I facilitated a professional ethics seminar a while ago for a scholarly institution, (The locale, names and client have been changed to protect the guilty.) The discussion came around to rationalizations and my favorite on the list, #22:
22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.
Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.
In this case I did a sarcastic riff that is usually well received, about the common example of #22, “It’s not like he killed somebody”:
“Well, you can’t argue with that logic, can you? And if he did kill somebody, it’s not like he killed two people. And even then, that’s not as bad as being, say, a serial killer, like Son of Sam, who, when you think about it, isn’t nearly as bad as a mass murderer like Osama bin Laden. But he’s not as bad as Hitler, and even Adolf isn’t as bad as Mao, who killed about ten times more people than Hitler did. And Mao’s no so bad when you compare him to Darth Vader, who blew up Princess Leia’s whole planet…”
It made the point, and the audience laughed. Then, quite a bit later, I received an e-mail from a participant, complaing about this section. Can you guess what the complaint was?
Think about it a bit…
Do you have an answer? Continue reading
No, this graphic makes no sense here, but neither does anything in the post…
A whole set of ethical guidelines were built upon the infamous episode in the District of Columbia government when a white executive was disciplined for using the word “niggardly,” because some of the products of the District of Columbia public schools were unfamiliar with the word and took offense. Then there was the time the Los Angeles NAACP attacked Hallmark for a “talking card” with an outer space theme that mentioned “black holes,” thinking the card was talking about “black ‘ho’s.”
These and similar episodes are usually fairly filed under “Morons” and can be recovered from if not forgotten. College students, however, engaging in this kind of race-obsessed word confusion is too much for my always combustible brain. This caused my head to do its best Krakatoa impression.
Ready? You are warned: Continue reading
The latest ISIS plot?
Remember the little deaf child named Gunner whose school wouldn’t let him sign his own name because of —EEEEEK! GUNS!!!!!—? The people at Nutella think like that school’s administrators.
Nutella offers customized jars of the filbert ick , but refused to make a personalized jar for a 5-year-old Australian girl because her name is “Isis.”
The girl’s aunt tried to buy five customized jars for her niece and nephew. The local store accepted her nephew’s name, Odhinn—-Now THAT name is offensive: it’s bad enough naming a poor kid after the head Norse god, but spelling it like that? — yet the manager refused to order jars for little Isis. Continue reading
The standards of acceptable Halloween costuming, as you might have predicted given the catalyst President Obama has given to extreme restrictive political correctness, keeps evolving to the hypersensitive and the restrictive. The issue is easier with children’s costumes: children’s masquerades should be age-appropriate; they should not be manikins for their parent’s senses of humor or political views, and as long as they are in the spirit of horror movies, the criticism of those who don’t understand horror movies should be jeered at or ignored. The major controversies arise now over adult costumes. Ethics Alarms has been covering the phenomenon for awhile: let’s review the topic as previously explored here before I delve into its 2015 edition: Continue reading
I don’t generally approve of “gotchas,” but you have to love this.
After Walmart’s CEO piously announced that his chain aims to never offend a single customer and was thus banning everything with a Confederate flag in it, on it, or around it, Chuck Netzhammer went to a Walmart in Louisiana and requested a cake decorated with the taboo flag’s image. He was refused. Then he asked to have a cake decorated with the ISIS battle flag. Walmart happily obliged! After all, who’s offended by ISIS?
Netzhammer then posted a video memorializing Walmart’s hypocrisy, saying on it that the Islamic State “is beheading Christians, selling little girls into slavery and is currently a terrorist org at war with the United States — but you can’t buy the General Lee toy car …?”
Yup, that’s about the size of it. Continue reading
“We don’t want any of the merchandise that we sell to be offensive”
—-Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, explaining to FOX Business Network host Maria Bartiromo why the retail chain was pulling all Confederate flag-themed merchandise. In another interview, with CNN Money, McMillon said that “We just don’t want to sell products that make anyone uncomfortable.” The Walmart announcement tarted a stampede of many large retailers to dump the flags and items with the flag design.
And thus did the CEO of a major U.S. corporation wholeheartedly endorse the speech- and thought-suppressing ideology of political correctness bullies, “hate speech” censors, and progressive fascists.
This widespread capitulation to a wildly irrational reaction to a single tragedy authored by a single individual is, for Democrats and race-baiters, a masterpiece of cognitive dissonance manipulation, one that should be a terrific case study in future psychology classes.
Because Dylann Roof was photographed with a Confederate flag, and because his racist church massacre occurred in a state that has obnoxiously and irresponsibly insisted on flying that flag despite its legitimately offensive connotations to many of its citizens, the flag was linked to the murders so viscerally that to defend its display was regarded by the news media, pundits, bloggers and, consequently, public opinion, as tantamount to supporting the killer. Naturally, politicians and businesses ran for cover, and whatever their previous stances on the issue, instantly flip-flopped to declare the Confederate flags the equivalent of Nazi swastikas.
Well-played, speech police. I am in awe. Continue reading
Looks like genocide to me!
The runner-up for the title of this post was “Consistency In Stupidity Is Not A Virtue”
Much as I enjoy seeing political correctness bullies turn on each other, the controversy over the new casino in Chittenango, New York is a nauseating mix of censorious meddling, hindsight bias and ignorance.
Not that the Oneida Indian Nation doesn’t deserve to be a victim of exactly the kind of harassment it is best known for inflicting on others. For this is the tribe that has sought publicity and skin in the victim-mongering power game by claiming that the Washington D.C. pro football team, whose name only means “the Washington D.C. pro-football team” and that was never intended as a slur—and that nobody who isn’t looking to be offended takes as one—-should be forced to abandon its logo, mascot, team song and identity, at a cost of millions of dollars, as a pointless sacrifice on the altar of political correctness. I am speaking, of course, of the Washington Redskins, a business and sports enterprise which, in a free country, can call itself anything its owner chooses. Since it is a free country, those who are offended by its name, or, as is really the case, have chosen to claim offense for political gain, can address their own hyper-sensitivity by following another team, another sport, or the Yellow Brick Road.
Which reminds me… Continue reading