Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2018: “Clean-Up On Ethics Aisle 10!” Edition

Good morning…

1 “And the survey says…! The results of the polls in yesterday’s 1/10 warm-up (so far) are..

  • Chris Christie is the leader in the “most hubris” poll, with 38.53% of the vote, but its pretty close. I’m pretty sure “All of them” would be leading if I had included it.

(I voted for Steve Bannon.)

  • 50% voted that journalist interviewers should be trained to recognize and flag invalid rationalizations.

A solid second was the choice, “They couldn’t do it objectively,” at 43%

  • By a 2-1 ratio over either of the other choices, over 50% believe that Plan E, the 25th Amendment removal plot, should be thoroughly discredited but the news media won’t let it go.

2. I also worry about Bobby DarinYesterday’s lament about declining cultural literacy and how movie artists that we should remember for our society’s enlightenment, perspective and inspiration are increasingly falling into a dark memory hole is relevant to a current development on Broadway: “The Bobby Darin Story” will kick off the new “Lyrics” season from January. 20 to 22, with rising star Jonathan Groff as Darin. Bobby Darin, one of my favorite performers and an unusually versatile and eclectic one, died before he was 40 and just barely hangs on in the culture now, thanks to his classic recording of “Mack the Knife.” (Also this month, the jukebox musical about Darin, “Dream Lover,” opened in Sydney.) Everything about Darin has been unlucky, his bad fortune culminating in the weird 2004 biopic that starred Kevin Spacey as Bobby. The movie was a bomb, and Spacey’s ugly fall guarantees that the film will be seen  by future generations about as often as Annette in”Muscle Beach Party.” As the Cary Grant post noted, sometimes all it takes is a vivid reference to rescue a lost life of note.

Darin’s own lost life is itself an ethics thought experiment. He knew at a young age that he was not going to live long, because he had an irreparably damaged heart. His response was to be furiously creative and to live life at a mad and reckless pace. The new show’s director says, “He lived a gritty, driven life. He hurt people along the way and people hurt him.”

What would you do if you were told as a child that you probably wouldn’t live past 15, and you kept on living? What’s the ethical response? Darin chose to leave a lot behind for us, if we have the sense to appreciate it.

Here’s one of my favorite Darin performances, when he sang the lovely “Once Upon A Time” shortly after the love of his life, actress Sandra Dee, left him.

3. The confusion continues… There have been several perplexing reactions to the post about Pastor Andrew Savage’s well-received spin job regarding his sexual misconduct 20 years ago, none more perplexing than a comment from Andrew Wakeling that complained in part…

Your approach, Jack and others, seems to me to be grossly damaging prospects for adult women escaping ever patronizing paternalism. It verges on insulting. You are heading in the wrong direction. The wonderful young women who pushed in the 1970s for ‘liberation’ (like Germaine Greer) must be aghast. They refused to be victims, and rebelled against the notion that they were scared little flowers needing protection from big bad men. They certainly didn’t want their Dads or brothers chaperoning them, or interfering adults telling them who they could travel in a car with.

To the extent that anyone listens to you, you risk damaging the prospects for young men and young women forming healthy relationships. Young men have pressured and always will pressure young women towards physical contact. The 17 year old women I grew up with knew this well, and most were pretty competent at managing it all.

Ethics Alarms has discussed the current mania emanating from, of all places, feminists and the Left, to make common flirtation and romantic overtures affirmatively dangerous for young men in the absence of anything short of written consent, as well as the dangerous concept of  “victims of sexual assault must be believed,” which effectively denies the validity of due process for accused men. I don’t see how mypost has any relevance to the former at all. By no legitimate analysis is a 20-year-old youth pastor driving  a 17-year-old woman home, pulling over and demanding sex after exposing himself an ethically, never mind legally, overture to a “healthy relationship. Exposing one’s genitals to a women without consent is  a crime, and should be. It is also uncivil, gross, threatening, and disrespectful.

I’m not certain what it is a woman who is determined not to be a victim is supposed to do in that situation. She could, I suppose, jump out of the car and run. If she was a Ninja, she could fight off the guy, I guess. Or is Andrew really arguing that she was complicit in her abuse by not saying, “NO! You can’t make me!” Because, you know, he could make her, and women have ended up dead that way.

Now, there is no question that this is a he said/she said situation, and if Savage denies all or any part of the woman’s claim, there is propably no way she can prove her version of events sufficiently to justify negative consequences for him. This is why subsequent accusations are so critical in these matters. I also think it’s likely that Savage’s tactic of sort-of coming clean is calculated to avoid another of his victims hearing about his denials, thinking, “That SOB did the same thing to me!” and deciding to go public too.

To “the extent anyone listens to me,” I hope that young men learn that using the workplace to stalk potential dates, engaging in virtual kidnapping, exposing oneself  and demanding blow-jobs is not the way to commence healthy romantic relationships, whether Savage’s alleged victim’s account is entirely accurate or not.

4. And now for something completely different..and stupid…I highly recommend the book “Atlas Obscura, An explorer’s guide to the world’s hidden wonders.” It channels Robert Ripley and Richard Halliburton, and is by turns educational, shocking and horrifying.

For example, somehow I had missed entirely the ridiculous Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. The monstrosity is an unfinished 105-story,  pyramid-shaped skyscraper that perfectly symbolizes the insanity of the nation’s government.  Construction began in 1987, then was halted in 1992 as North Korea’s economy crashed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Construction resumed in 2008 and the hotel was scheduled to open in 2012, the centenary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, but it did not. The building remains unopened, and is believed to have become structurally unsound. The white elephant dominates the city’s landscape, and stands as a national embarrassment. According to “Atlas Obscura,” being overheard joking about it can get you arrested.

This is the nation the United States of America is supposed to cower before when its leader threatens nuclear attacks. As proved to be the case with the Soviet Union, sunlight is the best disinfectant. The truth hurts, and in cases like North Korea, ought to.

But if they launch that thing, we’re really in trouble..



28 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2018: “Clean-Up On Ethics Aisle 10!” Edition

  1. I’m not certain what it is a woman who is determined not to be a victim is supposed to do in that situation. She could, I suppose, jump out of the car and run. If she was a Ninja, she could fight off the guy, I guess. Or is Andrew really arguing that she was complicit in her abuse by not saying, “NO! You can’t make me!” Because, you know, he could make her, and women have ended up dead that way.

    This. Another comment in the same thread suggests that tougher women would have known what to do in that situation, and would have injured him if it were *really* non-consensual. This was textbook victim-blaming.

      • Everyone here who has fought everyone who he thinks he should have fought can hold up his hand, if he has the strength, if he still has a hand, and if he’s not in jail.

        • Related: you might enjoy this EA post from several years ago, in which I laid out a proposed scale for who would be reasonable expected to “physically interrupt” an illegal act “to the extent of physical violence”:

          1. Superman, or another super-hero
          2. Chuck Norris, John Wayne, Jackie Chan, or equivalent male human hero
          3. Lara Croft, Emma Peel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or equivalent female human hero.
          4. Navy Seals or other special combat military personnel.
          5. Large, muscular, active male athletes in their prime
          6. Large, muscular, active female athletes in their prime

          7. Active male athletes in their prime of average build and height.
          8. Active female athletes in their prime of average build and height.
          9. Young off-duty police officers, fire fighters and retired military personnel, male.
          10.Young off-duty police officers, fire fighters and retired military personnel, female.
          11. Middle-aged off-duty police officers, fire fighters and retired military personnel, female.
          12. Middle-aged, out of shape off-duty police officers, fire fighters and retired military personnel, male.
          13. Large, fit, inactive, former or non-competing male athletes
          14 . Large , fit, inactive, former or non-competing female athletes
          15. 18-35-year-old fit male of normal build.
          16. 35-45 -year-old fit male of normal build
          17. 18-35-year-old fit female of normal build.
          18. 18-35-year-old fit male of normal build.
          19. 35-45 -year-old fit male of normal build
          20. 45-60 -year-old fit male of normal build
          21. 35-45-year-old fit female of normal build.
          22. 60-75 -year-old fit male of normal build
          23. A fat, weak,18-35-year-old male
          24. A 45-60 -year-old fit female of normal build
          25. A fat, weak,35-45-year-old male
          26. A fat, weak, 45-60 -year-old male
          27. A fat, weak,18-35-year-old female
          28. A man 5’5” or less of normal build
          29. A fat, weak,35-45-year-old female
          30. A fat, weak, 45-60 -year-old female
          31. A slight woman of 5’2” or less
          32. Any male over 75
          33. Any woman over 75
          34. A morbidly obese man or woman
          35. Any woman over 75
          36. Vern Troyer (then a famous little person, who played “Mini Me”)
          37. Paris Hilton, or equivilent.
          38. Steven Hawking, or equivilent.
          39. The President of the United States

          • This is why Sam Colt made men equal… The 75 year old has options other than physical fighting, when it is necessary.

            Knowing when it is necessary, either for physical intercession, of to use a weapon, is the real trick.

  2. #24, here. That said, my boyfriend is 11 inches taller than I, outweighs me by 115 lbs., and is a former college football player. One backhand and it would be lights out for me.

    Had I been that 17 year old girl in a car that had just veered off into the woods, I would have been terrified. I don’t know that I would have acquiesced to his request; but more like burst into tears. Maybe a sobbing, snot-nosed teenage girl would have been enough of a turn-off. Who knows?

    • Kudos just for not being yet another one of those women who says her significant other towers over her and she could take him down with a kick in the family jewels.

  3. 4. Ironically mostly men here have commented on this assault situation with the pastor. While I appreciate their perspectives I’ll speak for myself.

    In this case it’s important to note both sides made mistakes. The pastor’s is obvious (don’t pretend to be a shepherd & act like a wolf). However most women by the age of 17 know some men will in fact act like wolves. A mother or father hopefully warns their daughters to keep their wits about them with men. My mom for example told me to always have extra cab money on a date in case I needed to escape. She also never let me be alone with any adult male (including clergy) until I was 18.

    Not all young women get from home the basics of empowered self care in these situations though. Things like:

    -Understanding you cannot blindly trust strangers or authority. Scrutinize situations where safety may be compromised including rides from people, parties, dates, etc.
    -Avoid walking the streets at night alone or at least have mace or a key sticking out between the first and middle fingers incase you get attacked.
    -Let go of being demure if someone is being inappropriate. Call them out on it (this may not work if like Woodson, you’re alone w/ someone). Don’t wait for someone else to give a you a “safe space.”
    -Don’t get too drunk or take money or fall for smooth talk. Be your own person and responsible for your own needs.

    Now I was taught all this and still experienced a sexual assault. It was a situation with only women around so I presumed I was safe. I was wrong. Now I ask, should I confront this woman after 20 years? Someone who acted like a friend and gave me rides. Should I seek to shame her publically now after all these years because it’s currently popular? I might even get bonus points for it being a same sex situation.

    The answer is no. I had to for my own sake move on though initially I hated her for years. I share this personal story to point out that Woodson’s motives here may not be as pure as is being depicted. In my mind she appears to be another #metoo opportunist. It DOES NOT exempt the pastor from his past behavior, but her action here seems retaliatory and attention seeking.

    Hindsight is often 20/20 and like Woodson I could have practiced discernment better. I am responsible for trusting blindly and not keeping my wits about me. Woodson also had that responsibility. And we both found ourselves in bad situations because of it. No one likes to hold women accountable for their part in assaults, but it’s time we admit that we cannot expect the rest of the world to take care of us. Men and women can rape/assault and it’s best to remember anyone could be capable of it including those who say we should trust them.

    My sincere hope from this #metoo movement is that more women stop asking for everyone else to “be nice” and give them safety. Instead of looking for others to provide safe spaces we need to claim our space. We need to take self defense classes (many cities offer such classes for free from the local police dept.), always have mace (which would help in a “whipping it out” situation), pay attention to signals such as detours on a ride (why are we in the woods?!), avoid being alone with certain people, etc.

    We can stop pretending men like Mike Pence are fools for having open door meetings with women.

    We can stop “outing” other peoples crimes/sins decades later when we deal with them appropriately initially (Woodson did go to some authority but
    if she still didn’t have closure/justice she should have appealed to the authorities further).

    We can seek integrity rather than stay silent for the sake of a job or convenience or money or a leading role.

    We can and should stop seeking safety from others and embrace strength in ourselves. Women (and men) can ask what they can do to mitigate potentially dangerous situations by learning what to watch for.

    It is never ok to trick someone into unsafe situation but it is also not ok to hold it over someone’s head indefinitely. There just isn’t any true justice from this public display…for anyone – including the victim. This is no longer about what Savage did but why Woodson is motivated to speak up now. If there is any point to her outing him now, I hope it’s to empower other women to be more observant and strong, rather than add yet another guy to the #metoo hit list.

    • Well said, I look at it like a burglar walking into an unlocked house. He is absolutely responsible for his actions, and the ease of access doesn’t mitigate his crime in any way, shape, or form.

      But it’s not victim-blaming to say you should lock your house before you leave.

    • THIS

      Much more eloquent than my attempts on the original blog, but my feeling exactly, Lady Q.

      We don’t know but one side of the story. The motivation of bringing this up NOW is most relevant, especially in the age of #metoo.

    • One thing we should all keep in mind: How many famous women have come forward and pointed out that some obscure boyfriend back when she was all knees and elbows did something sexually wrong on her person?

      You know it happened, probably to a fair number. But you haven’t heard about it.

      What you have heard about are famous people being accused. There is a reason for that. If somebody accuses an obscure nonesuch, nobody cares. For somebody to care requires a famous perpetrator.

      So Mrs. Q is exactly right – Woodson is another #meetoo opportunist vying for her 15 minutes of fame, in my opinion. I am not excusing the guy at all – he deserves worse than he’s going to get, but his wrongness does not maker her motives pure. Victims are not always innocent and pure of motive, but they are always victims.

      Consider the instant case: Suppose what really happened is that the youth pastor pulled her over and requested oral sex, but didn’t expose himself until she obligingly agreed. Would that have had the same impact as the story she told? Nope.

      But if he exposed himself first, that changes everything, including her options. It doesn’t change his, though — he’s still in an impossible position. He knows he did wrong, no matter which version is true, and nobody can imagine him defending himself with the real tale, because nobody would believe him. The embellished tale might as well be true, for all it matters to him. He still abused his position to obtain sexual favors from a vulnerable young woman, no matter when he dropped trou.

      Look, this jerk made his bed of nails, and he manifestly deserves to sleep on it. But what I wish people would understand is that victimhood is not a King’s Pass. We cannot and should not proclaim the victim’s memory infallible, or motives pure, just because he or she was inflicted upon by some asshole &mdash especially when it is a distant memory, even of a fairly traumatic event.

      • One thing we should all keep in mind: How many famous women have come forward and pointed out that some obscure boyfriend back when she was all knees and elbows did something sexually wrong on her person?

        You know it happened, probably to a fair number. But you haven’t heard about it.

        What you have heard about are famous people being accused. There is a reason for that. If somebody accuses an obscure nonesuch, nobody cares. For somebody to care requires a famous perpetrator.

        Another explanation is that the famous perpetrators have much more power and thus are more of a threat than some nobody from a star’s hometown. You also have to consider that these people are still in these famous women’s communities, and are often known to have abused other famous women in those communities, and to be active abusers. I don’t blame them for focusing on them and not their obscure high school boyfriends.

        • Perhaps, but I doubt it. My sense is that without the fame, these ladies don’t get what they want – attention. I’m not saying that the problem doesn’t deserve attention, it most certainly does. But the reality is, in my view, fame, not necessarily power, is the essential element.

    • Exactly. Well-said, Mrs.Q. Any suggestion that women should be aware of their surroundings, not drink to excess in public or any of the common-sense advice parents used to give, is now met with cries of ‘victim blaming’ and pronouncements that the solution is to ‘teach men not to rape’.

      The kind of men who attack and rape women are not the type to be dissuaded by a firm talking to, or posters on the subway, about how wrong rape is. The current talk of how even good men rape (no, they don’t!) will, I fear, blind women to the fact that there are predators among us, and they will not recognize them for having been brainwashed into thinking that even the nerd next door is a potential rapist. They’re on guard against the wrong type of man, the ones who would actually protect them.

  4. Sorry to be ‘perplexing’ Jack: (Rats! – that won’t score well on the apology scale.). And many thanks to those caring enough about the women in my life to think of warning them about me.

    I am uncomfortable seeming to be involved in judgment on Savage and Woodson, because I don’t know them or the detail. Savage may indeed be a rat and Woodson a Saint, but quite possibly not. But the underlying issues are important. The whole area is hard, and I don’t have solidly fixed ideas. There are so many balances that have to be drawn between trying to be sex and gender blind (eg not discriminating against women) and being traditionally protective to the so called ‘weaker sex’. There are many behaviours (biases) that can be hard wired into the autopilot, like males making special allowance for supposed female weaknesses, or females bursting into tears. And of course some men can be quite violent to women, and often also to other men. We have to try to ‘fly manual’ even though it can be exhausting.

    I am committed to support female emancipation. This isn’t because I am ‘nice’, or the Founders or Bible required it (they didn’t); it is much more that we are (at least in the ‘west’) in a process of major transformation in the way the sexes relate. There is no option other than to provide women with full equality of opportunity, whether it is in commerce, politics, home, or the public services. I am not at all clear how to live with this transformation as particularly underlined by the wonderful experience of being a grandparent. (I naturally move much faster to comfort a crying granddaughter than a crying grandson, but I am trying to ‘equalise’.)

    I see emancipation as crediting women with full adulthood, all powers and responsibilities. This is ‘right’, they deserve it, but more to the point there is no option otherwise.

    It is a pity discussion becomes so quickly polarised. There is normally something worth taking away from any honest comment. Catherine Deneuve’s recent letter to Le Monde has brought a torrent of vitriol, but surely you can see something on which to ponder in her thoughts?

    Referring to France’s equivalent of #MeToo, #balancetonporc (or “squeal on your pig”), the letter contends that the “fever to send the ‘pigs’ to the slaughterhouse is far from helping women to become autonomous” and instead “serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom, religious extremists, the worst reactionaries and those who deem, in the name of a conception of goodness and Victorian morality, that women are children with adult faces who want to be protected.”

    Sandra Muller in an opposing comment disturbed me: “Feminism is not about protecting sexual liberation, but about protecting women”. I see what she means but that is a very long way back from Germaine Greer.

    Coming back to my ‘perplexing’ you (I appreciate your mildness) I saw your post as being overly protective to and applauding of the woman, and unreasonably quick to condemn the man. Again trying to avoid being judgmental on this individual woman, I would find any adult acting like this as ‘letting the side down’. Being an adult means being brave enough to say ‘no’ even though you are scared. In the big bad world of bullying bosses I guess she must in any event have had to deal with much worse than this somewhat pathetic young church leader. I wonder how she managed?

    • In that state, legally an adult, but as we know (don’t we?) far from it. That’s part of the problem. In ethics, we don’t use legal technicalities to make distinctions in right and wrong that don’t exist. If he had been 25 and she 22, maybe the conduct is mitigated. She’s a child, and he was a supervisor. He couldn’t take her on a “surprise” diversion; he couldn’t stop the car ; he couldn’t justifiably request a sexual activity, he couldn’t expose himself, he couldn’t demand sex, he couldn’t accept sex, and he couldn’t manipulate her into staying quiet. All wrongful conduct, if true.

  5. haha Bobby Darin was much more handsome than Kevin Spacey, long before Spacey’s ugly fall.
    I heard about this movie-Spacey’s vanity project, as called by the critics.

  6. I haven’t see the movie yet. It is now on my “to watch” list.

    I read somewhere that the main problems were that Spacey was too old and Spacey whitewashed Darin’s dark side and rendered the character two-dimensional and uninteresting.

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