: Is it good evidence of hypocrisy if someone ignores a friend’s habit of stealing office supplies from his work, but made a big fuss over Bernie Madoff?

                  • My mother’s a real-estate lawyer, and worked in academia for a while, even going so far as to (re)-write one of the major textbooks on the subject. The editions that she’s credited on are dedicated to me — which was incredibly embarrassing when I got to college and took real estate law as an elective.

                    We didn’t just use Mom’s textbook, no — we also had the prof spend a good bit of class on the first day talking about how much he’d learned from her.

        • 1. Right. Certainly not in any serious distress. As has been noted elsewhere, a dog will accept this from a family (pack) member as part of the deal. It would not let a stranger do the same.

          2. Also right, although the child might recognize it, now or later. I would recognize photos of my son, or me, taken from behind.

          • RE 2, yes, they might… but, frankly, the potential for harm is much greater with an identifiable photo.

            And, while we’re talking about harm, there’s also the relationship issue, which I failed to bring up earlier (I think): Palin has a rather blatant duty to shield Trig from harm. Ellen… well, unless there’s something about her that I don’t know, there’s just about zero chance of her having a comparable relationship with the child in the photo that she shared.

    • It is about principle, not size; if dogs are not meant to be stepped on, their relative sizes cannot matter. As for inspiration, handicapped people are just as diverse as their able counterparts – what does not inspire one may be soul-lifting to another.

        • Neither are horses. Or donkeys. Or mules. Inappropriate comparison. As I have said, it’s the principle of the thing: if it is wrong for Sarah, it cannot be right for Ellen. Big dog or small.

          • Very appropriate comparison. The usage of animals to achieve a goal ISN’T the deciding factor of ethical/unethical. Therefore size does matter, as a smaller dog is more likely to be HURT by the usage in question. And harm (read as distress, which is Jack’s standard in this) is a valid ethical consideration in this.

            • The usage of animals to achieve goals is inherently ethical, regardless of whether it is the “deciding” factor or not: that is why harnessing animals – your example – is not appropriate. Is an animal more likely to be hurt if it is harnessed, or not? If it is, does it become unethical?
              I am Nigerian. In some parts of this country, dogs are a prized delicacy. Killing them is a form of usage that definitely involves hurting them. Does that make it unethical, especially when more “appropriate” animals are killed for food far more frequently?

              • I haven’t worked out the exact ethical formula, but killing an animal to provide necessary nutrients/nourishment IS ethical even when harming one for other ends is UNethical…

                So that isn’t an objection.

                But based on what you’ve said so far, it would seem to me that it is unethical to step on a dog to reach something simply because dogs aren’t meant to be stepped on (some sort of esoteric standard?)

                Harm isn’t the ONLY ethical consideration when you decide to engage in reductio ad absurdum. Other factors come into play when you expand the scenario. But in this isolated episode, Harm would seem to be a major factor.

                • What is the issue at hand here?
                  A child is seen using a dog as a footstool. The person accused of inappropriate behaviour furnishes a similar picture as evidence of hypocrisy and confirmation bias.
                  Alexander Cheezem above claims that Palin’s photo is worse than de Generes’s because the dog was smaller. My reply was to his post. And it was that the size of dog is immaterial IN THIS CASE because dogs are not meant to be used as footstools. He appeared to suggest that Palin was somehow wrong, while de Generes was somehow right.
                  Your emphasis on harm for me is still immaterial. A dog is stood on first; harm results as a result of that action. You focus on effect. I focus on cause.

                  • What? I focus on cause and effect.

                    I’m baffled by this notion:

                    Your standard is based on what “is meant to be”…what does that even mean? What kind of secret knowledge is this based off? Seriously, I want to know, because standing on a dog to achieve an end is either ethical or unethical for *reasons* not because a dog isn’t “meant to be stood upon” even though a dog may be “meant to be eaten”. Come on. I’m looking for some exposition here.

                    Size sure does matter. You wouldn’t put a pony to plowing a field…such a tiny horse would merely suffer and eventually die of exhaustion having plowed next to nothing Whereas a great draft horse can be used for such an effort with no harm done and much accomplished.

                    Same thing with the dog. You are going to have to demonstrate WHY it is unethical to use this animal in this particular way to achieve that particular end, so far you have said harm doesn’t come into play and only have basically said “Just because”.

                    I think alot of the standing on the dog is Ick factor, and which is why harm/distress/pain matters, to the dog, the dog is simply being a loyal member of the pack…

                    And since harm/distress/pain matters, a larger animal is much less likely to be harmed…

                    You see, I can show why size matters…I’m still waiting for your explanation of “just because”.

                    • To be clear, this Ick Factor is a fair Ick Factor. Dogs symbolize far more than other animals in terms of human interactions and emotion. Therefore what we do to them is more a reflection on what we may be willing to do to others. So in this case it is alarming even though it is still just Ick.

                    • 1. Dogs are not footstools. My basic argument: if both Palin and de Generes use infants to demonstrate that they are footstools, one cannot be right and the other wrong.
                      2. Size may matter, but I do not see that it is not a relevant consideration here. The focus is upon a principle, ie, that humans should not use dogs as footstools, no matter how big or small they may be.
                      3. Your examples simply distract from the main issue. The latest one argues the appropriateness of a pony over a draft horse, but it ignores the fact that any horse, no matter its size, can be worked to death. The overriding principle would therefore be against overworking horses, not using ponies instead of draft horses.

      • The question is, what animal “usage” is ethical vs unethical. Seeing eye dogs are being “used” by the blind to help them reach things.

        My boy and I lay down on the floor reading a book together and sometimes we lay our heads on one of dogs. That’s “using” an animal “wrongly”, except it really isn’t. To the dog (and I even considered this before laying down like that) this is very solid pack behavior and the dog’s relationship in the family is strengthened as well.

        I think Jack’s standard of distress is what is key here. Not what our opinions of proper usage is… otherwise we apply a human psychology onto an animal…

        • If you and Harry want to talk about some serious working dogs, in harness, how about sled dogs up in the Arctic areas?

          • I’ve got no issue with using animals. I’m trying to get to Harry’s odd “meant to be” standard of ethics.

            At least “unnecessary harm” is a good standard.

      • If it was spontaneous and not related to smoking out hypocrites, I don’t see an issue. But:

        1) If it was a spontaneous image taken, then later realized to be an opportunity for a Gotcha Moment, this changes with intent. Trig may have been completely cool with the sharing of his image, but he wouldn’t have understood the complex political games being played after it was realized that a set up could be made.

        2) If it wasn’t spontaneous it is clearly using Trig as a tool.

      • I don’t know. Most kids are relatively naive to being taken advantage of and I’d say, despite the disability, Trig isn’t drastically more so. How old is he?

        Does taking advantage of someone become more unethical as ease of taking advantage of them increases due to disability?

        Of course we are called to protect the weak because they are weak and can’t protect themselves, but does that invert and make it much worse to harm the weak because they are weak than to the harm the strong?

  2. “[I]t’s unethical to post children’s photos on the web without their consent . . .”

    Out On Limb: I think it’s unethical to post anyone’s photo on the web (or anywhere else) without their consent — and in the case of most teens, I would say it’s unethical to post your own without parental consent — you have your future self to consider (if one can be unethical to oneself). Fine. I just wanted to get that out of my system. Too late to point out how anti-social “social media” actually is.

    I believe that this making a game or habit of invading privacy is no different than the worst of the business of it: photoshopping (is that a copywright?) to falsify ads, posting to no-limit jerks like Jimmy Kimmel, editing any so-called “reality” show, being a peeping paparazzo.

    Holding on Tight as Limb Creaks and Bends: The EA montages are brilliant: useful as shorthand reminders, intruiguing and disturbing come-on’s for posts, attractive and entertaining. The post illustration is almost always commentary in itself and, more specifically than in the montage, often serves as a memory fix for the content of the blog. These are recycled illustrations, used for a worthwhile, adult, well-declared purpose, therefore . . . ethical. In the same way that Lost-and-Found or Wanted posters out in public view are ethical.

    Going Boom: A child’s consent has no (adult) meaning; a child cannot begin to conceive of the consequences, analogies notwithstanding. It would be dependent on the attitude and word choice of the adult asking for it. A developmentally disabled child’s consent, depending on level of disability, might have no meaning whatsoever, may be mimicking the desire of the asking adult.

    Splattt: All I was going to do was ask how you would fix the child’s “Age of Consent.”

  3. I just am not getting what the fuss is, about the dogs. If a little kid is standing on a big dog, and if to the best knowledge of the adult observing, the dog is in good health and does not seem to mind being stood on, then I don’t see a problem. Size of kid, size and known temperament and condition of dog, and prior relationship between kid and dog seem to be all that matter.

    If the dog can’t tolerate being stood upon, it will move. If baby falls “boom” and gets a boo-boo because the dog moves, well, that’s how life’s knocks sometimes teach kids – like falling off a bicycle, or getting hit by a baseball.

    When I was a toddler, I learned not to move my face into close, hovering proximity to a dog’s face, when one of our family’s dogs gave me a little nip on my face for doing that. No blood, just a brief, stinging pain (and, probably, I was knocked down by the dog’s sudden bump). I probably climbed all over our dogs when I was a toddler, and probably stood on each of them for a moment at least, or tried to stand on them until they moved.

    I was never bitten, but probably came close to drawing a bite a couple of times and was rescued, thanks to parents and siblings who growled at me even more menacingly than whichever dog I started to touch while it was feeding. I do vividly remember one of our dogs growling as it fed, after I obliviously approached and started petting it. I had seen our dogs growl and bark at the garbage collectors and the mailman. I was already too scared to be near them when they acted, or start to act, like they acted around our garbage collectors and mailman. So the moment I heard that growling – also probably because I heard at the same time one or more family voices in their unmistakable (to a toddler) tone of disapproval-for-what-I-was doing – I quickly lost my obliviousness and became fearful, leaving the dog alone to feed.

  4. Lucky: “If the dog can’t tolerate being stood upon, it will move.”
    Texagg04: “I don’t think dogs in distress, discomfort, or pain will always show it.”

    When it comes to living creatures, the conditional (always) wins.

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