Case Study: Rationalization #2

Also, the team's mascot is this thing...

Also, the team’s mascot is this thing…

Note to all you baseball haters and National Pastime illiterates: This case study arises out of baseball, but it’s not a baseball ethics post. I’m in Boston, it’s Spring Training—give me a break.

A clear-cut rules violation by the Boston Red Sox has been nearly universally dismissed by fans and media alike by one of the most egregious uses of #2 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization list. In case you don’t have your rationalizations memorized yet—and you should, because when you hear them in your head, you are about to do something unethical—this is the one, and it’s second on the list only to “Everybody does it” for good reason. It’s one of the most popular and destructive rationalizations of all:

2. The “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse,

or “They had it coming”

The mongrel offspring of The Golden Rationalization and the Bible-based dodges a bit farther down the list, the “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse is both a rationalization and a distraction. As a rationalization, it posits the absurd argument that because there is other wrongdoing by others that is similar, as bad or worse than the unethical conduct under examination, the wrongdoer’s conduct shouldn’t be criticized or noticed. As a distraction, the excuse is a pathetic attempt to focus a critic’s attention elsewhere, by shouting, “Never mind me! Why aren’t you going after those guys?”

Its other familiar, equally absurd but even more corrupting manifestation is the “They had it coming” variation. This argues that wrongdoing toward a party isn’t wrong because the aggrieved party doesn’t deserve ethical treatment because of its own misconduct. But the misconduct of a victim never justifies unethical conduct directed against that victim. Continue reading

Vuvuzela Ethics

Applied to an international soccer match, the argument that players, fans and broadcasters should be broad-minded and tolerant of the peculiar conduct of various national groups is a good one—up to a point. The point is reached when a custom begins ruining the game for everyone else. The vuvuzelas–those small plastic horns that produce an ear-splitting atonal drone like a horde of cicadas— go well beyond that point at the World Cup, and in any other sports setting are the equivalent of racist taunts, 400 pound naked men, on-field trespassers and giant fart machines. Continue reading

Baseball Ethics Confusion: When Respect Is Disrespectful

After the Florida Marlins’ Brett Carroll stole second on Chicago White Sox pitcher Scott Linebrink in an attempt to pad a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning of an interleague game between the two teams, the White Sox cried foul. The Marlins, some members of the team said, had violated one of the “unwritten rules of baseball,” in other words, baseball etiquette. Continue reading