Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/13/2017

1. Is the concept that people and groups who have ugly or even essentially un-American beliefs and positions still ave the right to express them, advocate them, and do so without being attacked, and once attacked, have the right to defend themselves like any other citizen really so hard to grasp? Is it also controversial after all these years? Based on the echo-chamber garbage I’m reading on Facebook and on blogs like The Huffington Post, it would appear so.

2. I haven’t been following the Taylor Swift groping lawsuit, have you? I’m not sure it justifies following, though it does follow the path of campus sexual assault accusations. To summarize for those of you with higher priorities, pop superstar Taylor Swift was in the midst of a 2013 tour when  she hosted a meet-and-greet for fans in Denver. David Mueller, then a DJ for the radio station KYGO, came to the event and posed for a photo with Swift and his girlfriend. Here is the resulting photo, courtesy of gossip site TMZ:

Swift said that Mueller reached under her skirt and molested her from behind. Her security team ejected the DJ and complained toMueller’s employer, KYGO, which fired him. fired him. In 2015,  Mueller filed a defamation suit against Swift,  denying that he touched her intimately and demanding millions in damages for his lost job and sullied reputation. She has counter sued for a single dollar.

As with many sexual assault cases tried in a civil setting or by a university kangaroo court, this lawsuit will come down to who the jury believes, and the photo, which is the only evidence. (Mueller says that he recorded a two-hour phone call with KYGO the day after he learned of  Swift’s complaint, and had a copy of the audio file on his laptop and on an external hard drive, and  his cell phone too, but he spilled coffee on and then lost the laptop, while the external hard drive inexplicably stopped working. Then he threw out the cell phone.  Sure. ) In its article about the case, Vox says,

“America has long had an unspoken understanding that famous women have no real right to bodily autonomy. Women in general aren’t understood to have much right to bodily autonomy in America: hence rape culture, hence comments about rape like, “if a man walked around with a suit made of $100 bills, he’d expect to be robbed, wouldn’t he?” that make women’s bodies analogous to money. But because fame already comes with diminished expectations of privacy, celebrity women are considered to be especially fair game.”

Fake history. I was certainly not taught this, nor did I “understand it” to be true. There are, and have always been, pig assholes who think like Vox describes, but they have been regarded as assholes for decades. This is feminist bigotry at work, stated as fact. As a civilized male who was raised to respect women and their bodily autonomy, I find the trope that all men, especially those on college campuses, are nascent rapists political propaganda of the most despicable kind, and not worthy of the seriousness accorded it by female Democratic Senators, publications like Vox, Obama’s Education Department and feminists. My reading of the case is that Swift made the unfortunate but understandable choice of continuing to pose for the picture while this creep was fondling her butt, but that Mueller will have a difficult time proving defamation—the burden is on him, not her—and is likely to lose, not in small part because Swift, a trained PR whiz, was a spectacularly effective witness. ( Question from the plaintiff’s counsel: Why did your skirt look undisturbed in the photo if my client had his hand under it as you claim?  Swift: “Because my ass is located in the back of my body.” Continue reading