From “The Ethicist”: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us

, aka “The Ethicist,” apparently received two inquiries last week from what I fear are typical New York Times readers: self-righteous, progressive, and totalitarian at heart. As usually is the case, “The Ethicist’s” answers were competent. I’m not really concerned with his answers, though they were too timid and pandered to people who needed to be metaphorically slapped in the face. It’s the questions that are really ominous.

Inquirer #1 wanted to know what to “do” about her landlady, whom she and her partner “have come to believe that she harbors significant racial and gender biases.” She continued,

When units in our building come up for rent, she often asks  [us] to recommend friends, and over the years a number of our friends have lived here. I value being able to extend what really is an extremely good financial deal to friends who would really benefit from it, but am deeply uncomfortable about the fact that, in doing so, I am enabling her racism and sexism. Is there an ethical solution here? I wish I could report her to some sort of city housing authority (we are in Los Angeles), but I doubt I have any legal recourse as I’m not an aggrieved party and my belief in her biases is based on casual observations and overheard comments. I can’t point to a particular incident. I feel guilty for not wanting to recommend the place, as I know so many friends who could use the financial break, but I also feel like it’s harder and harder to justify “helping” her in any way.

The woman has not observed any incidents of racism or sexism, but she wants to “report” the landlady, who has apparently always treated her well. Inquirer #1 has decided that it’s unethical to “help” such a person because that would be “enabling” her evil ways, whatever they are. Basically, she feels that she is justified in punishing her landlady for not embracing her views, the “right” ones.

Inquirer #2 is inflicted with the same lack of self-awareness. He or she shares a mailbox with the landlord, who is “a nice guy and a very decent landlord.” But the nice guy landlord receives a Christian magazine, “with cover stories including those that suggest L.G.B.T.Q. rights are undermining religious freedom, and others about the dangers of educating children about gender diversity.”  Thus the big question:

I don’t know if he subscribes to this magazine, or if it is sent to him because he made a donation, but I feel very uncomfortable hand-delivering what feels to me like hate speech and is, as I see it, misinformation that perpetuates inequality and violence. I also am aware that tampering with mail is illegal. I know that speaking up is the ideal thing to do and hope to find a moment to bring up this mail with him, but …I don’t want to disrupt our housing situation. Am I being complicit in oppression by not saying anything to him and delivering this mail? Is it more ethical to give him this magazine, and perpetuate hate and inequality, or to occasionally just “lose” this piece of mail once a month?

Inquirers #1 and #2 are cut from the same ugly, smelly cloth, and it’s increasingly popular these days.

To #1, Appiah says in part,

“There are lots of bigots in the world, alas. Changing their hearts and minds, when it happens, takes time and effort and the right background conditions. You clearly don’t think that would work here. So direct your attention elsewhere. I applaud your commitment to racial and sexual equality. But you have no reason to feel bad about sharing real estate opportunities with your friends.”

That’s right as far as it goes; I guess “The Ethicist” was virtue signalling by omission.

He should have said, “There are lots of bigots in the world, alas—YOU, for example.” This woman barely knows her landlady, but has packaged her as someone unfit for human contact or prosperity because of her personal views, none of which she has seen used to harm anyone. The inquirer also thinks she should be able to “report” the landlady for what she thinks, actually what she may think. She has reduced a human being to a few politically incorrect comments and presumed beliefs, and based only on that, believes it is appropriate to avoid “helping her in any way.”

To Inquirer #2, Appiah correctly noted that interfering with the mail is illegal, but wrote, “Once again, we’re trying to balance high ideals with low rents.” Ugh. There’s nothing high minded about reading someone’s mail and considering “losing” it, nor about harshly judging someone based on their religious beliefs.

The Ethicist recovered somewhat by adding,

Citizens shouldn’t seek to affect each other’s views by cutting off access to arguments from yet other citizens. Nor is it clear that the magazine in question rises to the level of hate speech. (As a matter of jurisprudence, the rights of sexual minorities can indeed be at odds with some religious-freedom claims.) I certainly don’t see that allowing it into his hands “perpetuates inequality and violence.” Your landlord is a nice guy who is friendly with a gay couple, you say. Is there any evidence that he’s actively trying to deny legal protections to L.G.B.T.Q. people? And do you truly have reason to think that this Christian magazine promotes violence?

Sure: the reason is that in this person’s echo chamber (San Francisco), beliefs that don’t conform to the accepted cant are considered “violence” that make others “unsafe.”

In the response to the previous monster, Appiah said, “Well, what could you do…? You can’t force her into therapy or a re-education camp.” Ah, but that’s what both of these good, progressive Times readers clearly wish they could do: one wants to report her landlady for her beliefs, and the other wants to censor the landlord’s mail so “BadThink” can’t be communicated to him.

And yet they see themselves as nothing but virtuous….and superior.

Take it away, Gina:

 

17 thoughts on “From “The Ethicist”: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us

  1. I’m reminded by your closing paragraphs of a bit of hyperbole I heard or read somewhere recently – wish I remembered where.

    “Modern politics has turned into a race to the boxcars. Losers get to ride.”

  2. Aren’t Totalitarian Letter-Writer’s friends gender- and race-diverse, so that by recommending her friends as tenants, she is already undermining her landlady’s bigotry? Or is Totalitarian #1 a hypocrite?

  3. I am wondering if the writers are seeking to find third party willing to validate their desire to harm a person who is not in lockstep with their own ideology.

    Is this simply a case of the equivalent of Munchausan by proxy for victimization? By that I mean these writers want to have a grievance but have none so they seek to manufacture one.

    • A lot of it is. Everyone likes getting “likes” on social media and a feeling that they are on the right side. No one likes to believe no one agrees with them. Some folks have too much time on their hands and believe they have to do something if there is someone out there who might be wrong. Certitude also accompanies lack of intelligence and education. I remember someone I had a couple of dates with now almost a decade ago used to post stuff critical of Governor Christie on her fb page. If anyone disagreed with her, she would give a nasty reply and then delete whatever they said, so all anyone would see would be her original comment and her replies, without knowing what she was replying to. That’s why it only went as far as a few dates, well, that and the fact that she was looking to trap a man. She trapped the very next man she dated within 2 months and had him pay all her debts and get her a brand new car to replace the 5 she’d wrecked.

    • Short answer, Chris: They’re not looking for a grievance.

      In today’s keeping-up-with-the-ProgHyphenJoneses it is socially mandatory to seek out at least one of the Unwoke (generally male, for obvious reasons) in each environment he touches: workplace, family, neighborhood, public transit, tv programs, wedding, funeral and crack in the sidewalk. The more new or original reports they can bring to the coven’s conversation for dissection the greater their status.

  4. When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?

    This goes far beyond boycotts to allow blacks to sit at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. This goes well beyond punishing companies for dangerous or illegal practices that have harmed customers. It goes against the heart of what it means to be an American. Too often, we are told that opinions have consequences. Sure, they do. They always have. Doesn’t it seem, though, that the consequences have become far more ominous than they used to be?

    I have never understood ideological boycotts. I remember the Disney boycotts of the ’90s when people with too much time on their hands began seeing obscene Easter Eggs in the new animated films. When gays started congregating at Disney parks on certain days, the company was castigated for not warning people ahead of time that it was Gay Day, despite its protests that Disney had no sponsored days for any groups at its parks.

    I thought the whole thing was silly then and it’s still silly.

    While in college, I worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. One day, sitting in church, a woman pressed a news article into my hands that reported on health benefits being extended to same-sex partners at McDonald’s corporate offices (I didn’t have health benefits myself at the store where I worked).

    I gave her a funny look as if to say, “What am I supposed to do with this?”. She whispered, “Well, you WORK there!”

    I got it. I worked for a McDonald’s franchise as a low-ranking cog in the machine and had absolutely no power to open the cash register for a refund much less change a human resources decision made by the corporation; however, because I still worked there, it must mean that I endorsed the company’s practice in this area. I was the equivalent of the postal worker who delivered deportation orders to Jews that ended up in the gas chambers.

    At least, she didn’t throw chicken nuggets in my face like the poor Chick-Fil-A workers got a few years ago when their CEO expressed his personal opinion about marriage.

    For that reason, my overall position is that I will not do financial harm to a company just because I disagree with its leaders’ stance on certain issues. Doing so takes away my freedom to eat what I want, as well as not to eat what I don’t want to eat.

    I find Ben & Jerry’s contribution to certain charities to be obnoxious. But, refusing to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream means that I don’t get to eat Chunky Monkey. And I really like Chunky Monkey. By the same token, I don’t want to feel compelled to spend money when I find the product less to my liking. I am not a fan of Chick-Fil-A’s chicken sandwiches. I find them to be dry. Ideological shopping means I would have to support a company that makes dry chicken sandwiches.

    (On the other hand, as a rebuke to the mayors of Chicago and Boston and other First Amendment haters, I did sit in line at Chick-Fil-A’s drive-thru for over an hour on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day all those years ago. Sometimes, you do have to take a stand. Consider this an example of picking one’s battles)

    People should buy the food they like and not buy the food they don’t like. Visit the theme parks they like and avoid the ones they don’t. Hire the wedding caterer they like and don’t hire the one they don’t. It mean not launching the Twitter lynch mob with its figurative torches and pitchforks on Memories Pizza because of a reporter’s gotcha question and it means not going 100 miles out of one’s way so you can accuse Masterpiece Bakery of ruining your wedding.

    And we should stop assuming the worst about people we barely know. I’ve had magazines sent to me out of nowhere. I got on some list somehow or some well-meaning relative signed me up without telling me. Deciding that you know everything you need to know about your landlord based on a piece of mail and deciding consequently that such a person is the Worst Person in the World who doesn’t deserve an income is so blatantly unAmerican that, many years ago, both Republicans and Democrats would have told the letter writer to settle down.

    What changed? When did it change? Why didn’t we notice?

    • When did it change? When lefties took over the academy. Thing 1 and Thing 2 above were propagandized in high school or college. It’s where they got their vocabulary and world view. This is call out culture. These people are obligated to call out any behavior or thought that does not conform to revealed goodness. How this authoritarian streak grew up and has flourished in the United States is beyond me.

      I’ve had personal experience with this. My daughter has called me out for having sexist ideas after daring to express the notion that physical attraction is part of what goes into people finding their mates. Perish the thought. She said she’s been told in HR sessions to “call out” the sort of sexism I was spreading. She’s obligated to do so. Nice, huh?

  5. Letter 1 bothers me more because they are happily willing to lose a good apartment for their friend over their own prejudices. Tell the friend of the opportunity and that there may be bias- but you have not seen it. The friend is the one affected and with the right to choose and the letter writer is plainly not willing to MYOB.

    If I was desperate for a good apartment, I’d take it. It’s not like I have to socialize with a landlord and anything overt would warrant action then. I’d rather have a good place to live than sleep in a car because of the sin of pride.

    And if the letter writer was really willing to put their money where their mouth is they should move out immediately and forfeit their deposits and contract fees. Act like they really think, since that is what they expect the landlord to do without cause. …then their friend can move in because they probably aren’t as intolerant. Any minority must learn to pick their battles as opinions evolve, that’s natural, but people like these letter writers will not accept gradual evolution but want revenge. That never works out well: ref Reconstruction and the Weimar republic.

    • MYOB is a four-letter word to the left now. You must be made to care. You don’t get to say that what Adam and Joe have is between them and you aren’t interested one way or another, because if you don’t fully celebrate SSM you are a homophobe. You don’t get to say if Jim wants to become Jen that’s his/her business and you have no opinion, because if you say that’s other than wonderful you are a transphobe. You don’t get to brush off an anti-Trump statement with “no politics, please” because that means you are a supporter. You don’t get to turn away an intrusive question about your thoughts on race, sexuality, politics, or whether you own a gun with “I prefer not to say” or “none of your beeswax” because that means your answer would be politically incorrect.

  6. Appropriate that you refer to those two as “Inquirers”…Their sort were the backbone of the veritable, infamous, (Spanish) Inquisition, and it’s relatives throughout history.

  7. Well I can see think Thought Crimes are well on there way to becoming a reportable offense. Perhaps we now have a new class of social undesirables (“deplorables”) such as Christians and landlords who must be watched carefully lest they spread their antiwoke societal views. Off to the re-education camps with them!

  8. In the 600s A.D. the Muslims exploded out of the Arabian Peninsula, literally sword in one hand, Koran in the other. Before the revolutionary fire burned out in 732, they would take North Africa, Asia Minor, most of the Levant, Persia, and Iberia. They’d only stop at Iberia and not go for France because Charles Martel and the first knights smashed them at Tours-Poitiers and sent them packing, and they only would not go for more of southeast Europe because Leo III and his fleet burned them to the waterline at Constantinople. About a hundred years after that they’d take Sicily and Calabria, my ancestral homeland, for a while. Life under their rule was either convert to Islam or be relegated forever to a distant second-class citizenship, including deliberately humiliating collection of a tax levied only on those who did not convert, severe limitations on religious freedom, and punishment by execution for a host of offenses, because if you didn’t come around to their way of thinking, you were bad and evil.

    In 1230 the Teutonic Order, German military knights who looked essentially like Crusaders except their crosses were black rather than red, advanced east into Prussia and the Baltic states, where paganism was still actively practiced, sword in one hand, Gospel in the other. They’d have gone for Russia too, where Orthodox Christianity was practiced, but they failed miserably at Lake Peipus when they ran into a certain Russian prince named Alexander Nevsky, and never went that route again. Life under their rule was ok if you accepted Christianity. If you backslid and did anything pagan, even something innocuous, the punishment was burning at the stake. Again, if you didn’t come around to their way of thinking, you were a savage sinner, and not to be tolerated.

    Some might call the initial jihadists forerunners of the Taliban and some might call the Teutonics the Christian Taliban. Neither of them had any use for those who didn’t see and do things their way. Maybe we don’t even need to go back that far. In revolutionary France Robespierre and Marat sent those they disagreed with to the guillotine for any reason or no reason, before Robespierre himself got the chop and Marat was stabbed in his bath. In Russia after 1917, the Bolsheviks took the same approach to the kulaks, the landowners, the surviving nobles, and anyone at all who resisted the red wave of Communism. In Cambodia in 1976, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge abolished towns, money, religion, and private property and introduced death by bayonet and club for the slightest disagreement.

    The American left hasn’t gone quite that far yet. Perhaps a better parallel would be the early Nazi party in Germany, who fairly freely attacked those who disagreed with their approach, culminating in Kristallnacht, where party thugs destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses while the emergency services stood down. Most would probably say they would never turn to that approach (the now-dead Lynne Stewart, lawyer for and handmaid to terrorists, was a refreshing exception). However, they have absolutely no tolerance for anyone who does not toe the ideological line.

    If you dare suggest that America’s borders should be other than fully open, you are a xenophobe. If you have the audacity to say that the African-American community might be responsible for some of its own problems due to destructive behaviors, you are a racist. If you have the temerity to say you are having trouble seeing your way clear to the redefinition of marriage after 3000+ years, then you are a homophobe. If you still honor Columbus, or Jefferson, or Robert E. Lee, or Washington, or anyone not on their approved list of admirables, you are a white supremacist. In the words of Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station, you deserve nothing more than “a kick in your yellow teeth and a punch in the throat.” Most don’t go so far as to do that…yet, since there can still be pretty severe consequences for that (witness the Antifa guy who was just sentenced to six years in prison for opening up someone’s head with a metal baton to the point where 24 staples were needed to close it). However, it’s pretty disturbing that influential bloggers on the left are openly saying things like that, and who knows how many on the left thinking things like that.

    If you let it be known that you are not a Democrat, or, God forbid, a Trump supporter (whether because you actually like the guy or because you have the quaint idea that the duly elected president should be respected while in office and the way to express disagreement is with your vote), you are the lowest of the low, a pagan, a savage. Friends will cut you off, colleagues will turn on you, and total strangers will glare at you while thinking “he’s an asshole, and deserves to be beaten up or killed.”

    Anonymous “friends” will check donation records and do deep dives into your social media presence, to see if you donated to a conservative cause or posted anything that doesn’t toe the ideological line. If you hold public office, there will be a concerted campaign to force you out immediately. If you are in business, expect a boycott and possible harassment. If you are neither, your employer is going to get a call or an email. Whatever your situation in life, expect it to be made a whole lot tougher. If the other side is feeling generous, they MAY (emphasize may) reach out to you beforehand, tell you what they found, and what they plan to do. They may also tell you what you can do to escape what they plan to do, like issue a public mea culpa, change your vote, stop selling something, sell something they want, make a generous donation to their cause, and affirmatively toe the line going forward.

    If this sounds like bigotry, or bullying, or shaking someone down, it’s because it is. However, you are wasting your time telling the left that. They will just tell you that hatred of racism or bigotry is not hatred, and bullying of bullies isn’t bullying, and reparations are just payment for past wrongs.

    Who are the real bigots? You decide.

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