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!”

Ethics Quiz: Silent Soccer


The American culture’s grim determination to raise a race of wimps, weenies, hysterics and delicate snowflakes continues apace. Or is this a necessary adjustment to our growing incivility?

In Ohio, the Thunder United Metro Futbol Club, a kids’ soccer league, held an experimental “silent soccer weekend.” Parents and fans were told that there would be no shouting or cheering at the games. Clapping was permitted, but not whistling or using  noise makers. Team coaches were instructed to keep shouted instructions to a minimum. Printed signs and rally towels got a green light, since they are quiet.

The objective, of course, was to combat negative shouts and other demonstrations by parents and fans that might bruise youthful egos and squash self esteem.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today:

Is banning crowd commentary at youth athletic events responsible, or irresponsible?

Continue reading

The Persecution of Paul Ogden, The Justin Carter Of Legal Ethics

When you become a lawyer, Justin, don't do it in Indiana. Ask Paul Ogden why.

When you become a lawyer, Justin, don’t do it in Indiana. Ask Paul Ogden why.

He hasn’t been jailed like his teenaged, online-gaming counterpart, but Indiana attorney Paul Ogden is also facing government sanctions for what was an unequivocal First Amendment communication. In Ogden’s case, he may lose his right to practice law. His offense is insulting a judge…in a private e-mail.

Ogden represented a client before Superior Court Judge David H. Coleman, and was not happy with Coleman’s handling of the case. Neither were Coleman’s supervisors, who removed Coleman from the case for failing to act within an appropriate period of time, under the so-called “lazy judge” act.  Attorney Ogden, who also blogs about politics, commented to a fellow attorney in a private email that Coleman “should be turned in to the disciplinary commission for how he handled this case. If this case would have been in Marion County with a real probate court with a real judge, the stuff that went on with this case never would have happened.” 

Somebody, perhaps the original recipient of the e-mail, forwarded it to the judge (lawyers can be a back-stabbing bunch), and the judge, insulted, demanded an apology. Ogden refused (lawyers can also be stubborn and have a tendency to stand on principle even when it is going to get them in trouble). Because Ogden declined to grovel, Judge Coleman invoked Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2 and filed a grievance against him to the Indiana Attorney Disciplinary Commission. The Rule, which is essentially identical to the American Bar Association version, prohibits a lawyer from… Continue reading

More “Lincoln” Criticism: What Does Spielberg’s Film and Ethics Alarms Have In Common?

lincoln crop

I won’t hold you in suspense, and no, it’s not that I expect or deserve any awards. What Steven Spielberg’s justly acclaimed historical drama and this blog have in common is being unfairly peppered with a presumptuous breed of complaint that nears the top of my all time “Unfair Criticisms List.”

Here, the complaint usually takes this form: “Why are you writing about Chex Mix labeling when [Pick ONE:] a) we’re about to give up our sovereignty and let anyone just break the law to come across the border? b) Fox news lies to the public every day? c) there are unethical things going on that I care about more ?” Regarding Lincoln, the favorite criticism in the media and on the web of late has been that in the process of showing the sausage-making and political maneuvers that allowed the 13th Amendment to become the law of the land, Spielberg neglected to show the evils of slavery, which, of course, if he were to do without risking the criticism (which he would get anyway) that he did so in a perfunctory and inadequate way, would require either lengthening the film to an unwatchable length, or cutting out significant portions of the story he chose to tell. This obnoxious complaint was brought to a full-throated crescendo by Tony Gittens, director of the Washington, D.C., International Film Festival, in today’s Washington Post. He writes:

“Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” will probably walk away with this year’s Academy Award for best picture, and that would be unfortunate. As Post film critic Ann Hornaday pointed out , “Enslaved people and the terror they endured in the 19th-century South are never portrayed” in the film. Mr. Spielberg did not shy away from depicting the extent of man’s institutionalized cruelty in his moving “Schindler’s List.” Why not in “Lincoln”? Worse, the film ignores the contributions African Americans made toward their own liberation. Instead, they are portrayed as loyal Union soldiers and observers from the balcony as Congress debates their fate. This was simply not the case. From the moment they were brought to these shores, African Americans resisted their enslavement, spawning leaders such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. In fact, at the time “Lincoln” takes place, Washington had a significant free black population, many of whom walked the streets in front of the White House. But this is not portrayed. “Lincoln” concludes with stalwart abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, a white man, in bed with his compliant African American housekeeper. All of the dramatic political maneuvering we had just witnessed on the screen, the struggle of lawmakers to come to grips with how to help make right years of unjust legalized oppression — all of this is reduced to the conjugal relationship between two disparate individuals. Here, once again, “Lincoln” misses the point.”

No, Mr. Gittens misses the point, and it should be a hard point to miss. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Which Weird Article Is More Unethical, the One About Practical Jokes Being Erotic, Or The Critique That Calls The Author Someone “Who Can’t Even Go To The Dentist Without Someone Asking Her Why There Are Dora the Explorer Underpants Caught In Her Second Row Of Teeth”?

“She put a gummy worm in my apple! That gets me so HOT!”

Fox News has a new feature on its website that focuses on relationships and romance. The style and beauty editor has authored a jaw dropping post entitled “10 Pranks That Will Spice Up Your Relationship,” with love-making advice like this:

“Put a small piece of masking tape on the bottom of his mouse, making sure it covers the trackball or optical sensor. Watch as he struggles to read his e-mail — and don’t forget to write “Gotcha!” on the tape.”

..or this:

“If your guy is shy but has a good sense of humor, take a picture of the toilet in your bathroom, then plug your digital camera into a computer or TV and load the picture onto your screen. When he comes out of the bathroom, start laughing and pointing. He will see the picture and think you saw him in there!”

Yes, she is an idiot. I don’t know what her love life has been like, but a significant other who keeps annoying me with crap like this is going to find herself laughing in an empty bed room pretty damn quick. Feeling similarly unimpressed by Milt’s idea of foreplay was humorist Seanbaby, who wrote a scathing article about her piece over at Cracked. A sample of his intentionally uncivil criticism: Continue reading

The Admirable Mr. Sondheim

And an ethical hat it is, too!

Readers who are not interested in the art of lyric writing and the mechanics of constructing a Broadway musical should probably avoid the second and final installment of Stephen Sondheim’s chronicle of his creative life, “Look, I Made a Hat.”  They will be missing something important nonetheless: a rare example of truly ethical memoirs.

As in his first volume, “Finishing the Hat,” America’s pre-eminent composer-lyricist for the stage reveals himself as a gentleman, an adult, and a thoroughly ethical human being, and does so not by proclaiming his virtues, but by demonstrating them in his writing. He is not uncritical, but always fair and kind. He accepts personal responsibility for projects that failed, and is generous with giving credit for projects that were successful. There is no false modesty in Sondheim about his own skills and achievements, but neither does he seem to overvalue them or seek his reader’s admiration by blowing his own horn.

The line Sondheim walks in both books is fine, and he walks it finely. For example, I initially thought his decision to only criticize the techniques of other lyricists who are dead was a cowardly one, but upon reading both books it is clear that the decision was motivated by kindness. Sondheim takes the craft of lyric-writing very seriously, and his integrity would not allow him to censor a critical observation regarding a colleague’s work when he believed the criticism was illuminating and had merit. Realizing how hurtful a critique from someone of his reputation and accomplishments could be, Sondheim restricted his frank and (mostly)  fair assessments to writers beyond wounding. If Jerry Herman isn’t grateful, he should be. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Tennessee State Rep.Joe Armstrong


In a “who most deserves to have to resign?” contest between Tennessee State Rep. Joe Armstrong and sexting New Jersey County Commissioner Louis Magazzu,  Armstrong wins by a lap. The University of Tennessee bookstore has pulled a brand of novelty breath mints from its shelves, in compliance with a request from Armstrong, a loyal and incompetent Democrat. The mints  lampooned President Obama. They were packaged in tin cans with an  image of Obama and the motto, “This is change? Disappoint-mints.” The horror.

Armstrong said that the mints were offensive. Oh weally? Izzums wittle feewings wounded because evewyone doesn’y wuv your bewuvved weader? Continue reading

“The Ethicist” Nails A Rationalization

I have often been critical of Randy Cohen, the New York Times Magazine’s longtime writer of “The Ethicist” column. This distorts, I fear, Randy’s performance, for he is right far more often than he is wrong, and he is usually right with wit, humor and clarity.

As an effort to balance the scales a bit, I want to salute “The Ethicist” for explaining, concisely and lightly, what is wrong with one of the commonly used rationalizations for unethical conduct: “If I don’t do it, someone else will”:

Responding to a man who felt that it was wrong to take a job facilitating his industry’s outsourcing of jobs overseas, Cohen assured him that there was nothing unethical about the assignment. He then added,

“That is fortunate, because your wife’s argument — if you don’t do it, someone else will — would not justify nefarious conduct. Someone else will do pretty much anything. I’ve met ‘someone else,” and he’s quite the little weasel.”

Well said.

Now THIS Is Incivility…

During the recent eruption of a national obsession with civility in the wake of Jarod Loughner’s shooting rampage—odd, because his actions had nothing whatsoever to do with civility—it became disturbingly evident that most journalists have only a vague sense of what incivility is. For example, using shooting or death metaphors and imagery are not uncivil. Criticism, even strongly-worded criticism, is not uncivil. Calling lies lies is not uncivil, nor is suggesting bad motives for official actions, if the critic believes that bad motives are involved. The fact that intense and passionate condemnation of an individual’s or a group’s actions angers or inflames others does not necessarily mean that the inciting words were uncivil, or even inappropriate.

This, however, is incivility.

Impolitic Question Dept.: Is It Unethical For Americans To Dislike Islam?

To read the bulk of the letters to the editor in the New York Times, Americans not only must extend full Constitutional rights to the worshippers of Islam (as they must), but they also better like it. Not being enthusiastic about the prominent physical manifestation of the religion in a neighborhood that witnessed the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent victims by that religion’s followers has been called evidence of bigotry, mindless hate, and “Islamophobia,” as if there are no rational and reasonable justifications for regarding Islam as a less than positive addition to the United States culture.

On the contrary, there are many tenets of Islam that are directly antithetical and in opposition to core American values. Continue reading