Tag Archives: “everybody does it”

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/18: The Speech! The Slur! The Secret Laws! The Shameful Dance!

Good Morning!

1 What a shock: A standard, typical, Oval Office speech. The monster! Ann Althouse has nicely covered the expected biased media reaction to President Trump’s speech last night, noting in part…

I’m reading Washington Post columns this morning, drawn or repelled by headlines. I was repelled by “Trump’s nothingburger speech.” That’s Jennifer Rubin, who I guess, was expecting Trump to do something drastic and planning to rage about it, then stuck with normal, and much less to chomp on… “Trump tried to play a normal president on television. The result was very strange.” … also, obviously, aims to make something of normal… It’s Alyssa Rosenberg:

“Given the hype, it was disconcerting to hear a speech that, at least for the opening minutes, could have been delivered by any normal politician….Those very gestures of presidential normalcy revealed how futile it was for anyone to wish that Trump would start talking like that all the time. Trump may have told more blatant falsehoods about immigrants and crime over the course of his speech, but to watch him mouth these platitudes is to witness a more insidious and disorienting kind of lying….Watching Trump’s flat delivery of sentiments that he can’t possibly believe was the inverse of comforting. Instead, the address had the queasy effect of a serial killer’s mask in a horror movie: It was a failed attempt to look normal that concealed something even more terrifying underneath….”

But the WaPo readers probably love this sort of thing…

I’m sure they do. Isn’t that great journalism? “We know he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.” The presumption of dishonesty and racism.

More Althouse:

I’ve now watched the Pelosi/Schumer response. I observed my emotional reaction, and I can tell you for sure that the line that reached me was “The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened” (spoken by Pelosi).

The word with emotional resonance for me was “humanitarian.” So I went back to the text of Trump’s speech, and I see that he used the word in his first sentence:

“My fellow Americans: Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.”

And, to skip ahead to the 6th paragraph:

“This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul….”

It is not the job, obligation or responsibility of the United States to solve the humanitarian problems caused by citizens of other nations trying to enter our country illegally while imperiling children in the process. It does have an obligation to make it crystal clear that trying to make the problem ours will be futile.

Pelosi’s argument boils down to “Think of the Children!”

2.  And speaking of rationalizations: This dumb blog attempted to defend US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib uncivil and unprofessional vulgarity (“We’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker!”) by listing celebrities who have used the same insult: rappers, comedians, non-Americans, incorrigible left-wing Hollywood jerks like Spike Lee, and actors like Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, who in his movies calls everyone and everything a motherfucker, so he really shouldn’t count. this doesn’t even work as an “Everybody Does It” excuse. The issue isn’t the vulgarity, it’s the speaker, a member of Congress, and the ethical standards one accepts when entering that institution. Continue reading

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Welcome The 2019’s First New Rationalizations: 1C. It Happens To Everybody, And 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament

These have been on the drawing board waiting for induction into the Ethics Alarms list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions far too long.  It’s also a good time to re-read the list, which was recently brought up to date. I wrote the damn thing, and it it still reminded me of some things.

Rationalization 1C. It Happens To Everybody, or “You’re not alone!’

This is yet another variation on the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It,” but the transitive version. The theory is the same, that somehow the ethical nature of an act is changed by its frequency, or, in the case of #1C, how many victims the unethical conduct has claimed. This one is so frequently employed that it doesn’t register as a rationalization, perhaps because the one who wield’s it is often a third party. “Don’t feel too bad,” the nice person patting your head says, “You’re not the only one.” The swift answer to this should be, “So what?” Should I feel less raped because others have been raped? Should I feel less lied to because others have been deceived? Should I feel richer because others have been robbed?” Even if it is offered in kindness, this is a rationalization that aides the wrongdoer. Arguing that as long as the misery inflicted has company, what was done isn’t as bad as it was.

Rationalization 9 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision”

Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Glenn Greenwald

I’m not exactly a fan of lawyer/muckraker/journalist Glenn Greenwald, but I’m getting there. Greenwald certainly has an ideological agenda, and it informs both his choice of topics and the slant of his reporting. However, in an age where the mainstream journalism establishment has made the tragic decision to be largely  a propaganda organization for its one favored political party, and has willfully misinformed the American public in pursuit of that party’s interests, primarily power, Greenwald stands out for his non-partisan approach, his consistent standards, his integrity, and most of all of late, his refusal to participate in counter-factual condemnations of President Trump for conduct that the news media has either shrugged away or tolerated in the past from other Presidents.

Greewald’s latest broadside against the hypocrisy comes in gloriously unrestrained The Intercept piece about the attacks on President Trump for his attitude toward the , Trump’s Amoral Saudi Statement Is a Pure Expression of Decades-Old “U.S. Values” and Foreign Policy Orthodoxies.

The title is true beyond question; I pointed out the same fact here, writing in part regarding the Khashoggi murder and the New York Times editorial calling the Trump administration’s policy response “a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire”:

The question of how far the U.S. should go in pursuing its own interests while excusing unethical or immoral acts by foreign governments is an enduring one the stretches at least back to the United States alliance with Stalin in World War II. Outside of the fact that [ the Khashoggi murder] involves a journalist, however, the Trump “guide,” even stated in deliberately pejorative terms, seems to me to vary not one bit from the standards used by previous administrations, including the Obama Administration. China…Cuba…Iran…and yes, the Saudis, who have overseen state-sanctioned brutality and human rights outrages affecting whole classes of people, not just one journalist, for a long as anyone can remember.

Trump’s “new blueprint,” it seems to me, varies from the old blueprint not one bit. Whether the old blue-print is necessary or defensive is another issue.

Well, that was comparatively nothin’ from me as an ethics rebuke, a pea-shooter compared to Greenwald’s  tour-de force. His conclusion is uncompromising and irrefutable: Continue reading

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The Khashoggi Murder: In A Realm Of Brutal Utilitarianism, How Is It A Special Case?

 Foreign affairs is always an ethics-gray zone, with complex “ends justify the means” trade-offs amid cultural clashes and uncomfortable alliances are unavoidable. President Trump has apparently decided that the nation’s alliance with Saudi Arabia is more important than taking a hard moral-ethical stand regarding what the CIA has determined was a premeditated murder committed by a member of the Saudi ruling family against a journalist. In foreign policy, such trade-offs are the norm rather than the exception, “Everybody does it” is the operative rationalization because, for centuries, every country does do it. It’s not ethical. It’s practical. The American news media is making this episode  special because a) it involves a journalist, so their interests are skewed and b) it is President Trump, and everything he does must be condemned to further the aims of the resistance.

Here was the Times this morning: Continue reading

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Rationalization 32 B: “The Comforting Accusation,” Or “You Would Have Done The Same Thing!”

It’s been a long time since the last new rationalization joined the list. This one, “The Comforting Accusation” or “You would have done the same thing!“, follows #32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” and #,32A. Imaginary Consent,  or He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way.”

32 B adds the nasty little element of alleged hypocrisy to the mix, making it especially effective. How can someone criticize your conduct if they couldn’t or wouldn’t resist the same thing? Thus the author of an unethical act deflects his or her own accountability by making someone else the target of an accusation, albeit based on assumption rather than fact. The rationalization attempts to transform the wrongdoer into the judge’s reflection.

There are four problems with #32. First, it may be that the assumption that someone else would have taken the same unethical course is wrong, and, of course, it is just speculation anyway. Second, it doesn’t matter: this is just a personalized fractal of the hoariest rationalization of them all, Numero Uno, “Everybody does it.” Unethical conduct is not cleansed because it has company, or, as in this case, might have company.

Third, it’s a sneaky evocation of #14. Self-validating Virtue, in which an act is judged by the perceived goodness the person doing it, rather than the other way around. Most people, because of bias, automatically think of themselves as the most ethical person they know. The Comforting Accusation recruits the cognitive dissonance scale to elevate an unethical act by attaching it to something deep in the positive end of the scale for just about everyone: themselves. #32B is ultimately an appeal to bias.

Most important of all, the fact that I may have done what you did under similar circumstances doesn’t make what you did less wrong, It only means I have some sympathy for you, and am more likely to apply the Golden Rule if I am assigned the responsibility of holding you to account—which I should apply anyway.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Daily Life

Halloween Ethics Warm-Up, 2018: Problematical Communications Edition

Boo!

1. How can CNN, or anybody, continue to justify employing Don Lemon as a “journalist”?

He defaults to emotion regularly. He is incapable of objectivity. His partisan and ideological bias is palpable. ( He gets drunk on the air every New Years…) And he says idiotic things like this. Good for Scalise, the perfect individual to flag Lemon’s incompetence. His Twitter followers have also noted many other cases of Democrats “killing people.” Or is Lemon and CNN going to stand on the fact that nobody was killed by the Bernie Sanders-supporting sniper who seriously wounded Scalise? I wouldn’t be surprised.

2. Stop making me defend Hillary Clinton! During an interview with Recode executive editor Kara Swisher (full disclosure: I had some unpleasant experiences dealing with Swisher in her Washington Post days, and wouldn’t trust her to walk my dog around the block.)  in New York City over the weekend. Swisher asked Clinton a question regarding a quip that was previously made by Holder, but mistakenly attributed it to Senator Spartacus, Cory Booker. “What do you think of Corey Booker … what do you think about him saying ‘Kick them in the shins,’ essentially?” “Well, that was Eric Holder,” Clinton said. “Yeah, I know they all look alike.” “No, they don’t,” Swisher responded.

Now Clinton is being called “insensitive” by her party’s political correctness posse. It was a joke, and also a rebuke of Swisher. The former was absolutely fine (and funny); the latter was a mean-spirited “gotcha!” suggesting unfairly that Swisher thinks of all blacks as fungible, a bigoted attitude, when she just made a mistake. (I get Cory Booker confused with Kirk Douglas sometimes.) Then Swisher turned the finger-pointing back on Hillary, implying that Clinton meant her remark literally rather than sarcastically. Continue reading

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Todd Frazier’s Cheat And The Umpire’s Revenge

Why is the umpire standing on home plate?

In a Mets-Dodgers game a week ago in Los Angeles,  Mets third baseman Todd Frazier leaped into the stands to catch a foul ball. Climbing out, he quickly showed the umpire his glove with the ball in, the umpire signalled an out, and then Frazier tossed the ball to a fan. Did I say the ball? I should have said a ball. The ball Frazier showed the umpire wasn’t the ball hit by the Dodgers’ Alex Verdugo, but a white rubber ball, presumably belonging to a spectator,  that he grabbed after the real one rolled out of his glove during his fall. Frazier claimed that first he thought it was the real ball,  but when he realized it wasn’t, tried to sell the non-catch anyway. And it worked!

“It is Hollywood,” Frazier said later in the week. “Sometimes you’ve got to act out a little bit….I was trying to get out of there as quick as possible. I saw someone pointing at the right ball and I was like, ‘All right, I’m just going to have to play this off.’ I got in the dugout and was telling people I was flabbergasted that I even got away with it.”

There are gray areas is baseball gamesmanship. I wrote an essay about the topic several years ago, and ruled what Frazier did clearly unethical, for several reasons. It was not like the common situation when a player traps a ball in the outfield and acts like he made the play. If the umpire calls an out, the fielder has no more obligation to correct the umpire to the detriment of his team than a batter has an ethical duty to say, “No, ump, that wasn’t a ball four, it was strike three. You missed the call. I’m out.” Frazier actively deceived the umpire by placing the dropped ball in his glove out of the umpire’s sight. Worse, he even used a fake ball to sell the deception. With the exception of the rubber ball, the trick was reminiscent of a famous World Series cheating controversy: Continue reading

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