Cartoon: I am not a person who would ever do or say the things I said and did


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For once, I know exactly where the idea for this cartoon came from. A story a couple of years ago about a model who took a mocking photo of a fat woman at LA Fitness:

Mathers, 30, was Playboy‘s 2015 Playmate of the Year. She was banned by the LA Fitness health club chain for surreptitiously taking a photo of a woman in a shower area and publishing it along with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”

When it announced the ban, LA Fitness called Mathers’ behavior “appalling.” Saying it had revoked her membership, the company added, “It’s not just our rule, it’s common decency.”

In the fallout that ensued, the model lost her job at Los Angeles radio station KLOS, where she was a contributor. In November, the criminal charge was filed, leaving Mathers facing a potential six-month jail term.

As negative responses poured in at the time of the initial posting, Mathers sought to apologize.

“That was absolutely wrong and not what I meant to do. … I know that body-shaming is wrong,” she said, as member station KPCC reported. “That is not the type of person I am.

That last quote – “that is not the type of person I am” – has really stuck with me. (I even worked it into panel 2). Because, I mean… You’re exactly the type of person who secretly takes mocking photos of women changing in the locker room. We know you’re exactly the type of person who does that, because you did.

Ms. Mathers, of course, isn’t alone in expressing this sentiment. Every time a celebrity gets into one of these scandals, we hear them saying some variation on “that’s not the type of person I am.”

I think what they mean is, I did do that awful thing, but that’s not all I am. I am more than this one bad thing I did. 

And that’s absolutely true. Ms. Mathers is the type of person who’d do this thing – but, if she genuinely works at it, she can become the type of person who wouldn’t do that thing.

But to make the claim – “this isn’t who I am!” – without actually doing the work is evading responsibility.  We’ve seen this very recently, of course, with Kevin Hart, who told a series of worse-than-typical homophobic jokes, never once apologized for them, and then took an “I’ve apologized enough, it’s time for the haters to move on!” stance.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg has written about the distinction between forgiveness and repetance in Judaism, and I happened to read that while working on this strip, which seemed very serendipitous. (It’s just a twitter thread; I recommend reading it, whether or not you’re Jewish.)

I had Mel Gibson in mind when I wrote the kicker panel – an antisemitic, racist, wife-beating movie star who not only made a huge comeback, but who has even claimed that he is the real victim.


Artwise, this cartoon (I thought) needed to be very simple to work – one figure, one camera angle, no background. As an artist, this makes things easy for me on one level, but difficult on another – because I don’t want every panel to be alike, and I do want to giver readers something to look at. So I concentrated on varying the expression and body language.

This is something that matters to no one in the world but me, but the biggest challenge of this cartoon, for me, was the last panel, because he’s tipped his head back so the underside of his jaw is facing the viewer. For me, that is the hardest angle of head to draw – but it was also perfect for the attitude I wanted to convey with is body language in that panel. I hope y’all think it came out well!


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels, plus an small extra “kicker” panel below the bottom of the strip. Each panel features a man in a suit, standing at a podium, speaking directly at the viewer.

PANEL 1

The man presses one hand against his chest, in a “this is me” sort of attitude.

MAN: When I got drunk and said all those things about Jews and gays… That’s not me. It goes against everything I believe.

PANEL 2

The man spreads his arms wide, indicating that this is a big sentiment.

MAN: And when I was recorded using the “n word” over and over… That is not the type of person I am. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.

PANEL 3

He raises one index finger, making a concluding point.

MAN: As for pleading guilty for battering my wife… That’s not me. That’s not what I stand for.

MAN: And regarding my many other scandals: Nothing I’ve said or done has anything to do with me, my beliefs, or my character.

PANEL 4

He folds his arms and tips his head back, looking a bit above-it-all and a bit strict. He’s putting his metaphorical foot down.

MAN: And now that I’ve taken full responsibility, it’s time to move on. Let us never mention this again.

“KICKER” PANEL BELOW THE BOTTOM OF THE STRIP

The same man, now smiling and holding up an Oscar.

MAN: And in conclusion, I’d like to thank the academy for this award…

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136 Responses to Cartoon: I am not a person who would ever do or say the things I said and did

  1. 102
    Ampersand says:

    Ron:

    Kennedy shouldn’t have been re-elected, and imo, he should have been forced to retire from being an elected leader, and spent years secluded from public life altogether.

    So yeah, that was screwed up.

    But I don’t think that magically makes today’s Virginia politicians not screwed up.

    Should I interpret that to mean that if the political parties were reversed you’d be insisting he resign?

    On a policy level, governing decisions should reflect what the voters voted for, not on what random unpredictable scandals come up. So if a politician is forced to resign (or dies, or whatever), their replacement should be someone whose policy views generally match the views of the person the voters elected.

    So if a Republican is elected fairly and has to resign, I wouldn’t advocate replacing him with a Democrat.

    Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t get some enjoyment out of a Republican being replaced by a Democrat, in that situation. But I can both enjoy something and think that it’s not actually the right outcome. :-p

  2. 103
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#101- I think the second woman clinches it. He should definitely resign. How many innocent men have two false accusations made against them?

  3. 104
    Petar says:

    I think the second woman clinches it. He should definitely resign. How many innocent men have two false accusations made against them?

    A non-zero number.

    When there is a definite gain for someone from an accusation, I want hard evidence. I have personally seen more than a dozen cases where people’s reputations have been ruined, deliberately, by an organized effort by government agencies. Nothing sinks a teacher talking about Islam and Pomak identity faster than a honey trap, which turns into a screaming show that brings onlookers, and then a couple of women who come forward, “emboldened” because the target “has been caught red-handed”. And you do not have to go to 80s Communist Bulgaria for examples. Russia, Iran, Turkey, Myanmar, etc. still keep the practice going, there are dozens of cases per year in which political dissidents or their relatives claim they were set up. I’ve seen two cases discussed on Amptoons.

    And it’s not just government organizations. An unpopular student set up to fight, when half a dozen people were around, ready to place the blame on him? A driver made to rear end someone, with two “unrelated” witnesses swearing that he passed them going at high speed? Seen both. And in both cases, there was zero evidence for anyone profiting from the setup. Because no one did, the point was to ruin the target.

    This is not to say that I do not believe the accusers. I’m just saying that I do not advocate any action being taken, unless there is hard evidence. Unless a police report has been filed, and the accused named, I may make conclusions for myself, but I sure as Hell would not like to see anyone being punished.

    I know for a fact that I could easily bribe a few girls from my high school class to testify that they were raped by any of their peers. I also know that most of them would testify if organized crime in Bulgaria threatened them into it. The ones that would not? Either have no living relatives whom they do not hate, or are connected well enough to negotiate a refusal.

    As for the US, ideology has raised its ugly head in last few decades. I so miss the times where I thought that Americans were driven purely by self-interest and ego…

    ———–

    To be honest, if I were not such an angel, with no (living) enemies (that I know of), I’d have a dashboard camera, record myself 24/7 and never be alone with anyone except for my parents, sister, wife and daughter.

    Yes, recording a conversation in California requires two party consent. Having an exonerating recording will still help you with the public, in civil (with a good lawyer) and federal court. And it can always be ‘leaked’.

    Of course, I’m no lawyer, and of course, I would never break the law.

  4. 105
    Petar says:

    By the way, in this case, I am personally leaning towards believing the second accuser completely. There is a long trail of evidence dating back to 2000.

  5. 106
    nobody.really says:

    Northam missed a key part of a well-done apology: the part where he demonstrates that he understands the hurt he has caused. In his apology he says that he is “deeply sorry”, and he alludes to “the hurt that decision caused then and now”. But he does not demonstrate that he knows what the hurt was.

    He does not say something like, “I know now what I did not know then. In the intervening years, I have had conversations with Black patients and Black constituents. I have seen their gut reactions to images like those, and I have come to understand how images like those are part of the relentless pile-on of discrimination which shapes the lives of Black people and other minorities in Virginia. I am ashamed that I did not know then, but I have worked to learn, and as a result, I have changed and grown.”

    Grace is clearly a gifted writer, and we’re all eagerly awaiting her book. (No pressure.) Northam’s remarks didn’t quite reach this standard of Grace, but Northam made a run at it:

    There has been much public discussion about racist and offensive materials that appear on my page of the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. And I believe it is important for Virginians to hear directly from me, and to — and for me to answer as many questions as are necessary….

    Yesterday, I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook that was clearly racist and offensive. I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist, and despicable….

    I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content on a yearbook content that belongs to me. It is disgusting. It is offensive. It is racist….

    I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook. In the place and time where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace.

    I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.

    As I began my career and met my wife Pam, I also began to develop a stronger understanding of this country’s history and the harm that certain actions and attitudes cause. That does not excuse my behaviors up to that point, but it did offer me an opportunity to change and to grow, and I took it. I pursued my career as a soldier, a physician, and as a public servant because I wanted to help people. The experiences I had in each of those chapters and the people I met along the way helped me form a set of values that defined the person I am now….

    [And] I have a very close friend who was my assistant during the campaign[,] Seth Opoku-Yeboah. And during some of our long rides around the commonwealth, the very issue of blackfacing came up. And he really did a good job communicating to me why that’s so offensive. And it was actually during that conversation, I said, you know, Seth, I put some polish on my face, I competed in a dance contest dressed up as Michael Jackson. And I said, I assume you probably would think that’s offensive. He said, I would. And I said, … I appreciate you being open with me. I apologize for what I’ve done in the past, and I can promise you I’ll never do that again….

    [A]t a press conference where he talks about a time when he did wear blackface, when he is asked by a reporter if he can still moonwalk, he does reflexively cast his gaze about to see if he has enough room to show off his dance chops, and is pulled back from that precipice by his wife. I watched that video and came away with the very strong impression that he still doesn’t get it. Today.

    I came away with the impression that the reporter was asking Northam to provide evidence in support of his story, and Northam—eager not to appear defensive—was willing to provide it. I see nothing especially bad about that. We, the observers, might regard moonwalking on command at a nationally televised press conference as lighthearted and trivializing. But I have difficulty believing that anyone in Northam’s shoes would.

  6. 107
    nobody.really says:

    Thanks to all for their thoughtful comments.

    I tend to favor utilitarianism, a philosophy first articulated in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) by Jeremy Bentham (the philosopher, not the character from Lost—although, given that story line, I guess it’s possible he could be both). He argued that people should be guided by doing what’s useful (avoiding pain, pursuing pleasure). In doing so, he contrasted this view with the views of ascetics, who shun pleasure and pursue pain. He contrasted it with absolutists, who are guided by simple, unbending rules. And he contrasted it with people who are guided solely by “sympathy and antipathy,” wherein –

    whatever you find in yourself a propensity to condemn, is wrong for that very reason. For the same reason it is also meet for punishment: in what proportion it is adverse to utility, or whether it be adverse to utility at all, is a matter that makes no difference. In that same proportion also is it meet for punishment: if you hate much, punish much…. [T]he fine feelings of the soul are not to be overborne and tyrannized by the harsh and rugged dictates of political utility.

    I cringe at the apparent lack of compassion of libertarians. But similarly I cringe at those seem to be under the sway of “sympathy and antipathy”—people who are not merely motivated by compassion and self-righteousness, but seem to regard these emotions as justification for disregarding any contrary point of view. These people seem especially prone to moral panic—the view that something is wrong, and therefore SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, without pausing to consider the full range of possible responses.

    Recently we encountered a yearbook photo of a student(?) in blackface and another in a Klan costume, and then learned that Northam dressed as Michael Jackson in 1984, including the use of shoe polish to darken his skin. The question we confront is, How should we respond to this new information? From my perspective, the initial response—an almost universal call for his immediate resignation—reflected moral panic, not utility.

    You’re like someone who doesn’t understand why burning a cross on some Jewish dude’s lawn is more offensive than, I dunno, dropping rusty nails on the lawn. “What if I showed you statistics showing that rusty nails killed more people per year than lawn fires? By quite a lot?” Well, then, you would have shown me that you’ve completely missed the point.

    Perhaps such a person is clueless.

    Now consider a clueful person who DOES get the point—and is therefore preparing to drop a nuclear bomb on the cross-burner’s house. The clueless person might argue that this response seems out of proportion and will harm untold numbers of entirely innocent people, including, ironically, many Jewish people. The clueful person responds with an edifying lecture about how much Jewish people have suffered at the hands of the KKK … as he pushes the button.

    Harm can result from cluelessness. Harm can result from moral panic, absolutism, and virtue-signaling. I don’t aspire to cluelessness—but there are worse outcomes.

    Someone who is comfortable with blackface and KKK costumes is displaying either a comfort with racism, or an indifference to racism, or an ignorance of racism, that many Americans – again, especially Black Americans – find disturbing at best. And do not want in an elected official, if there’s a better alternative.

    (Which, in this case, as it turns out, there may not be).

    What? Given the long, long, tragic experience of black people in America, what possible relevance could “better alternatives” have? It has no relevance to that history!

    However, it might have relevance to evaluating the utility of possible responses. And I suggest that this is the relevant question under consideration. But we can get to that consideration only if we can transcend moral panic and absolutism. Thus Grace remarks—

    When you see that a candidate, or an elected official, doesn’t get it, or didn’t get it, that’s not dispositive, but it is a piece of evidence that the candidate is less likely to be able to see an issue from your perspective, or to consider the needs or wants of people like you….

    If all you’ve got is candidates like that, then, well, it’s not an issue which prompts your choice (though it may prompt the choice not to go to the polls at all…).

    [I]f you’re comparing Northam to someone who didn’t make that mistake decades ago (or, at least, for whom there is no evidence that they did), then that’s a point against Northam….

    Should he resign? Well, what’s best for his constituents? What will show up in his place? You can make a strong argument that if his replacement will be a modern Republican, it’s in the best interest of his constituents for him to stick it out, even as damaged as he now is, because we have seen the policies modern Republicans are intent on enacting.

    No absolutism. No moral panic. A measured acknowledgment about more and less desirable attributes in a politician, facilitating a critical evaluation of possible responses under varying scenarios.

    Two additional thoughts: First, consider Grace’s last remark about the practical consequences of electing Republicans. Now recall that Northam acknowledged voting for George W. Bush over both Gore and Kerry. Bush—you know, the guy who ignored the daily briefing entitled, “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US”? Who lied us into a war in Iraq, and then embraced torture? Who cut taxes for the rich but increased the number of people in poverty by 25%+? Who presided over the bungled preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina (“Heck of a job, Brownie!”) which killed 1800 Americans, 40% of whom were black? The guy who presided over the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression?

    Bush’s policies have been widely regarded as catastrophic, and nothing short of a Trump presidency could possibly prompt a reappraisal. Yet Northam voted for this guy TWICE.

    THIS should tell you all you need to know about Northam’s cluelessness, including his insensitivity to the plight of black people, as recently as 2004. So I have difficulty with the argument that we should all be shocked! shocked! at the revelation of a photo suggesting he was insensitive to the concerns of ethnic minorities in 1984. I find it much more plausible to conclude that the images of black face and Klan robes triggered moral panic, absolutism, and virtue-signaling, even if the images provided very little new actual information.

    Second, now reflect on the fact that Virginia Democrats STILL nominated him, and Virginia voters STILL elected him, notwithstanding his voting history. This should tell you all you need to know about the availability of alternative electable Democratic candidates.

    I humbly offer the idea that the REAL welfare of REAL black Virginians will be much more imperiled by ceding the governorship to the Virginia GOP than by leaving it in the hands of a self-confessed Michael Jackson impersonator.

    Has anyone here said otherwise? This seems like a strawman.

    Noted.

    [D]ressing like the KKK [is] offensive because it makes light of a truly horrific chapter of American history that still resonates and threatens the well-being of black people today.

    Has anyone here said otherwise?

    Indeed, do you know who hasn’t denied it? NORTHAM. Meanwhile, do you know who called for Northam to resign? Virginia Attorney General Herring—a guy who ALSO wore blackface. (Kids, can you spot the virtue-signaling in this picture…?) In the great Strawman Olympics, this is like the straw bale house calling the scarecrow “straw.”

    The large cultural salience of KKK outfits and blackface, and the comparatively minor cultural salience of someone dressed as Tony Soprano, is a fact. That you seemingly think people are being ridiculous to be aware of and react to this large cultural salience does not change that fact.

    Fair enough. And I have acknowledged the pragmatism of capitulating to cultural salience, and its power to trigger moral panic that transcends any other argument.

    But cultural salience is not an immutable fact. Different things become more and less salient over time. I suggest that the salience of a Klan costume (and blackface) has not always been what it is today. Moreover….

    Let us turn to Tony Soprano—or, more generally, people dressed as members of violent gangs. Violent gangs have victimized many people. Some of those victims may even be people of color. I suspect that the salience of violent gang imagery grows by the day.

    So let’s fast-forward a decade or two: Now there’s widespread acknowledgement of the terror that such gangs visited upon innocent people. Now everyone acknowledges that only an abjectly callous, clueless person would ever be so insensitive to our traumatized population as to appear in a photo next to someone dressed in such a fashion. Appearing such a photo would prove that you make light of a truly horrific chapter of American history that still resonates and threatens the well-being of black people (and others) today. As a result, a large portion of the next generation is summarily drummed out of public life.

    Now, imagine that black and Hispanic kids were disproportionately likely to appear in photos next to people in gang attire—or even appear WEARING gang attire. This could prove to be the best tool for bleaching the legislature this century.

    He who lives by cultural salience dies by cultural salience—that is, unless we can learn to transcend moral panic, absolutism, and virtue-signaling. And, yeah, probably we can’t—but I’m gonna try.

  7. 108
    J. Squid says:

    OTOH, nobody.really, the reactions that you so abhor came in the immediate aftermath (literally minutes after Northam’s statement) when perfectly good replacements still existed. Yet, your reaction and statements contained no hints about the utilitarian philosophy you now claim was the motivating factor in your position. In fact, utilitarianism is wholly irrelevant to your position at the time, though very relevant to that of your opponents, many of whom said – At. That. Time. – that there was no need to support Northam because there was Fairfax to take his place. See, for example, my comment about former Portland mayor, Sam Adams. A utilitarian argument if there ever was one. My position has certainly changed given the subsequent revelations of the pasts of Fairfax and Herring.

    I feel you have moved the goalposts to the other end of the field. But I’ll admit I could be misremembering and confusing your comments with those defending Northam’s actions and the relative harm of blackface.

  8. 109
    J. Squid says:

    I’ll note that my argument was utilitarian though not an argument that satisfactory replacements existed. Those were written by people with more knowledge of the line of succession than I.

  9. 111
    Harlequin says:

    As far as the statistics arguments for rape accusations go: 1. It is important to remember that “a person reports a rape” does not always imply “a person is accused of rape”. Known false reports are far more likely than other reports to allege stranger rape, and to not name a specific attacker. (You can, of course, adjust the level to which this is true based on how easy you think it is to disprove stranger rape vs non-stranger rape.) Still, whatever statistics for false reports you’re using in your mental calculation, and however you’re adjusting them for the differences between police reports and media reports, those are still not the right numbers to use for whether a specific person accused of rape is likely to have been falsely accused.

    I’m leaving aside here the questions of how reliable all those numbers are and how they compare to other crimes, since I’ve had enough of those conversations in my life for the moment…

    2. Whether, e.g., a 98% certainty rate for reasonable doubt means 2% of convicted people are falsely convicted…that depends on how you interpret statistics, and even experts would likely disagree on that. (It’s the Bayesian vs frequentist debate, really.) But some innocent people are convicted in jury trials. That’s not a bug with VK’s interpretation; that’s reality. But you can’t demand 100% certainty, either. Both failure modes cause problems–too much punishment punishes innocent people, but too little punishment allows rampant violence. The only question is how well we balance the two competing demands, justice for victims and justice for accused people.

  10. 112
    Harlequin says:

    LoL, in re what the joke might have been with Northam and his classmate (or whoever is in the photo): The question “why might somebody wear a costume that has emotional valence w/r/t race” and “why might somebody wear blackface” are not the same question.

  11. 113
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    But I don’t think that magically makes today’s Virginia politicians not screwed up.

    Nor did I propose such. What I’m proposing is that it won’t be anything new if the party that styles itself the enemy of racism and the guardians of women’s rights decides to overlook racist activities, or rape or other major crimes in these cases because it’s politically expedient.

    So if a politician is forced to resign (or dies, or whatever), their replacement should be someone whose policy views generally match the views of the person the voters elected. So if a Republican is elected fairly and has to resign, I wouldn’t advocate replacing him with a Democrat.

    I agree with the concept that if a candidate from party “x” has to resign he or she ought to be replaced with someone of the same party. But that’s not the law. What is the case is that people are letting consideration of party politics figure into whether or not someone should have to leave office after committing act ‘x’. My viewpoint is that if what party someone is and what party the person who replaces them is figures into determining whether or not someone should have to resign after having commited act ‘x’, then act ‘x’ isn’t immoral enough that they should have to leave office, period.

    My guess is that the Governor sticks it out, the A.G.’s blackface sin gets buried, but Virginia ends up with a GOP Lt. Gov.

  12. 114
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Harlequin,

    Emotional valence is not something objective though. It depends on the individual, the way something is presented, the standards of the period, etc.

    RonF’s example of the person complaining about the coal miners picture is very illustrative in this regard. That person apparently can only view such a picture in the context of oppression of black people, not in the context of a job that covers people (inside and out) in black dust. I interpret it completely differently from him, associating it with dust lungs, pollution and poverty.

    Giving into his demand to remove the picture may make him feel better, but probably hurts the feelings of those who want coal miners to be remembered.

    This hints to some issues with very strong taboos on certain symbolism:

    – they are antithetical to cultural (and thus ethnic) diversity. Banning the swastika from society impacts Native Americans who want to celebrate their culture, Falun Gong believers, Hindus, Bhuddists, etc.

    – they are self-reinforcing. Once you cleanse society of coal mining references or swastikas, it becomes much harder for people to see blackened faces and swastikas as sometimes being perfectly innocent, so they become even more associated with evil.

    – There is no longer a requirement for actual evil to be present. You get into very dangerous territory when you start punishing people for doing things that cause hurt merely by how people interpret it and/or that people read ideologies into, especially since humans are good at misinterpreting.

    Anyway, perhaps what Northam did was more innocuous in context than many read into it today. Perhaps it was a level of offensiveness allowed by the standards of the time & place. My guess would be a bit of both, but it’s only a guess.

    At the time there didn’t seem to have been a fuss, which IMO should matter a lot, because people at the time had a way clearer picture than today. The people at the party where the picture was taken know how he presented himself and the people looking at the yearbook also had more context.

    If the culture of that time & place was racist and Northam conformed to that, then punishing him for that is scapegoating. I don’t see what purpose it serves when there is no indication that Northam acts racist today.

    One problem with that is that you may be doing things that people of tomorrow will judge to be far beyond the pale. Are those who want Northam to leave over this, willing to be judged like that?

  13. 115
    nobody.really says:

    [T]he reactions that you so abhor came in the immediate aftermath (literally minutes after Northam’s statement) when perfectly good replacements still existed. Yet, your reaction and statements contained no hints about the utilitarian philosophy you now claim was the motivating factor in your position. In fact, utilitarianism is wholly irrelevant to your position at the time, though very relevant to that of your opponents, many of whom said – At. That. Time. – that there was no need to support Northam because there was Fairfax to take his place. See, for example, my comment about former Portland mayor, Sam Adams. A utilitarian argument if there ever was one. My position has certainly changed given the subsequent revelations of the pasts of Fairfax and Herring.

    Hm. J. Squid makes a good point.

    My principle argument is to favor utilitarianism over moral panic, absolutism, and virtue-signaling. I am less interested in finding fault with other people’s statements, except as a means of illustrating the differences between different types of viewpoint. (Well, yeah, I guess I also want to cajole people into seeing the shortcoming of contrary points of view, so that’s kind of fault-finding….)

    Suffice it to say,

    (1) I am delighted to see that J. Squid and I share a common viewpoint about the value utilitarianism as an appropriate lens for selecting a response to Northam’s situation, and of the importance of transcending moral panic, absolutism, and virtue-signaling.

    (2) We may yet disagree about a bunch of other stuff, especially regarding symbolism, and THOSE disagreements might lead us to different conclusions about the utility of various responses.

    So, regarding any SPECIFIC remark, I guess I can’t really distinguish whether the person rejects utilitarianism for absolutism, or merely finds it utilitarian to appear to embrace absolutism. Thus, X might analyze Northam’s situation through a utilitarian lens and conclude that the optimal strategy is to get him to resign. X might then use a utilitarian analysis to conclude that the best strategy to get him to resign is to proclaim an absolutist stance: “No one who has done what Northam has done could ever be fit for public office!” When it becomes clear that this strategy might have unanticipated consequences, X might back down, tacitly acknowledging her error (or hypocrisy) in espousing an absolutist stand.

    Under this recursive analysis, even Herring—the guy who condemned Northam for wearing blackface, but who later acknowledged wearing blackface himself—may have acted in a purely utilitarian manner, and thus I lack a justification for condemning his response.

    Damn. I so rarely get to vent righteous anger on anyone, and I thought I had a clean shot on this guy. Thanks a lot, Squid.

  14. 116
    RonF says:

    If Northam and Herring stay in office and the Democratic clamor for them to resign dies down it will be clear that any Democrat who calls on a Republican to resign because they appeared in blackface (not to mention other such acts) is a hypocrite and should be exposed as such, and otherwise ignored.

  15. 117
    RonF says:

    And now, according to @jmartNYT (again, haven’t figured out how to link Tweets, there’s 3 of them below),

    A House Dem conf call grew heated last night when members of the legislative black caucus demanded @HopeforVirginia step back from trying to impeach @LGJustinFairfax, per 2 Dems familiar w the call.

    MORE, per Dem familiar w the call. The @VaBlackCaucus believes Fairfax deserves to be heard in court/legal setting. “Not in a political venue.”

    And they’re angry Hope moved so swiftly on this, believing he made an already-excruciating situation for them even MORE painful

    A third Va Dem, this one briefed on the call said none of @HopeforVirginia’s allies spoke up. Members of @VaBlackCaucus, which has been steering much of the reax among Va Dems since last Fri, spoke first and that was that.

    “It was a pre-set massacre,” says this Dem.

    I wouldn’t give odds that this is what the Democrat reaction would be if the office holder in question was either a) white, b) Republican or c) both.

    Amp:

    Kennedy shouldn’t have been re-elected, and imo, he should have been forced to retire from being an elected leader, and spent years secluded from public life altogether.

    He should have been impeached and removed from the Senate as soon as it happened. He should have stood trial for vehicular homicide and thrown in prison for a couple of decades for killing Mary Jo Kopechne (say her name). And any claims to misogyny on Pres. Trump’s part pale in comparison to what Pres. Clinton was allowed to skate on (I’m not talking about Monica, I’m talking about Juanita Broaddrick et. al.). If the accusations against Justice Kavanaugh made him unfit for public service then the accusations against Lt. Gov. Fairfax certainly make him so. But Kavanaugh is white and conservative and Fairfax is black and liberal, so a double standard is applied.

  16. 118
    Kate says:

    Ron,
    No one is denying that twenty, or even ten, years ago Democrats had a pretty shocking record sexual assault and racism. Nor are we denying that it is still a challenge, today. In fact, that is the whole f@*&ing point of #metoo and the like. So, cut it out with the Kennedy/Clinton strawman gotcha bullshit. No one here is defending either of them, and it’s really tiresome.
    There have been voices on the left calling out sexism and racism since sexism and racism started being called out. I think everyone on the left in this thread would agree that we wish those voices carried more weight in the Democratic Party and society at large. In contrast, the right consistently fights for those in power to retain their power, thereby perpetuating sexism and racism.
    Democrats are not unifying behind Fairfax the way Republicans do behind their members who are similarly accused. We are spilt. And, no, we probably would not be split over a Republican in a similar position. But, show me a case of Republicans calling out a fellow Republican on similar offenses. I sure can’t think of any. Republicans are unified in denying and defending both their sexism and racism.
    My view is that it was right to call on Fairfax to resign. But ultimately, whether or not to resign is his choice. He has every right to refuse to resign and to demand a hearing. If he knows that he is innocent, that is a perfectly moral choice. But, if he knows that the accusations are true, it is immoral.
    P.S. Trump has been credibly accused of rape by his first wife and is well known to have walked in on teenage girls getting dressed for his pageants. So, no, the accusations against him don’t “pale in comparison” to those against Clinton.

  17. 119
    Mandolin says:

    Clinton was elected when I was ten. At a certain point, I refuse to be held responsible for actions taken before I — and a wide swath of current voters! — could vote.

  18. 120
    desipis says:

    There’s a curious lack of calls for Ilhan Omar to resign after posting “deeply offensive” tweets involving “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters”. Why the double standard?

  19. 121
    nobody.really says:

    There’s a curious lack of calls for Ilhan Omar to resign after posting “deeply offensive” tweets involving “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters”. Why the double standard?

    I was having precisely the opposite reaction. Omar suggested that money influences Republican policy regarding Israel–hardly an original insight. If she had said this about policies regarding tobacco, or the tax code, would anyone have even blinked? So why does making the same observation about any other topic turn it into something antisemitic?

    I’m reminded of an old West Wing episode: “Everyone gets treated like they’re stupid in an election year.” Only now, it’s ALWAYS election year.

  20. I’ve been thinking about the issue desipis raises a lot, and I’m not 100% sure where I stand, which is why I’ve not written anything about it yet—though I have wanted to. This is what I’ve been thinking:

    I’m not sure that tolerance for a learning curve is the same thing as a double standard. There’s a lot about antisemitism—its nuances, its tropes, its history, etc.—that a lot of very well-meaning people do not understand. This lack of understanding gets compounded when you introduce positions on Israel into the mix, not only because of some of the rhetoric coming from some parts of the Jewish community in the US, but also because of the rhetoric, policy, and legal decisions coming out of Israel and the fact that Israel calls itself—and has now legally, formally defined itself as—the Jewish state.

    That someone who has not somehow or another been educated about the nuances, the history, etc. of all that is included in the above—and I am using here a very reductive shorthand—would without malice aforethought misspeak, or not understand the full implications of something they said makes perfect sense to me. (And I believe this regardless of which party they might belong to.) How much latitude to give that ignorance is the question I am struggling with.

    I don’t think the same learning-curve tolerance applies, or should be applied, to people born and/or raised in the United States when it comes to race.

    A couple of other things:

    Back in 2009, I wrote a post one major point of which dealt how problematic is that the only time we seem to be able to discuss antisemitism in the United States is when it involves Israel/Palestine/Zionism. I’m not sure, but what I wrote there seems to me relevant in this case.

    Conflating racism and antisemitism as if they were, simply and only, two different forms of the same thing—which is what treating Omar like Steven King was treated would be—is actually a way of making Jews as Jews and Jew-hatred as Jew-hatred invisible. As far as I can tell, the Jews who are criticizing Omar are not doing this, but the people who are criticizing the Democrats because they haven’t done to her what the Republicans finally—because let’s not forget just how long it took them—finally, did to King are.

  21. 123
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    RJN,

    An issue is that zionism is at its core a form of colonialism. That the colonists are Jews rather than regular old white people makes the way people react far less clear cut than it otherwise would be.

    You have people who like Israel because they dislike Muslims, but also people who dislike Muslims, but like Jews even less. You have people who dislike colonialism and who like Muslims, but who like Jews more. You have people who dislike colonialism and who like Muslims, but don’t particularly like Jews. You even have a few people who hate all colonialism.

    Furthermore, you have ‘antisemitism’ as the biggest superweapon of all time.

    Back in 2009, I wrote a post one major point of which dealt how problematic is that the only time we seem to be able to discuss antisemitism in the United States is when it involves Israel/Palestine/Zionism.

    I think that you should have said “not discuss.”

    Whenever the topic is Israel/Palestine/Zionism, antisemitism nearly always seems to be a weapon in the debate. It’s debated no more than you debate a sword during a fight. You parry, strike back or run away.

  22. 124
    dreadfullyawry says:

    @RJN: Don’t you think, given the history of antisemitism in the USA, that somebody born and raised in the USA has just as much an obligation to understand antisemitism as they do to understand racism? And, given that antisemitism is still alive and well in the USA, and pervades pretty much all American communities, that every adult in the USA has had plenty of opportunities to learn about it?

    You’re right that the USA is a country with both a history and a current reality of racism. But that’s equally true of antisemitism. So to me, the obligations of an American to understand racism and antisemitism are equal.

  23. dreadfullyawry: I agree entirely. I just think it is the case that antisemitism is so poorly taught and that its specific history, etc. (both in the US and elsewhere, but specifically in Europe) is so rarely understood for what it is (sometimes because it is obscured by the conflation of antisemitism and racism) that I am more willing to be patient with people who misspeak, etc. than I am with people who, for example, “misspeak” analogously when it comes to race.

    I do not mean by this that I think people like Omar deserve a pass. They need to be held accountable just like anyone else.

    that every adult in the USA has had plenty of opportunities to learn about it?

    If by “learn about it,” you mean internalize it the way racism, sexism, etc. get internalized, yes. If you mean learn about it in the sense that they have a handle on precisely what it is and how it works, I’m not so sure.

  24. 126
    Kate says:

    There’s a curious lack of calls for Ilhan Omar to resign after posting “deeply offensive” tweets involving “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters”. Why the double standard

    ?
    1.) If Jewish groups, particularly among her own constituents, were calling on her to resign, as African American groups in Virginia did with Northam, my judgement would change. But, when I Googled “Jewish groups call on Omar to resign”, the only articles that came up were “Jewish advocacy group calls on Omar to apologize” and “Trump calls on Omar to resign.”
    Omar has responded, as requested, by issuing what look like some model apologies to me:

    “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,”

    “We have to always be willing to step back and think though criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.

    Of course, her record moving forward will be decisive. But, in this respect, there is no double standard. In both cases, I follow the lead of the community most affected by her offensive statement.
    2.) Democratic Party leaders have condemned Omar. This seems like a proportional response to a single offense by a freshman congressman at the start of her career. It is very rare for such rebukes to be issued for a single offense. Contrast it with the years of racist statements made by Steve King before he got a rebuke from Republican leadership. If anything, compared to other officials in her position, Omar has received a strong rebuke. If she were a governor several decades into her career, my response might be different
    3.) There is also a fine line to be walked when a group is oppressed in some contests, and the oppressor in others. Too many people consider all criticism of Jewish groups and Israel to be antisemitic. Omar was wrong to be so flippant and to raise this issue on Twitter, where nuances are lost. The history of antisemitism means that joking about Jewish money is problematic in a way that joking about the Koch brothers’ money is not. However, the fact that Jewish money is an anti-Semitic trope shouldn’t render Jewish donors, and lobbyists immune to valid criticism of how they spend their money. Nor should criticism of Israeli policy towards Palestinians be considered out of bounds in public discourse. The fact that this is quite a fine line to walk – which is not the case with racism against African Americans – makes me more tolerant in this case. That is a double standard, but I think there is good reason for it.

  25. 127
    desipis says:

    RJN:

    I’m not sure that tolerance for a learning curve is the same thing as a double standard.

    Kate:

    This seems like a proportional response to a single offense by a freshman congressman at the start of her career.

    Does the fact this isn’t a first time offensive change the equation:

    Last year… leaders of Minneapolis’ Jewish community fashioned what could be described as an anti-Semitic intervention of Omar, a rising star of the left whose remarks had made many fellow Democrats in the Jewish community uncomfortable.

    Among their concerns was a 2012 tweet in which Omar wrote: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.

    As of Tuesday morning Tuesday morning, Omar had not deleted the tweet.

    “Over the course of about two hours, we shared with her our concerns for things, including language that has references and meanings beyond just the meanings of words. Tropes, dog whistles — call them what you will. We explained to her how hurtful, and factually inaccurate, they were.

    How steep should the learning curve be for an elected official?

  26. Desipis:

    How steep should the learning curve be for an elected official?

    You’re right that Omar’s comments about Jewish money is not a first offense, and this is why I’ve been asking myself the same question.

    However, as Kate pointed out, it is not the case that she is not being held accountable; it is decidedly not the case that her party has rallied behind her against her critics (as the Republicans have done for their own members in similar situations); and it is decidedly not the case that she has dug in her heels and insisted she said nothing wrong.

    If you’re really concerned here about antisemitism and not playing gotcha with the Democrats, what’s your point? If what you’re concerned about is playing gotcha, then I’m not interested in engaging with you further.

  27. This from Amp’s Twitter feed seems to me relevant here:

    Democrats and Republicans alike have seemed much more eager to make an issue of a progressive’s jokes about a well-funded right-wing lobby than any Republican or mainstream Democrat’s links to overt antisemitism.

    Whatever American Jews might feel about Omar’s comments, none of us should be tricked into thinking there’s a serious attack underway on American antisemitism. Instead, people who have demonstrated their comfort with malicious antisemites, and willingness to deploy antisemitic tropes when it suits them, are seizing on a perceived slight and inflating it for their own purposes.

    McCarthy isn’t acting like someone who wants to lessen the hurt of antisemitism. If the leader wants to stand up against violent antisemitism, he has that option. Instead, he’s dragging the American Jewish community through a series of ordeals to discredit his political targets – targets clearly selected because of their own race and religion more than how they treat Jews. And plenty of Democrats are going along with it.

    American Jews deserve a serious rebuke of political antisemitism – and we’re not getting it.

  28. 130
    RonF says:

    Kate @ 118:

    So, cut it out with the Kennedy/Clinton strawman gotcha bullshit. No one here is defending either of them, and it’s really tiresome.

    Neither is anyone here defending Fairfax. The issue is not the people here, it’s the party.

    Democrats are not unifying behind Fairfax the way Republicans do behind their members who are similarly accused. We are spilt. And, no, we probably would not be split over a Republican in a similar position.

    Which strongly supports my charge of hypocrisy. It also supports the concept that Democrats are not really serious about sexual abuse but are simply using sexual abuse claimants to obtain partisan objectives.

    But, show me a case of Republicans calling out a fellow Republican on similar offenses.

    Nope. You are the one making the allegation that “… the way Republicans do behind their members who are similarly accused.” You are the one claiming that Republicans don’t call out fellow Republicans on similar offenses. You support your own allegations.

  29. 131
    Kate says:

    Neither is anyone here defending Fairfax. The issue is not the people here, it’s the party.

    You started out charging both #metoo and the Democratic party as hypocrites. But, #metoo calls out sexual assault and harassment at all points on the ideological spectrum, and at least half of Democrats do as well, including prominent presidential primary candidates Gillibrand, Harris, Warren, and Booker, who all came out against Al Franken.

    It also supports the concept that Democrats are not really serious about sexual abuse but are simply using sexual abuse claimants to obtain partisan objectives.

    No, it suggests that the costs of calling out allies for sexual abuse are really, really high. It may very well cost Gillibrand the Democratic nomination. But, a significant number of Democrats do it anyway, because we believe it is right. Any large, powerful coalition made up of millions is going to have some opportunists and hypocrites. The Democratic Party increasingly has strong voices calling such people out on sexual harassment and assault.

    You are the one claiming that Republicans don’t call out fellow Republicans on similar offenses. You support your own allegations.

    FFS, Trump, Roy Moore, Brett Kavanaugh & David Vitter are the first four who come to mind for sex (note, I didn’t need to go back to the 20th century to find prominent examples). But that’s not what I was asking. I was asking for an example of a Republican actually calling out one of their own for sexual assault or sexual harassment, the way Democrats have recently with Anthony Weiner and Al Franken. I can’t think of parallel examples on the Republican side.

  30. 132
    J. Squid says:

    I can’t think of parallel examples on the Republican side.

    Dennis Hastert. Wait! I’ll come in again.

    Tim Murphy! No. Let me try again.

    Alex Kozinski! No? Give me one more chance.

    Pat Meehan, right? Really? Well, let me look through this pile of credible accusations for a couple of months. I’m sure I’ll find an example for you.

  31. 133
    desipis says:

    RJN:

    If you’re really concerned here about antisemitism and not playing gotcha with the Democrats, what’s your point?

    I’m trying to understand the difference in treatment between the Democratic party’s treatment of Omar and Northam. Personally, I’m with nobody.really@121, and don’t see the problem with Omar’s tweet. However, it seems that in both cases people see the things as “deeply offensive”. The one from over 30 years ago resulted in immediate calls for resignation, while the one from very recently resulted in calls for a mere apology.

    it is not the case that she is not being held accountable; it is decidedly not the case that her party has rallied behind her against her critics…; and it is decidedly not the case that she has dug in her heels and insisted she said nothing wrong.

    All these things are common between Omar and Northam. Why does “accountability” mean apology in one case while it means resignation in another?

  32. 134
    Kate says:

    I’m trying to understand the difference in treatment between the Democratic party’s treatment of Omar and Northam.

    I can’t speak for anyone else here, but just because two acts are “deeply offensive” that doesn’t mean they are equally offensive. I can assure you, that if a photo of Omar and a friend dressed up as a Nazi and a nasty stereotype of a Jewish person were to surface, I would be calling for her to resign, and I believe most Democrats would be as well.

  33. 135
    RonF says:

    Kate:

    You started out charging both #metoo and the Democratic party as hypocrites.

    No. I started out by stating that I wondered how #MeToo and the Democrats were going to approach this. I’ve criticized the Democrats’ history and actions in this case and called them hypocrites since then but I have made no comments discussing any actions or history of #MeToo. As you rightly point out they are not the same.

    Trump? His first wife has disavowed the allegation of rape she made in her divorce proceedings.
    Moore? He was opposed by the GOP and by Trump in the primary. Trump and some GOP members supported him in the general election – and that was overtly political, for sure. You’re right about that one. I still wonder why the hell people down there voted for him in the primary.
    Vitter? No allegations of sexual abuse were made against him.
    Kavanaugh? I’m quite comfortable with applying the same standard to Lt. Gov. Fairfax that was applied to Kavanaugh – but I don’t see the Democratic party insisting on it.

    J. Squid:

    Hastert? He was out of office 8 years before any allegations came to light. Had he been in office I’m sure you would have seen the GOP run away from him at light speed.
    Murphy? He was alleged to having an extramarital affair, not sexual abuse, and he ended up resigning within a couple of weeks.
    Kozinski? He resigned 10 days after the first allegations were made.
    Meehan? Immediately after allegations became public he was removed from his committee assignments. Five days after allegations against him became public he announced his resignation.

  34. 136
    Kate says:

    Trump? His first wife has disavowed the allegation of rape she made in her divorce proceedings.

    Ivanka denied that it was “legally rape” as part of a non-disclosure agreement tied to their divorce settlement. But, Trump has at least 19 other allegations against him, including walking in on girls as young as 15 when they were getting dressed for his pageants.

    Vitter illegally hired sex workers. Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer went down over similar allegations, at about the same time (2007-2008).

    Kavanaugh? I’m quite comfortable with applying the same standard to Lt. Gov. Fairfax that was applied to Kavanaugh – but I don’t see the Democratic party insisting on it.

    The Virginia Democratic Party called on Fairfax to resign the position he holds. That’s a much higher standard than Kavanaugh was held to. No one was talking about forcing Kavanaugh from his position on the DC Circuit court, just denying him a promotion to the Supreme Court.

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