Rationalizations From The Victim Of A Tragedy

A week ago, I briefly discussed the report on the 2017 death of major league pitcher Roy Halladay who crashed his plane into the Gulf of Mexico  on Nov. 7, 2017. The 13-page report said Halladay had 10 times the recommended level of amphetamine in his system, plus an antidepressant, a muscle relaxant, a sleep aid and morphine.  He was also attempting aerial acrobatics and stunt flying.

Now his widow, Brandy Halladay, has issued a statement through the now Hall of Fame pitcher’s last team, the Philadelphia Phillies. She wrote,

“Yesterday’s NTSB report on Roy’s accident was painful for our family, as it has caused us to relive the worst day of our lives. It has reinforced what I have previously stated, that no one is perfect. Most families struggle in some capacity and ours was no exception. We respectfully ask that you not make assumptions or pass judgment. Rather, we encourage you to hug your loved ones and appreciate having them in your lives.”

From one perspective, it seems unkind to be critical of the lament of a grieving family member in the wake of such a tragedy. From another—mine—I can’t let public endorsements of multiple rationalizations like that one pass. I just can’t, and I have an obligation as an ethicist not to. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it: the reason so people make terrible decisions by defaulting to rationalizations rather than ethics is that the culture marinates them, day after day, in these excuses for bad conduct. After a lifetime of hearing the contrived arguments , most people accept such self-deceptions as true. In turn, they engage in conduct, or excuse conduct in others, that causes extensive harm. Continue reading

Presenting Rationalization #48: Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!”

Haters gonna hate

Because winning makes everything right…

I was enlightened regarding the prevalence of this latest addition to the rationalizations list in the desperate reactions from some football fans on Facebook to my recent (absolutely valid and indisputable) criticism of the National Football League. Thus does conflict expand our wisdom and horizons…

Rationalization #48:

Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!”

This vintage obnoxious rationalization is recently pressed. Its objective is to turn the tables on legitimate critics of unethical conduct by asserting that it is the act of criticism itself that is wrong, thus allowing the object of the criticism to not only escape unscathed, but to claim victim status.

Ethics Jiu Jitsu is similar to the #6, the Biblical rationalizations “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,”  except that those are used (incorrectly) to suggest that nobody is good enough to criticize the conduct of others, not that the act of criticism is inherently hateful. The insidious trick that this rationalization embodies thrives on the modern criminalization of hate in the culture. Hate is just very intense dislike, and as a feeling, it is well within the realm of personal rights.  Hate crime is a variety of thought-crime. The politically-motivated legal monstrosities known as “hate crimes”  have inspired this rationalization  by making it plausible to argue that dislike itself is wrong, even when what is being disliked, criticized or hated is objectively wrongful conduct. All “haters” are lumped together, whether the object of hate is Lance Armstrong’s cheating, the NFL’s conspiracy to hide the effects of concussions, or Barack Obama’s ineptitude, in a linguistic trick that suggests that sincere critics are no different from people who hate the United States, minorities, decency, true love and puppies. They are all haters, hate is bad, and it’s the haters who are the problem, not the corruption, dishonesty, and betrayals they criticize.

In truth, those who don’t have the ethical bearings, the courage or the civic responsibility to criticize unethical conduct in the culture are the real problem as we strive for an ethical culture. They can often be identified by their mouthing of the fatuous accusation, “Haters gotta hate!”

Introducing Rationalization #46: Zola’s Rejection, or “Don’t Point Fingers!”

fingers-pointing

J’accuse …!” ( “I accuse…!”) was a famous open letter to French president Félix Faure, published  January 13, 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore by novelist Émile Zola. It accused the French Government anti-Semitism and a breach of justice in the prosecution and imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for espionage. His well-argued accusation was the epitome of effective finger-pointing, and played a major role in bringing down a corrupt government.

Nonetheless, pointing fingers where they need to be pointed, when they need to be pointed, is inconvenient for the incompetents, miscreants, con artists, spinners and otherwise accountable parties so accused. Thus they and their allies often exploit this peculiar rationalization, which is better described, perhaps, as rationalization fertilizer, since it is a catalyst for the employment of many others, including the Biblical rationalizations. “Don’t point fingers!”, or its common variation, “Stop pointing fingers!” provides protection for the very people who most deserve to be pointed to, allowing them to deny culpability, avoid the just consequences of their failings, and best of all, divert appropriate attention from what they have done or not done to the supposed meanness and vindictiveness of critics who want to make sure the same mistakes don’t occur again, especially with the same officials in charge.

And, ironically, the cry “Don’t point fingers!” is often followed by those who cry it pointing fingers themselves, at others. It has unlocked, in such circumstances, the use of Rationalization #7, The Tit-For-Tat Excuse, which holds that one party’s unethical conduct justifies similar unethical conduct in return. Continue reading

Janay Palmer’s Ethics Fallacy Cornucopia

horn_of_plenty

I suffer pangs of conscience as I do this to Janay Palmer, who has plenty of other pressing problems, but it you are going to put out a public statement on social media that threatens to melt the ethics alarms of millions, you can’t reasonably expect me to stand by and take it.

Palmer produced this on Instagram in response to the NFL’s bizarre do-over on her husband’s punishment, which combined with his team, the Baltimore Ravens, releasing him as persona non grata, effectively makes Ray Rice an ex-star running back for the foreseeable future:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific [sic]. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!

Observations:

  • Who is her “closest friend?” Ray Rice, her husband and sparring partner? If your best friend is prone to punch you silly in elevators, I think your relationship either has trust issues, or should have. Does she mean his career, which is what actually “died”? That’s telling, if so, and crassly. Was her best friend really Ray’s 8 million dollar a year pay check? Did that justify standing up for the right of rich, famous celebrities to knock their arm-candy around when they think nobody’s looking?
  • Competence check: like it or not, Janay is in the public eye, and what she has to say right now is likely to be read far and wide. How about having someone literate check out your screed before reminding us again what a cheat the public school system is?
  • Janay’s husband beats her unconscious, she lets him get away with it and sends the message to women trapped in abusive relationships that security and a ring is worth the occasional black eye, and her position is that Rice’s demise is the fault of the media and the public? Let’s go to the videotape, shall we?

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: New York Times Sportswriter Ken Belson

I fear that I am becoming a broken record on this (Note to those under the age of 40: the phrase “becoming a broken record” refers to the archaic devices called “records” which once were used to convey music via another archaic device know as a “phonograph.” If a record was broken, as in cracked, the phonograph’s needle, which…oh, never mind. We really need a new phrase for “saying the same thing over and over again.”), but the popular position that only the pure and blameless have the right to condemn misconduct by others threatens our culture’s ability to discuss and distinguish right and wrong. It has to be refuted, discredited, and buried. For subliminal support for this  unethical stance to be injected into a supposedly straight news item—in the sports pages, of all places—is alarming, for it shows how our cultural attitudes can be warped without our even being aware of it. Continue reading