Ethics Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

Which brings me to Kavanaugh’s testimony, which was spellbinding in a different way. He behaved, it seemed to me, exactly as an innocent man would behave if accused of a crime in his teenage years — especially a crime that was unveiled by his political opponents at the very last moment. It was one that he could not possibly refute (no one can prove a negative) and it catalyzed a media frenzy — multiple gang rapes! — that continues to get more extreme every day. There’s a reason we have statutes of limitation. When alleged crimes happened decades ago, proof is very hard, and allegations much easier. And when the alleged perpetrator was also a minor, we’re in a very weird and difficult place….

Of course he was angry. Wouldn’t you be if you were innocent or had no idea where this allegation suddenly came from? He wasn’t being accused of sexual harassment, or sexual abuse as an adult in a way he could have refuted or challenged. His long-lost teenage years as a hard-drinking jock were now under the microscope. Even his yearbook was being dissected. Stupid cruelties and brags from teenage boys were now being used to define his character, dismiss his record as a judge, his sterling references, his respected scholarship, his devoted family, his relationship with women in every capacity. He had to fend off new accusations, ever more grave and ever more vague.

…To the extent that the hearing went beyond the specifics of Ford’s allegations and sought to humiliate and discredit Kavanaugh for who he was as a teenager nearly four decades ago (a dynamic that was quite pronounced in some Democratic questioning of the nominee), it was deeply concerning. When public life means the ransacking of people’s private lives even when they were in high school, we are circling a deeply illiberal drain. A civilized society observes a distinction between public and private, and this distinction is integral to individual freedom. Such a distinction was anathema in old-school monarchies when the king could arbitrarily arrest, jail, or execute you at will, for private behavior or thoughts. These lines are also blurred in authoritarian regimes, where the power of the government knows few limits in monitoring a person’s home or private affairs or correspondence or tax returns or texts. These boundaries definitionally can’t exist in theocracies, where the state is interested as much in punishing and exposing sin, as in preventing crime. The Iranian and Saudi governments — like the early modern monarchies — seek not only to control your body, but also to look into your soul. They know that everyone has a dark side, and this dark side can be exposed in order to destroy people. All you need is an accusation.

—Andrew Sullivan in his essay today, essentially stating the same points we have discussed at Ethics Alarms, but in his own inimitable, erudite style.

He’s 100% right, of course. Andrew is also a gay, Trump-hating liberal, so this is a good essay to send to your friends who are teetering on the brink of madness. They won’t listen to me; maybe he can break through.

19 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

  1. Wouldn’t count on it. Sent it to my idiot brother-in-law. He responded “What’s your point? You can’t seriously still support a gang-rapist for SCOTUS?”

  2. Reason won’t work on people who’ve been whipped up into an emotional frenzy. Emotions are all they got, which is shy speeches and accusations are so moving, they are as planned as any drama.

    Is there any ninja way to break emotional whirlpools? The only way I can think of is a scathing and funny viral quip from one or more persons. Robert Downey Jr would be a good person if he were the type as he had a serious meltdown in the 90’s and is respected and bigger now. Any celeb who had a big recovery should be willing to speak up for 2nd chances… but they are all unable to see this, or more likely, unwilling to risk the wrath of the mob. Anyone else have any ideas?

    • I like your idea of using cognitive dissonance against them by listing all of the people whose pasts they wave aside.

      As a deconstruction mindset user, I spend a lot of time brooding over “ninja ways to break emotional whirlpools”, and it does indeed take a lot of cues from the way of the ninja.

      My preferred style is to reframe the situation with a completely different paradigm, by agreeing with people where they expect me to disagree, and then stating an objection that they never even considered. This only works where it actually applies, of course.

      I’ll have to give this situation some more thought. I’ve been working on a different one for a while.

      • Is there any ninja way to break emotional whirlpools?

        I don’t think the Taser was invented for that purpose, but it could have been used to effect on the women who accosted Senator Flake in the elevator…

        … then sent to Joe Arpaio’s Desert Reconditioning Center (now air-conditioned).

        You do bring up an interesting question: Where is this tending? and How will it end? What is next? I have to say that ‘things will have to get (much) worse before they can get better’.

        But the larger question is: Where and how did *this* begin? One has to define what *this* is of course! Not easy.

        In that article there is a Richard Weaver quote from Ideas Have Consequences (where all my pretense really began…):

        Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with the witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.

  3. “Is there any ninja way to break emotional whirlpools?”
    Lots of great sex works for some people. Or, has worked.
    But, tragically, just as blood is (or, has been) thicker than water, nowadays great political victories, and only those (followed by triumphal sex), is the last, best hope for too many of the nascent humanoid subspecies.

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