Announcing Two New Rationalizations: #24 “It’s My Right!” and #36 A. “You Were Warned”

yield_right_of_way_

The discussions on two recent posts revealed more holes in the Ethics Alarms Unethical Rationalizations List, and these two new additions fill them. I know there are more. #24 will take the place of the current #24, “The Free Speech Confusion,” which is now 24 A. It is properly a sub-rationalization of the new #24. #36 A is a new sub-category of #36, Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”

#24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)

In the climax of “Twelve Angry Men,” a juror who had been advocating a guilty verdict for a teenager accused of murdering his father finds himself the only remaining member of the jury who refuses to accept that there is reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. It is dawning on him that his certitude is based more on stubbornness, ego, emotion and bias than facts, but before he gives in, his last argument to support his vote is to shout, “It’s my right!” He finally realizes, however, that his right to be unjust doesn’t excuse him. We all have a right to do many terrible, unfair, wrongful and harmful things. People have a right to have children they can’t take care of, for example. They have a right to be unfaithful to their spouses, to misrepresent their affections to partners who think they are loved. Parents have a right to warp the values and education of their children. People have a right to accept jobs that they are unqualified to do well; they have a right not to retire long after they know they have become incompetent. We have a right to be biased, to be prejudiced, and to hate irrationally.  We have a right to vote, even if we vote ignorantly and without meeting our duty to be informed citizens. The issue in which this rationalization was raised on Ethics Alarms was a news story about a grandmother who killed her cat and kittens to punish her grandchildren. Yes, she had a right to kill them, for they were her property. A billionaire could buy a great work of art and destroy it on a whim, too. Gratuitous, wanton or cruel destruction of property that others derive joy or practical use from, however, is still unethical.

Yes, we often have a right to do something wrong. Using rights that way, however, is to abuse them

#36 A. The Extortionist’s Absolution (“You were warned!”)

#36, Victim Blindness, is the rationalization that attempts to shift responsibility for wrongdoing to the victims of it, who, the theory goes, knew or should have known that their actions would inspire the conduct that caused the harm, and thus it was their responsibility to either avoid doing what sparked the unethical response, or by not avoiding it, they waived their right to object to the results. The rationalization takes the side of the treacherous scorpion in the fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog.” #36 A, “Extortion Ethics,” takes that argument one step further, asserting that a victim’s defiance of a threat or warning that unethical conduct will be the response to an ethical action constitutes a waiver of ethical principles by the victim.

It doesn’t. The fact that a victim ignored a warning may make him guilty of negligence, or recklessness, or foolishness, or bad judgment, but it doesn’t mitigate the unethical quality of the threatened response in any way. The law takes the same approach. A “Trespassers will be shot!” sign doesn’t give a property owner the right to shoot trespassers with impunity. “The Extortionist’s Absolution” rationalizes that the threat “Do what I want or I’ll harm you!” removes all future ethical responsibility from the potential harm. This does not apply, of course, to a warning that is reasonable and justified,  of consequences that are proportionate, legal and fair.

.

9 thoughts on “Announcing Two New Rationalizations: #24 “It’s My Right!” and #36 A. “You Were Warned”

    • Of course she is. In the world of camp politics, we tend to lump all behaviors a person exhibits into this monstrous amalgamation and make judgements on the whole. It was her right to be a flaming racist, from which stemmed the cartoon contest, which was absolutely her right to have. But that doesn’t make her a less awful person for having done it. Being shot at by Muslim extremists as she was warned would happen was moral luck.

      That was a case where both people were wrong.

        • You know, I considered that even as I wrote it. She’s always very careful to say Muslims or Islamists, but she uses those words as synonyms for Arab people or people from the middle east. It’s kind of a blurred line. My point was that she’s bombastic and bigoted, regardless of the specific label we slap on her hate.

          • But it matters very much.

            Some cultures ARE backwards and savage and should not be held in high regard. And though one may be born into a particular culture, one is not compelled to be backwards and savage as a matter of ethnicity. Hence, no racism.

            Some cultures, though more advanced, contain backwards and savage characteristics. Some cultures, extremely advanced contain minute traces of barbarism.

            Some cultures wish to revert.

            There is nothing wrong with hold backwards and savage cultures in disdain. Nothing whatsoever — nor is there anything wrong with holding the barbaric aspects of less savage cultures in disdain.

            We won’t improve otherwise.

            In the case of Gellar, one must be careful to identify where she is being racist (which is wrong) and where she is being “culturalist” (which there is nothing wrong with)…

            • I don’t disagree with the backwardness of fundamentalist Islam, although I think that you’re using an amazingly broad brush there that if we applied to other religions and cultures would be disastrous. But that’s almost irrelevant, because Gellar doesn’t differentiate between Muslims and Non-Muslims so long as their skin happens to be brown. She just assumes all Arabs are Muslims and blasts hate on the race through proxy and coaches her words to make possible the distinction you just made for her.

              • “I think that you’re using an amazingly broad brush there that if we applied to other religions and cultures would be disastrous.”

                No broad brush at all. You may have missed where I distinctly stated that as cultures/societies/communities are further from barbarism, there still may be facets of their cultures worthy of disdain. That obviously states that it’s the components of the culture we hold in disdain. If some cultures seem to have nothing but disdainable qualities, then so be it. But of course, educated as we are, we know that no bad thing is 100% bad, nor good thing 100% good. I was very selective in my language to accommodate that.

                “But that’s almost irrelevant, because Gellar doesn’t differentiate between Muslims and Non-Muslims so long as their skin happens to be brown. She just assumes all Arabs are Muslims and blasts hate on the race through proxy…”

                I’ll just have to take your word for that, as I don’t pay any attention to her at all.

                “…and coaches her words to make possible the distinction you just made for her.”

                I didn’t make any distinction for her. The distinction between racism and “culturalism” would exist even if Geller didn’t.

  1. “but she uses those words as synonyms for Arab people or people from the middle east.”

    Really? How do you know that? This is the kind of weird analysis/thinking that leads to banning speakers.

    • It’s hard to pin down, because she hardly ever actually uses the words ‘middle easterner’ or ‘Arab’ (which is almost telling in itself), but she’ll do things like lump together groups without ties to, or with the most tenuous of ties to Muslims with Muslim groups to make points, and those group without fail are groups that offer things like language courses to middle eastern immigrants.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.