Bizarro World Ethics: A Vicious Young Jerk’s Unethical Act Is Celebrated And His Victim Vilified In A Cautionary Tale Of What Happens When Society Allows Its Values To Be Turned Inside Out. Part I: Jimmy Galligan, Ethics Villain

The New York Times published a long and detailed account of what can and will happen if society allows its values and ethical norms to become distorted. It enters the world of Bizarro Ethics, where, like the fictional and allegedly comic planet of Bizarro World in old Superman comics, everything is backwards and inside out. In such a culture, I have explained here many times, being unethical is ethical, and being ethical is wrong. A black student set out to use an old social media post to destroy the reputation of a white classmate after she had been admitted to the college of her dreams. And he succeeded. The Times story is a cautionary tale of what is happening in our culture, but that’s not its objective. Its objective is to rationalize and justify what the black student did.

In 2016, when she was a freshman and 15-years old, Mimi Groves sent a three second video SnapChat message to some friends that said, “I can drive, nigger!” She has explained that she used the dreaded “N-word” because it was common in the music she and her friends had been listening to. It was not intended to be seen by or to upset anyone; it was just a one-off social media message like millions of others that are sent every day, by an immature child lacking common sense, experience and a fully formed brain. As such, it should have been ignored, especially by her peers, who suffered from the same maladies.

But because of the scourge of social media and a culture which increasingly encourages cruelty, vengeance, personal destruction, and the elevation of doing harm to those who “deserve it” to a societal norm, the message became a ticking time bomb in the hands of those who felt they had a right to destroy her.

Somebody send a copy of the message to Jimmy Galligan’s phone last school year. Galligan is black, and Mimi was a fellow classmate whom he knew and had spoken with earlier in their high school days.

Ethics Point 1: Whoever saved the message and set out to make sure that someone would see it who would find it upsetting is the first and the catalytic ethics villain in this story. There was no justifiable reason to send the message to Galligan except to upset and trigger him, which someone who knew him obviously believed it would. A fair, rational and ethical person would know that a years-old message on SnapChat is meaningless, and the Golden Rule would have taught him or her that circulating such a message is something he or she would never want anyone to do with an ill-considered video of their creation.

Here the Times attempts to prejudice the reader in Jimmy’s favor with a trail of irrelevancies:

  • “Nigger” was regularly hurled in classrooms and hallways throughout his years in the Loudoun County school district where he was a student. He had brought the issue up to teachers and administrators but, much to his anger and frustration, his complaints had gone nowhere. Irrelevant. That doesn’t excuse what he did in any way.
  • Teachers refused to do anything about it when he complained. Again, irrelevant. Their lack of responsible conduct does not excuse his.
  • “During that school year, Mr. Galligan said, [a] student made threatening comments about Muslims in an Instagram video. Mr. Galligan showed the clip to the school principal, who declined to take action, citing free speech and the fact that the offensive behavior took place outside school. ‘I just felt so hopeless,’ Mr. Galligan recalled.” Yeah, gotta do something about that “free speech” problem. Better plot to destroy another student who used a taboo word once, when she was 15….
  • “Ms. Groves, who just turned 19, lives with her parents and two siblings in a predominantly white and affluent gated community built around a golf course.” Obviously she had to be taken down a peg as a privileged white girl.
  • The school is in Leesburg, Virginia, a town named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee—So what?— and the school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling….SUPER “So what?” I get it: systemic racism made Jimmy behave like a vicious jerk. Wrong. Being a vicious jerk made Jimmy behave like a vicious jerk.

Jimmy Galligan set out to “get” Mimi, and held on to the video, planning to circulate it at just the right time to “teach her a lesson.” “He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right,” the Times says.

Nice.

Let’s be clear: the time would never be “right.” Posting the video to harm her would be wrong whenever he did it, but especially four years after it was made.The Times article never says or suggests this, however. Indeed, the words “wrong,” unjust” and “unethical” never appear in the story at all.

When Galligan received the old video, he and Groves were seniors, and both 18. Mimi was a varsity cheer captain whose aspiration was to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where the cheer team was the reigning national champion. Jimmy waited until Mimi’s dream had come true, and she was accepted at the school. Then he released the video.

Ethics Point 2: Whatever happened to Mimi as a result of this calculated, indefensible conduct doesn’t change its essential hateful, cruel nature. What Jimmy intended—to harm someone he barely knew based on a communication  not directed to him from four years earlier can’t be defended under any ethical system. If it ended up doing little or no harm, like a bomb that turns out to be a dud or a missed sniper shot, that is moral luck, and does not mitigate the sheer evil nature—yes, I think “evil” is an apt description here— of what Jimmy did and intended to do.

The “right time” for Jimmy was the peak of the George Floyd Freakout, and his choice of a moment to release the video was the equivalent of throwing a match into a bone-dry forest with Mimi tied to one of the trees. Within hours, the video had gone viral on Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, and the social media mob demanded that the University of Tennessee revoke its admission offer.

Ethics Point 3: Imagine a culture where substantial numbers of people exercise the power to interfere with a stranger’s educational opportunities and career path based on using a single word, directed at nobody in particular, in an impulsive social media post when that individual was a child, and worse, where such people think their conduct is virtuous. Well. that’s the United States of America today.

Mimi Groves was quickly bounced from the university’s cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who said they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public.

Ethics Point 4: And there we have the level of integrity, courage, ethical reasoning and fairness of our typical university administrators. They are the servants of the mob, not values. They reveal themselves as unfit to teach, educate, or to operate a n institution of learning by such craven and indefensible behavior. 

Writes the Times: “Groves was among many incoming freshmen across the country whose admissions offers were revoked by at least a dozen universities after videos emerged on social media of them using racist language.”

Ethics Point 5:Everybody does it,” so it must be right, eh? Except that there is a material difference between current admittees engaging in the irresponsible act of making racially inflammatory statements online contemporaneously with their admission, and a woman who issued a dumb three-second video four years ago. The question of whether private social media conduct is a justification for school sanctions is a separate, though related, issue. That Mimi Groves was the victim, not the miscreant, in this episode should be self-evident. What happened to other students, rightly or wrongly, at other schools is not germane.

Jimmy Galligan has begun his freshman year at Vanguard University in California. Mimi Groves has enrolled in online classes at a nearby community college.

He is an ethics villain, and she was his victim. Yet a large number of people in this country, perhaps even a majority, lack the ethical resources to figure that out, as we will see in Part 2.

17 thoughts on “Bizarro World Ethics: A Vicious Young Jerk’s Unethical Act Is Celebrated And His Victim Vilified In A Cautionary Tale Of What Happens When Society Allows Its Values To Be Turned Inside Out. Part I: Jimmy Galligan, Ethics Villain

  1. I’ve been following this story for the past couple of days and I have been waiting for you to get here. This kid is a real piece of work, but really, I think he might also be a victim. Any intelligent company that hires him and looks him up is going to see this and nope right out of that decision. How could you ever trust someone who did this?

    Also, it is events like these that make The Orville episode “Majority Rule” or the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” seem more and more like a reality. I’m sure there are more episodes like them, but the thought of them should scare everyone. In fact, in one part a older lady pleads for tea, but is callously denied service for “stupid things she did in her twenties.”

    • It’s likely to lead to our buddy George Will’s “condign justice” for Jimmy, right enough. On this piece, even the NYT’s usually reliably SJW-infused comments section contains a significant percentage (with many upvotes) hammering Galligan as a sociopathic little weasel. Things don’t seem to be working for him quite like he envisioned. What a shame.

  2. Galligan might have this trophy but I would be not be surprised if this does not come back to bite him in the ass when he seeks employment.

    I for one would not hire a person who demonstrates a willingness to engage in calculated destruction. A manager has a duty to protect the organization from such people who can damage the reputation of the enterprise.

    • I second that. Who’s going to want to know or work with someone who has shown that he is not just a backstabber, but someone who takes a backstab for no real reason against someone who he has no reason to backstab and takes the damage level up to eleven? If he did this to someone he really doesn’t know to make some point, what do you think he’d do to someone who he had a legitimate problem with?

      I saw the movie “Sleepers” based on Lorenzo Carcaterra’s semi-fictional account of growing up in Hell’s Kitchen before it became Clinton. It tells how a stupid prank gone wrong sent him and his three friends to reform school, where they were viciously abused by four of the guards, and how then they, with the aid of the local mob boss (played to perfection by the late Vittorio Gassman), get their revenge on those guards. It’s a pretty good case study in what revenge is, and how unwise it is to do someone wrong just because you can, because the consequences, if and when they come back on you, can be very, very bad.

      The key difference here is that Carcaterra and his friends had a pretty compelling reason to want revenge on a quartet of guards who had brutally beaten and raped them, kids too small to fight back, including sodomizing them with batons. One is murdered outright in a restaurant by two of them who’ve become career criminals with the “West Side Boys,” another is killed by the brother of another inmate who was also abused and died, another goes to jail when his corruption is exposed, and the fourth loses everything when he is forced to admit his past evil in court. When it’s all over, you have no sympathy for these four bastards who the wheel went around on.

      I also have perhaps too chummy of a relationship with revenge, although most of it I confine to my writing. It makes for a VERY compelling storyline, but, again, those who I write about usually have a reason for wanting revenge: one was a knight sent into a difficult exile by a combination of a vicious but cowardly fellow officer, a woman who failed to step forward and tell the truth, and politics, another was the last of a house destroyed by dirty tactics and treachery who was looking to pay out the descendants of those responsible, yet a third saw his family and everyone he knew killed by raiders when he was a child, and later destroyed the raiders in retaliation.

      This guy, though? He barely even knew this girl. There’s no indication that she had been a “mean girl” to him, or spread lies or rumors about him, or shot him down in a humiliating way when he asked her for a date, or gotten someone to attack him. Even if she had done any of those things, they wouldn’t justify this level of retaliation, but it might make a little more sense. There is every indication that Galligan had been struggling with wanting to strike back at a world he saw as racist for a while, but just not being able to get anyone’s attention. He mentioned pulling his white father aside and telling him not to use the N-word like his black mother’s family did in addition to the factors Jack mentioned above. Mmmhmmm, I’m sure dad just slapped his palm on his forehead and thanked his son for setting him straight. Now he finally had something in his pocket that was guaranteed to do the maximum amount of damage if timed right, and he waited for the perfect time. Now he made his point, and everyone is talking about it, and frankly, think his supporters, if privileged white girl Mimi didn’t want to become a head on a pole in this racial reckoning, she should have kept her mouth shut earlier.

      BTW, while we’re on the topic, check out this video, which is making the rounds:

      https://www.newsweek.com/twisted-tea-video-1-million-times-memes-1557664

      Admittedly, the white dude, who was probably drunk, should have zipped it and not acted the fool. However, the retaliation he got was a criminal act, no two ways about it. Yet, everyone is flashing this around like it’s such a great thing that a racist got a beating. That includes the idiots recording this for posterity and the clerk who’s just standing there enjoying the show instead of dialing 911 or at a minimum, telling them to take this outside.

  3. Based on the photo of Galligan he must live in an upscale community. So he has had the same benefit of a Loudoun County PS education as his victim and does not hail from the mean streets of Anacostia so he is just as privileged, if not more so, than his white classmates who cannot gain sympathy for being ridiculed for being short and fat, a nerd or some other physical characteristics that other students feel compelled to make light of.

  4. I do not for a single minute believe that the term “nigger” was “regularly hurled” at Galligan, much less that his teachers refused to do anything about it. There is no upscale community in which it is de rigueur for white people to call black people niggers and there is no high school in the country that would take no action if a black student was called a nigger by his white classmates. Galligan is a liar or fantasist as well as a creep.

  5. I presume you’ll address this in Part Two, but though what Galligan did was deeply unethical, what the New York Times did was far worse.

  6. Reason reported on this and here is a very disturbing comment.

    http://reason.com/2020/12/28/new-york-times-racial-slur-teen-jimmy-galligan-mimi-groves/#comment-8660583

    I remember when conservatives and (mostly faux) libertarians claimed to support accountability.

    That appears to have changed, at least when a White person uses a vile racial slur gratuitously and is held to account.

    Carry on, grievance-consumed, obsolete, bigoted, conservative, ready-for-replacement clingers.

    – Rev. Arthur Kirkland

    Why should we tolerate the existence of people like him?

    We need to apply the creed of Cobra Kai to Kirkland and his ilk.

    – Strike first
    – Strike hard
    – No mercty

    • Arthur Kirkland has been an infamous commenter on the Volokh conspiracy for a long, long time. This is typical. It’s a moronic comment: “accountability” for what? For a child carelessly using a word with the same casualness that hip-hp and rap artists she listened to used it, once, aimed at no one, harming no one, while woke would-be dictators pronounced a mere word as the equivalent of a moral crime?

      It’s not a disturbing comment. It’s a really stupid comment, even for Kirkland.

  7. How does juvenile racism compare with juvenile crime, along the axes of consequences and responsibility? Sure this isn’t the government meting out justice but what is the point at which a few thousand dollars worth of fine, a few years of community service or a few lonths in prison will be less than the loss of lifetime earnings from not graduating, even if the alma mater is u tennessee

    • You make a good point. Even the criminal records of minors are expunged when they turn 18. Mimi will experience life-long repercussions for her youthful mistake, despite not having broken any laws.

  8. I wonder how many people will want to “friend” him at Vanguard University? I bet he will lead a lonely existence there. Other students may publicly praise him but only an idiot would share anything personal with him.

  9. The President of Vanguard University, Michael Beals, certainly has an interesting background regarding this story:
    https://www.vanguard.edu/about/office-of-the-president/president-michael-j-beals

    Mike began teaching at Vanguard as an adjunct faculty member in 1991. In 2005, Mike became an assistant professor of philosophical theology and christian ethics. He left that position in 2009. In 2012, after serving for 23 years as the senior pastor of Mission Hills Community Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, Mike returned to Vanguard as Dean of Spiritual Formation, a position that serves as the university pastor for the Vanguard community and the senior administrator of the spiritual formation department.

    Perhaps, as the leader of a purportedly Christian university, he might be willing to explain why Galligan is still a student at his institution: officeofthepresident@vanguard.edu

  10. There’s one addition to the story that makes it all the better (or worse): it was quickly noticed that Galligan had left his social media open, on which he had many things to say, including a video of his own complaining about being depressed in his freshman year because of things he’d done in the years prior following him into high school.

    Nothing like a little extra hypocrisy to top it off.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised to see this kid get an offer to attend Harvard or Princeton or Stanford.

      Yo, black people. If you want white people (particularly young kids who listen to hip hop for no apparent reason I can see) to stop using “nigger” and its variants (niggah, etc.) yourselves. Until you do so, your outrage can’t be taken seriously. This is a double standard you have to eliminate if you want to be taken seriously.

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