Is this an Ethics Train Wreck, defined as a situation where everyone involved in in the wrong? If it isn’t, to paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones’s burned-out sheriff in “No Country for Old Men,” it will do until a real one shows up.
We begin with the impetus for the protest. Truckers, alone in their cabs, pose no danger to anyone whether they are vaccinated or not, masked or not. Social distancing is enough when you’re alone inside a moving truck. The pandemic restrictions are increasingly obnoxious and irrational—unethical in short, “following the science” of experts who have been wrong (or lying) so often it would be funny if it hasn’t been so disastrous. Ethics Alarms is on record as holding that most protests are pointless and unethical, but not all. There is ample justification for truckers to protest what is, for them, oppressive government edicts.
BUT…this protest is violating the law, as well as inconveniencing and harming citizens who are not at fault for the policies the truckers are protesting. The truckers have paralyzed traffic, disrupted business and unsettled residential neighborhoods, as truckers parked their vehicles in intersections and across busy thoroughfares. “Someone is going to get killed or seriously injured because of the irresponsible behavior of some of these people,” Jim Watson, Ottawa’s mayor, said as he declared the situation a state of emergency. I don’t see how anyone can dispute that conclusion, and sympathy with the truckers’ position shouldn’t translate into acceptance of their mode of protest,GoFundMe removed a fundraiser for the convoy that had raised more than $8 million because, the crowdfunding platform said, it violated its terms of service. You can’t seek contributions to break the law. I agree. The company said it had released an initial $1 million in donations to Freedom Convoy organizers last week once they provided a clear distribution plan and confirmed that they would only be used for those participating in a legal protest. The rest of the money, it said, it would distribute to other charities–WRONG, unethical, and stupid. Of course this would be misappropriating contributions by GoFundMe. After many criticized that decision—no Democrats though!—the platform backed down and said it would refund the money. The initial decision, however, is enough to justify not trusting GoFundMe.
Back to GoFundMe: suspending the truckers’ appeal would be completely defensible if it did not represent such a flagrant double standard. The platform allowed Black Lives Matter and various George Floyd protest groups to raise funds when their activities were often illegal and violent. If GoFundMe wants to have a “you can use us if we like you or agree with you, and can’t if we don’t,” fine. However, if they are going to have terms of service, that’s a contract, and they must be enforced the same for all.
In the hypocrisy sweepstakes, conservatives who are cheering on the trucker occupation are a close second to GoFundMe, and maybe tied. As with the George Floyd riots and occupations in Portland and elsewhere, this is as much of an attempt at intimidation and extortion as a demonstration. They should oppose it exactly as they opposed those 2020 “mostly peaceful” protests.