Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Knowing right from wrong?

Some of you may have seen this article, "UC Santa Barbara professor steals young anti-abortion protester’s sign, apparently assaults protesters, says she ‘set a good example for her students" from Eugene Volokh writing for the Washington Post (originally from the Santa Barbara Independent). The short story is that anti-abortion protesters were on UC Santa Barbara campus with graphic photos of aborted fetuses:

Joan said that at around 11 a.m., Dr. Mireille Miller-Young — an associate professor with UCSB’s Feminist Studies Department — approached the demonstration site and exchanged heated words with the group, taking issue with their pro-life proselytizing and use of disturbing photographs. Joan claimed Miller-Young, accompanied by a few of her students, led the gathering crowd in a chant of “Tear down the sign! Tear down the sign!” before grabbing one of the banners and walking with it across campus.

Joan said she called 9-1-1 and Thrin started filming, and that the pair followed Miller-Young and two of her students … into nearby South Hall. As Miller-Young and the students boarded an elevator, Joan said that Thrin repeatedly blocked the door with her hand and foot and that Miller-Young continually pushed her back. Miller-Young then exited the elevator and tried to yank Thrin away from the door while the students attempted to take her smartphone. “As Thrin tried to get away, the professor’s fingernails left bloody scratches on her arms,” Joan claimed. The struggle ended when Thrin relented, Miller-Young walked off, the students rode up in the elevator, and officers arrived to interview those involved.

When I read about this, I thought of two things. First, in a recent post about how a culture of morality often leads to people having self-justified feelings of hate, a lot of people suggested that right-wing conservatives or religious people were the only ones who moralized issues and acted accordingly, even in defiance of the law or rights of others. Second, and more generously than I think a lot of people are willing to be on this issue, I think it is honestly harder to know what the right thing to do is than most people will admit to themselves. A conscience is not infallible. Your feelings about right and wrong can easily lead you astray. From the police report:

Miller-Young went on to say that because the poster was upsetting to her and other students, she felt that the activists did not have the right to be there.
I asked Miller-Young if she felt anything wrong had happened this afternoon. Miller-Young said that she did not know enough about the limits of free speech to answer my question. Miller-Young went on to say that she was not sure what an acceptable and legal response to hate speech would be. Miller-Young said that she was willing to pay for the cost of the sign but would “hate it.”
I explained to Miller-Young that the victims in this case felt that a crime had occurred. I told Miller-Young that I appreciated the fact that she felt traumatized by the imagery but that her response constituted a violation of law. Furthermore, I told Miller-Young that I was worried about the example she had set for her undergraduate students.

Miller-Young said that her students “were wanting her to take” the sign away. Miller-Young argued that she set a good example for her students. Miller-Young likened her behavior to that of a “conscientious objector.” Miller-Young said that she did not feel that what she had done was criminal. However, she acknowledged that the sign did not belong to her.

I asked Miller-Young what crimes she felt the pro-life group had violated. Miller-Young replied that their coming to campus and showing “graphic imagery” was insensitive to the community. I clarified the difference between University policy and law to Miller-Young and asked her again what law had been violated. Miller-Young said that she believed the pro-life group may have violated University policy. Miller-Young said that her actions today were in defense of her students and her own safety.
Miller-Young said that she felt that this issue was not criminal and expressed a desire to find a resolution outside of the legal system. Miller-Young continued and stated that she had the “moral” right to act in the way she did.

I asked Miller-Young if she could have behaved differently in this instance. There was a long pause. “I’ve said that I think I did the right thing. But I acknowledge that I probably should not have taken their poster.” Miller-Young also said that she wished that the anti-abortion group had taken down the images when they demanded them to.

Miller-Young also suggested that the group had violated her rights. I asked Miller-Young what right the group had violated. Miller-Young responded, “My personal right to go to work and not be in harm.”

Miller-Young elaborated that one of the reasons she had felt so alarmed by this imagery is because she is about to have the test for Down Syndrome. Miller-Young said. “I work here, why do they get to intervene in that?”

I explained to Miller-Young that vandalism, battery and robbery had occurred. I also told Miller-Young that individuals involved in this case desired prosecution.

I later booked the torn sign into evidence at UCPD. I also uploaded the audio files of my interviews into digital evidence.

I request that a copy of my report, along with all related supplemental reports, be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

Along similar lines, The New Yorker reported (paywall) about an art forger who donated all of his forgeries, and consequently didn't break any laws, and the vigilante art curator, Matthew Leininger of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art curatorial department, who would stop at nothing to end his reign of terror (tongue in cheek):

Leininger wanted "to get him thrown into the slam," he told me. "The guy's a crook. Fraud is fraud." He contacted the F.B.I., where he spoke to Robert Wittman, the senior investigator of the Art Crimes Team, who is now in private practice. "We couldn't identify a federal criminal violation," Wittman told me. "if he had been paid, or taken a tax deduction, perhaps. Some places maybe took him to dinner, gave him some V.I.P. treatment, that's their decision, but there was no loss that we could uncover. Basically, you have a guy going around the country on his own nickel giving free stuff to museums."

What does this say about how people's individual sense of morality actually tracks the dominant sense of morality (can't really say "objective morality" here, because there's no such thing, right?), I don't know. Maybe it just says that it's hard to know what's right and wrong and even if it seems easy for you to know in a particular instance, it may be hard to convince others to see things your way. This is why I'm not sure how useful a concept like morality is on the macro, policy debate level. See also the vaccine debate?


  1. A psychopath's take on things:

    The water buffalo committed a few crimes. When she stole the sign and pushed the students, she broke the law. Slam dunk. Throw the book at her. It doesn't matter if the protesters called her "water buffalo", carried gory posters or looked just looked too white and pretty for the hippo.

    I have a really hard time with the hippo talking about her feelings, as if they could ever justify the crime, for the simple reason that I routinely have criminal impulses, but I mostly refrain from acting on them. And when I do give in to my criminal impulses, I always know that I'm doing something bad, and that if I get caught, I'll have to deal with the consequences.

    Hence, the hippo clearly needs to pay, because she got caught doing the crime.

    FWIW: I love the USA's constitution, particularly its free speech provisions - because as a vulgar loudmouth, I need them. In most of the world, calling the black professor a "water buffalo" could get you in big trouble (e.g. inciting racial hatred) - and truth (she looks like one!) is no defense. Here in the USA it is completely fine, just like the gory anti-abortion signs are totally fine. In this way, the USA's constitution is pro-psychopath.

  2. Tell me more about aspies manipulating as is said in the tweet.

  3. she's blocking the ellevator and than complain about assult
    action is reaction

  4. the law is not right againt worng
    it's a tool of opression
    and the hipo is giving the girl a lesson in opression
    that's what school is for teaching

    1. I think it's funny that people on this blog are calling the instructor a hippo when we don't have any clue what the prolifers looked like.

    2. Whether or not the instructor is a hippo is independent of what the prolifers looked like.

    3. It would be weird if both were overweight, and one was calling the other hippo....don't you think?

    4. "It would be weird if both were overweight, and one was calling the other hippo....don't you think?"

      Did one of the girls call the professor a hippo? Is that in the video?

      I thought only internet trolls were calling Prof. Miller-Young "hippo" and "water buffalo".

  5. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  6. The diamond rule is better.

  7. Anon 3:51
    No one gives two shits about the 'Golden Rule' hence all the crime and hatred in the world....

    As for the post I think its pointless to punish someone who doesn't believe they did anything wrong because they will do it again 'cause they don't see anything wrong with it. Its just a meaningless waste of time and resources

  8. Showing photographs of aborted fetuses does not constitute hate speech. That's free speech, actually. Denigrating people who disagree with you might be hate speech - like yelling, "Pro-choicers are the devil!" for example.

    Preventing others from speaking publicly does not make you a conscientious objector. A conscientious objector refrains from activity; he or she doesn't prevent someone else from acting.

    The professor sounds like an idiot, as well as a bigot.

  9. What strikes me as most troubling about the above examples is the arrogance behind the actions. To assume you have the right to impose your moral standards on anyone but yourself is narcissistic at best. Tyranny is the end result of self righteousness that is acted upon without concern for the basic rights and dignity of the other side.

    1. Both were trying to impose their moral standards.

    2. True, but one was (less than tactfully) sharing her beliefs while the other party felt obliged to silence beliefs that were offensive to her. There's a subtle but important difference. The first is obnoxious proselytizing but the second reveals a God complex. As much as I personally dislike the actions of the first party, I find the second party's actions to be far more incriminating.

    3. I thought it was funny.

    4. lol, me too, both sides were standing firm ground. but because ive experienced harsh far right extremist conservatives throwing signs a at my face...
      give me the other side please.
      Are views are shaped a lot by what we've experienced. So both sides thought they were right and justified in their causes.

  10. I'm not sure that individual morality tracks with the dominant morality at all. I think the "dominant morality," if such a thing exists, is some sort of generalized adherence to a blend of religious and legal principles. Individual moralities seem to be primarily influenced by ideology and emotion.

    To use this professor as an example, her feminist ideology dictates that abortion is an important right, and as such, those who protest abortion are de facto bad people. Her emotions/feelings are used to justify and reconcile her clearly wrongful actions.

    1. "Her emotions/feelings are used to justify and reconcile her clearly wrongful actions." Her clearly wrongful actions? So now who's emotions, feelings, and biases are getting in the way...

    2. I don't think 'wrongful' indicates a bias, although perhaps it was poor phrasing on my part. What she did was unlawful. I don't really care whether it was moral or not, but in a legal sense she was clearly wrong. And she is definitely using her ideology as a moral crutch to justify her behavior.

      You could flip this around on the protesters using the same logic. They think abortion is a sin/murder/whatever, and that belief is used to justify behavior like carrying around giant pictures of dead fetuses or blowing up abortion clinics.

      The difference is that in this case the protesters were within their rights; the professor was not.

  11. No surprise, what else do you expect a self-righteous hate-perpetuator groupie (an extreme lefty) do? At least, she didn’t start a “change campaign” against the student who was holding the postcard, Or didn’t start a communal cleansing project with a holy agenda, Or was not a bipolar empath spreading her hysteria all over the place, giving that student a “life lesson”!
    I sympathize with that student, but it was not that bad, it could have been worse! :)

  12. MR 17soontobe18 yr old socio
    Miller-Young was right & wrong at the same time; Her reaction to the protesters was impulsive, but she was correct about the insensitivity towards community. There certainly are pros and cons to abortion, but it should be an individual choice, not a collective one. The reason we function as a society is because it's beneficial not restrictive & dominant in the first place. I mean, are we a part of society because we want to be it's slaves, or because we want to be at peace with each other? If somebody else decides for you, where is your free-will (?) . Protesters where there with graphic photos of aborted fetuses to convince the community otherwise, with these as their useful means; isn't that cheating? making people feel guilty for their decisions even when they've taken it all into consideration. Its like having someone point at you with a guilt gun to agree.
    & Leininger is mad because he had been fooled. But the forger never even bothered pretending he wasn't one. So he's indeed free of charges :).

    1. MR dksjfhkfdjhg...
      protesters *were* there :P oops

    2. MR 17soontobe18 yr old socio
      The reason we shouldn't ban abortion is because of poverty.
      You wouldn't have to live with the guilt of 'murdering' someone, but he would have to live with the hunger. Phew! his death is not on your hands anymore, but on the economy's; you can't help it now, & you couldn't help it before; because abortion was banned...

  13. This place has become a dump and the people are just stupidly awful. No wonder only Medusa has stuck around since a few years ago...

    1. This certainly raised the level of discourse.

    2. Mark- show us the ways of cool.

      seriously. all ears.

    3. At least it doesn't require a paid account to post here.

      Another bonus; no moderation. Moderation would've doubled the stupidly awful factor.

    4. What a mindcuff: Sociopaths always trying to justify their bad actions by disputing moral.

      I know, this is a feature of their disease. As part of their disease they feel to live in an hostile environment and behave like that. This behaviour is repellent.

      Thats why targets and other people more deeply involved with a sociopath defend themselves by leaving, outing, searching the help of others or by trying to set boundaries (for the so called high functioning sociopaths) and by law (for the criminal ones).

      Sociopaths in this blog often are like wolves, trying to convince the society of sheeps to accept the wolve-rules. However they do not know that they are wolves. They believe they are just very smart sheeps. Repressed by the stupid mass of sheeps.

      It is not important, if you call the wolve ill, deviant, variant or whatever. The aim is to stop harm. Outing is an option.

    5. I know, so glad it's not moderated...hate that...uuuggghhh

    6. @ anon above, Are you here with the order of Chancellor Ketahi, outing innocent people? Ruining/destroying people’s life? Or you are just another histrionic hater?
      Its important to know, because its ridiculously childish!

    7. Please read this and pass it to your boss too:
      If Chancellor Ketahi herself has ordered you to stalk me on line, then I love to meet her. I have been very permissive and silent so far, but some of her revengeful faculty members have abused their power to an EXTREME point- harming me online and off line- and I don’t like this issue gets more inflamed than it has gotten so far.
      I love to know what was their legitimate reason? If there were any.

    8. Their lives are boring and uneventful.

  14. Mark just got desensitized from the blog and is extremely bored today. He needs to find a little fuck doll and shove his throbbing cock in her mouth. YUM.

    1. I want a real doll. A boy and a girl. They're like total adult sized Barbie and ken. Did you ever make your Barbie and ken doll do it? :P

    2. Wow, those dolls look real. Freaky stuff. For me, I would need them real though. Barbie and Ken wouldn't excite me. Maybe some light erotic asphyxiation, or just hands around the neck, so no accidental death happens. And a good facial of cum.

  15. Right is what feels good and wrong is what feels bad.

  16. Morality does not exist in any objective sense similar to physical and biological phenomena such as gravity and evolution. Animals eat, shit, try to avoid being eaten, reproduce, and eventually die. The wolf eats the sheep and cares for the baby wolves. The sheep eats the grass, cares for the lambs and tries to avoid being eaten.

    Only humans (on our planet) became self aware and conscious of death. Most humans possess hunger and need to some meat, and are vulnerable to competitors such as wolves so we have skill and motivation to fight and kill. We also (like wolves) are more protective of our genetic relations, especially our mates and young. As our nervous system evolved language communication, we also evolved empathy, probably to hold tribal groups together. With language we invented technology (spears and arrows) and culture (religions and rules).

    Our genetics strongly motivates to survive (to the point of killing) and to reproduce, illustrated by frenetic fucking and fanatical protection of our vulnerable young. Human young are weak and vulnerable, constantly dying before birth (miscarriages) and in childhood.

    If you dispose of all the god nonsense, morality comes down to DON'T MURDER; DON'T TORTURE; DON'T RAPE. DO HELP OTHERS WHEN FEASIBLE. That's a lot simpler than the “Ten Commandments.” The details get very fuzzy, but that's the essence of the rules that most people (even quite a few “paths” follow most of the time.

    We so love to fuck that we make babies all the time without meaning to. So even with the evolution of fairly efficient birth control in modern society, we make babies we don't want. As easy as it is to make babies when we don't want to, lots of people who want babies have trouble. A lot of the most fanatical opponents to abortion are people who can't make babies. Much of their fury is “I desperately want a baby; I can't make one; you have fun and make a baby; you throw it away! Die bitch!”

  17. Continued from previous . . . Many of us, especially religious people (most of whom don't REALLY believe in Heaven or reincarnation for all their constant blithering about life after death) are very comfortable with our animal nature. Our animal nature is most obvious when we screw and when we die. To cheat death (and other reasons), religion is all about denial and control. Also, as religion is so obviously nonsense, religious people are constantly trying to convince others (especially their children) as a way to convince themselves. We know we can't really “cheat” death, so we make little copies of ourselves as the next best thing than we try to persuade the tykes to believe the same nonsense. Abortion stops us from getting more prospects for preaching and converting.

    There are practical reasons for limiting abortion. Most of us “know” that murder is wrong. Not because of God or any objective rule or law. It's just something our evolution and culture developed because we are so deadly and dangerous. Because we are programmed to love children by our culture, killing babies strikes us as VERY WRONG. Fetuses die all the time in miscarriages. I've had religious fanatics tell me that it is OK if “God” kills a fetus (miscarriage), but it's a murder if we abort the fetus. This does not make the tiniest bit of sense.

    However, the timing and method of abortion does raise some legitimate ethical questions. Saying that preventing conception or canceling it within a few hours or days is “murder” is total insanity. On the other hand, killing a fetus one day before it will be born, is quite obviously (to sane and sensible people) murder and should not be allowed.

    Once we realize that abortion raises difficult questions of how and when we can deal with it as we do with other difficult issues involving crime. Murder is wrong. We have degrees of murder – manslaughter, negligence, intent and so on. We muddle along with no perfect solutions as humans have always done.

    The practical answers to abortion are:

    1) Make fucking as safe as possible. Not only to prevent unwanted conception by improved birth control, but also to control STDs. Sex is dangerous, just like driving vehicles and playing with guns.
    2) Use as many reasonable alternatives to abortion as possible. Abortion has risks to the health of the mother. Adoption is preferable than abortion, though it should not be forced.
    3) Set reasonable limits on late term abortions. In my family, we've had one miscarriage and one fairly late term abortion where the safety of the mother was genuinely threatened. Everyone was sad. It's no fun. Eventually, the medical problems were solved and a third child was born safely and is now thriving at ten years old.
    The histrionics and drama queen nonsense described in this post is completely unnecessary. Human beings like to think we are “rational.” Most of the time we are “rationalizing” fairly hysterical apes.


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