Welcome The 2019’s First New Rationalizations: 1C. It Happens To Everybody, And 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament

These have been on the drawing board waiting for induction into the Ethics Alarms list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions far too long.  It’s also a good time to re-read the list, which was recently brought up to date. I wrote the damn thing, and it it still reminded me of some things.

Rationalization 1C. It Happens To Everybody, or “You’re not alone!’

This is yet another variation on the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It,” but the transitive version. The theory is the same, that somehow the ethical nature of an act is changed by its frequency, or, in the case of #1C, how many victims the unethical conduct has claimed. This one is so frequently employed that it doesn’t register as a rationalization, perhaps because the one who wield’s it is often a third party. “Don’t feel too bad,” the nice person patting your head says, “You’re not the only one.” The swift answer to this should be, “So what?” Should I feel less raped because others have been raped? Should I feel less lied to because others have been deceived? Should I feel richer because others have been robbed?” Even if it is offered in kindness, this is a rationalization that aides the wrongdoer. Arguing that as long as the misery inflicted has company, what was done isn’t as bad as it was.

Rationalization 9 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision”

Senator Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) official statement  on why she was voting against Justice Brett Kavanaugh after his ethics train wreck of a confirmation hearing brought this common rationalization into focus. Kavanaugh’s record as a judge would have had him automatically, unanimously confirmed by the Senate under any previous standards. To their undying shame, Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee allowed the traditional inquiry to become a circus, low-lighted by permitting a bizarre, three decades old #MeToo accusation regarding alleged (and unsubstantiated) attempted sexual assault (maybe) by Kavanaugh when he was in high school and a minor to breach all standards of fairness and due process. The episode represented the zenith of “believe all women” feminist cant. Murkowski, who has long tried to burnish her credentials as a Republican feminist, voted against Kavanaugh, an indefensible decision, and tried to gird herself against criticism by saying that “this has truly been the most difficult evaluation of a decision that I have ever had to make.”

Well, too bad. You’re a Senator, and decisions that affect lives, careers and institutions are often difficult. Your job is to use valid analysis, dispassionate reasoning and critical thought to make good decisions, not to make bad ones and try to justify them by saying they were hard.

How does the fact that a decision-maker almost made a better, more principled, more ethical decision make the wrong decision better or more palatable to those who suffer because of it? It doesn’t. Murkpwski’s Lament attempts to use sympathy and pity to duck accountability.

6 thoughts on “Welcome The 2019’s First New Rationalizations: 1C. It Happens To Everybody, And 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament

  1. If there was Karmic justice, she would have her sons or husband unjustly accused just to drive the point home as the process ruined their good name forever. (But that would be vengeful to hope for.)

    • ”If there was Karmic justice”

      Oh; there is! From my comment to 10/15/2014 EA post:

      Instructive here might be the cautionary tale of one Dr. Judith Grossman, who helped craft a world that deems the Y-Chromosomal as a lower form of life.

      “I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women’s rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.”

      The talented Dr. Grossman, her life’s work consumed with making this a better world for at least half of us (myself, as an evil male, part of the “other half”) received an epiphany that would be politely described as “poetic justice.”

      Her own little bundle of joy was ensnared by the world she helped to craft.

      “But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of “nonconsensual sex” that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship A FEW YEARS EARLIER. (bolds mine).

      “What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice’s looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment.”

      She was positively aghast that Sonny would not be afforded the presumption of innocence.

      The humanity!

      http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324600704578405280211043510?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887324600704578405280211043510.html

      I’m reminded of what Major G. F. Devin (Peter Jason) presciently tells Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) in “Heartbreak Ridge.”

      “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

  2. “Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee allowed the traditional inquiry to become a circus”

    “Allowed”? That’s being far too kind, as it seems to imply they merely stood by while the clowns piled out of the tiny car. Several Democrats on the committee were the ringleaders of that circus, participating gleefully in the shenanigans.

  3. If Senator Murkowski really needed to rub more than two brain cells together to know the ethical choice in the Kavanaugh vote, then she is dumber than a sack of hammers. Great addition to the “Hall of Shame” by having an EA Rationalization named for her!

  4. Well, too bad. You’re a Senator, and decisions that affect lives, careers and institutions are often difficult. Your job is to use valid analysis, dispassionate reasoning and critical thought to make good decisions, not to make bad ones and try to justify them by saying they were hard.

    Surely the whole point of representative democracy is that representatives – which U.S. senators have been for over a century – should act as the people’s surrogates, warts and all? Those other things are what the wider system is supposed to provide as guidance to the surrogates, which guidance it is to be hoped they will accept. These days it can only come from Sir Humphrey types, as outsiders’ sound guidance cannot be distinguished from that of outsiders with axes to grind. In former days, upper houses in many countries were deliberately not representative of the people as a whole, so that the overall system could be of a mixed sort in which those upper houses could provide that. And in Edmund Burke’s day, it was realistic for him to tell his electors that he owed them the benefits of his wise counsel rather than his obedience, in an effort to get them to countenance his doing just that for them. But it’s like tying down a safety valve to require anything but the surrogacy to take priority. So your observations should ordinarily be directed at staffers who failed, and only at the good senator to the extent that she failed to set up that sort of support – and even then, not if her electors actually wanted her to go without guidance (I suppose it could happen, so I mention it for completeness).

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