Tom’s Delusion, or “Everyone agrees with me!” is unique in the annals of Ethics Alarms. The latest addition to the rationalizations list was inspired by banned commenter of short duration here, but I genuinely intend the title as a sincere honor: it really is a useful rationalization, and I would not have realized it had “Tom” made, as one of his last annoying comments before he quit in a huff, this assertion to support his claim that the January 6, 2020 riot at the Capitol was a seminal event in U.S. history, of the same magnitude, or close to it, as the terrorism of 9/11, as he attempted to counter the observations of Steve-O-in NJ (and others, including me) that this is a contrived Democratic talking point without basis in fact or logic:
“Well the majority of the country disagrees with you.”
And there it was!
1E. Tom’s Delusion, or “Everyone agrees with me!”
Tom’s Delusion is another point where the rationalization list intersects with logical fallacies. #1E is a particularly foolish version of the Appeal to Authority fallacy, which is bad enough when the user believes that the fact that someone of note has adopted his or her position is evidence of the dubious position’s validity.
Using the argument that a position, belief or action is correct or defensible using “everyone” as the authority appealed to is infinitely worse. First, it is based on a lie: “everybody” doesn’t agree on anything. Of course, in its common use, “everybody” is shorthand for “most people” or in Tom’s case, “the majority,” which is why this rationalization is under #1, “Everybody Does It.” Even if it was literally true that “everybody” believes something, that is not proof, evidence or even a coherent argument. “Everybody” used to believe the world was flat. Most people are lazy, apathetic, poorly educated and ignorant: what the majority of such people may believe creates problems, but it is certainly is not evidence one can rationally to rely on.
Indeed, when the mob agrees with you, it’s a strong indication that you need to reexamine your beliefs.
Glenn Greenwald’s latest newsletter from substack was nicely timed today. I was genuinely puzzled to see the front page of the Sunday Times left on my lawn this morning dominated by a 50 square inch photo, a scare headline and an article about the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. The episode occurred 9 months ago. This was neither news or history. What’s going on here? [Notice of Correction:the original version had the date and time passed wrong. Stupid mistake.]
Then Greenwald’s piece arrived. “When a population is placed in a state of sufficiently grave fear and anger regarding a perceived threat, concerns about the constitutionality, legality and morality of measures adopted in the name of punishing the enemy typically disappear,” he wrote. “The first priority, indeed the sole priority, is to crush the threat. Questions about the legality of actions ostensibly undertaken against the guilty parties are brushed aside as trivial annoyances at best, or, worse, castigated as efforts to sympathize with and protect those responsible for the danger. When a population is subsumed with pulsating fear and rage, there is little patience for seemingly abstract quibbles about legality or ethics. The craving for punishment, for vengeance, for protection, is visceral and thus easily drowns out cerebral or rational impediments to satiating those primal impulses.”
I have never been able to understand how anyone could accept the obvious exaggeration of the extent, intent, and import of the riot. I really can’t: it amazes me. This was 300, more or less, irresponsible, mostly middle-aged fools, behaving like the Chicago peaceniks at the 1968 Democratic National Convention but with less coherence. Their riot paled in all respects to the Black Lives Matter rioting across the U.S.: less damage was done, far, far fewer people were injured, and the only individual killed was a rioter. Although the post-George Floyd riots shut down businesses and government functions for weeks, the process of certifying the 2020 election results, allegedly the action that the Capitol protesters wanted to halt, weren’t even delayed a day. The claim that these unhappy Trump loyalist idiots were trying to take over the government with bear spray and funny hats was and is nonsense, and transparently so. Yet Greenwald writes,
First, I have worked in a crowd-control team facing rioters, and while I had no doubt there were people in the crowds who wanted to harm us, regardless of the the fact that they were unarmed, we used the less-lethal force options at our disposal (riot shields, 36″ riot batons, tear gas) and the crowd control tactics we had learned, to move and disperse the rioters without using deadly force. For me, the January 6th riot seems to be a colossal failure to anticipate and plan for events which were, at the very least foreseeable, and according to some reports, fully expected to occur. With all the demonstrations and protests that occur in DC, I would expect every law enforcement agency in the area to be well-trained in crowd control, and well-equipped to deal with rioters, with comprehensive plans in place.
It remains to be seen what less-lethal force options were available to Capitol Police officers inside the building, but the fact remains that the officer in question was photographed while poised with gun drawn and finger on the trigger, apparently well before the nature of the threat from the rioters was known to any degree of certainty. If rioters had violently fought their way through a variety of defenses including less-lethal force options effectively deployed against them, it would be easier to conclude that a serious threat was posed. But since the rioters gained entry with relatively minimal resistance, no deployment of less-lethal force, and in some cases it seems were even invited into sensitive areas, the “lethal threat” conclusion seems strained. But, if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Ethics Alarms already noted Jonathan Turley’s accurate and searing condemnation of the outrageous and sinister double standard applied to Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt on January 6. Incredibly, the blatantly partisan wound on the illusion of our justice system’s integrity got worse after Turley’s first post on the topic. The investigation of the mind-meltingly stupid riot concluded that it was not coordinated, was not incited by Donald Trump, and was not an “insurrection,” just as any objective and reasonably informed citizen could have figured out by themselves. Then Byrd, whose identity had been shielded from the public (and oddly unrevealed by the mainstream media, who could have discovered and published it if they were still practicing journalism), gave a nauseating NBC interview in which he pronounced himself a hero, made the absurd claim that he had saved untold lives by shooting an unarmed woman, and, most significantly, revealed that he had no legal basis to use deadly force. (He also revealed himself to be unfit to be trusted with a weapon.)
This prompted Turley to write his second attack on the politicized cover-up. Turley, despite the names he is called by the aspiring totalitarians of the Far Left and the Trump-Deranged, is a Democrat and a lifetime liberal. Because of what can only be an abundance of character, he has not had his values warped by being marinated in the campus culture of his typically uber-woke institution, George Washington University. Not had he shied away from disparaging the illiberal and anit-Democratic antics of the Axis of Unethical Conduct (“the resistance,” Democrats and the mainstream media) during their four-plus year effort to destroy Donald Trump. He has been remarkably consistent, legally accurate, fair, and right in this, and has paid the price.
In the Virtues, Values and Duties page here (Have you ever visited? You should you know…) I list what I call “The Seven Enabling Virtues.” These are character traits that often are necessary to allow us to be ethical:
Turley annoys me sometimes with his professorial reserve (developments that should send American screaming into the streets are just “troubling” or “problematical” in his typical lexicon), but he is well-girded in all of the seven. Every time he goes against the prevailing progressive narrative, he is called a Trumpist, a phony, a Nazi, and worse. His integrity and dedication to truth-telling has undoubtedly cost him speaking gigs, book sales and TV interviews on any network but Fox. Yet Turley has not backed down.
Someone please explain how the closing of the investigation of the shooting of Ashli Babbitt can be reconciled with the sentence just handed down in the case of the Alabama officer who shot an allegedly suicidal man who would not drop his gun.
The US Capitol Police officer who shot and killed pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt on January 6, 2020 will not face any disciplinary action. “USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury,” the department said in a statement. The department will not name the officer out of consideration for the officer’s safety, although his name has been unofficially on the web for quite a while. If this is not a USCP double standard, it is certainly a journalism and political double standard. A black officer who shot an unarmed white women is protected with official anonymity while one white officer after another in police-involved shootings of black men have had their names not only released, but published and made the targets of attacks by elected officials.
There’s the “shocked face” of the once popular commercial featuring a talkative and opinionated infant. (The kid must be 40 by now, but his expression is immortal.)
Yet another Big Lie that the Axis of Unethical Conduct (“the resistance”/ Democrats/ Mainstream media) wielded shamefully for a disgusting amount of time is tumbling down. From Reuters:
“The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials. Though federal officials have arrested more than 570 alleged participants, the FBI at this point believes the violence was not centrally coordinated by far-right groups or prominent supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to the sources, who have been either directly involved in or briefed regularly on the wide-ranging investigations. “Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. “Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”
Ethics zugzwang is a term used on Ethics Alarms to describe situations where there are no ethical options, only unethical ones The origin is the world of chess, which uses the German word zugzwang to indicate a game position in which a player is safe from checkmate as long as he or she doesn’t move. But of course, a player has to do something; time cannot be stopped in place. In ethics zugzwang, and resolution is a bad one.
The current controversy over the suicide of Jeffrey Smith, a D. C. Metropolitan Police Department police officer who confronted the mob in the Capitol on January 6 and shot himself nine days later, is a perfect example of ethics zugzwang in our ugly political environment. Smith’s widow Erin is convinced that his death was caused by the riot, she says, and will petition the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to designate her husband’s suicide as a death in the line of duty. “When my husband left for work that day, he was the Jeff that I knew,” Ms. Smith said in an interview. “When he returned after experiencing the event, being hit in the head, he was a completely different person. I do believe if he did not go to work that day, he would be here and we would not be having this conversation.” Of course, she is welcome to believe whatever she chooses. Having her husband’s death ruled as occurring in the line of duty also carries with it substantial financial benefits. Confirmation bias is unavoidable.
I was going to put this as #5 on the “clarification” themed warm-up today, but it deserves special attention. The conservative blog’s clickbait headline is “Identity of Ashli Babbitt Killer Confirmed — Careless Capitol Police Lieutenant Is Being Protected by Democrats, Pelosi and Deep State FBI.” It’s a lie, through and through. Nothing is confirmed at all.
We get speculation on Tucker Carlson’s show [which I also will not rely upon here] from mid-June that the Babbitt family lawyer “believes” the shooter of the unarmed Capitol rioter was Lt. Mike Byrd, who earlier had been disciplined for leaving his loaded weapon in a restroom. [And Johnny Cochran believed O.J. was innocent.] Then the blog produces a transcript that indicates that Byrd was indeed the officer who left his gun. We see a transcript of testimony on the shooting in which the name of the officer involved is not mentioned. Then, today, the blog breathlessly announced that “Capitol Hill Sergeant At Arms Timothy Blodgett accidentally CONFIRMED during testimony that Lieutenant Mike Byrd killed Ashli Babbitt. He named Byrd during his testimony.” No, he didn’t. He said, “We’re in close contact. The situation where you discussed where officer Byrd was at the door when Miss Babbitt was shot. It was our sergeant at arms employee who rendered the aid to her.” That “confirms” that Blodgett believes that Byrd was at the door when Babbitt was shot. Until someone on the record says, “I saw Officer Byrd shoot her,” or “Mike Byrd told me it was he who shot Babbitt,” there is no confirmation.
It will be interesting to see if the news media discusses the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 any more this May 31 than it has in the past. Discussing this horrible mass murder of blacks in Oklahoma over Memorial Day weekend has always been seen as sufficiently tasteless that the story has suffered the equivalent of a historical airbrushing. When did you first learn about it? I didn’t encounter the episode in elementary school, high school, college or law school. I was 50, and furiously researching the life of Clarence Darrow so I could churn out a one man show (that was already in rehearsal) after Leslie Nielsen pulled the rights we had paid for on the Darrow show performed on Broadway by Henry Fonda. I was looking for the context of Darrow’s epic closing argument in the Sweet case (1925), in which he referenced examples of white mob violence against blacks. That was my introduction to the tragedy. How was this possible? I was and am a voracious consumer of American history, movies, and television. Yet the facts of the Tulsa Race Massacre never entered my consciousness.
Here’s one useful resource…there are many others available online. A brief summary: After World War I, Tulsa’s African American community was notable for its affluence. The Greenwood District was known as “Black Wall Street.”But on May 30, 1921, an incident between a white woman and a black man on an elevator—nobody knows exactly what happened—was reported in the Tulsa newspapers as an attempted rape. The young African-American, Dick Rowland, had been arrested, and members of the community believed that he might be lynched. When an angry white mob gathered in front of the courthouse, a group of over 70 back men, some of them World War I veterans with weapons, confronted them. A gun went off in a struggled, and chaos descended on Greenwood. A white mob of thousands overran the Greenwood District, shooting unarmed black citizens in the streets. It burned an area of some 35 city blocks, and more than 1,200 houses, numerous businesses, a school, a hospital and a dozen churches. It is estimated that 300 people were killed in the rampage, though official counts at the time were much lower. 300 is the same death toll as the 1871 Chicago fire. I knew about that tragedy by the time I was 8.
1. IIPTDXTTNMIAFB! That’s short for “Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden…”, introduced here. The current example: during a speech at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Langley,Virginia two days ago, President Biden began spontaneously complimenting a pre-teen girl who had joined her parents and two older brothers on the stage after her mother had introduced Biden to the crowd. Biden said, inappropriately and creepily, “ I love those barrettes in your hair, man. I tell you what, look at her. She looks like she’s 19 years old sitting there like a little lady with her legs crossed.” Republicans pounced, as the MSM cliche goes whenever Democrats are legitimately criticized. The episode was barely mentioned by the media dedicated to propping up Biden—that is, almost all of it—at all. IIPTDXTTNMIAFB…and President Trump didn’t even have a photographically preserved series of encounters like this:
2. AHHHH! It’s a virus ! Get a gun!!! The headline on the front page of the NYT website yesterday read, “Pandemic Fuels Surge in U.S. Gun Sales ‘Unlike Anything We’ve Ever Seen.'” Incredible. People bought guns for the first time because rioting was going on all over the country, and in many places the police were doing little or nothing to stop it. Buildings were burning and being looted; citizens were being threatened. Who gets a gun to fight a pandemic? (There was never any threat of the kind of civic breakdown from the virus like that portrayed in the movie “Contagion.” Toilet paper riots?)
The degree to which the Times—the “paper of record’!—continues to distort reality to mislead the public and warp public opinion is astounding. Later in the same article, the Times said, “While gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked.”
Representative Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) demonstrated once again that a critical mass of conservative Republicans just can’t stop themselves from embodying the worst stereotypes imprinted on the public by progressives and the news media.
He actually said that some videos of the January 6 riot at the Capitol looked like scenes from a “normal tourist visit.” He really said this. No, I wouldn’t lie to you, he really did. What an idiot.
It is no mitigation that Clyde stuck his entire leg up to the hip into his mouth in the course of correctly condemning the ongoing Big Lie that the embarrassing mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were engaging in an “insurrection.” It was such a stupid thing for him to say that it disqualified Clyde as an authority, a respectable commentator, or a trustworthy public official.