Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/3/2017: In the Wake Of Las Vegas…”

Michael R. has been a stand-out commenter at Ethics Alarms since the blog’s inception. He also has been missing in action for more than a year. Thus it was a pleasure not only to see him back on the field of ethics battle, but arriving with a Comment of the Day. Michael takes off from the discussion of the national reaction to Stephen Paddock’s puzzling rampage to examine the state of trust in our society. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/3/2017: In the Wake Of Las Vegas…

I think the worst part of the aftermath of this tragedy is I don’t know who to trust. Should I trust reporting on this event that comes from CBS after their vice president announced on social media that she had no sympathy for the victims because many were Republicans? When President Obama tweeted “A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the internet with no background check, no questions asked.” — @POTUS #StopGunViolence”, the media fact-checked this and stated it was ‘mostly true’, so should I trust any of them? What news outlet can I trust to give me a truthful account of what happened?

Should I trust the FBI? James Hodgkinson was a member of numerous anti-Republican newsgroups (like “Terminate the Republican Party”), believed Donald Trump was president because of Russian collusion, took photos of the baseball field after the New York Times published an article on where and when the Congressmen would practice as well as the fact that there would be little security, traveled to the D.C. area and was living out of his van right next to the baseball field for days before the attack, Googled “2017 Republican Convention” hours before the attack, and asked “Is this the Republican or Democratic team?” before firing on the Republican Congressmen. This man shot up a bunch of Congressmen and what did the FBI say about all this? They said that Hodgkinson “…had no target in mind” when he shot them, that they didn’t know who he planned on targeting, and that he may have just “happened upon” the baseball game and “spontaneously” started shooting. Should I trust the FBI on this one? All the information at the beginning of this paragraph was from the FBI and the latter part is the conclusion they drew from the info. The FBI also said they didn’t wiretap Trump Tower, then admitted that they did…at least twice.

Very little of substance is being released about Stephen Paddock. It appears he was an unbelievable gambler, winning tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars regularly, with over 200 law enforcement reports of his financial transactions in the last 3 years (over $10,000, I assume). His girlfriend was a bigamist, had two Social Security cards with different birthdates (and years), and was in the Philippines where he transferred at least $100,000 to her recently. The press and FBI have been reporting this as if it is unremarkable. But what if this guy was subscribing to a bunch of Islamist discussion groups? What if he wasn’t an unbelievable gambler, but was laundering money for ISIS (you put tens of thousands in a slot machine, spin a few times, hit print, and claim the ‘winnings’ as legal gambling revenue) and sending it off to Muslim terrorists in the Phillippines? Would the FBI tell me or would they just say “…there is no apparent motive.” Would the press tell me either?

This lack of credibility in our government and press makes incidents like this even worse for society. It makes us more alone, afraid, and susceptible to conspiracy theories. I suspect that was the point of destroying those institutions and the frightening thing is that I don’t know how we will get them back.


26 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/3/2017: In the Wake Of Las Vegas…”

  1. Congrats on the COTD, Michael.

    after the New York Times published an article on where and when the Congressmen would practice as well as the fact that there would be little security

    Can you link to this article?

    This man shot up a bunch of Congressmen and what did the FBI say about all this? They said that Hodgkinson “…had no target in mind” when he shot them, that they didn’t know who he planned on targeting, and that he may have just “happened upon” the baseball game and “spontaneously” started shooting.

    Can you cite where the FBI said all this? I did Google this one myself, and found this release by the FBI, but none of the quoted phrases you have in your description are in that release; the word “spontaneously” isn’t in it at all. It’s possible they issued another release separate from this one, though.

    The FBI also said they didn’t wiretap Trump Tower, then admitted that they did…at least twice.

    This part is simply wrong. The FBI has not admitted to wiretapping Trump Tower at all.

  2. It seems to me, Michael, that you are making a reference to an important, and a larger, phenomenon. And that is that many people have lost or are losing their trust in the very structure of their world. I could have put *world* in quotes to stress a sort of unreality, a loss of grasp of what is real and what is not.

    While I think it is quite interesting, I have noticed that other people are less moved by the idea, but that idea is that many people are losing, or perhaps they have lost, confidence in their ability to interpret their world. I mean this on a psycho-spiritual level, at the level of their persons, internally, fundamentally. It is quite possible for two people to share the same space and yet to exist in very different *worlds* and to be *worlds apart*. That is a recipe for pain and discomfort.

    When you speak of ‘lack of credibility of the government’ and extend it to the media and notice that it isolates people, I am interested in that observation because, as you say, it leads to isolation, fear, a sense of being disconnected or perhaps undermined is the right word. The question is How to find one’s bearings? And solidarity with the people around one?

    But isolation and anomie it seems like an effect of a larger cause which few can name and fewer can offer a remedy.

    As a result of the time I have spent on this Blog, and for so many reasons that I could not enumerate, it has become clear to me that the solution, to the larger and the most devastating problem, which is at base a war-culture that has been established as normalcy, is the study of peace. Peace studies. Sounds like a hippy’s project but I think it has to be taken seriously. One has to become willing to study all that creates non-peacefulness. And to take a stand against what disturbs or destroys peace.

    Graeme MacQueen is the one that brought the idea home to me (YouTube: ‘The fictional basis of the war on terror’). I suggest that not only our society but in a sense our age has been hijacked by forces that are difficult to name without it sounding ‘conspiratorial’. And it requires a demanding project of interpretation to understand it. MacQueen is interesting because he was trained as an interpreter of texts in comparative religion. To understand what is going on, and to be able to reveal it, is a exegetical feat!

  3. Benjamin R wrote: “I think some people just want to blame Islam for everything.”

    To make sense of this statement — if it contains truth — requires presentation of a good number of anterior facts. After laying out these facts I think one would be led to conclude that Islam has become a ‘chosen enemy’. A sought and a discovered enemy. I am surely rervealing some of my own *interpretive structure*. Look to the war-machine, to the war-economy, and to the need to have an enemy toward which to direct one’s emotions. Or perhaps I overdramatize my assertion? 😉

    • I think you may be, Alizia. Keep in mind ‘1984’ is post-apocalyptic and fiction to boot. Unless you want to consider the Crusades sufficient motivation to attack US (and keep in mind that Christianity lost in the final out-come), Islam attacked US on 9/11, not vice-versa.
      And for no apparent or stated reason, other than that we were ‘infidels’. I would be inclined to say that the ‘Hatred’ is on their end, not ours.

      • I find myself in a quandary — an ethical and a moral quandary to be exact. The thrust of this blog, that is if ethics is taken seriously, demands it. One should demand it of oneself. But as I have said time and again: everywhere I turn I find that I am being lied to. Now, I cannot make you see and understand what I see and understand, and I have no idea where or how you find truth, but I have a problem when I have to confront people who seem to me unwilling to examine issues with a true, truth-seeking spirit. I have also noticed that people’s ‘structure of self’ gets bound up with the story they tell themselves about themselves and about their country. I consider it normal and actually quite natural. People are complict in lies not through malice but through a sort of inevitablity. With that in mind I have noticed that those who are the most complict (ie invested) are the ones who necessarily must lie. The structure of their illusions hangs on their success in obscuring the truth to their self.

        I take these things as axioms of people’s investment in their belief-system, national narrative, etc. Thus, ‘truth’ in the full sense is pretty hard to arrive at.

        I make a very different interpretation of post-WW2 history than most on this blog. The reason is, I suppose, that you seem to be patriot-apologists for the Nation of the US — the nation usurped by interests inimical to the Republican vision — and feel obligated to defend what I think needs critique, not defense. All that I would say to this can be expressed in conservative terms, not in Marxist terms.

        What *you* seem unable and unwilling to grasp is how a war-economy has been established and how fundamental it has become to the economy and the political-industrial structure of the country. You block it out, or justify it, and refuse to see that foreign entanglements and neo-imperialism — totally inimical to the values of the republic — have embedded themselves quite literally like a cancerous disease. And the disease is visibly killing the political body. How can you not see what I see? And why won’t you look at what I am willing to look at? What stands to be lost, for you?

        I think you fail to grasp Orwell if you choose not to understand how he was influenced bu his time in the war-department working directly with war propaganda. I think you fail to understand *what Orwell means* if you fail to grasp what occurs when a country’s foreign policies are ‘infected’, as it were, by militarty-propaganda narrtives, but more specifically when the war-industry throug its intelligence branches usurps the republican forms.

        This can all be done strictly from argument according to conservative principles.

        • Fear has been the currency of politics for longer then anyone on earth has been alive, and will continue to remain the main currency so long as good people allow it. Post-WWII history is filled with fear-mongering from all political parties, all large countries, and all spectrum of the global elite. Some is rather benign, worrying about who has the nicest house on the block, while others are rather malignant, McCarthy comes to mind.

          In undergrad, too many years ago to admit, I took a class that introduced me to Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. It is critical to note that just above physiological needs, is safety needs (security and safety). Most “first world” people like to think of themselves as climbing the top of the pyramid, to self-actualization, but the truth is that many are not even close to the middle. Politicians, while often looking like utter tools, are not complete fools, and play to the masses and their incumbent fears. Is it any surprise, that after 70 years of fear-mongering that we live as close to Orwell’s 1984 as we do?

          Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, like to point the finger at the other side and talk about how bad the “others” are, but the reality is its two peas in the same pod. If you really think that the Democrat politicians care about transgender and black lives, or that the Republican politicians care about gun rights or abortion, you are either gullible, a fool, or simply willfully ignorant. They care only about maintaining the status quo.

          Of those few of us willing to look at our own country, and recognize the flaws, there is little room for honest debate. Thanks to decades of political intolerance, “debate” no longer means what it should mean, and the reality is too often a line in the sand has been drawn. Unfortunately, there are no signs of this trend stopping anytime soon. Personally, my biggest fear isnt 8 years of Trump, but rather the pendulum swinging back and then getting 8 years of someone from the progressives that makes Trump look centrist, followed by 8 years of someone that makes that look centrist. The pendulum must be caught, and restarted if all of human society is to regain its footing and restart climbing Maslow’s pyramid.

          For as long as I can remember, my parents always registered one as Republican and one as Democrat. When I got old enough to ask why, my father said that 40% of Americans would vote for Hitler if he was running against Jesus simply because he was a Democrat, and 40% of Americans would vote for Hitler if was running against Jesus simply because he was a Republican, and that it was up to the other 20% to make sure neither of them ever got into office. Sadly, I feel that right now that 20% isnt standing up, because we fear the repercussions, both in our daily lives and in the long term, and thus we have let the situation degrade to the point it has.

          • If you really think that the Democrat politicians care about transgender and black lives, or that the Republican politicians care about gun rights or abortion, you are either gullible, a fool, or simply willfully ignorant. They care only about maintaining the status quo.

            This is the conclusion I have arrived at regarding the Establishment in Washington. They are only concerned with extending and protecting their power, and issues are the tools they use.

  4. An update.

    So what other parts of the Constitutuon should we discard?

    How about the 4th? After all, if the police had greater power to conduct searches and seizures, without needing probable cause, they can catch criminals more easily.

    Or maybe the 5th? That beyond a reasonable doubt standard makes it easier for criminals to get away with their crimes. It would be easier to convict criminals if the state only had to meet a preponderance of the evidence standard. And I am sure that it would be much harder for criminals to get away with their crimes if they had no privilege against self-incrimination.

    Or what about the 14th? Maybe we should selectively restrict the liberties of certain parts of the population that the state judges are more crime-prone than the rest of the population. I am sure there is some conspicuous trait law enforcement can use as a proxy for propensity for crime. Maybe it even rhymes with wack.

    The thing is, a state that can ignore the 2nd would have little to no reservation about ignoring the 4th, 5th, or 14th.

    • Thanks, Michael.

      I noticed you overlooked the 1st. Then any power – state, school, church, corporation, news source, head-of-household, etc. – could decide on its own language. The ancient Tower is a-building.

    • The author is completely out of touch with reality. It takes 38 state legislatures’ to ratify an amendment. It would only take 13 to be opposed to kill one.
      States that would never pass a resolution for adoption: AL, AK, AZ, AR, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, KY, LA, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NC, ND, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WI, WY.
      That’s 66% of the states that are adamant in their defence of the second amendment.

    • It IS not just political but practical Mission Impossible. Either 2/3 of BOTH houses of Congress or 2/3 of state legislatures would have to propose such an amendment, and that’s just not going to happen unless there is a Democratic tsunami a lot bigger than 2008, which is arguably the high-water mark of the Democratic Party since the New Deal. Then three-quarters of the states (38) must ratify it The next step would be outlawing private possession of firearms with new legislation, which would have to pass Congress and be signed into law by the president. Again, unlikely absent almost a complete collapse of the Republican Party everywhere. All of this is the easy part. The final step would be to actually implement this legislation, and have Federal law enforcement go through every building (including checking for hidden compartments) and square mile of this nation (including using metal detectors to scan underground) to seize 350 million firearms. That’s just not realistic.

      The author of this piece harrumphs at the idea it’s not possible, pointing out that 13 years ago most of us scoffed at the idea of same-sex marriage. The comparison is apples and oranges, most notably because this nation has one attitude toward extending new rights, it has quite another toward stripping rights away, particularly rights that have been part of the Constitution from almost the time of its ratification and are considered the building blocks of this nation and among the fundamental reasons we separated from the UK.

      The right of individuals to keep and bear arms is actually almost a century older than the Constitution and goes back to the English Bill of Rights, although those rights extended only to Protestants. The principle that there is a right of individuals to rebel against a tyrannical government extends back to the Magna Carta, although that right then extended only to nobles. The belief that the government should have a monopoly on the use of force and the ordinary citizen should have no access to weapons of any kind is actually a relatively new concept, which started with the authoritarian governments of Europe around the time of WW1.

      Sometimes it was a misguided attempt at public safety, like the Belgian government collecting all civilian-owned firearms on the eve of the German invasion, because they did not want a repeat of the Francs-tireurs of the Franco-Prussian War, where French partisans armed with civilian-owned firearms gave the Prussians a VERY hard time, but provoked harsh retaliation (they needn’t have bothered, since the Germans went ahead with premeditated brutal measures from the get-go in Liege, Andenne, and Leuven, but I digress). Other times it was in fact setting up a despised population to be later massacred (the Ottoman confiscation of Armenian-owned weapons and later raising of labor battalions, the rest is history). After WWII, as Europe struggled to rise from the ashes, many new constitutions were written, and, in the hopes of building a more peaceful future, the right to bear arms was not part of most of them (I know it’s specifically not in the Constitution of Italy). That said, it was a continent where, in addition to the main event of WWII, Spain was still a wreck from an ugly civil war (which involved a fair amount of partisan fighting, actually the term guerilla warfare comes from Spain) and Greece was still involved in a messy civil war between nationalists and communists (which the communists only lost because the Soviets decided to concentrate their efforts on pulling Bulgaria behind the Iron Curtain). Europe had had enough, and its people were willing to give up a lot for a promise of safety and prosperity. Just as a postscript, Japan ended the right to bear arms for all except the military class long before, and its people, long brought up on the concept of staying in your place and obeying authority, have little problem with the idea.

      America’s history, as Jack pointed out, is a very different one. We took up arms to throw off a tyrannical government, took up arms to keep this nation together, subdued the frontier with guns, took up arms to defend freedom around the globe, and don’t trust the government or authority enough to give it a monopoly on the use of force. The most important of these is that we specifically rose against the UK because it tried to disarm us, looking to make us defenseless and forever second-class, looking for all our cues from London and well aware that any rights we might have were revocable benefits. They didn’t get it, frankly, asking why we were being such ingrates when they had chased the French and Indians from our doors a generation before, as though that meant we had to forever surrender our free will to London. We’d grown up as a nation, and we had our own ideas about how we wanted to run things, including choosing our own leaders from among our own, setting our own rules that fit our own situation (and maybe not the situation in London), setting our own borders and boundaries, and not being stripped of our rights because someone in London was unhappy with the way people an ocean away were doing things.

      This last mention actually dovetails quite nicely with what Michael mentioned above and brings me back to my original point. Another big part of why the United States became the United States is that the UK was capricious about stripping rights from the colonies, notably forbidding the NY Assembly to meet for not voting for a spending bill London favored and closing the Port of Boston and stripping individual rights in MA in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party. The colonists knew full well if they accepted this stripping of rights it would only be the beginning. They weren’t going to wait until all the colonies lost their assemblies and God knows what else, they still had arms (though not yet artillery, if Henry Knox’s mission to Crown Point had gone differently a lot of other things might have also, but I digress), and you know the rest.

      The idea that a primary right that make US citizens who and what they are can or should be taken away because a few have abused it, or because someone deems that right too dangerous for individuals to be trusted with is a bad idea all the way around. It sets a terrible precedent that rights are only rights until someone decides they should no longer be. It treats adult citizens like children whose parents take away a toy because one of them can’t play nicely with it or pupils who all get detention because one or two of them act up. Most importantly, it not only draws a map to tyranny, but, if acted on, blazes out a trail to it. Go down that trail too many times, and it becomes an open road, and then a swift highway that no one thinks twice about taking. Do we really want to go there?

    • Why stop there? Progressives have been arguing for a removal or modification of the First Amendment for a few years now. It’s that much easier to eliminate political adversaries if you can muzzle them or throw them in jail if they dare say something you don’t agree with that you declare “hate speech,” and it’s that much easier for the state to take God’s place if free exercise of religion is reduced to freedom of worship or eliminated altogether.

      • Excellent followup to a COTD worthy post.

        I like to point out to people that the United States has two unique rights in the free world. Everyone seems to notice the gun rights and how we are “unique” with a personal spin on either it being good or really bad.

        Most seem to ignore how unique the first amendment rights are in the US. We’re the only place without the worry of one’s opinion becoming a “hate crime” and getting you in trouble.

  5. Where’s that Jack Nicholson scene where he’s screaming at Demi Moore about not being able to stand the truth? Seems to have infected the FBI.

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