Well, At Least Something Constructive Has Come Out Of The Latest Anti-Gun “Do Something!” Blather: Welcome Rationalization 40 A. Otter’s Solution, Or “I Had To Do Something!” And Rediscovered 40 B., The Lone Inspiration Excuse, Or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”

We have talked about the empty grandstanding nostrum “Do something!” here quite a bit: there is even a tag for it, introduced in 2016, when the best the House Democrats could come up with to satisfy their anti-gun base that time around was a juvenile sit-in to demand suspension of the Fifth AND Second Amendments. Then I wrote,

The public debate over the various proposals to “do something!” about mass shootings is as depressing as any discussion I have ever participated in. The willingness of gun opponents, Democrats, journalists, pundits and otherwise intelligent people to not only defy the Bill of Rights guarantee of due process but to literally ignore its existence shows how close the stinking breath of totalitarianism is to the neck on our nation, and that it is much hotter than I realized. This isn’t an exception or an anomaly. This is a result of carefully bred contempt for American values.

The intense ignorance crossed with malice toward our Constitution reached a climax of sorts today on social media, as people who should know better (and people who do know better, like erstwhile Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren) applauded the cynical and hypocritical “sit-in” by House Democrats, who said they would hold their breath until they turned blue unless the Congress of the United States voted to allow the government to take away the rights of citizens based on “suspicion.” Only rationalizations can defend this position, primarily among them “The Saint’s Excuse,” or “It’s for a good cause,” “It” is this case meaning..

  • Accepting the ethically and morally bankrupt principle that “the ends justify the means”
  • Setting a precedent for allowing the government to abridge any rights it chooses once by some standard it finds a law-abiding citizen “unworthy”
  • Enacting a provision that the ACLU has pronounced unconstitutional
  • Establishing the principle that the Congress can and will abandon the rule of law as long as enough members of the public and media let emotion overcome reality
  • Lay the groundwork for a President, like say, just to pick a crazy, impossible example out of the air, President Trump, who is as ignorant of the rule of law as the position’s supporters, to really start ripping up the Bill of Rights, beginning with Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Association.

To put it another way, it’s a really, really stupid and indefensible position.

But that’s “Do something!”  That’s’ where it gets you.

For some reason, however, I didn’t realize then that not only is “Do something!” bolstered, enabled and pointed to by many rationalizations [ Among them…“I’m on The Right Side Of History,”“This can’t make things any worse,” “Just this once!,” “It’s for a good cause,” “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” “There are worse things,” “I’m just giving the people what they want!,” “I have no choice!,”“It’s My Duty!,” “These are not ordinary times,” “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now,”  “I’ll do anything!,”  “If it feels good, do it!,” “Think of the children!,”  “If it saves just one life,” and “It’s the right thing to do”…] since it can’t be supported ethics or reason, it is itself a rationalization in its “I had to do something!” form or “You can’t expect me to do nothing, can you?” version. It is a very insidious and dangerous rationalization. I am angry that I didn’t see it before.

I see it now because the Santa Fe shooting really undercuts all of the previous “reasonable gun control measures” that had been proposed to end all school shootings forever, as the pompous Parkland naifs insisted. Banning assault-style weapons and “high capacity magazines.” Background checks and longer waiting periods. Tougher vetting of mental health records of gun purchasers. Not one of these, nor all of them together, would have stopped the shooting in Santa Fe. Rather than admit this like fair, rational people, the anti-gun mob has devolved into shouting, “Well….do SOMETHING!”

On my Facebook page, an old friend, a lawyer, not yet senile as far as I know, actually posted, “Hey guys, here’s an idea: let’s finally do something about all this gun violence!” And that was it. Something. No other recommendation. Something. Brilliant. Why didn’t we think of that before?

The clip that introduces this post, which I have run here before, is the famous moment in “Animal House” in which the Delta House members, led by wise-ass Otter and chaotic Bluto, conclude that the only response they can muster to being kicked off campus is a “really futile and stupid gesture.” Hence the title of #40A. I was tempted to call it Kelly’s Solution after this…

….but Otter’s is funnier, and illustrates perfectly what acceptance of “Do Something!” as a justification leads to…futile and stupid gestures, or worse. For example, it paves the way for totalitarianism, as a desperate public cheers on action for action’s sake, not paying proper heed to where the action leads.

Rationalization #40 A., Otter’s Solution, or “I had to do something!” is an invitation to be unethical, irrational, reckless and irresponsible, bypassing law, values, common sense, and any other obstacle that usually constrains bad policy and  conduct. It creates an intellectually dishonest shortcut, making the decision to act before any effective action is considered, designating action the objective rather than what the objective of the action should be. Obviously this is backwards, and it is intentionally backwards, because it takes a detour around essential questions, responsible decision makers must consider before acting,  like “Is this legal?” “Is this wise?” “What will be the long term consequences?,”  “Can this work?” and “What are the costs?” Rationalization 40A makes the conduct itself the objective rather than the results of the conduct. The imaginary virtue is taking action—even if it is futile and stupid.

And, if one challenges the badly-reasoned “something” that 40 A supports, one often will be challenged by 40 B. The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”

40 B. The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?” qualifies as The Lost Rationalization. I announced it two years ago, never entered it on the list, and forgot about it, until today.

I am not obligated to solve the problem you cannot solve without breaching ethics or law.  Nor is it obligatory for someone pointing out why proposed conduct is illegal, unethical, dangerous, imprudent and wrong to posit alternatives for the verdict on the proposed conduct to remains valid. The Lone Inspiration Excuse suggests that a terrible course of conduct can become acceptable by default. How many catastrophes have been created by that warped logic? If a proposed measure is too wrong and reckless to undertake, it shouldn’t be undertaken. That’s the first step. Finding a better course comes later, or never, if there isn’t one.

The ethical response to someone who reasonably and carefully explains why proposed conduct cannot work and violates principles of law, ethics or common sense deserves a thank you, for that is valuable information. “Well, you solve it then!” is not a fair response. It’s a deflection, and a transparent one. If the only course of action being proposed is unethical, then the responsible and ethical better idea may be not to do anything at all.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/18: Comments, Clarkson, Bitter Hillary, And Weiner Dogs Amuck

Good morning, all.

1. Housekeeping note: Some commenters are expressing displeasure that I suspended a regular participant here following what I consider to be excessively disrespectful discourse toward me. Well. when they try moderating an ethics blog read by educated, passionate and verbally adept people for nine years, I’ll pay more attention to that displeaure. The task is much like that of a lion-tamer in the circus: as I learned when I read the autobiography of one who survived until retirement, the big cats growling is fine, and even the occasional swipe for show is tolerable, but when they start being disrespectful, you either show who’s boss quick or you get gang-mauled and eaten.

In about two weeks, I have to fly to Boston—on my own dime, of course— to ask a judge to dismiss a $100,000 defamation lawsuit from a banned commenter here. Am I bit inclined to be less than charitable to rude commenter outbursts aimed at me right now? Yes. The matter at issue right now involved flat-out, unambiguous personal mockery and derision, and the Comment Policies, accessible for years on the link above, specifically designate “6) Mockery without substance”  as commentary conduct that is not appreciated, , and also notes that a commenter risks be discipline for “…Insulting me, in particular by questioning my integrity, honesty, objectivity, intentions, motives, qualifications, or credentials.”

The commenter who was suspended can return to the wars at any time he chooses, after offering an acceptable apology.

2. Breaking my vow already…to eschew writing about the aftermath of the latest school shooting, I have to mention that Lelly Clarkson’s emotional speech at last night’s Billborad awards was played this morning on CNN and Headline News—and I assume elsewhere—as if she actually was saying something of substance. She wasn’t:

Is the news media going to keep on trying to steer a policy debate with complex social, legal, constitutional, cultural and practical factors into this emotion-flooded, intellectually useless dead end? Apparently so. I’m sure Kelly is sincere, but “moment of action” is nothing but another way of saying “do something,” which itself is just another form of screaming at the sky. What action, Kelly? Unless you make a relevant proposal that addresses the event you are crying about, your statement is worse than useless.

We should not keep pandering to this invitation to turn off our brains regarding guns, yet that is what the news media is actively campaigning for us to do.  They are irresponsible to do this.

But we knew that. Continue reading

Double Standard Chronicles: Why Is Mocking The Rolling Stones For Their Appearance More Ethical Than Fat-Shaming Kelly Clarkson?

Rolling Stones

It isn’t. It is just as wrong.

Fox’s Chris Wallace has apologized for making a gratuitous and unkind crack about pop singer Kelly Clarkson’s weight on a conservative talk radio show (he was suckered into it by the host, Mike Gallagher, who has also apologized to Clarkson.)

Today I have seen the above graphic circulating on Facebook with many “likes” and snarky comments about Mick and Keith’s faces.

My restrained reply is “Shut up, jerks, and show some respect.

Original members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts are over 70 now. Nevertheless, they are embarking on another North America tour. They can still play, in some ways better than ever; Mick can still sing, and can still dance like a chicken. The Stones show passion and professionalism in every performance; those who have seen their concerts leave amazed. The Stones are not like the Beach Boys or the Turtles, croaking out 50-year-old hits to grandparents at county fairs. The Stones can still rock, still have musical integrity, still give their audiences their money’s worth and then some.

I wonder how many of the Facebook trolls writing about how the Stones, who are going to be 73 this year, look old—they are old, and so what? What exactly are they supposed to do about that?—know how hard performing at a professional level is, how exhausting it is, how it impossible to get to sleep for hours after a show because you are soaked with adrenaline, and how much wear and tear it places on the body, emotions and mind.

My guess? Very few. And very few of these obnoxious critics will be able to walk upstairs quickly at the age that the Stones are still rocking arenas. I give three hour, interactive ethics seminars, and I’m a lively speaker. After about two seminars in a week with the related travel, I am fried—and the Stones are expending more energy, more often, then I am. They are also a decade older than I am. I can’t be certain I’ll be able to do my Ethics Chicken Dance when I’m 73. They are an inspiration. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace

You won’t read this on The Daily Caller!

Even the pizza deserves an apology...

Even the pizza deserves an apology…

In a radio interview with conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace was riffing on Little Caesars’ bacon-wrapped crust pizza when Gallagher brought up “fat shaming,” which slid into the issue of the current celebrity fat-shaming victim, following in the footsteps of past targets of weight-related ridicule like Kirstie Alley, Roseanne, Adele, Rosie O’Donnell and Lisa Welchel, pop singer Kelly Clarkson.  “Holy cow, did she blow up!” Gallagher said. “She could stay off the deep dish pizza for a little while,” replied Wallace. Ethics Foul , and a vile one. Rude, mean, and completely gratuitous, Chris Wallace has no reason to comment on Kelly Clarkson’s appearance. She’s not a supermodel; she’s a singer, and a really good one who has just has a baby. Her weight is none of his business, and for him to pile on what is already an ugly social media and internet gossip game of mocking Kelly’s dress size is using his prominence to endorse the ugly societal obsession with women’s weight that, as he should know, kills people.

He doesn’t just owe Clarkson an apology.

He owes everyone an apology.

________________

Pointer and source: Mediaite