From Acculturated, A Perfect Rationalization #22

The post by Mike Judge on the pop culture site Acculturated is such a perfect example of The Worst of All Rationalizations, #22 The Comparative Virtue Excuse, that I might add a permanent link to it in the Rationalizations List.

In case you have been out of the Ethics Alarms loop, here is #22:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Judge spends his post, titled “Why Are Some Journalists Acting Like Snowflakes?,’ mocking journalists who complain when the President punches down at them, which is unethical conduct on his part, or when the public is openly hostile to reporters, which is wrong, but it is the escalating bias and trustworthiness of the news media that arouses the public’s ire. In contrast, he reminds us that George Orwell (above) was shot in the neck when he was on assignment as a reporter, that young reporter Ernest Hemingway was hit with a mortar in World War I, and that Woodward and Bernstein thought their lives were at risk.

Judge quotes an account by a reporter whose young child was worried because the President had called the news media “his enemies.” The boy wondered if his father would be safe.  Several journalists have found the tale ominous. This is liberal bedwetting, says Judge, but adds that even some conservatives are under what he regards as the same delusion:

…Writer George Will chimes in. “Every administration has grievances with the press,” he says. “Few administrations, if ever, have so enthusiastically embraced the idea of treating the press as an adversary and as a monolithic unit.”

It’s no delusion, though. The President did call the news media the enemy, and has encouraged public animus toward it. I have and will continue to defend Trump’s position, as most of the news media has all but declared itself dedicated to this President’s destruction, and proves that this is its agenda daily. I won’t defend attacking individual journalists, but Trump deriding the New York Times and CNN is exactly how Obama treated Fox News, but with more justification. At least there’s precedent.

However, it is clear to me that journalists just don’t get it. They are so biased and so certain of their own virtue that they cannot understand why they would be called “enemies” (Again: they are enemies because a healthy democracy requires an objective, competent, fair press, and they have deliberately abandoned that duty, endangering us all) Nevertheless, being attacked by the President of the United States and hated by much of the public is not easy to ignore, and journalist aren’t “snowflakes” because they react negatively to it.

I’m glad it bothers them. Maybe they’ll eventually be forced to look at how their own unethical conduct is undermining society and our democratic institutions.

Mike Judge thinks they can’t complain until they are shot in the neck.

34 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Rights

34 responses to “From Acculturated, A Perfect Rationalization #22

  1. JP

    I agree with your statements, but I think he has some merit, he just choose the wrong topic of conversation. If someone could legitimately cause fear to a journalist, it should be the president (though I don’t think he really has given them any reason).

    Ann Althouse wrote on the topic yesterday of someone (a man) saying “the only thing I believe in is the first amendment and boobs.” The reporter (female) instead of fighting back appeared to shut down and cut the broadcast. I’m not sure it was sexist (it doesn’t appear so) but it did seem to trigger her.

  2. isolumikko

    Orwell was in Spain as a soldier, not as a reporter. Mike Judge needs a fact-checker!

  3. Chris

    It’s Mark Judge. Mike Judge is the animator.

  4. Chris

    However, it is clear to me that journalists just don’t get it. They are so biased and so certain of their own virtue that they cannot understand why they would be called “enemies” (Again: they are enemies because a healthy democracy requires an objective, competent, fair press, and they have deliberately abandoned that duty, endangering us all)

    If the president abandons his duty to positively represent the United States on the world stage, endangering us all, would it be fair for the news media to describe him as “the enemy of the American people?”

    • Jeff

      I would submit that the criteria are for “positively representing the United States on the world stage” are something that should be determined by the people (through the mechanism of elections), not the press.

      • Chris

        I would agree, but I’d add add that the criteria for an “enemy of the people” should be determined by more than a tweet.

        • Rusty Rebar

          And how is it not? Did President Trumps tweet cause the DOD to start drone striking reporters? Did the FBI suddenly declare the WaPo a terrorist organization because of this tweet?

          It is a tweet, it has no relevance except in a persuasion game that everyone involved is up to their necks in. Twitter is not an official communications medium, for fucks sake, you only get 140 char in a tweet. Trump is good at using it, better than any other politician, and possible public figure. He uses it to piss off the left, while thrilling his base. If you do not like how he uses it, feel free to not elect him next time, but don’t give me this false narrative that suddenly because Trump tweeted something that the whole world has turned upside down.

          • Chris

            It’s irresponsible language. The media declaring the president the “enemy of the people” would also “have no relevance except in a persuasion game,” and it would still be wrong. Please don’t put words in my mouth or exaggerate my arguments.

    • If the president abandons his duty to positively represent the United States on the world stage, endangering us all, would it be fair for the news media to describe him as “the enemy of the American people?”

      What, like Obama? You think Obama’s apology tour made us safer? How about his hapless foreign policy? Red line, anyone?

      Trump has said things, so far. Obama DID things to make us less safe.

      • Chris

        Non-responsive. Try again.

        • Nice deflection. No need to try again, as my objective was met.

          It is called a comment, Chris, showing how the shoe fits on the other foot. A great way to self reflect on one’s positions and determine if bias influenced them.

          • Chris

            You were actually deflecting, by responding to my question with more questions instead of answering the one I posed.

            But I’ll answer you anyway. There was no “apology tour,” so your first question is based on a false right-wing meme. I do agree that some of Obama’s policies made us less safe. Your idea that Trump hasn’t done anything to make us less safe is naive, though–most national security advisers agree that the travel ban does exactly that.

            Anyway, I’d answer my question by saying that no, a president’s actions making the nation less safe wouldn’t justify calling him the “enemy of the people”–but nor would journalists making us less safe justify that label either.

            How would you answer?

            • I think it would be so much simpler if people just agreed on basic facts…. What conservatives call an “apology tour” isn’t some kind of urban legend… It’s based on events that did in fact happen…. Obama did go around the world, giving speeches that did not cast America in the most favorable of light. Progressives get really hung up on the fact that he did not say the words “I’m sorry” Or “America is bad and icky”, but especially for an incoming president of a country at war… It was weak. You could make the argument that it was “conciliatory” in nature, or something, but what you’d have a hell of a time arguing is that Obama’s speeches were in the best interests of America. Looking back, it’s like he was trying to be the world’s president first, and POTUS second.

        • It was… but not in the way you think. In a lot of ways, Trump is an unflattering reflection of Obama… They are both deeply divisive, they seem to have flat learning curves, and the proponents of the policies they espouse seem to stand by them regardless of the problems they exhibit…. Trump’s are just much more apparent.

          It must be unflattering, I’d imagine, to be on the left side of the political spectrum and ponder on this… Because the difference, I think, is in the reaction from the ground; Whereas Obama was offensive to the sensibilities of conservatives in Much the same way Trump is to Democrats, conservatives were generally better behaved, and the left leaning media has utterly debased itself.

          Trump is not a more or less existential threat to America than Obama was, Obama’s policies weakened your presence abroad, and he projected about as much strength as a pool noodle, coupled with a general disdain for the process of governance and rule of law. Trump on the other hand… People don’t like him, but he projects a certain kind of unsettling strength. Perhaps similar to a vintage WWII grenade that ticks every now and again. And while he says and tweets bombastically, so far he has stayed within the rules of the system, no matter how much you’d like to pretend that he hasn’t.

          I’m sure we disagree on much of that, but think on this: What if you’re wrong? What if I’m right? What if the fact of the matter is that despite the man being a national embarrassment, he’s not actually a Russian sleeper agent about to send America’s own nukes at itself? What does that say about the heavy breathing over reactors that have consistently fell for whatever half baked narrative has come their way? What does that say about you?

          • Chris

            What if you answered my question? 😉

            • If the question is “If the president abandons his duty to positively represent the United States on the world stage, endangering us all, would it be fair for the news media to describe him as “the enemy of the American people?””

              Then no, I don’t think so. I’m not a historian by any stretch of the imagination, but this seems like a new low, with the previous low water mark was the Joe McCarthy era. Even the most bumbling and inept of
              American presidents were a) duly elected and b) were elected on the auspices that they wanted to do what was right for the American people.

              But more than that…. Fuck the world stage. No, really. Sometimes what is right for America will be unpopular on the world stage, but it will still be the best thing for Americans. Even if you wanted to make some kind of negative consequences argument… In an era where the world literally stood by while Russia took chunks out of the Ukraine, Trump hasn’t even stepped into the ballpark of things the world will actually react to.

              • Chris

                Thanks. So you do not believe it is appropriate for the media to declare a president who abandons his duty to positively represent the United States on the world stage, endangering us all, as an “enemy of the people.” I agree.

                Do you believe it is appropriate for the president to declare the media the “enemy of the people” if they have abandoned their duty as an objective, competent, and fair press, endangering us all?

                • Appropriate? Hell no. But Trump doesn’t seem overly concerned with appropriateness. Is it tolerable? I think it has to be. You tolerate a baby crying, you don’t have to like it. Trump isn’t going to become a well spoken universal unifier overnight. This is a Julie principle moment, if you can’t get past the Trumpisms, you’re going to miss a lot of the conversation.

                  • Chris

                    Is a president who calls the media the “enemy of the people” any more tolerable than a media that calls the president the same? If so, why?

                    • I think you’re confusing “tolerance” with “acceptance”. Yes you tolerate both.

                    • Chris

                      I wouldn’t call the stance toward the media on this blog “tolerance.” Their flaws are constantly help up to critique, as they should be, while we’re told Trump’s flaws don’t matter and should be ignored because “that’s just who he is.”

                    • I’ve made the distinction clear (and I have never, never said that Trump’s flaws don’t matter) for anyone being honest and paying attention. Journalism’s job is to convey facts objectively, and not be partisan to any side. The President’s job is to make the country succeed, protect the Constitution and keep it safe. Sometimes that job requires not conveying facts, though a part of the job is modeling values and ethics. However, a President who lies can still be an effective and strong President. (FDR lied constantly, as one example of many) A journalist who lies is not doing his or her job. Equating the President and journalists, two different professions with different ethics rules, duties and mandates, is lazy and a facile way to take cheap shots while making excuses for our crumbling and untrustworthy newsmedia.

  5. Again: they are enemies because a healthy democracy requires an objective, competent, fair press, and they have deliberately abandoned that duty, endangering us all.

    It seems to me that if there existed — truly existed — 1) a competent, fair press, and 2) a healthy democracy, that it would be a press involved in a radical project of telling the truth about real power-weilding in the US, the real result of its extreme war-mongering, the direct collusion of shadowy intelligence operatives in the manipulation of people’s perception and understanding. I am actually saying this from what I understand as a necessary conservative perspective: something truly Constitutional.

    If there were a real and genuine unfolding of truth, and if people were made to underatand the profound levels of corruption and the degree to which democracy ( ::: sputter, cough, laugh ::: ) has been subverted, there would be provoked a societal reaction, which is the worst thing that could ever happen from the perspective of *the powers that be* and the corrupt governmental-corporate order.

    The Media System is completely bound up into the same nexus and the distribution of information occurs through an elaborate platform which is the system itself. It seems impossible that it could be allowed that some agent within the system (a journalist) should even be seen as capable of truth-telling.

    J. Huizinga wrote a treatise entitled ‘Homo Ludens: The Study of the Play Element in Culture’. Ludens is Latin for play or game. His thesis is that ‘games’ and ‘play’ run through even solemn rehearsals. I suggest that Our Present, more especially now as the innards of power are more exposed and the machinery of power has been more exposed — that is, the terrible deception to provoke and allow endless ‘war against terror’ which amounts to another octave of ‘coup’ and the institutionalization of the war-system and the revealed knowledge of a NSA State — has essentially exposed the truth that democracy as it has even been understood is now an open sham. A joke. Therefor, it requires a deliberate agreement to participate — to play! — in the false-perception that 1) there is a democratic system and 2) that we will even get truth from the very structures which have, openly now, subverted the constitutional system.

    Or is what I say … too pessimistic?

    In any case, I will sit here awaiting vaporization. I don’t have much to leave behind. I hope that my books at least will be taken care of. I guess I’ll only live on in my various inscriptions!

    Adieu, deceptive Reality! I always knew there was somthing fishy about you. 😉

    • Chris

      It seems to me that if there existed — truly existed — 1) a competent, fair press, and 2) a healthy democracy, that it would be a press involved in a radical project of telling the truth about real power-weilding in the US, the real result of its extreme war-mongering, the direct collusion of shadowy intelligence operatives…

      To paraphrase Liz Lemon: Ugh, just say “Jewish bankers,” this is taking forever.

      • I did not know who ‘Liz Lemon’ was. I looked her up and found a vid of three minutes of her one-liners. If you spend any more than that of your precious incarnation listening to her, get help!

        In the aftermath of the ACW there soon came the Philippine War and the Cuban War. It really seems to be located there, this shift to a War System. It has not stopped.

  6. Wayne

    Again Hemingway at this time was an ambulance driver, not a reporter. It is true that he was hit by mortar shell shrapnel while handing out chocolates to Italian troops. No good deed remains unpunished: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ernest-hemingway-wounded-on-the-italian-front

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