Of course, when a protest turns into violence, arson, rioting and looting, that protest has lost any claim to ethical legitimacy. Let’s (mostly)ignore that Woolly Mammoth in the room, however, to try to assess the George Floyd protests from as positive a perspective as possible.
Here’s the checklist:
1. Is this protest just and necessary?
Outside of the locale where the incident took place, the protests were neither just nor necessary. They were only necessary in Minneapolis if there was a real chance that the police involved would not be held accountable. There was no reason to assume that in the brief time before the mobs gathered and the chants began.
2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad, or narrow?
As in most such cases, the primary motive was and is incoherent. “Expressing outrage” is by definition too broad to be productive. “Justice” does not mean what the protesters seem to think it does.
3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?
No, if the objectives are a fair trial and due process under the criminal justice system, which it should be. If anything, the protests undermine those objectives.
4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so? Continue reading
There is no justice for George Floyd. The cries for such a result raise a straw man. Floyd is dead, and shouldn’t be dead. There is no remedy for that, and our system promises none. In the criminal justice system, the role of what would be the plaintiff in a civil proceeding is taken by the State, or “the People.” Justice is sought by society, to validate the system of the rule of law, and to ensure the safety and integrity of society and civilization.
Whether or not the officers responsible for George Floyd’s death—and absent the revelation of some miraculous intervening cause that nobody suspected, like Floyd being bitten by an escaped Black Mamba while the police officer was kneeling on his neck, there is no reasonable argument that the officers were not responsible for his death—are convicted and punished to anyone’s satisfaction is not the measure of “justice” in this case. The measure of justice is whether due process is followed, whether the officers are fairly tried and competently defended, whether their prosecution obeys the rules of evidence and follows the law in all other respects, whether a competent and fairly vetted jury evaluates the evidence presented and delivers a verdict consistent with that evidence, following a trial overseen by an impartial judge, who then declares a fair punishment in light of the verdict. That is all our system can achieve. Whether all citizens, or any citizens at all, like or approve of the final outcome is irrelevant, and has nothing whatsoever to do with “justice for George Floyd.” The system seeks justice in a broader sense. Continue reading
And I don’t even like Friday, since small businesses like mine acknowledge no weekends, and ethics never sleeps…
1. Loyalty Ethics. Joe Biden got knocked around in the debate this week for supporting Barack Obama’s policies. Joe remained steadfast, saying, “I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the President. I’m proud of having served him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there’s anything he has to apologize for. He changed the dialogue, he changed the whole question, he changed what was going on. And the idea that somehow it’s comparable to what [ President Trump] is doing is absolutely bizarre.”
Obama, however, has been silent. Now talk-show host Jesse Kelly, among others, is questioning Obama’s loyalty, tweeting, “The silence from Barack Obama as his Vice President of eight years gets torn limb from limb on his behalf is fascinating. Not even a polite word of support. Either those two are really on the outs or Obama truly is a political machine with no sense of loyalty.”
Fair? I don’t think so. It is not appropriate for Obama to start playing favorites as this stage pf the nomination process. He may realize that being seen as having to come to Joe rescue might hurt more than help: can Biden stand up for himself, or can’t he? That doesn’t mean that Obama is not a political machine with no sense of loyalty; I suspect that he is, as most of our Presidents have been. I also suspect that Obama thought Biden was a dolt, which, as we know, he is.
2. NBA sexual exploitation/ virtue-signaling ethics. I don’t know what to make of this story. Maybe you can explain it. The Milwaukee Bucks are eliminating their traditional, all-female T&A sideline “dance team” and replacing them with a gender-inclusive dance team named the 414 Crew. (Wait: my Facebook friends are arguing that an all-female editorial board is still diverse! Why was this necessary?) From the Bucks brass: “We’re kind of constantly looking to evolve and broaden our reach and be as inclusive as we possibly can.” Oh. That’s funny, I assumed that scantily clad women moving provocatively was a crude way to please the NBA’s and NFL ‘s overwhelmingly male market. If teams finally recognize that these acts were demeaning to women, why not just eliminate them? Why does a pro-basketball team need “dancing, tumbling, break-dancing, tricking and other unique talents” on display during the game? Why not magic acts? Fire-eating? Continue reading
During the sentencing hearing for sexual predator Larry Nasser in an Eaton County, Michigan courtroom, Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were all molested by the former USA Women’s Gymnastics doctor, shouted “You son of a bitch!” and rushed Nassar. He was tackled and placed in handcuffs. Before the attack, Margraves asked Judge Janice Cunningham to grant him “five minutes in a locked room with this demon. Yes or no.” Perhaps he thought she was Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who might have granted his request based on her words at his previous sentencing hearing. Cunningham, however, refused the request.
After the father’s attempt to take the law into his own hands, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told the stunned courtroom, “We cannot behave like this. This is letting him have his power over us….You cannot do this. I understand Mr. Margraves’ frustration, but you cannot do this. Use your words, use your experiences. Do not use physical violence.” Judge Cunningham added,
“We cannot react by using physical violence and assault against someone who has performed criminal acts. What Mr. Nassar did is horrible. It’s unthinkable, but please let the criminal justice system do what it is supposed to do and issue the punishment he should get.”
Nonetheless, no charges were filed against Margraves. Wrong. This is irresponsible and hypocritical, as well as cowardly. (We know any punishment will be unpopular with the “Think of the children!” and the “What if it was your daughters?” crowds as well as the “Punch Nazis in the face” constituency) If the message really is that a society can’t give in to vigilante justice and let citizens employ physical violence as extra-legal means to exact vengeance against criminals, then those who behave this way must be punished. If they are not, then the opposite message is sent: “Well, when someone is really bad, and hurts someone you really care about, we sympathize. We understand how you feel.” What if Margraves had reached Nassar and delivered a punch to his face, fracturing his jaw? Or ripped his lips off? That he didn’t was just moral luck. Would the father have been charged then, as millions around the nation shut down their ethics alarms and cheered?
For the justice system to remains coherent and maintain integrity, the father had to be charged. Continue reading
“Feel free to pay this murdering asshole a visit at his home at XXXXXXXXX.. Don’t forget to bring your hunting gear. Can’t make it then send some mail to him and his wife XXXXXX. She loves animal killers! His wife is one of the owners of XXXXXXXXX, a customs broker in North Dakota. His daughter is XXXXXX (Palmer) and she can be reached at her company XXXXXXXXX. He also has vacation home at XXXXXXXXX.”
—– “Is,” an attempted, but immediately banned, Ethics Alarms commenter to the post about Walter Palmer, the big game-hunting dentist who inadvertently ended up shooting a popular and well-known lion rather than a random, everyday, mount-his-head-on-the-wall lion, as if it makes any real difference at all. The X’s cover up personal information about the Palmers, as this vicious and anonymous creep attempted to use this blog to facilitate organized harassment and possibly violence.
It has been pointed out, fairly and accurately, that while people like Mia Farrow are trying to get Palmer killed—she tweeted out the same information I deleted above– because he was unlucky enough to be tricked into killing a lion-icon, the media is barely covering serial videos showing the dead-eyed callousness of the Planned Parenthood officials who facilitate and encourage the abortion, for any reason, of unborn human beings. The same sensitive, compassionate progressives who are trying to get Palmer murdered (PETA has stated that he should be hanged) are shrugging off human carnage that is exactly as legal as the activity that Walter Palmer thought he was engaging in. One old lion versus a million nascent human beings, trying to live. Thus does selective outrage approach madness. Continue reading
“You know…morons.”— The Waco Kid, “Blazing Saddles.”
This really does explain a lot…
The Waco Kid’s (Gene Wilder) sage description of “the common clay” to Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) when the latter was devastated by his treatment at the hands of the good (but racist) citizens of Rock Ridge often comes to mind in times like this, when I see a large portion of the public, pundits and the media taking a position that is not merely ethically indefensible, but suggestive of brain death.
Such a position is the rush to rally around Emilio Chavez III, an understandably enraged father who caught a naked peeping Tom masturbating outside his teenaged daughters’ bedroom window. From media reports:
“Police said Emilio Chavez III, his brother and a family friend beat the alleged peeper, Dylan Maho, 29, so badly that he was hospitalized, a local television station reported. The district attorney wants to charge Mr. Chavez with aggravated battery, a third-degree felony that could land him in jail for three years…Mr. Maho is in stable condition at the hospital and will be charged with voyeurism, a fourth-degree felony that only brings between one and two years of jail time.”
The headlines in the majority of national news sources—all what the mainstream media would call “the conservative media”— that have covered this story, for this is the feature of the incident that they deem makes it “national news,” is the “Believe It or Not!” angle that so backward are the priorities of the U.S. justice system that the father will face harsher punishment for his conduct than the sick pervert will for his! Here’s passage and quote included in most of the reports:
“Community members voiced their outrage and sympathy for their neighbor’s plight. ‘There’s a naked man outside his daughter’s window,” Mr. Chavez’s neighbor Bill Morgang told the station. “I think he was well within his rights chasing him down and beating him.”’
The overwhelming majority of the online comments to these news reports agree with Morgang.
The facts are simple. The ethics are not.
Near Shiner, Texas, a father arrived home to find a 47-year old man sexually molesting his 4-year-old daughter. So the father beat him to death, apparently in the process of stopping him.
Assuming that the father has no criminal record or history of violence, and that this is really what happened—and ignoring the fact that the incident occurred in Texas—your Ethics Quiz is this: If you were the local prosecutor, would you seek to prosecute the father? Continue reading
In Des Moines, a man who told police later that he “likes young girls” tried to lure one into his clutches, and ended up with a black eye and a several bruises. Robert C. Harding attempted to coax Holly Pullen’s 13-year-old daughter into an alley outside the Pullen home.The teen got her mother to go into the alley instead, and when Holly Pullen asked what he wanted, Harding said he wanted to marry and have sex with her daughter. Then he offered to buy her. Holly promptly beat the the snot out of him. (Harding was later tracked down by Pullen’s husband and others, and turned in to the police.)
This was violent, vigilante justice. It was also technically assault and battery. Your Ethics Quiz question is this:
Given all of these reasons why Holly’s conduct was unethical, why do we viscerally approve of it? Continue reading
Randy Cohen,”The Ethicist,” really doesn’t apply ethics to the intriguing questions sent to him in his long-running column in the New York Times Magazine. What he applies is Randy’s customized social justice agenda, which has a strong class bias (Rich people deserve to be brought down a peg whenever feasible), endorses redistribution of income (stealing from rich people is different from stealing from poor people) and a belief that if a rationalization can provide a green light to allow a deserving person to stick it to a company or wealthy citizen, by all means, embrace it. Because Cohen is a smart and instinctively ethical guy, he still get the answers right the vast majority of the time, as he has done for quite a few weeks now. Eventually, however he’ll reveal the Real Randy in a column like today’s, in which “The Ethicist” endorses vigilante justice. Continue reading