Time to round up a few of the things Jack Marshall has been talking about this past week or so.
On Wednesday, Jack started out with what he considers to be a mock definition of authoritarianism as he imagine’s it’s defined by Andrew Sullivan, or maybe the “New York Book Review” (whatever that is) or maybe the New York Times or the liberals or…I don’t know, the paragraph is a total muddle and doesn’t have any links… Anyway, he writes this:
The definition: Authoritarianism is when a President you don’t like exerts strong leadership within his powers to accomplish policy goals you disagree with. When a President you do like stretches and exceeds his Constitutional powers to achieve policy goals you approve of, that’s not authoritarianism. That’s great leadership.
Jack’s mocking definition implies that a President who “exerts strong leadership within his powers” somehow can’t be authoritarian, as if legal authority can’t be used to suppress freedom.
It’s Really About Ethics In Supreme Court Nominations
Later, Jack wrote about the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her in high school. As I write this, the story is a horrible mess that keeps getting worse, and I have no way of knowing who, if anyone, is telling the actual truth. Jack, to his credit, also recognizes that he doesn’t know who’s telling the truth, so he assumes for the sake of argument that she’s not lying. And then he continues his habit of attacking #MeToo victims by attacking her for complaining now:
I had pretty much concluded that Christine Blasey Ford was contemptible based on her willingness to impugn a public servant’s integrity, derail what should be an orderly and fair political process, and manipulate the U.S. Supreme Court’s membership using a three decades old allegation that involved, at worst, teenage misconduct.
The pearl clutching about impugning “a public servant’s integrity” is just weird. And for the record, Ford is not the one derailing the process. The Senate Judiciary Committee is doing that. Senator Feinstein, in particular, has a lot to answer for in her bungling and manipulative use of Ford’s accusations.
That doesn’t stop Jack from turning the insanity up to eleven:
In fact, it seems clear that she chose her course of action knowing that she could harm Brett Kavanaugh the same way. If the allegation was politically motivated, as I strongly suspect it was, she is unethical and despicable. If the motive was late vengeance for a teenager’s indiscretion, she is unethical and despicable.
Imagine someone you may have harmed when you were an immature teen. That individual never calls you to account, privately or officially. She never urges you to apologize, accept responsibility, or make amends, or gives you an opportunity to do so.
Hey ladies, Jack the Professional Ethicist says: If a man sexually assaults you, you owe him the courtesy of explaining what he did wrong, so that he can apologize and try to make amends. If you fail to do that in a timely manner, then aren’t you the one who’s really the problem? Shouldn’t you be asking yourself, “Have I done everything I can to help my attempted rapist become the best version of himself?”
First Ford attempted to harm Kavanaugh anonymously. Then, when that wasn’t going to work, she announced her accusation in the news media.
That’s a disingenuous account of what happened. Ford told her story in a letter to the Judiciary committee weeks ago, requesting that it be kept confidential. When Feinstein blabbed and the story began to leak to the media, she took responsibility for it under her real name.
What is being ignored by all those rationalizing Ford’s actions is that that the harm to alleged wrongdoers is magnified and multiplied the longer a victim delays calling for accountability.
That’s demonstrably false in this case, given that no one has charged Kavanaugh with a crime. The passage of time almost always works in favor of the accused, as evidence is destroyed, memories fade, and statutes of limitations run out. If this had come out when they were both students, it could have done a lot more damage. Of course, we’d never have heard about it, since people with criminal records don’t usually get to be federal judges.
It also creates the equivalent of ethics toxic waste. In a just society, nobody is pronounced guilty until guilt is proven, and nobody is publicly accused unless the offense is provable. A prosecutor who knows that there isn’t evidence to convict someone of an offense is violating prosecutoral ethics to bring charges.
No charges have been filed against anyone, and there are no prosecutors involved in this mess. Jack is trying so make some kind of analogy to criminal procedure, but he’s getting it wrong: Even by analogy, Christine Ford is not acting as a prosecutor. She’s a witness. She has no obligation to prove anything to anyone. She just has to testify to the truth as she understands and remembers it.
If Kavanaugh did what he is alleged to have done, he should still have the right to deal with the consequences, accept punishment if any, and be able to get on with his life, set a straight course, and prove his character and values as an adult. Wouldn’t anyone want that opportunity? Shouldn’t any 17-year-old miscreant have that opportunity? As I have already noted, Ford’s conduct is an anti-Golden Rule monstrosity.
This situation is not primarily about Kavanaugh’s rights or Kavanaugh’s due process. It’s about filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court with someone who will do a good job. The Senators who will make the decision have the right to hear from anybody they think will have something to say that could inform their decision.
In any case, Jack had a lot more to say about some of the other women involved:
Today competition arose for Ford in the “Most Unethical Non-Senator To Board The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck” pageant. Cristina Miranda King, a former classmate of Ford’s, decided to grab 15 minutes of undeserved fame by recalling that she “heard” about the incident.
Stuff you hear about in high school when you don’t know the participants or details is called gossip. It isn’t even hearsay.
It was just a comment she was sharing with friends on facebook. When the story went wide in the media, she clarified that she didn’t have any reliable information about the alleged incident.
Now 900 more unethical women, all alumnae of the Holton-Arms School, the private school for girls in Bethesda, Maryland Where Christine Met Brett, signed an open letter, voicing their support for Ford even though they don’t know her. She’s a woman, you see, and of course one who is impugning a man 30 years late, so she must be telling the truth. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton,” they write. This convinces me that Holton Arms graduates a lot of bigoted idiots incapable of critical thought. These women have no valid reason to believe or disbelieve Ford with such certainty. Because they know that students have been assaulted at Holton Arms, this means that Ford must have been assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh? I dare anyone to support this “reasoning.” X must be guilty of conduct Y, because other people like X have been guilty of the same conduct.
Unethical women, as far as the eye can see…
That’s just one post. Jack has gone on and on all week about this. I’m just too tired to write it up.
Almost anybody who bothers to learn about Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem knows that he’s doing to protest racism and especially police mistreatment of people of color. Except Jack, who makes a tiresome pretense of not understanding:
Kaepernick, distinguished for his incoherent on field protest during the national anthem, instantly setting off the NFL’s version of #MeToo, as in “I want make my own pointless, annoying protest that I can’t adequately explain!,”
Apparently, all six of Republican Congressman Paul Gosar’s brothers and sisters have spoken out in favor of his opponent, Democrat David Brill. Jack offers this item up as an ethics quiz about the siblings. When you see his list of possible responses, it’s not hard to figure out which way Jack is leaning:
Unethical. Family disagreements should not be exploited for political agendas.
Unethical. This is a pure Golden Rule breach.
Unethical. It’s an appeal to authority, as if they have any special expertise or credibility.
Unethical. It’s a cruel thing to do to a family member, and indefensible.
Ethical. They care more about liberal policy items than they do about him, and that’s OK.
Jack makes his position clear in the comments.
The vast, vast majority of ethical humanity would regard turning on a family members and trying to lose him his job absent any criminal activity but based purely on political disagreements as obviously wrong. The only possible counter argument is that their policy agenda is so crucial and ineffably right that it justifies the conduct.
Jack has often shown that he has very little respect for policy analysis. For example, he says it’s wrong to support politicians who make unethical choices in their personal lives (e.g. Bill Clinton) just because you like their policies. That’s kind of a weird ethics calculation, because their personal lives only affect a few people but their policies can affect millions.
That last response on the quiz is also a bit of a tell, because Jack specifically refers to “liberal” policy. Jack takes this attitude when the polices in question are liberal. He’s been much more tolerant of Trump’s personal choices, probably because Jack likes his policies. I can’t prove it, but I doubt that Jack would have written this same quiz if it was about a Democratic candidate being attacked by his pro-life siblings. I think he would be arguing that they were fulfilling their civic responsibilities.
Finally, there’s some context:
In an interview earlier this month with Vice News Tonight , Gosar floated the theory, propagated previously by fringe personalities like Alex Jones, that billionaire George Soros somehow instigated or bankrolled the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who converged on Charlottesville.
Gosar also raised the false accusation that Soros, an 87-year-old investor and Holocaust survivor, “turned in his own people to the Nazis” in Hungary.
Gosar’s brother David told Phoenix New Times on Friday, “At what point do you draw the line in your family?”
Exactly. When someone around you is saying or doing things you profoundly disagree with, at some point you have to distance yourself from them to avoid appearing complicit. Even if they’re family.
Finally, on Monday, in a nearly incoherent post, Jack lets rip:
I have been criticized, and this blog has been attacked, for taking the position that the “resistance’s” effort to undermine democracy, weaken or national institutions, and move U.S. society toward increasingly totalitarian values and methods as a radical response to the election of Donald Trump is by far the most important and threatening ethics development in the culture. To paraphrase William Saroyan, I’m right and everyone else is wrong. The Kavanaugh fiasco proves it, and the latest smear tactic proves it further.
“Totalitarian values and methods.” Sure. We all remember that one time Stalin publicized a woman’s accusations of attempted rape against a powerful judge, who consequently endured the terrifying prospect of having to remain a powerful judge. The horror. The horror. The horror.