The Jerk On The Plane: Boy, I Hate It When My Hypotheticals Come To Life…

It would have been OK, if he was black and his rant was scripted by a genius...

It would have been OK, if he was black and his rant was scripted by a genius…

On a recent Delta flight from Atlanta, a young man stood up before take-off and started harassing his fellow-passengers with a pro-Trump rant,  yelling “Donald Trump baby!” and “We got some Hillary bitches on here?” while pointing at individual travelers. He also said, “Donald Trump is your President. Every god damn one of you. If you don’t like it, too bad.” Delta initially removed him, but returned him to the cabin. According to one witness, upon returning the man said, “This is what you get for being a patriot.”

He’s an idiot, of course, and there’s no excuse for his conduct. And yet…

How different is what he did, and what the “Hamilton” actors did? Not much. Neither the “Hamilton” audience members nor the passengers bought tickets to be subjected to this. Both were captive audiences. The conduct in both cases constituted harassment. The clearest distinction was that the jerk on the plane wasn’t an employee; if he had been a flight attendant, the incidents would have been even more similar. The jerk on the plane didn’t single out a particular passenger by name, making his conduct better, not worse, than what the “Hamilton” cast did.  On the plane, passengers hadn’t previously jeered the Hillary Clinton voters among them, so the intimidation factor Pence experienced was absent, and it was only one passenger, not a passenger with an imposing  line of others backing him up, like the wall of actors behind Brandon Victor Dixon.

Every single unethical rationalization that has been used to support the conduct of the “Hamilton” actors could just as reasonably —as in not—be used to justify the screaming Trump supporter. The harassment of Pence was after the performance, you say? The harassment of the passengers occurred before the flight. Was he just engaging in a “conversation,” as the “Hamilton” cast disingenuously described their stunt? Well, it was a lot closer to a conversation than what “Hamilton” did. For one thing, the Delta passenger wasn’t scripted.

I blame “Hamilton” and its cast’s defenders in the theater community and the news media for this. Absolutely. The absurd excuses offered for the cast’s clearly unethical conduct made this similarly rude and unfair conduct inevitable. Why aren’t the self-righteous and hypocritical “Hamilton” fans defending the Delta Deplorable? Because their excuses and rationalizations can’t apply to him–he’s not in the right! Can’t you see that? His targets didn’t deserve this, not like Mike Pence, who forfeited his right to be treated like every other audience member for centuries, including elected officials, because he holds the wrong political views!

Shatter reasonable and effective societal and professional norms that have worked well for centuries to allow self-indulgent grandstanding, and this is what happens.

Thanks, “Hamilton”! You just gave  license to rude, disruptive, partisan jerks everywhere.

28 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics

28 responses to “The Jerk On The Plane: Boy, I Hate It When My Hypotheticals Come To Life…

  1. The plane stopped with a jerk and I got off.

  2. Other Bill

    Frankly, it’s kind of encouraging the guy was dealt with appropriately and no one came to his defense. Nor is he being uniformly lauded. I’ll take it as a good sign.

  3. charlesgreen

    “How different is what he did, and what the “Hamilton” actors did? Not much.”

    Oh please.

    I grant you some surface similarities, but not necessarily the ones you cite, and you’re ignoring some basic differences.

    You say they were both “captive audiences.” Except, oddly enough. for Pence, who was in process of leaving, and chose of his own volition to remain in the hallway. Far from captive. Unlike the folks in the plane.

    The biggest difference seems obvious to me – it is decorum, civility, something sadly lacking lately in our public discourse.
    –The airplane dude refers to his (truly captive) audience as ‘bitches.’
    –The actor said, “We welcome you sir and we truly thank you for joining us.”

    There IS a difference, and I truly hope people continue to find it a significant one.

  4. Becky

    Do you really think this guy heard about the Hamilton stuff? Nope. This guy was a turd to people before the election, and just feels more justified in it now, I’d bet. Jerks abound.

    • R David Kryder

      Calling someone you don’t know a “turd” is quite special, too. Did your mother teach you such conversational habits? Or, did you learn this on your own?

      This is NOT a way to lead toward civil discourse, is it?

      • R David Kryder said, “Calling someone you don’t know a “turd” is quite special, too. Did your mother teach you such conversational habits? Or, did you learn this on your own?”

        Maybe you’d think calling him an unethical asshole would be more appropriate?

        R David Kryder said, This is NOT a way to lead toward civil discourse, is it?”

        Neither is what this guy did on the plane. That turd on the plane is an unethical asshole, just like the unethical asshole(s) on the stage at Hamilton.

    • You’d have to convince me that he threw tantrums on planes before the Hamilton thing. I don’t think so. Coincidence? These breakdowns in social rules have a wave-like quality…the Hamilton episode could affect his conduct without his directly knowing about it.

    • What becky, no initial thoughts of “BRAVO” for the actions taken by this guy exercising his free speech rights in a “public” place with a captive audience?

      Becky said, “This guy was a turd to people before the election, and just feels more justified in it now, I’d bet.”

      Please consider that the Hamilton case were turds to people before the election, and just feel more justified in it now, I’d bet.

      Becky said, “Jerks abound.”

      I agree.

      • Becky

        I have encountered many people who behave like turds, and Jack and I have worked together with a few. If we could track this guy down, I would actually eat my hat (I have a few to choose from) if this was his FIRST public misbehavior. Perhaps it was his worst ever. I’d love to chat with the people who went through school with him and see. I’ve known people who are publicly unethical and turdish all my ife, and some don’t grow out of it. If he comes on Ethics Alarms and calls me out, especially with explanation and an apology to those he wronged, I’d apologize and eat a hat. I really think that there are people who are throwing bigger tantrums now, because our PEOTUS behaved awfully on the stump. Jack’s right in that there is more coming, from both sides, because now both sides are abandoning the former rule book. It’s not good for anyone. My mom has nothing to do with this, as I’m an adult responsible for my own actions.

        • Really Becky?

          Nothing you wrote contradicted anything I wrote, nothing; in fact you really didn’t address anything I wrote (why not), it was just trying to prop up some kind of justification on top of the already bogged down initial two assumptions.

          You may be completely right about this guy but you also may be completely wrong; you have absolutely no idea what lead up to this “spontaneous” outburst.

          My experience is that people that make hat eating bets about someone’s overall character usually end up with threads stuck in their teeth especially when all they have is one piece of information and a pile of assumptions.

          What that “turd” did on the plane made him an unethical asshole just like the unethical asshole(s) on the stage at Hamilton.

          • Becky

            I still think he behaved like a turd and didn’t get to that age without previous turd behavior. Signature significance for those meeting him the first time, as Jack calls it. I am not called to bring out any evidence, I’m just stating my opinion. I just don’t think the Hamilton thing sparked this guy. I think he spouted off before, and has perhaps gotten louder/coarser since PEOTUS has been on the TV 24/7 news cycle for so long. If he were just screaming about his own experience and life, maybe it’s just a bad day. But when he brings up the name and brings politics and name-calling into it with strangers?

            I think part of your reaction to this was my sentence structure. If I’d put “I’d bet” at the front instead of at the end, would it have gotten you so riled? I agreed with Jack already about the Hamilton issue- my Liberal side bowed to my ethical side after my initial reaction (which you clearly remember)- they were in the wrong, as Jack says.

            I hate to say, though, that whatever the cause (the reasons are myriad), this is happening more and more. And no matter the content, we are all poorer for it.

            • Becky said, “I think part of your reaction to this was my sentence structure. If I’d put “I’d bet” at the front instead of at the end, would it have gotten you so riled?”

              Two things about that Becky;

              First, I really don’t care about sentence structure, I try to blow off any such petty things and try to understand the content of what was written.

              Second; If you actually think I was “so riled” then you really don’t know me very well; I was blunt, as I usually am, but not riled. If you read more of my comments you’ll get to know when I’m riled, “so riled”, angry, or well beyond angry.

              Becky said, “I hate to say, though, that whatever the cause (the reasons are myriad), this is happening more and more. And no matter the content, we are all poorer for it.”

              We agree on that point.

              The core cause is society is performing an Ethical Flush; it’s been happening for at least the last forty years, it kicked into high gear over the last eight years, and right now it’s rapidly approaching a full blown morally bankrupt driven explosion.

  5. Agree in so many ways. But: I’m not sure I’d say it’s “unethical” to be total jerk or asshole, or even grossly uncivil (like this guy). Even on an airplane.

    That was one of my points last week over the Hamilton kerfuffle. Of course we want to raise people who aren’t such louts … but was it unethical? Rude, disrespectful? Absolutely. But I’m not sure I’d call it unethical. But I’m open to seeing the point.

    Perhaps we just must define more precisely what we mean by unethical.

    Related to Hamilton? Yes. But given license by it? Probably not. Jerks have always been with us. The [liberal-biased] media reports that [right-wing/”alt-right”/Trumpist] haters feel more free and accepted to hate, and openly, now that Trump has been elected. And of each side claims it is less hateful. But I’m not sure there is a causal relationship between the two.

    In any case, this aireplane moron is rude, as, by the same logic, were the Hamilton people.

    I think this ends up getting into what we mean by “ethical” and “unethical,” which is not an unimportant thing to discuss.

    Thanks for bringing this to light, Jack.

    • My ethics definition is pretty straightforward in this kind of instance: is an ethical value breached? Yes: respect, fairness, empathy How about ethical systems? Reciprocity (would you want to be be berated in a plane? Lectured in an audience?) Utilitarianism: what are the real benefits of these rude outbursts? As far as I can see, all they do is make the grandstanders happy at the target’s expense–there’s no tangible benefit to balance the harm to others.

      • Jack, I think we should encourage the unstable ones to self-identify themselves through such outbursts. It would avoid our wasting time in getting to know them and it would allow us to keep a safe distance from them for those occasions when those loose screws become shrapnel. The early identification of several such persons certainly would have made my life less eventful and probably more satisfying.

  6. Dwayne N. Zechman

    Man on Delta flight: “Donald Trump is your President. Every god damn one of you. If you don’t like it, too bad.”

    Dwayne: “Wrong. Barack Obama is my President, until January 20th, 2017. THEN Donald Trump becomes my President. Now sit down and learn a thing or two about how your country actually works before shooting off your mouth, moron.” *

    –Dwayne

    * Inspired by Jack’s hypothetical trip to the theater to see Hamilton.

  7. “That was one of my points last week over the Hamilton kerfuffle. Of course we want to raise people who aren’t such louts … but was it unethical? Rude, disrespectful? Absolutely. But I’m not sure I’d call it unethical. But I’m open to seeing the point.”

    Jack makes a case for this being unethical. We need to remember that it’s also legal and needs to stay legal. Not consequence free, but legal and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

    I’d say this might be prompted by the Hamilton thing, but it’s more likely that it’s prompted by the increasingly bad behavior by idiots with an agenda and the double standard we see in how these incidents are handled by popular culture.

  8. Chris

    As you could probably guess, I find this comparison ridiculous. Let’s count the differences:

    1) This man was lecturing civilians, not someone about to become the second-most powerful person in the world (possibly first, if he ends up doing all the work, as is highly likely). There is no “speaking truth to power” excuse here; he was just being a dick.

    2) Unlike a theater after a show is over, once you’re on a plane, you cannot leave.

    3) His remarks were not civil or respectful, as the cast of Hamilton’s were. (I know you keep saying that the contents of the message don’t matter; you can keep saying it as much as you want, but that won’t make it true.) The cast of Hamilton was expressing their concerns and imploring the incoming VP to stand for their rights. No such case was made by this passenger.

    4) The cast and crew of a show have a certain measure of discretion in deciding what to say to their audience. It’s their show, and their audience. A random passenger on a plane has no such discretion; no one on that plane is there to see them. The passengers are not their audience.

    5) All of the above can be true, and the “Hamilton” case could still be unethical. But if so, it’s unethical for entirely different reasons.

    • All lame, Chris:

      1) This man was lecturing civilians, not someone about to become the second-most powerful person in the world (possibly first, if he ends up doing all the work, as is highly likely).

      This isn’t a military dictatorship, but a citizen government. Pence wouldn’t be due any special privileges as an audience member, and he isn’t asking for any special discourtesies either. This is the “but he’s special!” rationalization. No, he’s not. The same rules apply to all passengers and all audience members.

      There is no “speaking truth to power” excuse here; he was just being a dick.

      Speaking “truth to power” in a captive setting, when he’s off the job, in an ambush, when an official is exercising his rights to be a citizen, in a manner that the profession considers unprofessional and inappropriate as well as presumptuous IS being a dick. Many dicks, in this case.

      2) Unlike a theater after a show is over, once you’re on a plane, you cannot leave.

      They could leave, though not easily; the plane hadn’t left the gate. I have left a plane in that situation. Pence could not realistically leave without being accused of fleeing. The rest of the audience, however, definitely couldn’t leave. The ethical way to do this is to announce what is coming and give those who don’t want to hear a bunch of semi-literate actors lecture them on law and justice a chance to go home and organize their sock drawers.

      3) His remarks were not civil or respectful, as the cast of Hamilton’s were. (I know you keep saying that the contents of the message don’t matter; you can keep saying it as much as you want, but that won’t make it true.)

      It IS true. My saying it doesn’t need to make it true. Harassment doesn’t have to be uncivil. The issue is whether it is threatening, unwelcome, and creates a hostile environment. Check, check, check.

      The cast of Hamilton was expressing their concerns and imploring the incoming VP to stand for their rights.

      Not the time nor the place, and again, the contents of the “message” don’t matter. They have no right to hijack the venue or to assert special privileges because they performed a show. Just like the passenger has no special privileges.

      4) The cast and crew of a show have a certain measure of discretion in deciding what to say to their audience.

      No they don’t! Where did you get that idea? It’s simply not true.

      It’s their show, and their audience.

      It’s not their THEATER, which is the venue for which admission has been purchased. The audience paid to be transported to the universe of “Hamilton,’ and not to be harangued by self-anointed social justice warriors. Take it outside.

      A random passenger on a plane has no such discretion; no one on that plane is there to see them. The passengers are not their audience.

      No one in the audience is there to see or hear an actor out of character, either.

  9. luckyesteeyoreman

    Jack, sincere question: Any chance the jerk will be put on a no-fly list?

  10. THE Bill

    I don’t blame Hamilton for this guys rude behavior.

    I blame the parents of the cast of Hamilton and this guys parents lots of other parents of their generation who taught their children that only their opinion and theirs only matters.

    I do think that their is a difference though between these two.

    This idiot came very close to committing a crime . I could see how he could be charged for disrupting a flight, although I don’t know if it would stick.

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