Well, the national mood is clearly infecting Ethics Alarms. First a self-banned commenter from the past starts sending me private hate mail for no discernible reason. Then another banned commenter sends an attack comment while I’m sleeping. THEN a previously rational commenter of some note proclaims his exit because, he says, all I write about is politics, and because he said I excused the President for inciting a riot (which I did not). Then another commenter started calling participants here Nazis,and yet another commenter, whom I trust to use more restraint, also used a Nazi analogy to describe the Hill riot yesterday.
I expect better here, frankly; better, fairer, and more civil.
I get it: readers aren’t immune from being freaked-out during freakouts, but please, read “If,” (my father’s favorite poem, and a lifetime credo for him and his son) and calm the hell down:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
(And if you let Rudyard’s 19th Century male bias dissuade you from paying attention to his message, you’ll be a fool, my friend.)
I’ll only address one of the commenter upsets I described above: the accusation that Ethics Alarms has been writing about politics and neglecting ethics. I resent that, because I have been killing myself trying to find non-political ethics stories that are worth writing about, at a time when almost everything has been politicized. At the same time, I cannot in good conscience fail to explicate the unethical and unprecedented effort to sabotage an elected US President and all that has involved and corrupted since 2016, so this has necessarily involved many posts, more than I would have liked. It is the most significant U.S. ethics catastrophe of the last hundred years at least, and attention should be paid. What happened yesterday was a direct and predictable consequence of this.
Yet even so, Ethics Alarms has been and continues to be about all topics and all spheres of ethics. There are four or more posts most days, and four or five mini-posts in the “warm-ups.” Find another website that includes more diverse material on the topic of ethics; go ahead, try.
I will also note that the complaining commenter has not availed himself of the open forums, which exist specifically to invite readers to raise issues related to ethics that I may have missed or neglected. This is a participatory forum.
Annoyingly, the commenter who made this complaint also said that he had mostly “skimmed” posts here for the last year or so. Well, Ethics Alarms is not for “skimming,” and if one cannot read all of what I write, I’m not very interested in your opinions on what you have only half-comprehended.
1. You can’t say the President didn’t have this coming. Here is the last list I got of the Trump officials following Mick Mulvaney in resigning as a protest against the President’s poor handling of yesterday’s riot at the Capitol: Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary (and perhaps more to the point, Mrs. Mitch McConnell); Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to Melania Trump; Sarah Matthews, the White House deputy press secretary; Anna Cristina ‘Rickie’ Niceta, the White House social secretary; Matthew Pottinger, deputy to national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Tyler Goodspeed, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers; Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary.
Some of these are just getting an early jump on finding new jobs; some are taking advantage of the situation to do some virtue-signaling and grandstanding; some may be trying to hurt the President, and some may be acting on principle. Whatever their reasons, the President asked for these exits by embarrassing all those associated with him by acting like a jerk, showing his usual lack of self-restraint, and making any association with him feel like a dead albatross.
2. More on DeVos: her letter of resignation was more pointed than the rest, and her points are well taken.
In a letter to Trump, which said she would leave office Friday, DeVos listed what she said were the successes she and Trump had in education policy.“We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” DeVos wrote. “Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business,” she wrote. “That behavior was unconscionable for our country,” DeVos wrote. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is an inflection point for me.” She also noted that “impressionable children are watching from all of this, and they are learning from us.”
“I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good [judgment] and model the behavior we hope they would emulate,” DeVos wrote. “They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday.” She said she was resigning “in support of the oath I took to our Constitution, our people, and our freedoms.”
3. Estoppel confusion. Commenter Michael alerted me to a confusion of terms. I use “ethics estoppel” here to describe those who have disqualified themselves from pious critiques of conduct that they have previously endorsed or defended. That means that while their position may be valid, they are not to be taken seriously when they proclaim it. However, before I launched that concept, one of the earliest Rationalizations on the list, #2, was named “Ethics Estoppel”or “They’re just as bad”…
“The mongrel offspring of The Golden Rationalization and the Bible-based dodges a bit farther down the list, the “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse is both a rationalization and a distraction. As a rationalization, it posits the absurd argument that because there is other wrongdoing by others that is similar, as bad or worse than the unethical conduct under examination, the wrongdoer’s conduct shouldn’t be criticized or noticed. As a distraction, the excuse is a pathetic attempt to focus a critic’s attention elsewhere, by shouting, “Never mind me! Why aren’t you going after those guys?”
As you can see (I hope), this is the opposite of how Ethics Alarms now uses the term. The concept is not that current wrongdoing is mitigated because others have done as bad or worse, but that those who defended what was as bad or worse are estopped from being critics of similar conduct. The example for all time: Hillary Clinton saying that female accusers should be believed.
Rationalization #2 is now named “Whataboutism.”
4. More on Ethics Estoppel: Right on cue, John Hinderaker neatly summed up the reasons why, as I wrote yesterday,
First and foremost, anyone who did not condemn all of the George Floyd/Jacob Blake/Breonna Taylor/ Black Lives Matters rioting that took place this summer and fall is ethically estopped from criticizing this episode.That means I can, and will, condemn it as stupid, useless, self-destructive and anti-democratic violence, but most Democrats, progressives and media pundits cannot.
(Note that I did not write that the pro-Trump rioting yesterday was excusable or less despicable because of what the Left has done repeatedly, but that I don’t care to hear the same people that praised that violence now act as if they have any integrity or principles, when they clearly do not.
Do you remember when President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017? Leftist Democrats rioted in Washington that day. That riot was arguably worse, more violent and more destructive, than what happened in D.C. yesterday. The liberal rioters destroyed stores, set vehicles on fire and battled with the police. Six police officers were wounded. …I don’t recall a single Democratic office-holder denouncing the Democrats’ Inauguration Day riot, and the Associated Press came perilously close to praising the rioters.Over the ensuing four years, Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioted countless times, bringing devastation to cities like Portland, Seattle, Kenosha and Minneapolis. Did any Democrats denounce these riots? Not that I remember. Many Democrats endorsed them, or seemed to do so. Kamala Harris, for example, said about the riots in June:
“They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”
This was after 12 people had been killed in Democrat-sanctioned rioting, and billions of dollars in destruction committed. Have any Democrats denounced Black Lives Matter for its role in the riots? Not one.
Has any Democrat denounced Antifa? Not that I know of, and some, like Keith Ellison, have specifically endorsed Antifa’s political violence.Democratic Party journalists have joined the party’s politicians in excusing riots. The New York Times, for example, published an admiring profile of Antifa. The Washington Post, likewise, has carried water for Antifa.
The litany could go on for a long time. Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol was outrageous, but let’s not forget that last time out-of-control demonstrators interrupted business at the Capitol, shouted down senators and pounded on the doors of the Supreme Court, it was Democrats objecting to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And speaking of assaults on capitols, did any Democrats object when leftists occupied the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison for four months, destroying property, impeding public business and violently assaulting conservatives? Not a peep.
Thanks for the memories.