Comment Of The Day: “How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed?”

In the post, How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed?, I challenged readers to read the depressingly meat-headed New York Times op-ed by a defender of Nashville mayor Megan Barry. and challenged them further to identify all of the rationalizations and fallacies it contained. Only one of you took on the challenge in its full, horrible scope, in part because not everyone pays to get past the Times paywall. Fortunately one who did take it on was the newly-minted Michael West, who dissected the essay as if it were a pithed frog.

Here is his Comment of the Day, freeing me from the obligation to post the answers to my question.

Having reviewed the Rationalizations List, here’s my go:

Paragraph 2:
“Along with this confession, the mayor offered the kind of full-throated apology we almost never get from public officials: “I accept full responsibility for the pain I have caused my family and his,” she said. “I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway.””

But she doesn’t accept full responsibility. If she did, and clearly her affair led to extreme financial irregularities which amount to defrauding the public, then accepting responsibility probably requires resignation.

Paragraph 3:
“She ended her statement with a pledge: “God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.””

I don’t think “God will forgive me” is a rationalization. It may be an actual deeply held belief, but the State of Tennessee is a bit more hard-nosed. At best this is just poll-tested platitude, but at worst, it is meant to convince some people to forgive her also (which makes it a diversion, not a rationalization). Working to earn their forgiveness and trust is an appeal to 21A Ethics Accounting: Criminal’s Redemption. She thinks future “good works” can atone for past sins. They cannot. What atones for past sins is having that sin and its effects blotted out, which in the case of defrauding the public, the only atoning that works is resignation.

Paragraph 4:
“This promise did not seem like an act of damage control. This is the way Megan Barry really talks. The language of full emotional availability is her native tongue.”

Appeal for sympathy, which is the opener for the next string of rationalizations.

Paragraph 5:
“Perhaps that’s why this city loves her. She hugs schoolchildren. She looks genuinely joyful at city parades and festivals. She grieves that too many Nashville teenagers are slain by guns. When Max Barry, her own son and only child, died suddenly last summer, the people of Nashville wept with her. When she spoke openly about the drug addiction that killed him, we marveled at her courage and admired her resolve to bring addiction out of the shadows of shame.”

This is Ethics Accounting again. She’s a really great person…so it’s implied we should overlook this one thing.

Paragraph 6:
“But in a red state like Tennessee, this liberal mayor also has powerful opponents, and they are not idiots. An editorial in the conservative Tennessee Star wasted no time in calling for her resignation: “Barry and the fawning, liberal Nashville media are trying the Clinton defense.””

This is a diversion away from the miscreant by accusing the accusers of bad faith motives. #48 Haters gonna hate. Her critics are ONLY demanding accountability because they want a political advantage or want to win a tactical maneuver. Continue reading

The New Rationalization #23: The Dealer’s Excuse, or “I’m just giving them what they want!”

The new Rationalization #23, The Dealer’s Excuse. or “I’m just giving them what they want!” now bumps Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants” to sub-rationalization status as 23A.

Good. Woody Allen doesn’t deserve a free-standing rationalization.

While narcissist Woody’s contribution to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list states that something is ethical if you want it badly enough, as in, “I really, really want to have sex with my adopted daughter,” its recently revealed parent hold that conduct becomes justifiable and benign if there is a market for it. Woody’s excuse is bad, but this is worse. For one thing, it’s usually disingenuous. Those who employ the Dealer’s Excuse aren’t providing a service out of altruistic motives, but out of the profit motive. They want the money they can make by doing unethical things that make society uglier, dysfunctional and dangerous, and they really don’t care if their customers come to a bad end or bring miseries to others.

The most famous exposition of The Dealer’s Excuse is in “The Godfather,” as Don Corleone and the other mafia heads discuss their “business.” The Godfather is balking at adding drugs to the mob’s businesses, and says:

When — when did I ever refuse an accommodation? All of you know me here — when did I ever refuse? — except one time. And why? Because — I believe this drug business — is gonna destroy us in the years to come. I mean, it’s not like gambling or liquor — even women –which is something that most people want nowadays, and is forbidden to them by the pezzonovante of the Church. Even the police departments that’ve helped us in the past with gambling and other things are gonna refuse to help us when in comes to narcotics. And I believed that — then — and I believe that now.

Continue reading

The Deadliest Rationalization Of All?

woodys excuse

All rationalizations can be deadly and have been. History and human nature teach us, however, that “Woody’s Excuse,” #22 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization list, can hold its own with any of them when it comes to tallying up pain, ruined lives, and death. This is “The heart wants what the heart wants,” the comedian, actor and acclaimed director’s personal pass for his seducing and marrying a girl who was, in essence, his adopted daughter.

Today the Washington Post carries the grim final act of a story so terrible that it crosses into the realm of black humor. A veteran Labor Department lawyer, married, with an impeccable record, was found dead in his cell after being arrested and charged with violently attacking a co-worker with whom he had become infatuated. The story is full of weird U-turns of phrase; for example, the judge called the lawyer, charged last week with first-degree burglary while armed and third-degree sexual assault relating to the June 5 attack, a “wonderful person in most respects”—-that is, “most respects” beside the implications of his breaking into a woman’s home, punching her in the face (or spraying her with mace,) then trying to incapacitate  her with a stun gun, handcuffing her hands behind her back and knocking her to the floor. The victim was so badly injured that a plate had to be surgically implanted in her face.

Other than that, Judge, you’re right: he was a hell of a guy. Continue reading