An Ethics Analogy

I’ve been trying to think of the best analogy for the still rolling 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck. Suddenly, while watching “Airplane!” it came to me.

Ironically (and annoyingly), the ideal analogy for how the Democrats/”resistance”/mainstream media “Axis of Unethical Conduct” has behaved is an airplane analogy rather than a train analogy, and I hate mixed metaphors. Never mind.

During the entire 2016 campaign, I argued with a succession of Hillary Haters regarding my announcement that I was prepared to hold my nose, suppress my gag reflex and have six shots of bourbon in order to vote for Clinton on election day. I explained that I believed it to be per se unethical  for a candidate as loathsome as Donald Trump to be allowed to become President of the United States. Here or elsewhere I wrote that it was like having a choice in an in-flight emergency of having a horrible, untrustworthy pilot flying your passenger plane or a dog.

As I recently recounted, I changed my conclusion at almost the last second, deciding that I couldn’t justify voting for either Clinton or Trump. The airplane analogy is still a useful one, however, though the conditions have changed.

Now let’s imagine that we are all on a commercial airliner amidst the crisis that has fueled the drama in so many movies (and the comedy in the parody of them.) The pilot and co-pilot have been killed or disabled, so one of the passengers (or a cross-eyed flight attendant, as in “Airport 75”) has to fly the plane and eventually land it safely against all odds.

In our fictional flight, there are no good options: the few passengers have plausibly useful experience are afraid to take responsibility.  One passenger, a cocky rich guy, however, volunteers for the job. Almost nobody can stand him, and he has dubious qualifications at best (In “Snakes on a Plane,” a gamer who played a lot of flight simulating games agrees to try to land the aircraft. In “Airplane!,” of course, ex-fighter pilot Ted Stryker, seen above sweating at the controls , has a phobia about flying that led to his “drinking problem”).  Still, the rich jerk is the choice, and he takes the controls as the plane prepares to survive storms, high winds, wind-shear, missiles fired from the land, meteors, would-be hijackers, you name it.

He’s over his head, maybe he knows it, but in any case, he needs luck and all the help he can get or everyone’s dead.

But one faction on the plane is outraged that their lives depend on someone they distrust and deeply dislike. So they take votes among the passengers about whether the volunteer pilot should be dragged out of the cockpit. The spread rumors that he’s insane, and determined to make this a suicide flight, or take them all to Russia.

They verbally and even physically abuse any passenger who thinks they should be supportive of the man flying the plane. Theybang on the door, and shout threats and insults at the amateur pilot. Finally some of them get in the cockpit, and yell in his ears from both sides as he’s trying to fly: “Why are you going that way? Turn around! You’re insane, aren’t you? Hey everybody, he’s trying to kill us! Hey! You planned all this, didn’t you! You think you can cash in from this if you land the plane, which, you know, you can’t! Turn around! Land down there! Try to crash the plane somewhere safe! You’re an idiot!” and so on, continuously and with no let-up.

And somehow he keeps flying, trying to do the best job he can, while periodically lashing out at the passengers behaving so irresponsibly.

That’s the Presidency of Donald Trump so far.

Who are the villains in this movie?

16 thoughts on “An Ethics Analogy

  1. Yes, Indeed, what the bloody hell do we do? I argue with my TDS friends about this daily, watching their eyes fog over and roll back in their heads as they say “Trump”. And then I try to say, but Biden is senile, he does not know what day it is, and they scream “I DON’T CARE”…..but I do, unfortunately. Who is he going to pick as his VP? That person will end up running things, if Biden is…God help us all…elected…because CrazyJoe will be in a diaper at SleepyAcres before the year is out, babbling into his oatmeal. He says he will pick a black woman. What a way to pick a VP. I want someone selected by their brain, not by their genitals. This country is circling the drain, and we are doomed.

  2. Jack, so you don’t miss it–and I know you’d just kick yourself if you did–Tor’s ebook of the month club has for the next 4 days–and only one per day–free download of the first four installments of the Murderbot Diaries.

    As in all science fiction; ethics questions abound. Is it wrong to enslave sentient machines? Is it really video piracy if the downloader is an enslaved murderbot? Is the fact that soft squishy humans are the ones who make all the media a good enough reason to keep rescuing them when they insist on putting themselves in danger? Can bots and murderbots really not be friends as Murderbot insists?

    Best to find out for yourself. https://ebookclub.tor.com/

    P.S. Why yes I do like to shill for my favorite books. Wanna hear about my love for The Goblin Emperor?

  3. I hate films that place characters in a no-win situation, even if, or maybe because you know the lead character will come up with a clever third option that will get them all out of it. Real life often presents you with no-win situations or sucky situations, but clever third ways out are few and far between, and to look for them is usually a waste of time, a false hope, or both.

    Actually, this situation is closer to a “fighting in a burning house” trope which often pops up in similar media. You know the story, the two sides are fighting it out when some event (a storm, disaster, dramatic prophecy, whatever) forces a temporary halt while some change in the circumstances happens (some ancient site is revealed, some prison is opened, whatever). Once the immediate change stops the two sides resume their fight, while the third party or force introduced by the change in circumstances slowly becomes active…

    As the story usually plays, the two sides usually join forces to defeat or drive off this additional player. If it’s a one-off, it’s just for this episode, they will pick up with their fight afterwards. If the writer is making a permanent change, then the two sides’ attitudes toward each other will be changed, or at least set on a path to change, by this episode. This is a similar trope where the sides DON’T join forces, but continue their fight, while each tries to exploit the change and turn the situation to their own benefit, not really caring what the consequences are, as long as they stay safe and the other side gets hurt. Their hatred for the other side is stronger than anything else, except maybe their desire to grab everything for themselves.

    It kind of reminds me of the end of the C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, where the black dwarves turn against both the invaders of their homeland AND its loyal defenders, thinking they can use the invaders to wipe out both sides and take the whole place themselves. It doesn’t end well, once the invaders are reinforced they simply destroy both sides. In this case the Democratic Party are the dwarves, standing back while the virus kills and Trump and the GOP try to stop the virus while avoiding authoritarian measures and trying to prevent the economy from sliding into a recession, while occasionally sniping from the sidelines. To them, this is a juicy opportunity to get more power, maybe even all power, for themselves. The more people die, the more they can say the other side has blood on their hands. The more authoritarian things get, the more they can justify being authoritarian. The more the economy tanks, the better the chance the other side will get the blame and the more people will be dependent on big government. Game. Set. Match.

    Who’s the villain? Who indeed?

      • But that’s the ethics point…a good leader never accepts “There’s no solution.” Presenting an impossible scenario to solve is also a cheat. Kirk’s decision was like deciding to resort to torture in the “hidden bomb about to plow up LA” and you have someone who knows where it is” scenario. Torture is always morally and ethically wrong..except. Ethics Incompleteness Principle.

        • Not sure about that. A good leader is also a realist who accepts there are no good options sometimes, then chooses the best one that IS available. I don’t know if the best one is for many more to suffer so that many don’t die. I do know that a lot of the elderly are saying they don’t give a damn if the economy collapses, they aren’t dying to save someone else’s business. I can’t say I blame them. I can also think of a lot of small business people who are saying they don’t care if some old farts whose houses are paid for and who are just banking their SS checks between trips and socials go out a little sooner, they aren’t losing every goddamn thing they built and saved. I don’t blame them either. A lot of folks say the right to life trumps all other rights and they don’t care if this country stays locked up for 2 years, your freedom doesn’t trump my right to live. I don’t blame them. Still others say this nation isn’t equipped to stay locked up for that long, personal freedom counts, and they don’t want to be held prisoner because someone else is afraid. I also don’t blame them. I still don’t see a way out.

    • “Actually, this situation is closer to a “fighting in a burning house” trope which often pops up in similar media. You know the story, the two sides are fighting it out when some event (a storm, disaster, dramatic prophecy, whatever) forces a temporary halt while some change in the circumstances happens (some ancient site is revealed, some prison is opened, whatever). Once the immediate change stops the two sides resume their fight, while the third party or force introduced by the change in circumstances slowly becomes active…”

      This was William Seward’s idea when he suggested to Lincoln that the Union declare war on both England and France on the theory that the South would come back to the fold to fight a common enemy. It amazes me that Abe didn’t fire him on the spot, if not put him in an asylum.

      • I said it was a writing trope, not a historical fact. BTW, as we were winding down the Civil War, Francisco Solano Lopez, dictator of Paraguay, tried to take on Argentina, Uruguay (then known as the Banda Oriental) and Brazil all at once. He was killed and Paraguay went from 1.4 million to 229,000, while enemy casualties were about 1 million. Yeah, I’m shocked Lincoln didn’t sack him then and there.

  4. Another vehicular analogy: Firesign Theater’s “We’re all bozos on this bus?”

    Re: the airplane analogy and “Everything’s terrible!” The passengers are telling the substitute pilot the plane is crashing and on fire and out of fuel and losing altitude and upside down and otherwise disintegrating, notwithstanding what the instruments and common sense say.

  5. Oh Jack. This is an excellent analogy. Who are the villains? Not the rich guy doing his best, and still not an A+ personality. Anyone attempting to bring reason to the situation and stop the onslaught of hysteria is deemed as trying to kill them all. Often they are physically assaulted.

    As much as I dislike Bill Maher, his conversation with Rep. Dan Crenshaw this weekend was refreshing because it was a give and take of conflicting facts and opinions rather than name calling. And isn’t that a sad statement that it stands out.

  6. Just to flesh out the analogy a little, on October 10, 2016 WikiLeaks revealed that the Clinton campaign had pursued a strategy of “elevating” the credibility of Trump’s campaign during the Republican primaries. I believe that this is analogous to finding out that it was the leadership of the outraged faction who disabled the pilot and co-pilot.

    • Let’s put this all together, shall we? So the Trump campaign received shadow-support from the DNC which we also now know to have received help from the Russians in framing him for conspiring with Russians. Now they just need to get him by way of a chronologically non-linear transitive property! We know he received support from people who later colluded with Russians. When the defense says to the DNC House-prosecution “but you’re the ones who colluded directly”, they’ll just respond “We’re not the ones on trial!”

      That’s the eternal problem, isn’t it? They’re never the ones on trial…

  7. You have to include in this analogy that before the hated guy stepped into the cockpit, *everyone* on the plane agreed to a method of choosing the new pilot and agreed to abide by whatever came of that decision according to the agreed to method.

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