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 II: The Times And Its Readers


In Part I, describing the horrific personal destruction of 18-year-old Mimi Groves (above)–the antiseptic term “unethical” does not adequately convey the pure viciousness and wrongfulness of the act—I attempted to clarify what the entire scenario represents, a near complete distortion of values and ethical norms with ominous implications. I mostly left out the enthusiastic participation of the New York Times in this destructive process, first, because it was not directly involved in Jimmy Galligan’s hateful and pernicious conduct, and second, because of space considerations. Thus we have Part II.

The Times signaled its sentiments and objectives in the headline of its feature, written by reporter Dan Levin: “A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning.” “Reckoning” means, in this context, a settling of accounts, a judgment, or earned punishment. In the view of the Times writer and the editors who allowed it to be published, Mimi Groves was justly punished by her black classmate, who plotted–plotted is a fair description—to derail her education and future prospects, and did so. What was the conduct that earned the “reckoning”? Groves used a word, in a general context, that the social justice establishment has ruled, on its own authority, can never be uttered for any reason, or published in print—unless the individual responsible is black, in which case it may be rude or less than desirable, but otherwise it’s OK.

At the time the word “nigger” was used by Groves in a three second video on social media, and today, popular songs embraced by her age group and peer group used the same word repeatedly, and made millions of dollars as a result. At the time the word “nigger” was used by Groves in a three second video on social media, popular movies showed black characters calling other black characters that same word in jest, or affectionately, or for shock value.The actors playing those characters, notably Samuel L. Jackson, who has earned a bundle as the spokesperson for a major credit card,while using teh word “nigger” more times on screen that any actor in film history, have not faced any “reckoning.” The screenwriters who put those words in his mouth faced no “reckoning”; the directors who permitted the dialogue to be read and the studios that sent the wave of “niggers” into theaters and streaming services faced no “reckoning.”

Just this month, Netflix premiered an adaptation of August Wilson’s play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by acclaimed social justice warrior director George C. Wolfe, an African American. When a stream of “niggers” was unleashed about ten minutes into the fim, never to stop, I was genuinely confused. How could this be, when I have a file of professors and teachers who faced sanctions, protests, suspensions, and professional destruction, not by referring to any black individual as a nigger, but by using the word in the context of discussing legal, ethical and cultural implications of language.

Yes, I was confused, and I am a lawyer, a writer, an ethicist and a teacher with more than four times as much experience in life as Mimi Groves when, as a child, she mistakenly thought a casual use of the word in a social media message wouldn’t upset anyone, much less put a dedicated life assassin on her trail.The the New York Times holds that Mimi deserved her “reckoning,” and made sure that if anyone inclined to tar her as a racist unfit for human association on this woke culture we are breeding didn’t know that she had to be punished and why, a major feature in the nation’s most read, circulated and quoted newspaper would spread word of her disgrace. The paper’s verdict is clear: Jimmy Galligan struck a blow against “systemic societal racism.” He’s a hero, even though literally nothing he did was ethical, fair, or just:

  • He never discussed the video with Mimi, though nothing stopped him.
  • He gave her no chance to explain or apologize
  • He ignored the Golden Rule
  • He took no action that would mitigate or limit damage, since the video was four years old and did no damage to anyone, thus eliminating any utilitarian justifications
  • He used Mimi as a means to an end, a strict violation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
  • His actions were based on pure hate and intended as revenge

Regarding this despicable conduct, the Times concluded its endorsement in part with this, indicating that Groves’ ruin was a necessary step towards “anti-racism”:

Since the racial reckoning of the summer, many white teenagers, when posting dance videos to social media, no longer sing along with the slur in rap songs. Instead, they raise a finger to pursed lips. “Small things like that really do make a difference,” Mr. Galligan said….For his role, Mr. Galligan said he had no regrets. “If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened,” he said. And because the internet never forgets, the clip will always be available to watch.

“I’m going to remind myself, you started something,” he said with satisfaction. “You taught someone a lesson.”

The Times knows its readers: based on the comments to the article, at least half are in sympathy with Jimmy, and that is half too many. One cannot reach such a conclusion by any competent ethical analysis. This reader got it right:

It appears Mr. Galligan made a conscious choice not to confront Ms. Groves at the time that she made this video and shared it, but to save it and use it in order to punish her. That is the act of a vengeful and malicious child, no matter what Mr. Galligan chooses to believe.

Rebuttals to this point, which is spot on, are all of this ilk:

Black men and women have been confronting people who utter the slur for decades now (to stop uttering it), it’s not something new that the girl didn’t know. Why would you allow a privileged girl to inflict pain leisurely on another human being ?

Gee, black men and women haven’t been confronting each other sufficiently to make sure the word isn’t available when they find it profitable and convenient to use it, now have they? Who knows what the 15-year-old knew, especially if she made the mistake of thinking the rules should be the same for all races, which is what she heard civil rights activists claiming. Who had pain “inflicted” on them, until someone other than Mimi deliberately sent her video to someone who would be triggered? And, of course, we see “privileged,’ which means “You white folks deserve to be treated unfairly. See how it feels?”

Here’s another typical comment:

“So much outrage over Mr Galligan’s actions and how he supposedly ruined Ms Grove’s life. It’s interesting that Blacks are supposed to be accountable for their behavior but whites should always get a pass.”

The commenter is deliberately ignoring several facts:

  • The girl’s behavior was simply using a word. It wasn’t directed at anyone or designed to insult or harm anyone.
  • Let’s see, how many blacks—adults, not children have “gotten a pass” for using the same word Groves used?
  • “Supposedly ruined”—many of the commenters defending Galligan use Rationalization #22, or “There are worse things,” on the theory that because Mimi is white and “privileged,” her life wasn’t really ruined, so what Galligan did to her was no big deal….after all, he could have cut her legas off and thrown acid in her face. Now THAT would have been ruining her life! Indeed, short of mayhem and existential catastrophes, no 18-year-olds life is truly “ruined,” but that Mimi can recover from Galligan’s cruelly  doesn’t mitigate his conduct.

So many fatuous, poorly reasoned arguments to choose from! Let’s end with this one:

I’d be much more satisfied by Ms. Groves’ repentance if she had said something along the lines of “Now I have some small sense of how powerful and insidious racism is. My white privilege prevents me from ever fully experiencing or completely understanding how people of color are hurt by it. But I am committed to doing all I can to combat racism both in myself and in others. I am deeply sorry for what my carelessness has done to others.”

Her carelessness did nothing to “others.” The objective of all of the current hair-trigger sensitivity and organized bullying is to make white society grovel, be completely submissive, and to surrender their rights to fairness as their penalty for “systemic racism.” If Mimi Groves had followed that script, she still wouldn’t have been forgiven. It should have been sufficient for her to say that she didn’t realize her foolish SnapChat message would be taken as a slur, and was sorry for her mistake. In fact, as the article reveals, that is basically what she has said. Of course, it’s not enough.

I’ll to the what I wrote in Part I. Jimmy behaved like a vicious jerk, and he seems smugly satisfied with his conduct as a vicious jerk, raising the rebuttable presumption that he is a vicious jerk. That the New York Times signals its approval of his conduct, and that so many of its readers seem to lack the ethical literacy to realize how wrong his conduct was, guarantees that vicious jerks like Jimmy will proliferate.

14 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 II: The Times And Its Readers

  1. “[I]n which case it [black people using “nigger”] may be rude or less than desirable, but otherwise it’s OK.” Not so. In all of black culture, using the word “nigger” is perfectly acceptable and even “authentic” and therefore admirable.

  2. Let me go further into my comment to part 1, which boiled down to the NYT acted most unethically of all. I chose not to expound then, anticipating this post, but I will now.

    It’s likely – indeed, even essential – to this story that the pitchfork-and-torches mobs on social media have a larger footprint than the New York Times. But THIS Facebook group, THAT Instragram “Infuencer”, THOSE Twitter feeds – tend to be narrow channels of like-minded myrmidons (his is what social media has done to society, more effectively than any propagandist ever could: separated culture into armed camps).

    But with its publication of this story, the NYT has given it the Blessing of the Angels. It has validated the asinine opinions of the Perpetually Aggrieved, and it has done so for no reason other than to maintain its visibility and relevance.

    As a libertarian capitalist, I can ALMOST respect the decision when viewed for the coldest possible eyes. I have long understood – and, in fact, cautioned on this blog – that the news media is first and foremost a business, that it always had been, and that we should expect journalistic decisions to be made with business in mind.

    I’ve never argued that this was right, merely that it’s the reality, and that we’d be better off as a society if everyone understood this.

    But as one who tries to see things fairly and live ethically, I have nothing but contempt for that rag. Ruin the life of an 18 year old girl because of something she said roughly around the time of her 12th or 15th menses? I can just see the editorial conference: “Sure, why the hell not? We operate in a city that’s destroying an industry responsible for maybe 1% of all current Covid infections, and we’re cool with that. Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.”

    Fuck you, New York Times. Choke on your fucking omelette, you heartless bastards. And polish up your resumes – the Trump gravy train you’ve been riding for the last four years is about to get switched onto a siding, no small thanks to you assholes.

    Learn to code.

  3. “Since the racial reckoning of the summer, many white teenagers, when posting dance videos to social media, no longer sing along with the slur in rap songs. Instead, they raise a finger to pursed lips. “Small things like that really do make a difference,” Mr. Galligan said…”

    Yes, it really helps bridge divides and bring people together as equals when celebrities write multi-million dollar hit songs that people who look like me are not allowed to sing along to.

    (Leaving aside the questions of whether the songs are in any way pleasant to listen to, or have any message other than hedonism. Those questions have many different answers, depending on the artist.)

      • Bullshit. She needs to sue Galligan’s ass, and maybe the Times too. I’ve heard the best revenge is living well, but I think that’s just not true. The best revenge is to hurt the guy who hurt you worse.

          • Come on, you guys. Revenge feels good, but it doesn’t make anyone “whole.” It’s also the antitheses of ethical behavior. The jerk thought he was avenging all of those African-Americans who were grievously harmed by a dymb and obviously trivial message on SnapChat that they wouldn’t have known about if someone hadn’t set out to cause trouble.

            You make yourself whole by not letting a cruel and destructive act define you, and succeeding anyway.Stooping to the jerk’s level just compounds the damage.

            • I don’t know about that. It’s been my experience that bullies don’t really get the message unless they experience themselves what they’ve done to others It’s also been my experience that most bullies turn coward when faced with worse pain than what they have caused others. As adults we cut the garbage because supposedly the system gives us redress when someone does wrong to us. However, when the system won’t help us, or can’t give us meaningful help (someone assaulted you and broke your jaw and he’s getting probation) or is on the other person’s side, what are we to do? When ethics is not enough, the law is supposed to step in, but sometimes when the law won’t step in, you have to do it yourself.

              It’s not supposed to come to that. You’re supposed to be able to have faith in the system that it will protect you, punish those who break the rules, and, hopefully, compensate you if someone hurts you by breaking the rules. That’s part of the contract everyone makes with society and society makes with everyone, to prevent anarchy. If society says to you that it is not going to honor that contract, then it is reasonable for you to say that all bets are off, you will get satisfaction your way. When a fellow employee threatened me with bodily harm, I had faith that I could go to the appropriate authorities, who gave him a 20-day suspension (only because his record was otherwise clean) and a warning that another such act would result in termination. If I had no such faith, why shouldn’t I grab my tire iron, drop out of sight, wait for this jerk, come up behind him and yell, “Hey, tough guy!” before caving his skull in?

  4. It’s obvious, or should be, that this jerk was marinated in the idea that anything goes when there is an accusation or question of racism, and that no punishment for racism is too great. So, when the time came, he acted on it.

    When I was a kid, I was often warned by the adults in my life that “you’d better watch what you say, or someone might hurt you,” and I was certainly not the only one being told that. However, this lazy and stupid approach to maintaining civility led all of us to believe the logical corollary that “if someone says something you don’t like, it’s ok to hurt him, because he should have watched his mouth in the first place and any injury is his fault.” Then they acted shocked when we gave each other so many black eyes, bloody noses, and worse. To this day I have the impulse to act on that belief when someone says something I find offensive or insulting, and it’s only my adult wisdom stepping in that has enabled me to avoid potentially life-altering consequences for acting on that belief. I could go into details of things I wanted to do and why I thought they were justified, but, if it’s all the same to everyone, I think I’ll skip that part tonight.

    Obviously, this kid had no adult wisdom to step in and tell him “Hey, the fact that this girl said something stupid in a video four years ago not directed at me is no skin off my nose, so there’s no reason to get involved here,” or “What she said was offensive, but not deserving of complete destruction of her life, so maybe I should just let it drop,” or, God forbid, “Maybe what I have in mind here is wrong, and would make me look vicious, show I can’t be trusted, and give others pause as to whether they want me as a friend, to work with me, or to hire me.”

    We might still give it a pass if there was some kind of genuine conflict between these two kids or if Jimmy was a year or two younger. However, neither of those is the case. Jimmy’s old enough to vote, old enough to get married, old enough to sign a contract, and old enough to be charged criminally as an adult. With that comes the responsibility to act like an adult. We established there’s no genuine conflict here. Jimmy took a stranger’s life and smashed it on the altar of anti-racism.

    The difference here is that the parents and teachers when I was a kid at least tried to stem the tide of attack and injury that resulted from the beliefs they’d taught, and the school principals, superintendents, and, if necessary, the police and the courts, didn’t hesitate to impose appropriate consequences. Word has it that one kid who had a serious problem keeping his hands to himself suddenly lost his desire to bully after his (possibly unofficial) uncle, a police officer, locked him up and made as though to leave him there after the umpteenth fight he was involved in. He later returned after the kid was almost scared enough to mess himself, unlocked him, and told him something to the effect of if he kept going the way he was going it would not be a principal suspending him from school, it would be a judge sentencing him to five over three in state prison. Everyone here, including the New York Times, is telling this guy he’s a hero who struck a blow against systemic racism and thanking him for taking down a daughter of privilege. There’s a chance that he might become the next Ta-Nehesi Coates, but there’s also a good chance he might be the one who tips the scales and sends the Great Stupid into the same place as the witch hunts, the French Revolution, and the October Revolution.

  5. At some point this has to end, hopefully before it and similar atrocities against reason cumulatively provoke a degeneration into secession.

    The only racism painfully evident here is the insistence that the use of a word should be denied or granted based on the race of the person who would employ it, and is nothing more than an attempt for one group to manipulate, suppress, and control another. The “N-word” thing just seems to be the most potent of the imagined pseudo-injuries that have birthed a raft of ridiculous concepts such as “microagressions”, “safe spaces”, et al. Once opportunists realized the absurdity of claiming injury from hearing or seeing a word would actually be fully and eagerly embraced by both the professional and amateur grievance-seekers, there was no stopping them. This works so much better over a range of society than the crude old school race-baiting of an Al Sharpton-style huckster. Every pandering pol, every put-upon teen suffering the great unfairness of his existence, and every suburban mom and aging hippie aching for a return to relevance can embrace the concept, and demonstrate their good intentions.

    Is it hyperbole to caution that these things will help to destroy the union? Where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket?

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