Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a series of posts responding to things that Jack Marshall writes in his Ethics Alarms blog. I’m getting a bunch of mini-rants out of my system, in the hope that it will help me end my obsession with his blog. I’ve been slacking off on the posts lately, so I think I’m almost done.
Meanwhile, Slickwilly left this comment on an earlier post of mine, taking me to task for writing about Jack here instead of over at Ethics Alarms:
Wow. This is sheer cowardice, akin to knifing someone in the back. Jack is no saint, but he is miles higher than those who follow here: he bothers to have standards, and you don’t.
Everything here is progressive emotional blather, so I guess I am glad you are too scared to post over at Ethics Alarms.
We will see if you have the guts to leave this post up.
Of course I’ll leave that up. I normally only take down spam and trolling and the occasional literal Nazi or Stormfronter. But I remember you as one of the more reasonable commenters on Ethics Alarms, so I assume you’re not just trolling.
And for the record, this blog is not progressive blather. It’s libertarian blather. Get it right.
Seriously, Jack is conservative in a lot of ways (especially in the “tough dad” sense, as you might expect from a guy who expounds on ethics), and we actually agree on a lot of things, such as gun control or the idiocy of zero tolerance in schools. But I want to write now about some areas where we disagree, and those will tend to be areas where progressives would also disagree, thus much of my criticism of Jack appears progressive in origin. I have plenty of complaints about progressive ideas elsewhere on the blog.
I am a bit irked — and also amused — that you accuse me of “cowardice, akin to knifing someone in the back.” This is a public website. Jack links to it from his blogroll. And I link to Jack’s posts when I talk about them, so there are plenty of tools that will tell Jack I’m responding to him, if he’s interested. That’s how blogging has worked for as long as Jack and I have been doing it.
(Also, dude, I’m right here. I blog under my own name. And for some reason I’m responding to an accusation of “sheer cowardice” from a guy who signs his comment “Slickwilly” and leaves a fake email address in the comment form.)
As for Jack’s standards, they are malleable at best. He used to complain all the time about the appearance of impropriety, but now that a walking, talking, in-the-flesh incarnation of impropriety is in the White House, he almost never brings it up. Instead, he excuses Trump’s nonsense under the “Julie principle,” which I’m pretty sure is something he just made up.
And after years of complaining (rightly) that “everybody does it” is sloppy ethical thinking, he’s now attacking criticism of Trump with cries of “Obama did it too.” (He did this again just this Sunday in a note about Trump’s disturbing relationship with the Saudis.) Jack tries to justify his embrace of “everybody does it” by claiming he is engaged in media criticism. That is, he’s not saying what Trump did is OK because Obama also did it, he’s saying that the media has double standards because they’re complaining about Trump when they didn’t complain about Obama.
I find this explanation difficult to credit. If the media glossed over Obama’s bad behavior (and I think they did) then the time to bring it up was when they were doing it. But now that the media are taking the current President to task for his bad behavior, you’d think an ethicist would congratulate them on calling out unethical behavior when they see it (as Jack routinely applauds himself for doing) but instead Jack attacks them for it and calls them “enemies of the people.” It’s this sort of thing that makes it hard for me to take him seriously any more.
Finally, I’m not scared of posting stuff over at Ethics Alarms. I’ve been contributing comments (and the occasional story tip) to Jack’s blog for many years. I’ve always disagreed with him about some things, but I thought he did a good job thinking about and explaining his ethical reasoning, and I appreciated the way he engaged in dialog with his audience. He does blogging the way it’s supposed to be.
The main reason I’m posting my commentary here rather than on his blog is because I’m taking a page from Jack’s playbook: I’m doing media criticism. And the media I’m criticizing is Jack’s blog. He complains (with some justification) that the left has gone crazy in its opposition to Trump. Well, I think Jack has gone crazy in his opposition to the left. He’s turned his curmudgeonly but thoughtful ethics blog into some kind of liberal-hating Trump-apologizing shit-show.
It doesn’t help that this period has has also brought out the ugliness of Jack’s authoritarian vision in a way I can no longer ignore. Not only does he support the drug war and restrictionist immigration policies, but he has neither respect for, nor understanding of, the role of the press in a free society, and his concept of civic duty leaves little room for dissent and opposition. (I may have more to say about all that in another post.)
What it comes down to is that I’m angry at Jack. I’m angry at his lack of respect for freedom, I’m angry at what he’s turned his blog into, and I’m angry that I’ve wasted so much time reading and commenting on his blog. Which is another reason I’m posting this on my blog.
And let’s be realistic: Most of what I’m saying here is not anything Jack would want or allow in his blog comments. His posts are usually about specific topics, so my broad-ranging criticism of his viewpoint would come across as an ad hominem attack. This is the sort of thing that belongs in a separate post.
In the end, I’m posting my opinions on my blog rather than his because they belong on my blog rather than his.