“Should Bystanders Have a Legal Duty To Intervene?” Of Course Not, But It’s Worth Thinking About Why It’s A Terrible Idea

The real mystery is why a law professor would ever conclude that it was a good idea.

Amos N. Guiora, a professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, has authored The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust, In it, he addresses the   bystander-victim relationship, focusing on the Holocaust. He comes to the remarkable conclusion that a society cannot rely on morality, ethics and compassion alone to move its members to come to the assistance of another human being in danger. He insists that it is a legal issue, and that society should make the obligation to intervene a legal duty, and  non-intervention a crime.

Wow. Here is a shining example of how bias can make smart people not only stupid, but blind. I have not read the book (I did listen to this podcast), because his contention is self-evidently anti-ethical, and typifies the attitude that has led to the criminalizing of so much in U.S. society that rigorous enforcement of the law would make the nation a police state. The Holocaust is the worst possible starting point for this issue: to state the most obvious absurdity, if the government is the victimizer, who would enforce the laws against not assisting victims? I get it, though: the professor is angry and bitter that the international community and Christians didn’t forcefully intervene before Hitler was on the verge of liquidating Non-Aryans from the face of the earth. But no law within imagination would have prevented this unique catastrophe. Nor would the kinds of laws he advocates improve the fate of most victims, or be practically enforceable.

Ethics Alarms has discussed the duty to rescue often and in great detail, and often notes, “when ethics fail, the law steps in.” The second stage of that statement is “and usually makes a mess of it.”  This is the compliance/ethics divide so exposed by corporate compliance rules, regulations and laws, which have done little to improve corporate conduct, and have provided cover for complainant and creative misconduct, like Wall Street leading up to the 2008 crash. Giving up on the teaching and strengthening of ethical values in society in favor of mandating what the state regards as “right” by inflicting punishment degrades society and insults humanity, treating it as if it is incapable of learning to care about others and society at large.  It also seldom works. The duty to rescue exists, but society must encourage and foster it by nurturing ethical society members, not by threatening them with punishment.

Society cannot mandate compassion—a law requiring charity?—kindness—a ticket for not rescuing an abandoned dog or helping a blind man across the street?—honesty–fines for telling a date that you’ll call the next day when you won’t?—-or courage —Sweep that child up whose in the path of a semi, or to jail. Of course it can’t. Increasing reliance on the state to force what a powerful group regard as “good behavior” is the catalyst of the current totalitarian bent of the American Left. Doesn’t the professor realize that what he is advocating leads directly to the Holocaust, and not away from it?

This is one slippery slope that needs a fence around it. Continue reading

Oh, Great: Ben Carson’s Model For How To Be President Is Barack Obama

And here's some advice for YOU, doctor: Shut up.

And here’s some advice for YOU, doctor: Shut up.

This is what I feared: Barack Obama’s irresponsible and deluded belief that being elected President makes him the Authority In All Things—the belief that I have referred to as the result of a flat learning curve,  would become a precedent luring future POTUSes into mischief. Sure enough, here is Ben Carson presuming to tell terrified people confronted by a mad gunman how to behave.

Ben Carson doesn’t have a clue how to be President, much less how to play hero. He has no relevant experience with either challenge, and this most recent silly statement, and it’s not his first, shows why Carson should stick to the operating room.  I covered a lot of this issue here, pointing out that the theoretical, hindsight heroes who just knew they would have reacted better than Mike McQueary when he witnessed Jerry Sandusky apparently molesting a child in a Penn State gym shower are engaging in convenient self-glorifying fantasies. Continue reading

Confounding Update To The United/Tahera Ahmad/Diet Coke Episode

Question_markWhen I posted with disgust on the Tahera Ahmad story (a Muslim-American woman who reported on Facebook that she was discriminated against by a stewardess and subjected to verbal abuse by a passenger on a United Airlines flight, and that no passengers came to her aid of defense), I noted that the facts seemed hard to believe, and that my commentary was based on a presumption that the account was true without knowing whether they were.

Now there have been two developments that provide additional perspective on the incident, and no enlightenment whatsoever.

First, United announced that it has investigated the incident, and fired the flight attendant. This would suggest that Ahmed’s account had at least some validity…or that the flight attendant got a fat settlement as United fired her to avoid a public relations battle with Muslim groups.

Second, this was posted on FlyerTalk Forums: Continue reading

TSA’s Incompetence: Combining David Brooks’ Scandal-Free Fantasy With United’s Anti-Soda Can Policy For Muslem Passengers

mashupmonday

Now we have this:

Washington (CNN)Airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly every test that an undercover Homeland Security team conducted at dozens of airports, according to an internal investigation.

The Transportation Security Administration found that “red teams” with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General were able to get banned items through the screening process in 67 out of 70 tests — 95% — it conducted across the nation.

In other words, since those deadly Islamic terrorists can easily smuggle explosives and weapons on board United flights (or any others), it’s really silly to rob them of the pleasure of sipping a Diet Coke from a freshly opened can as they wait to send everyone to Allah.

In more words, all of the hundreds of thousands of hours, pointless inconvenience and hassle, emptying of pockets, taking off of shoes and belts, moving laptops in and out of bags, showing IDs and boarding passes, as well as the occasional intrusive and unpleasant feel-up pat-downs by strangers wearing rubber gloves that have been inflicted on air passengers (like me) have been stupid, useless, and as effective at keeping airplanes safe as being checked by a blind marmoset with a divining rod.

Of course, David Brooks wouldn’t call the TSA’s gross failure an example of inexcusable incompetence, lack of oversight and breach of trust a scandal either, because it doesn’t involve sex (well, at least in most of the patdowns)  or criminal acts, and is the responsibility of Barack Obama, whose administration is amazingly scandal-free, so this can’t be a scandal by definition.

I beg to differ. The stunning incompetence and lack of competent management, accountability (watch: nobody will be fired for this) or oversight exemplified by this latest fiasco is an ongoing scandal of the worst kind, one of many, or, if you prefer, just the single, devastating, huge, two-term scandal that is the Barack Obama presidency, the most arrogant and incompetent administration in U.S. history.

Ethics Dunces, “What The Hell Is The Matter With You People?” Division: Everybody* On United’s Chicago-D.C. Flight Except Tahera Ahmad

taheraAhmad

Feared soda can hijacker Tahera Ahmad

I don’t understand how this episode could happen as it has been described. I am assuming for the purpose of the post that it did, and thus have almost nothing to add to the story other than to ask “What the hell is the matter with these people?”

Tahera Ahmad, an associate chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern, described the alleged incident on Facebook while she was on the United flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C. Friday night.She wrote that she was in tears following an ugly episode that began with her request for a Diet Coke when the beverage service reached her row. The flight attendant had given her an opened can of Diet Coke. When Ahmad requested an unopened can, the flight attendant told her, “Well, I’m sorry. I just can’t give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you.”

Then the same flight attendant gave another passenger an unopened can of beer. Ahmad said she asked why the man was given an unopened beverage can, but she was forbidden from having one. The flight attendant, according to Ahmad, replied, “We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people, because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.”

Ahmad told the flight attendant she felt she was being discriminated against, and the flight attendant quickly grabbed the man’s beer can, opened it and said, “It’s so you don’t use it as a weapon.”  When Ahmad asked for support from other passengers,  a man sitting in an aisle across from her said, “You Muslim, you need to shut the fuck up,” Ahmad said.

“What?” a shocked Ahmad said. The passenger looked her in the face and said, “Yes you know you would use it as a weapon, so shut the fuck up.” “Some people just shook their heads in dismay,” Ahmad wrote on Facebook. But nobody rose to her defense.

After the flight, the attendant and the pilot apologized to her, and  United issued a lame mea culpa. It doesn’t matter. Everybody on the plane except for Tahera Ahmad should hang their heads in shame.

What the hell is United (or whoever made the “unopened can” policy, if there really is such a deranged policy) thinking? A can of soda is a weapon? There must be hundreds of things in carry-on luggage that would make a more plausible weapon than a soda can. Like pens. Like laptops. Like powercords. Like dop kits. Like electric razors.

Like fists and feet. Ridiculous.

Gee, I always thought they opened those cans to be nice…

What the hell was the flight attendant thinking? Making that excuse to Ahmad, and then handing a male passenger an unopened can right in front of  her? What an obvious insult! Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Once Again, Bystander Ethics, The Duty To Rescue, And The Imperiled Child

clarkkentThe free-range kids debate already raised this issue, and now my colleague and friend Michael Messer, the talented and versatile musician/singer/ actor who teams with me in the ProEthics musical legal ethics programs Ethics Rock, Ethics Rock Extreme, and Ethics Jamboree, just posted about his traumatic experience on Facebook, writing,

“I’m standing in Central Park and witnessed a tourist father grab his (approx 5 year old) child by the arm and shake him… The. open palm smack his child in the head. Hard. Twice. I screamed to him, from about 50 feet, where I witnessed it: “HEY!!! YOU DON’T HIT HIM” he looked up, startled to be called out, and waved me off to mind my business. “YOU DO NOT HIT A CHILD IN THE HEAD”, I repeated, at the top of my lungs, hoping to attract attention. The kid cried and then got himself together and went off to play. No one else in Sheeps Meadow saw or took notice. For about 5 minutes after I kept my eyes on him so he knew he was now being watched. What is the role of a bystander in this situation?”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day is…

What is the role of a bystander in this situation?

The answer is simple, really—its that oft-repeated Ethics Alarms mantra, “FIX THE PROBLEM,” at least as much as you can. Do something. Mike did the right thing, from a distance: show the abuser he’s being observed, protest, shame him. If one can, if one has the ability, the skill and the timely reaction and the child looks to be in genuine danger, intervene physically.

The latter course, however, carries risks, and also may be precluded by the natural reflex most humans have when they observe something unexpected and shocking. I discussed this issue when Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary was being pilloried in some publications for not immediately charging into the Penn State showers and stopping sexual predator Jerry Sandusky from sexually abusing a boy: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Tia Skinner

Tia wonders why her family has abandoned her. Uh,…Tia? Aren’t you forgetting something?

“It’s been rough. It’s hard losing your whole family in a blink of an eye. It’s tough because that’s my family; they’re supposed to stay by you through thick and thin.”

—– Tia Skinner, a teenager serving life in prison for plotting a home invasion attack  that killed her father and seriously injured her mother, who was stabbed 25 times.

That’s right, Tia: it’s your family’s fault.

___________________________

Pointer: James Taranto

Facts and Graphic: Detroit Free Press

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.