Comment of the Day: “I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t)”

(This is sort of what Juliet has in mind, I think...)

Juliet Macur’s column in the New York Times calling for what was essentially Old Testament Biblical vengeance against one of the more recently accused sexual harassers disturbed me greatly, and the resulting Ethics Alarms post reflected my reaction.  Steve-O-in NJ picked up the baton, and the result was this, his Comment of the Day on the post, I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t):

The principle that those who do wrong should not be allowed to profit from their wrongs is not without basis in either ethics or the law. It is that principle which gave rise to the “Son of Sam” laws that allow suits against convicted criminals by their victims or the victims’ families if they receive assets from the sale of their stories. It is also that principle that sometimes leads to “Son of Sam” clauses being worked into plea agreements, whereby any profits made from the sale of a pleading wise guy or terrorist’s story goes to the government. Much more than that, and you run into First Amendment problems. It’s also a given that courts can order restitution to victims as part of a sentence or as part of a plea deal.

However, as pointed out above, all of these legal principles involve, presumably, a wrongdoer who has either had his day in court or decided to forego his day in court in the hopes of better terms. Even in an employment or other civil setting, an accused wrongdoer is not without rights. A company who not only terminated an accused harasser but stripped him of his pension and whatever other assets came with the position, all without so much as an investigation, would almost unquestionably find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit, and could conceivably lose, which is why a lot of those situations resolve with a more favorable deal. In this case, the accused is choosing to walk away before it even comes to that, and cash out.

Juliet Macur is looking for blood, or the equivalent. I know the feeling, we all know the feeling, and writers and sports entertainers the world over know how to exploit that feeling very well. That’s why thrillers almost always end with the initial wrongdoer dead and WWE kayfabe angles always end with the heel badly injured and humiliated. We all have that urge to jump to revenge, that snap reaction of “why that blankety-blank, I’ll teach him!”

This isn’t the Middle Ages, where knights ran around in chainmail banging each other on the head with battle-axe and mace over any old dispute. This isn’t Tokugawa Japan, where the samurai cut off each other’s heads if they looked at each other cross-eyed or didn’t bow QUITE right. This isn’t the Wild West, where if someone won one too many hands of poker you could call him out for a showdown with clinking spurs and whoever was faster on the draw won.

Actually, I’m not sure even those are valid comparisons. The challenged knight, the samurai who accidentally ticked off another one, and the suspicious gambler all had equal standing and a chance to defend themselves. There’s always a chance that the chivalric comer who was a little too full of himself might be the one who ended up on the jousting field with the side of his head smashed in, or the samurai who drew his sword first might not live to sheathe it, or the gambler who issued the call might be the one lying dead on a dusty street with a bullet between his eyes.

Juliet is looking to figuratively take us back to even darker times: the Troubles, where anyone accused of saying or seeing the wrong thing was killed or maimed, the Red Terror in Russia, where anyone accused of being a White (czarist or Keresnkyite, it mattered little which) was quickly shot, or the Reign of Terror in France, where anyone accused of being against the revolution “won a prize in the lottery of St. Guillotine.” No one conducted hearings. No one investigated. No one even asked more than a few token questions if anyone asked any at all.

We’re not yet dealing in life and death, only in destroying lives and confiscating what others earn. However, the idea that anyone should have his life destroyed or what he has earned taken away purely on an accusation, without anyone even bothering to ask “did something happen?” “what really happened?” or “what should the punishment be?” is repulsive and should be repulsive to anyone who adheres to the principles of the Constitution.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

9 responses to “Comment of the Day: “I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t)”

  1. Errol

    “We’re not yet dealing in life and death, only in destroying lives and confiscating what others earn. However, the idea that anyone should have his life destroyed or what he has earned taken away purely on an accusation, without anyone even bothering to ask “did something happen?” “what really happened?” or “what should the punishment be?” is repulsive and should be repulsive to anyone who adheres to the principles of the Constitution.”
    It does not seem repulsive to all those law makers who wrote all those civil forfeiture laws.

  2. Jeff

    “…is repulsive and should be repulsive to anyone who adheres to the principles of the Constitution.”

    Constitution, hell! Just a minimal respect for basic human decency ought to be enough to cause someone to find this kind of thing repulsive.

  3. Isaac

    “Harassment of women is really, really, bad” is a good starting point for an intelligent dialogue about workplace and government policy, but I just don’t trust Americans in 2017 to have an intelligent dialogue about anything.

    Enforcing against harassment cannot be properly done if the enforcers are not ethical. It will just be used as a political weapon, as Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letter was. Enforcing ethical enforcement on the enforcers, and so on, is impossible if you can’t find a class of people anywhere who are committed to dispassionately doing the right thing without prejudice. You just add more layers of easily-corrupted bureaucrats with power over people’s lives. In theory, institutional attempts to “fix” behavioral problems can just create more mechanisms by which the corrupt can work their corruption.

    If the culture is becoming less decent, empathetic, and ethical, then this impartial system of ours will not hold. Right now young, wealthy, socialist college students are demanding outrageous things with righteous anger, only to be rebuffed by the realities of the Constitution and rule of law. They are being told, “you can’t do that.” But in a couple of decades, they WILL be able to do that, because they will be the ones who can change the laws.

    I submit that the only solution would be a very grassroots and personal one, on the level of the Second Great Awakening that effectively ended slavery. There is no top-down solution.

    • I look forward to your post-midnight EST observations, Isaac. It’s like looking under the pillow for what the Tooth Fairy has brought, except that I don’t have to lose any teeth.

    • I am afraid that, of the many ways such an awakening could go down, most are very bad in the short term for our society and the most vulnerable citizens.

      Snowflakes already think that words are violence, and mere opinions justifying physical retribution. If they continue on that road, they will find their targets fighting back in the same manner. This is human nature, absent the rule of law. We already have police allowing violence against on political side while protecting the other.

      This will not end well, I fear.

  4. La Sylphide

    Well done, Steve. Thank you.

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