Current Events

In Defense of Kathy Griffin

I’m a big fan of stand up comedy. I listen to XM 94, 95, 99, or 168 on the way to work each day. I don’t find Kathy Griffin funny. She’s a comedian for people who read celebrity gossip magazines.

But now she’s in news for this:

And of course everyone is outraged! OMG, how could she do that?!?! Griffin apologized and said she went too far.

I don’t get it.  Donald Trump is fair game for pictures like this, as is every other president in my lifetime. Consider:

The ‘If You Blow Kids Up You’re Fair Game for Being Beheaded in Effigy’ Argument:
1. Donald Trump is responsible for blowing up at least one innocent kid in a way that cannot be justified according to just war theory.
2. If you are responsible for blowing up at least one innocent kid in a way that cannot be justified according to just war theory, then you are not entitled to much respect. You are fair game for being mocked, condemned, and burned/hanged/beheaded in effigy.
3. Therefore, Donald Trump is not entitled to much respect. He is fair game for being mocked, condemned, and burned/hanged/beheaded in effigy.

Premise 1 is true. Do you dispute premise 2? Are we supposed to treat people who blow up innocent children unjustly in a nice way?

One challenge to premise 2 holds that presidents are due greater respect in virtue of their office. But I don’t buy that. Consider this argument:

The Read a History Book Argument
1. Historically, pretty much every president (with a few exceptions) is responsible for a host of deeply unjust things, such as enforcing slavery, subjugating and slaughtering Native Americans, starting unjust wars, etc.
2. If an office is usually held by people who do evil things, then the office is not due much respect.
3. Therefore, the office of the presidency is not due much respect.

The American presidency is a parade of evil behavior. Trump, Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, etc., are each responsible for the mass murder of innocents, and so each of them is among the worst human beings who have ever lived. Now, I admit American presidents aren’t especially bad compared to many other historical world leaders, but as Acton said, “Great men are almost always bad men…”

One challenge to this whole line of reasoning holds that we cannot assess political leaders by normal moral standards. They take on great responsibility and have to make hard choices. It’s inappropriate to evaluate Trump and Obama as if they were civilians, because civilians don’t have to make these life and death hard choices. Etc.

In a forthcoming book, I’ll examine this argument at great length. I don’t think it works. But here I’ll just cite Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

That is, if anything, presidents and other leaders should be held to higher than normal moral standards. They have special obligations to discharge justice. If you voluntary take on the role of leading, you acquire a duty to behave better than normal, not a license to behave worse.

In Against Democracy, I criticize voters for their tendency to demonize everyone on the other side. But what’s especially strange about politics is that we demonize people over reasonable disagreements on hard problems (such as whether school vouchers work or whether the minimum wage helps or hurts the poor), yet we yawn and shrug at genuinely demonic behavior. Quoting Bryan Caplan:

 

Second, anyone in a position of political power has a greatly elevated moral obligation to perform…due diligence.  Yes, with great power comes great responsibility.  If you’re in a position to pass or enforce laws, lives and freedom are in your hands.  Common decency requires you to act with extreme moral trepidation at all times, ever mindful of the possibility that you’re trampling the rights of the morally innocent.

 

In the end, the real problem with Griffin is that she’s a partisan hack. She’s doesn’t hold Obama to the same standards that she holds Trump.

Now, I’m not recommending that we routinely start beheading presidents in effigy. But the reason we shouldn’t is selfish: It’s not good for our psyches. A day spent in anger is a wasted day; a life spent in anger is a wasted life.

  • Fritz

    “In the end, the real problem with Griffin is that she’s a partisan hack.
    She’s doesn’t hold Obama to the same standards that she holds Trump.”

    Which is precisely why Griffin’s “joke” deserves condemnation. She is a political flat-earther whose commentary is worthless because it’s merely propagandistic.

    • Rene Gomez

      The Real problem is that Trump supporters are hypocrites There are the same folks who had no problem with protesters holding signs portraying Obama as a witch doctor or a monkey. Yet, there are “shocked!” over what Kathy Griffin is doing. Give me a goddam break folks.

      • Michael Nguyen

        There is a difference between taking a photo of a prop that is made up to look like a sitting president’s decapitated head and holding signs calling a sitting president a monkey or a witch doctor. I could’ve careless if she walked around Los Angeles with a sign that calls Donald Trump an orangutan, a cracker or honky. If you can’t differentiate between the severity of the two things, then you’re an idiot.

        • Rene Gomez

          Pardon me sir, I never called anyone an idiot. If you want to disagree with me, fine. But, you did not have to step to that level. Clearly you need a little modesty in your life. Take care.

          • Michael Nguyen

            My point was it’s ridiculous and ignorant that you equated an ignorant, racist poster calling Obama an ape or a witch doctor with A photo of someone holding up the decapitated head of Trump.

          • Sean II

            You’re failing to understand that in the current lowerarchy of sins racism is worse than murder.

          • Theresa Klein

            Is head chopping worse than hanging? Let’s have a debate.
            http://cdn.inquisitr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/o-OBAMA-EFFIGY-HUNG-570.jpg

          • martinbrock
          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Yes, head chopping may be forgivable so long as no racial motive was involved.

          • Michael Nguyen

            By your snowflake and social justice warrior standard? Why is it that my father who speaks English with a horrible accent, and was turned down for a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant when he first came to this beautiful country and yet he has financially accomplished more than most African-Americans his age who were born in this country and technically should have a better command of the English language. It’s because he doesn’t use past negative experiences as a crutch and sit there and whine and cry about America’s racist past. He got himself a masters degree and applied himself and worked his ass off at work. If you want people to respect you do something that will make them respect you.

            In the Asian community when someone moves out of the ghetto and makes something of themselves, people congratulate them and hold up as a role model for their children, but in the African-American you’re belittled as dancing to the white man’s song, called an Uncle Tom, coon or sell-out. The worst enemy to the African-American community is not the KKK, skinheads, the GOP or the white race, it is idiot violent thugs who kill and steal from their own race.

            Statistically, more black men are killed by black men thin white cops.

          • Sean II

            Look, I get trolled a lot for my abiding commitment to social justice. Been called every kind of snowflake in the book: needle, hex plate, prism, sheath, stellar dendrite, irregular cucktagon. You name it, I’ve heard it.

            And I’ve always responded the same way: by doubling down on my aggressive anti-racism.

            But never before have I gotten push back from an actual member of a minority group. And I gotta admit that’s left me shaken.

            I feel like I should check the privilege that allows me to say “check your privilege”. Which is super fucking meta, when you think about it. Right along with the privilege that lets me say “meta”.

            Whoa.

            Anyway the point is: you’ve reached me. I’m prepared to reconsider my long held belief that racism is worse than severing human heads. I just need a little time and, dare I say it, a little space to reflect.

          • Theresa Klein

            It’s time to see the light, Sean, black people really are inferior and deserve to be treated like it.

          • HermanStone

            Don’t back down so easily Sean. First of all, there’s no such thing as “severing human heads” in the abstract. Decapitation is socially constructed, and is a function of STRUCTURAL POWER. The idea that a white person could be decapitated in the first place is literally not even a thing.

          • Sean II

            You know, you’re right. Until this moment I’ve never paused to reflect on the assumption that cephalo-vertebral attachment is “good” or “better” than other possible states of being.

          • Peter from Oz

            Beautiful.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Thank you for taking the time to reflect on what I had to say. It would be nuts and dishonest of me to say there are no racist people in this country and that there was not a time in this beautiful country where racism was the norm. There was a time in this country not so long ago that I could be arrested and thrown in prison simply because I chose to love and to date let alone marry a white woman. My wife’s father chose not to attend our wedding simply because she married a Vietnamese man and that idiot also chose not to have a relationship with his beautiful granddaughters. In his worldview, people of different races should not date or marry each other. I’ll tell you what I tell my wife and my girls, just because someone sees the world differently from you it does not make them a bad person. What makes them a bad person or not is how they treat their family, neighbors and and the people they meet on a daily basis. My father do you know agree with me being in an interracial marriage. However, he was a good enough man to give my wife a chance to show him that we could have a very successful relationship and marriage. I’ll be honest with you if either of my daughters want to date black man or chose to be in a lesbian relationship I would be far from the road about it

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Up until a few years ago, the fundamentalist Bob Jones University didn’t permit students to engage in interracial dating. There was a joke that if Tiger Woods attended BJU, he wouldn’t be allowed to go out with himself.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            “But never before have I gotten push back from an actual member of a minority group.”

            Dude, that hurts. What about me?

          • Sean II

            Oh sorry man. I didn’t see you there. Thought you split awhile back.

            My bad, all the way through.

          • Peter from Oz

            You extract the urine very well.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Well. by most standards Barack Obama made something of himself, and few Blacks would refer to the former president as “an Uncle Tom, coon, or sell-out.” And while I don’t want to excessively rely on anecdotal evidence, the Chinatown near where I grew up had a large organized crime presence. From what I could discern, high ranking Chinese mobsters were held in rather high esteem by the larger community.

            Is there a polite way to say that your Fox News talking points are both overdrawn and boring?

          • Michael Nguyen

            They are not held up in high esteem. When somebody can end your life or your love ones and/or destroy your financial livelihood you tend to put on a false face of admiration and/or respect. Fear is that the same as respect.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            What makes you think that at least some Black inner city residents may not also be putting “on a false face of admiration and/or respect” vis a vis the drug dealers, pimps, and crime bosses who exercise influence/power in their communities?

          • Thomas Franks

            You are an idiot. You’re a democrat.

        • Theresa Klein

          I don’t really see that much of a difference. The monkey/witch-doctor stuff is pretty racist. Nevermind that there are actually examples of Obama effigys being burned or hung.

      • TracyW

        “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”

      • Krister Andersson

        So tönt would you accept if anybody did the same to Obama?

  • Gallagher used to smash the heads with a giant mallet and make them explode. That was only 30 years ago. Have we really become so tender and easily offended?

    • Sean II

      Noel or Liam?

      • King Goat

        Liam has rarely been sober enough to hit anything with a mallet.

        • Sean II

          A classic, in both original and remix forms. Although that line about Herbert Hoover was a big time Turing Test failure.

          Reactionaries hated Roosevelt. They never loved Hoover.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            I watched that show for years before I understood the line “gee our old Lasalle ran great”. And the Archie Bunker character was a union laborer, and proud WW2 vet. It is unlikely he would have been anti-FDR or hostile to the New Deal, his hatred of hippies, leftists, and “the coloreds” notwithstanding.

          • Sean II

            I think that was part of the (still echoing) point: Archie symbolized who the Left would lose if it continued shifting emphasis from class aspiration to social/racial/sexual causes.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Perhaps. The Mike (“Meathead”) character certainly represented the self righteous, smug liberal/leftist who had no clue how to communicate with working people.

          • Sean II

            “Meathead…represented the self righteous, smug liberal/leftist who had no clue how to communicate with working people.”

            I guess nobody bothered to tell Reiner the show got cancelled.

            He’s been playing that role ever since.

          • Peter from Oz

            Nah, Archie was closely modelled on Alf Garnet, the lead character in ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ the BBC series on which All in the Family was based. Alf was an out and out working class Tory, who was incidentally played by a middle class Jewish actor.

  • DBritt

    I reject Griffin’s photos for the same reason I reject punching Richard Spencer. It’s not that I worry for Trump or Spencer. It’s because making victims of these great victimizers is not helping!

    • Sergio Méndez

      How Trump is a “victim” here?

      • DBritt

        He was beheaded in effigy. My point is not that he is a victim in general, but that protesting him by turning him into the victim of some violent act (or simulation thereof) is not productive. We should be emphasizing how he victimizes others, not making a victim of him.

    • A. Alexander Minsky

      I would think that libertarians would reject punching Spencer because doing so is a violation of the non aggression principle. It’s easy to reject aggression against those one agrees with (or those whose opinions one does not loathe).

      • DBritt

        I certainly don’t consider myself to be libertarian, nor do I advocate violence. But that’s not out of any desire to spare Trump or Spencer the consequences of that violence. It’s out of a pragmatic concerns 1) that we need to have a civil society in which people do not fear violence for speaking their minds, 2) for not buoying these people by making victims of them and 3) that arguments should be won with words because that’s how you actually convince people.

  • Jason Brennan

    UPDATE: I’d add that because of the history of white-on-black lynchings, it’s a bad idea to hang Obama in effigy. Better and more appropriate to blow up an Obama doll while a toy drove hovers overhead.

    • DBritt

      Better yet to tell the stories of the victims of drone strikes than to get all of his supporters on the defensive because he appears to be attacked. This is not how you win hearts and minds. It’s how you vent counter-productively.

      • Jason Brennan

        I agree that it’s not effective strategy. My point here is just that it’s not a failure of respect.

        • DBritt

          Ah, fair enough.

        • RJL

          there is no take too hot for brennan!

    • DST

      I actually think is one is much more effective, while still remaining subtle, at least in comparison to Griffin’s photo. It also has the benefit of being funny, which, again, Griffin apparently isn’t capable of.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e1f4db361149bf2ac20bbd5758c92b394c1ecfde48e8d62d81f9dfaf86e38e1b.jpg

      I think the prominence in history of hanging and burning politicians and government agents in effigy, as well as tarring and feathering actual people, not to mention all of the non-racially motivated lynchings (which were much more common) significantly outweighs any of the symbolism of racially motivated killings. It also seems kind of silly to invoke the history of racist lynchings in the US when we’re talking about the dislike that plebs might have for the formerly most powerful man in the world.

  • HermanStone

    “That is, if anything, presidents and other leaders should be held to higher than normal moral standards. They have special obligations to discharge justice. If you voluntary take on the role of leading, you acquire a duty to behave better than normal, not a license to behave worse.”

    I think this is absolutely right, but it’s interesting that both this, and the opposite intuition are so common. Gods and presidents are often excused for wholesale slaughter. Butchering Amalekites or Iraqis must be part of some farseeing plan when ordered by Yahweh or Obama, right? And yet, “With great power comes great responsibility”*, and “You’re an adult. You should know better” both capture a common sentiment as well.

    Reconciling these two moral instincts will make an interesting part of your upcoming book.

    *Its interesting that the superhero genre so often captures this. The trope of the superhero who steadfastly refuses to kill is often frustrating. But when you’re the equivalent of Brock Lesner fighting (evil) preschoolers, you really do have a higher burden to meet before killing is the right call.

    • Lacunaria

      It’s not frustrating when superheros refuse to kill a typical criminal, rather it’s frustrating when they refuse to kill a villain who has a pattern of escaping custody and doing more evil.

      What makes gods and presidents special is that they are more likely to actually face moral scenarios like the Trolley Problem. “I can intercede, but it will kill a lot of people. How certain am I that everyone will end up much better off?” Yahweh has the benefit of greater certainty.

      • Sean II

        The comics also carefully arrange things so the villains rarely off anyone who dwells within the story’s Dunbar number. That’s how Captain America Civil War could feature 210 minutes of combat and have it all conclude with just a single thoracic spine injury.

        Meanwhile back in reality, people need killing.

        • Lacunaria

          Yeah, in some cases, even the good guys will kill random foot soldiers while keeping the Dunbar Big Bads around. Granted, this dynamic happens in war (and is horrific for this very reason), but applying that to individual struggles in comics warps the morality.

          The Scarlett Witch seemed to struggle with that collateral damage, which is good, but the overall lack of cooperation and rational solutions in “Captain America: Civil War” left it hollow for me. IIRC, they barely scratched the surface of the horrors of putting superheroes under the control of the UN. I’m not sure they even defined it as “control”, but rather “oversight”.

          I periodically think that there’s a market for moral, libertarian entertainment, but I wonder if it would be as fun — worse, I’m not sure people care enough actual morality as compared to felt morality.

      • HermanStone

        That’s exactly the pattern I had in mind actually. I was thinking Jesica Jones and Killgrave.

  • Jeff Sylvester

    I don’t think that the President should get special treatment, but this kind of thing really isn’t OK for anyone, imo.

  • stevenjohnson2

    CNN paid Kathy Griffin to amuse people in a way profitable to CNN, she didn’t do her job and she was fired. This is the very essence of libertarian freedom. I do not think Brennan means to suggest that Griffin should be able to win a suit against CNN for wrongful. I’m not sure what exactly he is defending.

    “But what’s especially strange about politics is that we demonize people over reasonable disagreements on hard problems (such as whether school vouchers work or whether the minimum wage helps or hurts the poor), yet we yawn and shrug at genuinely demonic behavior.”

    Actually I do not think that “we” demonize people over such issue. I think “demonizing” people requires not just attributing malice, but denying humanity and fear-mongering against the demonic powers wielded by the demons. True demonization is not just thinking Muslims hate us because we’re good, but their terrible power means we must defend ourselves. Which is why it’s the targets of the drones who are deemed demonic, not the masters.

  • Jeff R.

    Donald Trump is responsible for blowing up at least one innocent kid in a way that cannot be justified according to just war theory.

    95% of the American public is unfamiliar with just war theory or the children blown up in violation of that theory, so why would you expect them to react in accordance with your premises?

    • James OGallagher

      So called just war theory is not libertarian by any stretch of the imagination. Read Ron Paul or Rothbard.

      • Peter from Oz

        Anyone who tacks ”theory” onto a word or phrase is not clarifying the debate, but performing a po mo’s variant of the appeal to authority fallacy.
        Surely it is either ”the concept of a just war” or the just war doctrine.”
        Using the silly language of the left can addle your brain.

        • James OGallagher

          whatevs, the other guy used it, not sure who you’re talking to. Irrelevant anyway and silly semantics.

          • Peter from Oz

            It is never silly semantics to attack the left’s attempts to alter the language for political ends. George Orwell pointed this out in his 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language’

  • Theresa Klein

    Severed heads are in poor taste, regardless of whose head is involved.

    • Sean II

      That may be, but so is firing people for getting caught in the act of doing exactly what you hired them for.

      • Michael Nguyen

        There is a difference between not liking someone’s political stances and policies and criticizing them for it, then pretending to decapitate them.

        • Sean II

          Aw, bullshit.

          Griffin is guilty of one more bad joke, in a long career of bad jokes.

          Outlets like CNN, who now take the high hand to chastise her, are guilty of perpetuating a totally insane view of life in which politics is everything.

          For six months they’ve been hard selling a reverse cult of personality where nothing matters except the occupant of the White House and his cronies.

          Watch a week’s worth of their headers. You’ll see stuff that sounds like: “Jared Kushner understudied for Iago in his high school play. Here’s what that tells us about possible war with Iran.”

          Christ, I used to think the West Wing was bad for its shameless slobbering over the presidency. But at least that only came out at a non-toxic rate of one episode per week. Meanwhile Trump media circus is endless and inescapable, approaching the same conclusion from the other side. But so much the worse, for negative emotions are even better than positive ones in their power to paralyze reason.

          And that’s just the point. What Griffin did here was perfectly consistent with the mood set by our major media lately. She was just a bit too obvious about it.

          She put fake blood on a paper mache head. But many who now criticize her have been doing their best to create an atmosphere where real people bloody each other’s heads out in the streets.

          She’s just an unfunny hack. They’re genuinely toxic.

          • James OGallagher

            Get over it Trumpbot. So much ranting to say jack shit, give it a rest no one cares about your incessant blathering.

        • Theresa Klein

          Comparing a black man to a monkey = critcism of someone’s political stances.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Don’t misquote me. I never said or implied that comparing a black man to monkey is a political stance. What I did say as a criticism of our politicians Paul see our political stance is not the same as taking a pic of yourself holding the decapitated head of a sitting president.

            But by all means please continue to misconstrue and lie about what I say, hold your protest that turn into riots and badmouth the country because by doing that all you are doing is helping elect more Republicans to state and federal office.

            It should no longer be called the loony left instead it should be called the dummy left.

          • Peter from Oz

            In Australian parlance the anti-Trumpists have ”spat the dummy.”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NQJFirVojY

        • Farstrider

          Not really.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Wow. Really??? So, me disagreeing with Obama and his policies is the same as me pretending to decapitate him???

            You’re really stupid or just one sick individual.

          • Farstrider

            No, but I understand the difference between speech about violence (which is still speech and protected by the First Amendment) and speech that threatens violence (which is not protected by the First Amendment). Apparently, you do not .

          • Michael Nguyen

            Get this through your thick skull I didn’t say she didn’t have a right under the first amendment to do this, what I said was she was disgusting and with all the craziness going around the Secret Service has every right to investigate her. Personally, I want want her in prison simply because I want her to open her foul mouth and literally destroy her career and put the left in a bad light. It’s liberal lunatic’s and extremists like her that put Trump in the White House and help turn a Democratic Senate Republican.

            I want tax reform, i.e. a reduction in my income tax rate, massive reduction in government spending on social programs , a crack down on illegal immigration, a more robust and muscular foreign-policy and a zero tolerance stance towards Islamic terrorism.

          • Farstrider

            This is you: “Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, implying that you would like to decapitate a sitting president is not.”

            This is also you: “I didn’t say she didn’t have a right under the first amendment to do this”

            So, yeah, I’m the one with a thick skull.

          • Michael Nguyen

            She has every right to be a stupid slut and a bitch, on the other hand the Secret Service has every right and the obligation to investigate any implied, perceived or stated threat against the president and for his family. I do not as a Republican want her to be locked up. I want her and only liberals like her to exercise “their first amendment rights” as much as possible. Please oh please continue to threaten the president, riot and call for violence. It’s just pushing most American voters more to the right and in turn move the legislative and executive branch even more to the right. I want Obummer to be the last Democratic president for the next 40 years.

          • Graham Shevlin

            “Obummer”? So in reality you are simply another juvenile playground troll.

          • Michael Nguyen

            His eight years in the White House was really a real bummer for me and my family. I made less money, the value of my home and real estate investments dropped dramatically and I and up paying more in taxes than ever before. For what? So lazy deadbeats and never do well’s could collect more food stamps and welfare? Oh yes, let’s not forget I had a bunch of snowflakes, socialists, antifas,

      • James OGallagher

        How dare they criticize our President!

  • Tofurkey Dirky Theveggiejerky
    • Michael Nguyen

      You can’t be seriously suggesting any moral equivalency between a picture of Obama eating watermelon and a picture of Trumps decapitated head.

      Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, implying that you would like to decapitate a sitting president is not.

      • Tofurkey Dirky Theveggiejerky

        So we’re jusy going to ignore the hanging man effigies and only focus on watermelon? Sounds like cognitive dissonance to me. Let’s also not forget that comedians making fun of the president has always been a thing until this “Leave Trump alone” thing started. I bet Whoopi’s shirt triggered you too huh?

        • Michael Nguyen

          If you just posted pics of Obama being hanged and burned in effigy I would say you have a good point. My point of contention is you equating an ignorant, racist pick with one depicting the beheading of a sitting president is ridiculous.

          • Sergio Méndez

            “If you just posted pics of Obama being hanged and burned in effigy I would say you have a good point.”

            WTF???? Are you blind???

          • Michael Nguyen

            Let me break it down so even you or seven-year-old whose dumb as a rock could understand. If I called my black neighbor Nigger, witch doctor, ape or I said I wish that gorilla next-door would move back to Africa and reproduce with an ape and he calls the police they’re not going to do much. However, if he called them and told them I posted a pic of myself holding up a prop made to look like his decapitated head I am going to get a visit very from the men and women in blue quickly and I’m going to be doing a lot of explaining and taking a psych evaluation.

            In the former I’m just your garden-variety loud-mouth racist in the latter I’m at violence, sick individual who potential he could do my neighbor and/or his family harm.

            If you still equate them as the same thing, I suggest you get a cat scan of your brain.

          • Sergio Méndez

            You stupid fuck! The pictures shown above are not about calling anyone names or racial slurs. They are about burning and hanging a man. If that is not a depiction of an act of violence, I don’t know what in the fuck it is. I don´t if you are blind, just a fucking moron or you are pretending that you do not see what is clearly shown in the pictures Tofurkey showed (in which case you are even more lame and mentally challenged than I though…)

          • Michael Nguyen

            Talk about the kettle calling the pot black.

            I’m not disputing that there pictures that threatened violence towards Obama.

            The picture I’m referring is the picture of Obama in a suit eating a damn watermelon and to it’s left the photo of a knife pressed against Obama’s throat and to the right is The picture of Obama sitting down in a suit with that disgusting sign that says pray 4 an assassination.

            There is no as blind as the one person who doesn’t want to see.

            Fortunately, for you, ICE doesn’t deport people based on their vision or intelligence .

          • Sergio Méndez

            So you take one picture that cannot be a moral equivalent, and conveniently ignore all the rest that are equivalent…you can´t seriously think anybody is that idiotic..or maybe you think your own intelligence is paramount and nobody can go any further from it.

            I wonder what your ICE joke is meant to be? Some lame racist comment based on my name? Let me guess…you speculate I am hispanic and living as legal or ilegal alien in the US. But then, I could be an american citizen, like millions of citizens with hispanic names in the nation…

          • Michael Nguyen

            Nope. It was a sarcastic remark to the fact that you questioned my eyesight. So I simply said since you could not seemingly figure out what photo I was talking about I stated that if ice determined your citizenship status based on your vision or observation skills you would be up for deportation. I don’t give two shits about your race or where you are your parents originally came from. What I care about is if someone is here legally or not. I swear liberals always go to the boring idea that everything is based on race. If I wanted to go down that road I would say I have a huge backyard and front lawn that needs to be mowed and if your wife, mother or any adult female relatives needed a job as my maid.

        • Michael Nguyen

          Making fun of a president, his policy or political positions is fine, however depicting his beheading is not.

        • Sean II

          It’s true that this moral panic is ridiculous, but even so there is a key difference no one has yet mentioned.

          Those offensive Obama images all came from faceless meme and sign makers.

          Many of the tackiest anti-Trump stuff comes from public figures with million dollar names.

          Personally I’m for not freaking out about either, but there is at least arguably a stronger case for the latter as a legit cause for cultural concern.

      • King Goat

        Yeah, not the same. Given the not too distant history of racist tropes and the resulting treatment of minorities it helped create/maintain vs the history of imagined violence against political leaders I think the former is worse.

      • Sergio Méndez

        Let me see…I see pictures of Obama being burned and hanged…and you say it is “Obama eating watermelon”…WTF???

        • Michael Nguyen

          Let me break it down so even you and my seven-year-old daughter could understand. If I called my black neighbor Nigger, witch doctor, ape or I said I wish that gorilla next-door would move back to Africa and reproduce with an ape and he calls the police they’re not going to do much. However, if he called them and told them I posted a pic of myself holding up a prop made to look like his decapitated head I am going to get a visit very from the men and women in blue quickly and I’m going to be doing a lot of explaining and taking a psych evaluation.

          In the former I’m just your garden-variety loud-mouth racist in the latter I’m at violence, sick individual who potential he could do my neighbor and/or his family harm.

          If you still equate them as the same thing, I suggest you get a cat scan of your brain.

          • King Goat

            People in this country have been imagining violence against heads of state since its been a country, and the results have generally been: some people offended. Racist tropes and epithets, on the other hand, had the result of helping to create/maintain systemic oppression of a significant portion of the population. I think your seven year old could tell you which result’s worse.

          • Michael Nguyen

            There’s no systemic oppression of anybody in this country. Is there a loud, vocal racist minority of Americans, I would say sadly yes, but nobody is oppressing anyone. Nobody is being dragged out of their house by the security police and held without charges for no reason except for their skin color, political believes or sexual orientation.

            Try living in a Middle Eastern Arab country, Cuba, Russia, China and North Korea and you will understand true oppression.

          • King Goat

            “had the result of helping to create/maintain systemic oppression of a significant portion of the population”

            I was talking about the past (not too distant though) of Jim Crow and before that slavery, both of which were in no small part created and maintained by widespread use and belief in racist tropes.

          • Michael Nguyen

            I’m not trying denying your good points but slavery and Jim Crow ended over 100 years ago. Nobody alive then he’s alive now.

          • Sean II

            Jim Crow didn’t end until 1965.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            If you made even a minimal effort, you could meet and converse with veterans of the struggle to end Jim Crow. And given your obvious and pathetic ignorance of American history, you might want to exercise some humility when it comes to sharing your political opinions.

          • Michael Nguyen

            But where is the fun in that???

            I rather drive my brand-new Mercedes-Benz SLC to a good old cross burning Black meat barbecue or a meeting of the alt right gathering.

            Just in case you’re too dumb or drunk on your SJW and snowflake believes I’m being fucking sarcastic.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Referring to “a meeting of the alt right gathering” is clumsy and redundant. And I think you meant to write “beliefs”, not “believes”.

            I appreciate that English is probably not your first language. Nonetheless, you might want to edit your post a bit more carefully before implying that others are “dumb or drunk”.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Shit, is that you Mr. Baker??? I thought you died ten years ago!!!

            Damn, I knew I should’ve listened to my father when he said you would come back from the grave so hot me or me being such a smart mouth in class.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Sorry, correcting people is one manifestation of my Aspergers syndrome.

            You know what they say about Aspergian libertarians- fiscally responsible and socially awkward.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Sorry on my behalf for my rudeness and sarcasm.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Every country has a part of their past that would be looked down upon in today’s society.

          • There’s no systemic oppression of anybody in this country. Is there a loud, vocal racist minority of Americans, I would say sadly yes, but nobody is oppressing anyone. Nobody is being dragged out of their house by the security police and held without charges for no reason except for their skin color, political believes or sexual orientation.

            Sorry, this just simply isn’t true.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Who is being oppressed in this country right now?

            Please don’t start with the Trump administration’s crack down on illegal immigration. Every country has the right to defend their borders and set immigration policy within their own country.

          • Theresa Klein

            It’s nowhere near the kind of oppression that existing in the USSR or Vietnam under communism, but black people still do have to deal with undue suspicion and harassment by police. Also, many of those “illegal immigrants” are married to US citizens, have US citizen children, and have been here for many years. Those people ought to be able to apply for legal status, but US immigration law contains a rather cruel provision that in order to apply for a legal visa, if you have ever been in the country illegally, you must return to your home country for at least 2 years before being allowed to apply. There is no mechanism to let people stay with their families in the US while they pursue a legal visa, which can take up to 10 years.

          • Michael Nguyen

            When statistic show that young black men commit more than 50% of the crimes unfortunately yes you’re going to be on the radar for the police. However, most of these crimes are committed predominantly in black neighborhoods such as south-central in Los Angeles, Detroit or Chicago and Baltimore not Beverly Hills, Newport Beach or Martha’s Vineyard. So aggressive police actions predominately benefit black neighborhoods and black majority cities.

            With illegal immigration if your spouse is a US citizen you can stay in the country and after 10 years of marriage, I believe, you become a naturalized citizen yourself. On the topic of anchor babies it’s the parents fault that they cross that border illegally. They have the choice of taking their children with them or leaving their children in the care of family or friends. I personally would take my kids with me.

          • martinbrock

            If I’m better off in the U.S., I would leave my kids with family or friends and return illegally at the next opportunity.

          • Michael Nguyen

            That’s why we need that wall, barb wire on top of that wall and if you cross again illegally when you get caught your whole family should be deported regardless of your child’s citizenship status and your friends or family whom you left your child with should be arrested for aiding and abetting a known criminal and severely fined.

          • martinbrock

            Who is we? You don’t speak for me or anyone other than yourself here.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Sorry for not being clear I should have said the federal government.

          • Michael Nguyen

            I should’ve been more clear and said the government.

          • Michael Nguyen

            I should’ve been more clear and said the government

          • martinbrock

            If I need not pay for your living (and your children’s living) in the U.S., I need to pay for an illegal immigrant’s living either. If you and your cobelievers are more numerous and powerful, you may force me to pay for your living and/or to weaken your competition from persons born on the other side of a line your protectors draw.

            I don’t care if you were born in Grand Rapids or Guatemala if you deal with me exclusively through the market. If you deal with me through the state, I also don’t care. It’s not like your children’s public schooling costs me less or gains me more than the education of some illegal Guatemalan’ immigrant’s child.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Your argument would hold water if my kids attended public schools, but fortunately for them they don’t. Why would I send them to an inferior institution that does nothing but brainwashes them into thinking that he should be ashamed of their heritage and the successes that their family has earned.

          • martinbrock

            If your kids don’t attended public schools, more power to you, but I still don’t prefer supporting the public education of children of persons born on one side of a line vs. children of persons born on the other side, so your assertion above, that I must pay for the education of children born on one side because I would not forcibly exclude them from the other side, still confuses me.

          • Michael Nguyen

            It’s ridiculous because my wife and I work hard and managed to earn a comfortable income that I have to fork over almost 40% of it to Uncle Sam. The top bracket for taxpayers in this beautiful country of ours should be only 30% of your adjusted annual income. Instead of pitting the economic classes against each other, the government needs to get out of the poverty and social justice business. We need to defund Planned Parenthood and national endowment for the arts and other wasteful government programs.

          • martinbrock

            I’d defund Uncle Sam by nearly 100%. Your neighbors may charge whatever the market will bear for your association with them, but forcing hundreds of millions of people in central North America into a single association is tyranny.

          • Theresa Klein

            your whole family should be deported regardless of your child’s citizenship status

            So a 15 year old US citizen raised in America should be deported because his mother came here illegally? Maybe your experiences in Vietman warped your sense of justice and human rights.

          • Michael Nguyen

            You need to compare apples to apples. There’s a huge difference between a political dissident or political prisoner and an illegal alien.

            If my family and millions of other legal immigrants had to follow the rules and wait five years to begin the citizenship process I don’t see why anybody can follow those rules and steps . The blame should be placed squarely on the illegal parent or parents of that child. If you break the law, you cannot claim that by being punished and sanctioned by the authorities, society is going to negatively impact your child. Don’t illegally cross the border and if you do, don’t do that again and imperil your children. Nobody said you could not visit your child and/or they can’t visit you.

          • Theresa Klein

            There’s not really a huge difference between punishing children for the crimes of their parents, when their parents are illegal aliens, and punishing children for the crimes of their parents, when their parents are political dissidents. A child born in the US is not guilty of illegally crossing the border. And you said that child should be deported. “your whole family should be deported regardless of your child’s citizenship status”

          • Michael Nguyen

            There is a difference. In one situation , somebody is speaking out and saying a certain government or system is morally wrong and/or corrupt and change society for the better. In the other case, someone is breaking the law for personal purposes to obtain a higher living standard.

          • Theresa Klein

            So their children should be punished ????

          • Michael Nguyen

            Of course not.

            However, the children find themselves in their unfortunate situation due to the actions of their parent and/or parents. So their parents should be blamed for the situation they find themselves and not a “racist society.”

          • Theresa Klein

            the children find themselves in their unfortunate situation due to the actions of their parent and/or parents

            So do the children of political dissidents in communist countries.

          • Michael Nguyen

            You’re comparing apples to oranges.

            One person is arguing for human rights and democracy for themselves and their fellow countrymen and the other is doing something illegal to better their financial status.

          • sandy

            So a 15 year old US citizen raised in America, who has commited no crime, should be deported because his mother came here illegally?

            If a mother robs a bank and starts to buy luxury goods for her child with that money before she’s caught, does this mean the bank can’t demand whats left of the money back and impound the goods already bought, because to do so would take present and future things away from the innocent child?

            The residence status of a child of illegal immigrants is an ill-gotten gain. Loosing it again when the parents are caught may be painful, but it’s the direct result of the parent’s choices. Lives of minors are strongly affected by the decisions of their parents – that’s how parenthood works.

          • Farstrider

            Just as an FYI, the bank could not get that money back from an innocent recipient. That’s called due process of law. (Obviously forfeiture statutes play havoc with some of this, but many people have questions about their constitutionality in any event.)
            But even if the bank could recover the money, you offer a poor analogy. Consider instead a law that allowed the government to imprison the children of criminals, and you will start to see how wrong your position is.

          • sandy

            No, I think my analogy is much more apt as it presents another case where the only thing the child loses is the ill-gotten gains that their parent’s crime got them.

            In your prison scenario, the child would loose their freedom, which is something they had from birth and have a fundamental human right to.

          • Farstrider

            You explicitly said they should lose their right to live in the country of their citizenship – something they had from birth.

          • Farstrider

            While I’ll leave Theresa to capably respond to your horrifying defense of racial profiling (including racial profiling of your own self), I will point out that people illegally enter the United States because there are jobs here, not because there are food stamps. The only way to stamp out the incentives of illegal immigration is to punish those employers, something most people of your political stripe conveniently ignore.

          • Michael Nguyen

            It does not matter why they cross the border illegally the point is they broke the law.
            Also, I never implied that they came here for food stamps.

          • Farstrider

            No, you did not imply it. You outright said it. Do you even read your own posts before you deny what they say?

          • Michael Nguyen

            What I said was why is it that my father who was born in a foreign country, came here when he was 33 years old and speaks with a horrible accent is able to accomplish more financially in 25 years then African-Americans who were born here and yet this disportionately rely on food stamps and other social spending programs.

          • Farstrider

            “That means no more food stamps, welfare, or any other long-term or short-term financial assistance from the state or federal government…” – Michael Nguyen

          • Sean II

            Theresa’s view of racial profiling is just as simplistic as Michael’s, only with a different conclusion.

          • Theresa Klein

            People deserve to be treated as individuals and given the same presumption of innocence, regardless of whether other people who look similar commit more crime or not.

          • Michael Nguyen

            Not when you fail to comply with legal orders and act with hostility towards the police.

            I’ve taught my daughters to respect the police, comply with their commands and shut their traps. If any of my daughters acted in a disrespectful way or aggressively towards the police and ended up in handcuffs or beaten, they will want to stay in prison rather than come home and deal with me and their mom. It’s not going to be a pretty picture.

          • Theresa Klein

            Not when you fail to comply with legal orders and act with hostility towards the police.

            Not every black person is guilty of failing to comply with legal orders or acting with hostility to the police. Again, people deserve to be treated as individuals, and treated equally by the law. They should not be presumed to be threats merely because of what they look like.

          • Michael Nguyen

            My bet is they don’t have problems with the police and or not being pulled over, or having much interaction with them.

          • Theresa Klein

            Actually they DO. It’s a long standing and widely shared grievance among blacks of all income levels. that the police commonly treat them as criminals. They are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched, and more likely to be arrested even if they have done nothing wrong. Even middle and upper class black people will tell you that it happens to them.

          • Michael Nguyen

            If your ethnicity commits the majority of the crimes in the area of course the police will focus on you and people who share your ethnicity.

            For example, when I was 21, I went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Westminster, a city in Southern California that has been dubbed Little Saigon, due to the large Vietnamese community there. Most of the residents there are law abiding citizens however there’s a sizable minority that belongs to Vietnamese gangs. I was driving my father’s Mercedes when I was pulled over by the police. At the beginning of our encounter they were very terse and aggressive, but I continued to comply to their lawful commands and answer their questions civil manner and without complaint. Screaming about my civil rights and how I should be treated as an individual and I should be treated in a respectful manner wasn’t going to help the situation. Afterwards, before the officer let me go he told me “thank you for your cooperation and have a good night.”

          • Theresa Klein

            You realize that most black people do EXACTLY THAT, right?
            Even if most black people respond in a calm polite way, it can still be an enormous source of irritation to be continually stopped and searched by police, and to not know if the cop is going to respond aggressively at any moment to any slight tone of hostility he detects in your voice.

          • Sean II

            “People deserve to be treated as individuals…”

            In other words, you propose to ban pattern recognition in a species that lives by recognizing patterns.

            Good luck.

          • Theresa Klein

            I propose to enforce social norms against judging people based on appearances. BECAUSE nobody can control the “pattern match” they are born with.

          • Sean II

            So you’re only against using patterns people are born with?

            And what you want is for people to notice the patterns keenly enough to sort out which ones are acquired and which are inborn, then quick as they can force themselves to ignore the latter?

            That sounds very practical. Let’s see how it might work:

            Say you’re a cop in Yorkshire and one day a bomb goes off near your beat. A couple minutes later you see a South Asian guy with a beard walking away from the scene.

            According to you, the cop can notice the beard (acquired) but must NOT allow himself to develop any investigative interest on the basis of the guy’s ethnic identity (inborn). Even though the latter is the single best predictor of the thing he’s looking for.

            Sounds great. Except for two tiny little problems: 1) Human beings can’t actually lobotomize themselves like that, and 2) You probably wouldn’t to hire anyone who could, as anything other than a sociology professor.

            I know it sounds crazy, but this might have something to do with the fact that no society has ever managed to live by your maxim: “people deserve to be treated as individuals”.

            Indeed, the closest anyone has ever come involves a shady little fig leaf where everyone uses statistical discrimination and then unconvincingly lies about it.

            Or, to put it in terms of this example, the best you can hope for is: that Yorkshire cop notices the man’s ethnicity, but later spins a comforting yarn about how it was really the beard which put him on the trail.

            That’s certainly what we do here. American cops don’t racially profile anyone. Why, there’s hardly even been a documented case. They don’t stop people because they’re black. They don’t even stop them because they’re young, black, and male.

            They just, you know, occasionally stop people driving through high crime neighborhoods who wear Timbalands with dark jeans and Chicago Bulls jerseys beneath flatbill caps. That’s all. No innate characteristics there, just acquired tastes.

            Is that about what you had in mind?

          • Theresa Klein

            No, I’m not saying they cannot have an “investigative interest” in the immediate aftermath of an actual crime. I’m saying they have to treat that suspect with the same presumption of innocence that they would treat anyone else. For instance, the polices should not subject black people to random drug searches or stop and frisk at a disproportionate rate, or to disproportionate traffic stops, etc. Which cops often do because they believe they are more likely to make a drug bust that way.
            Or, for example, they should not jump to the conclusion that a black person is a greater threat and therefore expose black people to more risk of death or injury at the hands of police.

            The point is that the risk to the individual should be equal without regard to race. Mere suspicion does not necessarily impose greater risk as long as the police follow proper procedures regarding the presumption of innocence and are enforcing the laws equally.

          • Sean II

            Still doesn’t answer.

            HOW do you propose to do things like, say, make cops forget that half of homicides and agg assaults are committed by (a visually identifiable) 3% of the population?

            How? What drug or surgery or hypnosis would you use to make them forget? What technique has anyone ever found that could make a person behave identically in an encounter with both Y and X, where by base rate alone the mere presence of X means a 17 fold increase in risk to their lives?

            Such people do not exist, anymore than the public-spirited planners who were going to make socialism work.

            Even white college students who make a religion out of not being racist can’t do what your proposing. They fear and avoid the same places (and people) as everybody else.

          • Theresa Klein

            With illegal immigration if your spouse is a US citizen you can stay in
            the country and after 10 years of marriage, I believe, you become a
            naturalized citizen yourself.

            False.
            The clock for naturalization does not start until AFTER you have legal permanent residency, and then it is 5 years.
            But you cannot become a permanent resident without obtaining legal status, and you cannot obtain legal status through marriage if you have been in the country illegaly, unless you return to your country of origin, wait two years, and then begin the application process.
            Nobody automatically becomes a US citizen by being married without going through the legal immigration process.

      • martinbrock

        Yeah. I’m seriously suggesting it. Both are morally equivalent to a bully’s playground taunt, though coming from a comedian, even this moral equivalence is a stretch. Anyone making more of either is playing politics, not ethics.

        • Farstrider

          It’s the opposite of a bully’s taunt, because whatever you think of Griffin’s message or Trump’s policies, she was obviously speaking to power. I otherwise agree with your points.

      • Farstrider

        “implying that you would like to decapitate a sitting president is not”

        Of course it is. Do not be silly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_threat

        • Michael Nguyen

          You’re either bias or a complete moron

          • Farstrider

            The adjective form is “biased.”
            But in any event, only true threats can be against the law. That picture is probably not a threat at all, but if it is, it is obviously not a true threat. As you would know if you read the article, or anything at all, about First Amendment law.

          • Michael Nguyen

            I said what that stupid bitch and slut did was disgusting and immoral, I said nothing about her being arrested and charged with a crime.

          • Farstrider

            You said it was not protected by the First Amendment. You are wrong.

  • carl jacobs

    Just War Theory is a nice little parlor game for philosophes. It doesn’t have anything to do with the real world.

    This is (or at least should be) a non event. Bad taste isn’t a crime. Some people will be offended. Some won’t. Many won’t care one way or the other. As long as she isn’t threatening actual violence, it’s a matter of indifference. I suspect not even the Secret Service will take this seriously, and they have no sense of humor about such things.

    • Sean II

      “Just War Theory is a nice little parlor game for philosophes. It doesn’t have anything to do with the real world.”

      Sure it does. Any society that goes first in taking it seriously will cease to exist in the real world.

      That’s something.

      • martinbrock

        Switzerland has ceased to exist in the real world?

    • “Just War Theory is a nice little parlor (sic) game for philosophes.”

      Now, now, Mr Jacobs, you know there’s much more to it than that. There are some wars that are just plain wrong and some that are wholly justified. No harm in having a set of established criteria for governing authorities to prudentially consider and apply before blood is shed.

      Btw, Jack shares your sentiments about time out from the other place and has himself been stepping back of late. He also thanks you for your kind words. Hopefully it will improve. Dodo may even make a return to stir things up a bit!

      Deus benedicat, amicus.

      • carl jacobs

        Sure. but prudential consideration isn’t the point. The principles of just war are presented as something akin to an objective standard when in fact they are wholly arbitrary. If I can both justify and condemn the Second Gulf War using these principles (and I can), then I wonder after their practical utility. They become little more than weapons with which policy disputes may be fought out.

        Besides which, I could not have refused an otherwise lawful order on the grounds that it violated Just War Doctrine. “I’m sorry, Mr President, but I cannot obey that order because this war does not possess Right Intent” is not a credible defense under the UCMJ.

        • Regardless of the actual doctrine, if you believed a proposed war was morally wrong, what then? Military law doesn’t trump the moral law.
          The moral principles underpinning JWD have to be applied so , of course, people will hold different views and perspectives and weight factors differently. This doesn’t mean they have no practical utility.

          • carl jacobs

            I’m not even sure what an immoral war means in terms of Jus Ad Bellum. Such disputes are invariably about policy with morality made into a cat’s paw. The decision to go to war is far more about prudence than morality. When people say “That war is immoral” they usually mean “I disagree with the policy behind the decision to go to war.” Those are very different concepts.

          • Which is why the criteria should be applied as objectively as possible. In an ideal world, the Catholic Church would decide ;O)

          • carl jacobs

            Yeh. The RCC making all the decisions. What could go wrong?

            Note the proper American usage of irony.

          • It’s a well established fact that Americans do not use or understand irony. Something to do with “low context” and “high context” cultures. American communication tends to be precise, simple, and clear, with messages expressed and understood at face value. Brits, on the other hand, are more sophisticated, nuanced, and layered and messages are written and read between the lines.

      • parlor (sic) game

        I’m not sure where you’re from, but parlor is the correct word and the correct spelling here.

        • Americans play fast and loose with the English language.

  • j_m_h

    Personally I would not make a big effort to defend the behaviour. As far as I can see the world seems to want to sink into barbarism and violence. Each of us has a choice — act and promote civility ot get on the bandwagon of intolerance and conflict resoultion via violence. Giffin chooses the latter.

    • Sean II

      “…the world seems to want to sink into barbarism and violence…”

      For 99,750 years out of 100,000, the natural state of our species.

  • A. Alexander Minsky

    I believe it was C.S. Lewis who wrote that the best men don’t wish to govern their fellow men. Perhaps heads of state are by definition not among our best people.

    • Sean II

      There’s a nice thought experiment here, in the sense of asking any normal person to imagine at what point they’d quit seeking the presidency or being the president.

      The best people would quit immediately upon witnessing the sleaze of an exploratory committee meeting.

      People of average decency would quit after finding out what it means to be prepped for a press conference by Frank Luntz.

      Who’s left? People with a bare minimum of scruples, teetering just this side of the psychopathy line. They’d quit the first time a speech consultant tried to teach them how to do a fake half-cry when pointing to the paraplegic soldier in the wheelchair. “Because, and trust me sir, you don’t wanna go full quad for this kind of moment. That makes people uncomfortable. Makes them think about suicide, which of course is totally off message. What you want is para, so the guy can still wave back when you acknowledge him.”

  • TracyW

    Premise 1 is true. Do you dispute premise 2? Are we supposed to treat people who blow up innocent children unjustly in a nice way?

    This depends a lot on whether we have to go on living with them.

    If we can cast then out from the community of civilised people and never worry about them coming back, possibly with an army, that’s a different situation to what happens if we’re going to see them, or their supporters, tomorrow, or next year, or the year after that. Which category does the current President of the USA fall into?

  • Salem

    Premise 1 is true.

    Just War Theory is a fact now? What kind of fact, and how did you discover it? Either you mean:

    A) Donald Trump has violated Jason Brennan’s notions of Just War – true, but why should the rest of us care?
    B) Donald Trump has violated the true, morally binding notions of Just War – the politest thing I can say is that you haven’t demonstrated this.

    Do you dispute premise 2?

    Yes. Even conceding for the sake of argument that Trump has killed people in violation of Just War, it doesn’t follow that he’s forfeited respect. I don’t agree that the only people who deserve respect are those who’ve led morally blameless lives.

    • King Goat

      There’s some room between ‘hasn’t led a morally blameless life’ and ‘unjustly killed people.’ If someone truly believes Trump (or Obama for that matter) has done the latter it seems reasonable to me if they also lose respect for them.

  • Rob Gressis

    I’m too late to this party, but what the hell. Brennan writes:

    1. Historically, pretty much every president (with a few exceptions) is responsible for a host of deeply unjust things, such as enforcing slavery, subjugating and slaughtering Native Americans, starting unjust wars, etc.
    2. If an office is usually held by people who do evil things, then the office is not due much respect.
    3. Therefore, the office of the presidency is not due much respect.

    I think 1 is true: most presidents have done very unjust things. As for 2, I’m not so sure I agree with 2. Here’s my thinking: modern nation-states have leaders; possibly, a lot depends on which person that state has as its leader: one leader might enact relatively bad policies, another relatively good policies. Given that you want to encourage relatively good leaders to take power, you should give respect to relatively good leaders and disrespect relatively bad leaders for purely pragmatic reasons.

    So that’s one kind of reason to reject 2. Here’s another:

    Being a relatively good leader of a modern nation-state is extremely difficult. Owing to how difficult it is to make a good decision (given political realities, ignorance, the difficulty of the subject matter, etc.), someone who ends up making a terrible decision doesn’t ipso facto deserve disrespect. It’s possible that that decision was the most justified one (given all the other factors I mentioned) at the time. Consequently, many of our leaders do actually deserve respect (not just for pragmatic reasons, but for the reason that it’s the proper response) because their job is so difficult that if they do relatively well, they’ve actually done far better than most of us would in the same circumstances.

    • Sean II

      Two things seem true here:

      1) It’s wrong to exempt heads of state from moral standards generally.

      2) It’s childish and silly to give heads of state no exemption at all.

      The problem with 2) is just the one you’ve identified: heads of state don’t make ordinary decisions.

      One might as well say that surgeons are evil because they violate the widely held intuition that it’s wrong to slash people with knives.

      Only a fool or a philosopher could fail to spot the difference there.

      Same goes for the difference between, say, Henry Lee Lucas and Winston Churchill.

      Both men caused a lot of premature deaths. But anyone who uses the term “murderer” to describe Churchill is posturing obnoxiously.

      At this stage of human development, we’ve monopolized violence in the state. I don’t happen to think that’s a great solution, and I sure hope it’s not a permanent one, but it’s what we have now. And while we have it, there will be people who make big messy decisions about when and how that violence is used.

      The standard by which we judge those people should not be “anything goes”. But neither should it be one which requires perfect prescience and perfect aim, by applying a micro standard to a macro context…which is about what Just War seems to be asking, at least as used here.

      • HermanStone

        But man, how the hell do you narrow the scope to something workable and not too hopelessly relativistic? I really don’t know the answer. Part of me wants to say, “The offices self select for shit heads, so let’s not get too hung up analyzing the shades of brown.” But of course, the shade of brown DOES matter. Kruschev may still be a commie, but good lord, the man surely deserves some credit for not continuing Stalinism. And that’s gotta go triple for Gorbachev. The boring and difficult answer probably has something to do with “judging each action on its merits, given its context.” But who the hell wants to do that.

        • A. Alexander Minsky

          You are quite right that the differences between, say, Stalin, Hoxha, and Ceausescu on the one hand, and Khrushchev, Gorbachev, and Dubcek were considerable and important. This does not alter the fact that the Communist system was/is unjust, and the finest individuals living within those systems were well removed from the levers of power (it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, and Dubcek were never General Secretaries of a Communist Party).

          Perhaps we can look at most political systems in roughly the same light. The differences between heads of states can be of real consequence, and should be recognized and studied. At the same time, it is usually a safe bet that the best people residing in any polity are nowhere near state power.

          My thought on this are in process, so make of my ramblings what you will.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          In fact, although this may sound strange, I believe Khuschev was one of the great unsung heroes of the 20th C. He lived through the paranoid/murderous political environment of Stalin’s inner circle, somehow emerged with a shred of common human decency intact, and managed to give his countrymen the chance for a brighter future. An opportunity that sadly they appear to be squandering.

          • HermanStone

            Yup, I totally sympathize with this. But doesn’t part of you want to shudder at any moral framework that makes you call a communist head of state a hero?

            And now I feel obligated to bring up a related libertarian trope: comparing governments to organized crime. Do we want to say that a less violent mob boss is a good guy in some way. Honestly I do, but I’m conflicted. (Side note, I know the point of that comparison is usually to make the state look worse than people usually see it, but sometimes, for me, the effect is to make organized crime look better.)

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I’m honestly not being snarky here, and I’m sure you understand this full well, but morality is complicated. It may well be the case that conduct which is objectively immoral is still not blameworthy, perhaps even praiseworthy in some way. My personal Exhibit A for this is my favorite film of all time, “The Wild Bunch.” Those were some bad effing dudes, but compared to all the law-abiding bastards around them, they looked pretty decent.

          • HermanStone

            I dont take it as snarky at all. The thrust of my comments here have only been intended to notice that complexity, and notice that it’s interesting, not to dispute it. I think we agree.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            We do.

          • Sean II

            There is some evidence of this just in the recent history of American crime.

            Nothing too shocking when you think about it, for what’s better:

            1) A mafia run by 70 year old men obsessed with money and dying outside of prison, or

            2) A multitude of youth gangs obsessed with prestige and dying memorably.

          • HermanStone

            I was thinking of this as well. Yup, I agree.

            “…obsessed with prestige and dying memorably.”

            Somewhat off topic, but given your interest in the class of people this tends to describe, have you ever seen either The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (documentary about a spectacularly awful family of hillbillies), or Squidbillies (surreal Adult Swim cartoon about the same type of people)?

          • Sean II

            I’ve seen WWWV, although not Squidbillies.

            For my money the best screen depictions of the white lower class are Boys Don’t Cry, The Fighter, just about anything David Gordon Green, and maybe a little bit Citizen Ruth.

            Important caveat: even so, none of these are truly accurate. Just as The Wire wasn’t truly accurate in its portrayal of urban criminals.

            In both cases the sad reason is: poor people are overwhelmingly stupid people, and stupid people are not interesting. One can’t really make movies about them.

          • Sean II

            I came here to say that very thing about Kruschev. His coup against Beria was a pivotal turn in history, worth perhaps 50 to 100 million saved lives, in the short run alone.

            He was also strangely likeable. That image of him holding the corn cob in Iowa captures much of his good side: the farm boy who despite every ideological and political incentive couldn’t hide his admiration for a well grown crop.

            Conquest thought this likeability is just what kept him alive through the purges. I can’t think of another reason, so maybe it was.

      • martinbrock

        Churchill wasn’t a “murderer”, because he belonged to the class of people defining “murder”, and they rarely define their own killings this way, so Churchill belongs in a class with Hitler and Stalin rather than Lucas.

  • Ted_Levy

    Please clarify: Are you REALLY, in a forthcoming book, going to argue for (something akin to) “With great power comes great responsibility.”? A long-time comic reader, I’ve always thought that claim obviously wrong (albeit it a lot hinges on how the great power is derived/achieved.)

    • HermanStone

      It seems like there are a lot of different ways to flesh out that slogan, some more defensible than others. But how about this one: If you’re quite powerful, such that you’re generally less vulnerable, you ought to be more careful and restrained when you’re doing things that might hurt others. For example, don’t kill someone who’s trying to hurt you if you really aren’t in serious danger. My example above was Brock Lesner defending himself against evil preschoolers.

      • Ted_Levy

        Stronger people have the same responsibility to not unjustly hurt others that everyone else has. The implications of that equal responsibility may differ because of their increased strength, but the responsibility itself is not greater. They don’t, for example, have twice the responsibility to avoid harm because they are stronger.

        • HermanStone

          In that case we probably don’t have a disagreement. To me that just sounds like a different way of framing it, but I don’t substantively disagree.

          • Ted Levy

            Then you and I are both disagreeing with the classic claim of the comic books. When Spiderman is told “With great power comes great responsibility” the clear meaning is that because he has great strength and agility, he must, unlike people of normal strength, use it to help mankind. That is the meaning of Uncle Ben’s death .

          • Lacunaria

            Haha, I like this discussion but I’m not quite convinced, because your example focuses on the negative responsibility to avoid harm which can’t really be doubled at all by definition. However, positive responsibilities can be doubled.

            e.g. if I can save a life without risk to my own, then I have a greater responsibility to intervene than people who endanger themselves to save a life.

            Similarly, morals to tithe or give to charity typically take the form of percentages. If you are twice as rich, then you are to give twice as much.

            Granted, these positive responsibilities should not be forced upon you, but they are valid moral considerations that increase as your ability increases.

            An interesting subsequent tangent is: as your power approaches infinity, do you have a responsibility to prevent all crime? Moreover, at what point are we interfering with free will? I’d imagine that this is God’s dilemma.

  • Bryan Hann

    Mister Brennan:

    If Griffin had shown a cheesy Trump latex Halloween mask on a stick then there would have been little to no scandal. Most effigies don’t go for this kind of realism.

    Hanging and burning may be an evil, but we have not evolved in a way which leads us to view even the most photorealistic hanging and burning scenes with the kind of amygdalian revulsion elicited by scenes of bloody dismemberment.

    This is the root of the emotional impetus of the backlash against Griffin, and your argument is oblivious to it.

    • Alex P

      That is a valid distinction.

  • martinbrock

    For a comedian, the apology was incredible. She should have doubled down.

    I’m recommending that we routinely behead heads of state in effigy, and if you behead one in reality, I’ll light a rocket for you on the 4th of July.

    • carl jacobs

      I take it you weren’t a POW in Nagasaki on 9 Aug 45 then. Those would be the people who saw the detonation up close and personal and then said “Good! Go do that to the rest of Japan.” We only know this because they survived the war. The Japanese had planned to kill them all by the end of the year. All 400,000 of them. Fortunately for them, Japanese surrender intervened. Those POWs were non combatants as well, of course – non combatants for whom the Allies held a force protection responsibility. Dumbass distinctions between “allowing” and “doing” don’t quite allow one to escape the force of that responsibility.

      • martinbrock

        Your mass extermination of POWs is counter-factual. It’s worth the bits it’s written in.

  • Irfan Khawaja

    Does it make any sense to offer a “defense of Kathy Griffin” that has nothing to do with her actual motivations, and doesn’t pretend to? Even if the first argument offered in this post were sound, it’s irrelevant to a defense of Kathy Griffin. A defense of Kathy Griffin in this context is a defense of the act actually enacted by the real-life Kathy Griffin–not a defense of a hypothetical act by a hypothetical Kathy Griffin* that enables one’s putatively clever argument to get off the ground.

    Behaviorism aside, an “act” includes the motivations that produce the outward expressions of the act. But none of the premises of the first argument has anything at all to do with the claims Griffin herself has made to justify her act. She said that her “beheading” was a parody of Trump’s comments on Megyn Kelly, not a criticism of Trump’s views on warfare. You can’t turn her action into something it isn’t, justify that, and claim to have defended her–even if what she did ends up being perfectly defensible. As stated, the argument involves an ignoratio elenchi, i.e., the failure to grasp (or meet) the burden of proof.

    • Lacunaria

      Yeah, it reads like a suggestion to Kathy Griffin to justify her act this way.

      • Irfan Khawaja

        Right–it sounds like a suggestion to Griffin to justify her act by pretending to have performed it for the reasons Brennan gives. But it’s far too late for that, since she’s already tried to justify it by the reasons that actually motivated her to undertake the act. I guess Brennan means that she should disown the reasons she gave, then re-describe the act in his terms, and then pretend to have performed it for those reasons–even though she didn’t.

        There’s another way to handle this, which is for Brennan to insist that though the post was titled “In Defense of Kathy Griffin,” it wasn’t really meant to be a defense of Kathy Griffin at all. At that point, I guess he could retrospectively change the title of the post, make any other necessary changes, and proceed as though all was well. It wouldn’t be the first time.

        Either way, an air of pointlessness stalks the post.

    • stevenjohnson2

      It is amusing to see Brennan caught on on a point of logic, given that cunning is what he sells. So it’s slightly annoying to admit that Brennan may not meet the burden of proof, but it doesn’t really matter, because he’s not defending Griffin. The only defense that matters is defense against being fired, and there’s not a hint he disapproves of that. Libertarianism means supporting employers firing employees, regardless of cause. Brennan’s attacking the notion either Trump the man, or the President, must be treated with respect. He offers moral grounds for disrespecting both. Social inequality is a product of economic inequality, which manifests the libertarian notion of justice. And nothing marks social inequality as clearly as disrespect. Given that, it seems natural to “defend” Griffin’s disrespectful behavior and her termination.

      • Irfan Khawaja

        I’m not a libertarian myself, but I don’t really see that libertarians are obliged to side with employers in every case of a controversy between an employer and employee. It could be that they often do, but nothing in their theory requires them to.

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  • Alex P

    Judging from the pose, I guess she must be frustrated at not becoming a Shakespearean. Every male comic wants to be Hamlet, just like ever female wants to be Lady Macbeth.

  • mesaman

    Save you breath, and your word processor, Jason. Kathy was never a comic, by definition. She was an egotistical exhibitionist with nothing exciting to exhibit. Intellectually she was as boring as you are. Must be most difficult to think of something worthwhile to write about. Maybe you might write a psycho profile of Pee Pee Longstockings. Seems more important.

  • I See Dead Trolls

    Every libertarian I know hates Griffin because she picked on Dear Leader, and that is unacceptable, because Hillary. Yes, libertarians are finally, unequivocally a joke.