The reason I posted the Ethics Quiz about the consulting company CEO caught on a security camera beating a small dog is that I genuinely do not know what society is supposed to do with people like that. The conduct is sick and evil, and as I noted in the post, Previte’s comments showed that he neither regretted his actions nor understood what people were upset about. The poll was included to get a sense of the assembled, and it has been one-sided:
It is the esteemed veteran ethics warrior Michael West who focused on the question from a practical viewpoint, and, after all, this is a practical ethics blog. In a series of comments he wrote,
I voted for the apology route because there’s no choice between apology and appropriate punishment that incorporates aspects of both. His conduct is gross and indicative of his character, but our society is getting to a point where we don’t allow for any rehabilitation ever. And that’s not a good development.
I had posited to another commenter a public official caught on camera terrorizing his family to counter the argument that it was unfair for this conduct to be made public, and Michael countered,
I think psychologically terrorizing family combined with being a public official changes the scope of invested parties and certainly justifies a larger body of people interested in knowing about the behavior. In this case, while not absolving him of being scrutinized and shunned by an appropriate section of society, “it’s just a dog” does guide the level of this man’s infamy as compared to your hypothetical. But yes, once the video is out the video is out. But, if, after appropriate demonstrations of genuine remorse, repentance and change of character and appropriate consequences are leveled against this man and…such as reduction to mere data entry job…I don’t think I would “take my business elsewhere” if I discovered he happened to be the man entering the data I need entered.
I mean at some point the “shunned by society” is clearly disproportionate…should grocery stores refuse his ability to buy food?
I disagree regarding the public official terrorizing his family. Not because Michael isn’t correct that abusing humans is a greater offense than abusing animals, but because both represent a level of debased character that society cannot forgive or tolerate. Ultimately, that’s a #22 argument (From the rationalizations list: “There are worse things”) because abusing a dog is bad enough to trigger absolute forfeiture of trust. Both the human abuser and the animal abuser’s ethics alarms are sufficiently absent that neither is an acceptable partner, employee, neighbor, friend…or elected official.
If I’m hiring a hit man, maybe..
I ended that exchange by pointing out that I don’t have to trust someone to sell them food, and reiterating the position that an individual with such damaged ethics alarms is not sufficiently trustworthy to be accepted into a neighborhood. I also wrote that I don’t believe that Michael’s “demonstrations of genuine remorse, repentance and change of character“scenario is realistic, though we like to say so and think so.
Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick went to prison for running a dog-fighting ring, and was allowed back into football after professing remorse, giving money to animal rescue operations, and ostentatiously showing that he now “got it.” Well, he had millions of dollars as potential income to motivate that pose, and it worked, but I see no reason to believe he was sincere. Nope: watch films of abused pit bulls used in dog-fighting, and tell me that you would believe someone who could do that to animals—for entertainment!— could suddenly discover compassion and caring. We want to believe in contrition and repentance, and confirmation bias makes us see it where it isn’t most of the time. Trust, meanwhile, is not a matter of playing the odds. If I trust you, it’s because I regard the chances of your violating my trust as close to zero. 25% isn’t good enough.
Michael responded this time,
And if the “never” in “And there can never be genuine remorse ” is true, then he should be locked away for life…or maybe executed. Likely a better solution than a de facto exile in one’s own community….
So he can’t live anywhere.
So incarceration for life it is then.
Which brings us back to the original question. I won’t hold Michael to the incarceration and execution statements, which are examples of the straw man and false dichotomy logical fallacies he employs to emphasize the problem, which is “Now what?” If a Jeffrey Previte is as irredeemable as I think he is (and a majority of the readers here seem to think he is), what is the most ethical way for society to deal with him?
Here are six questions and associated polls, not to decide the issue, for ethics is not based on majorities, but to further refine the problem.
- Do you believe shunning is a legitimate tool of social control and the establishment of community standards?
- Would you be comfortable with a sister or daughter announcing that she wanted to marry Previte after he announced that he was remorseful and had donated large amounts to Animal Rescue organizations?
- If Previte moved next door, would you welcome him like any other new neighbor?
- If you were aware that a friend or relative was involved with Previte as an employee, partner, neighbor or friend and was not aware of the video, would you feel obligated to inform them?
- Would you avoid a business that employed Jeffrey Previte?
- Do you think someone can treat a dog as Previte does in the video (here) can otherwise be a good, kind, trustworthy neighbor, member of the community, citizen and human being?