I’m pretty sure the Ethics Alarms 2016 Jerk of the Year Award was locked up a while ago, but two new challengers for the title at least strengthen the field:
1. Daniel Goldstein, attorney
Goldstein, in the cabin of a JetBlue flight on which Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, was also a passenger, verbally accosted the soon-to-be First Daughter before take-off. Holding a child in his arms, the New York lawyer started shouting, “Your father is ruining the country!” Then he asked, “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private!”
Ivanka, who had her own kids in tow, tried to ignore him and attend to her family until he was removed from the flight by JetBlue personnel. “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?” he yelled as he was led off the plane.
What a rude and obnoxious jerk.
- Goldstein was traveling with husband Matt Lasner, a Hunter College professor who teaches housing and urban planning. Lasner is also an outspoken Trump critic, and demonstrated though his supportive tweeting during the episode that he approves of harassing public figures when they are just minding their own business and trying to be parents, consumers, shoppers, theater patrons and citizens.
Lasner also revealed that Goldstein’s harassment was premeditated by the tweet above, which I’ll re-publish here for empahasis:
- Prof. Lasner also showed that he will attempt to airbrush history, tweeting about the incident later,
The tweet misrepresented the incident, as Goldstein was not “overheard,” nor did he, as the prof stated in another tweet, “express displeasure in a calm tone.” Then Lasner deleted the tweets, as in “Me sending tweets that show that I’m as big a jerk as my husband, and that I would lie to support a false narrative, thus indicating that I am untrustworthy as a teacher? I have no idea what you’re talking about!”
- This episode is even closer to one of my analogies for the harassment of Mike Pence by the cast of “Hamilton” than this one was, where a pro-Trump jerk started gloating about Clinton’s loss to passengers on a Delta flight. That was distinguished by some of the “Hamilton” cast defenders on the grounds that he didn’t direct his harassment at a specific individual. Well, now we have a passenger singling out a Trump-connected passenger just like the Hamilton “gang,” as in “cast behaving as gang,” singled out Mike Pence. Closer still would have been if the flight attendants had publicly lectured Ivanka at the end of the flight.
At at least the professor recognized, in moment of tweeting candor, what this kind of conduct is, either in a theater audience or on a commercial plane: harassment.
- Twitter has caused more intelligent, supposedly responsible people to publicly make asses of themselves in 2016 than ever before. It is obviously a vile creation of Satan that destroys ethics alarms.
On the good side, though, these Twitter revelations reveal to the rest of us what these people are really like when the alarms don’t ring.
- Are Democrats ever going to wake up, review their atrocious conduct in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, and think, “Oh, my GOD! What were we thinking? I am so embarrassed!”?
2. Lena Dunham
Actress, writer, feminist Lena Dunham attempted to surpass her own record for shoving both feet into her mouth when she said last week, “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”
This statement is so clearly wrong in so many ways, and so offensive to women on all ends of the abortion divide except fetus-killing fetishists, if there are such creatures, that I won’t waste space explicating why it caused a furor. Calibrating her popularity quotient and deciding it was time for a walk-back, Dunham today issued one of the most convoluted apologies ever, mixed in with Rationalization #54. The Joke Excuse, or “I was only kidding!”
Read it, if you can:
My latest podcast episode was meant to tell a multifaceted story about reproductive choice in America, to explain the many reasons women do or don’t choose to have children and what bodily autonomy really means. I’m so proud of the medley of voices in the episode. I truly hope a distasteful joke on my part won’t diminish the amazing work of all the women who participated. My words were spoken from a sort of “delusional girl” persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that’s what my TV show is too) and it didn’t translate. That’s my fault. I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else, and therefore own full responsibility for any words I speak that don’t convey this truth clearly. I know plenty of people will never like a thing that leaves my lips, mea culpas or no, but this apology is for the women who have placed their trust in me. You mean everything to me. My life is and always will be devoted to reproductive justice and freedom. You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar? Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds (https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion) in New York, Texas and Ohio. I look forward to fighting with you all for the next four years and beyond.
I. Oh, it was a joke? How could we have missed the humor?
Nothing about the statement, nor its context, resembled a joke.
2. “My words were spoken from a sort of “delusional girl” persona I often inhabit” is a version of the “it wasn’t me, it was a character I was speaking as for effect” excuse that comedians and performers often try when they make serious gaffes. The problem is that “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had” sounded exactly like Lena Dunham, a crude, crass, narcissist.
3. “I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy.” That’s odd: this is exactly what she did. If it wasn’t her, who was it? This edged into Pazuzu Excuse territory:
The Pazuzu Excuse: Pazuzu is the demon that possesses Regan, a 12-year-old girl, in the horror classic, “The Exorcist.” Reagan says horrible things when possessed, but of course, it isn’t really her talking. When public figures who have been recorded or videotaped saying hateful, bigoted, or otherwise offensive things claim that they “didn’t mean” what they said and that the sentiments “are antithetical to my real views,” they are refusing to be accountable for their own words by asserting that people just spontaneously, for example, denigrate Jews when they have never harbored an anti-Semitic thought in their lives. This absurd and cowardly excuse avoids accountability by suggesting that someone, or something else, was speaking…like the demon Pazuzu.
4. “I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else.” Ah! So when you make jokes about abortion, they are only unfunny jokes. Got it!
Verdict: What an idiot.
5. “This apology is for the women who have placed their trust in me.” This may require a new entry on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale: The Limited Scope Apology: I’m only apologizing to the people I care about. Everyone else: I don’t care.
6. “You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar? Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds …” ANOTHER new bad apology variation: the apology bribe. “Here, I’m giving money to a good cause. Now you have to forgive me!”