Posts Tagged “two wrongs make a right”

The UConn Husky cries / PsiCop graphic, based on UConn logo by NikeSome correspondents complain that I focus too much on child abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic Church and ignore it when it happens elsewhere. This is, of course, a flat-out lie. I’ve blogged about accusations of child abuse among clergy in the Orthodox churches, Protestant churches, Orthodox Jews, and the Mennonites … among others (such as anti-gay activists). What happens is that the Catholic Church’s defenders read just one of my (admittedly many) posts on Catholic clergy abusing kids and assume — based on that one entry — that I’ve never, ever ever taken note of anything else. They don’t bother to do any research … which is easy enough, given this blog has a Search feature … to find out whether or not it’s the case. They just leap to that conclusion, due to their sanctimonious rage over some insolent agnostic heathen blogger daring to talk about the Catholic Church’s scandal.

The latest example of a child-abuse scandal, though, that I must comment on and cannot ignore, comes not from the Catholic Church. It doesn’t even come from any other religious institution. It comes, instead, from my alma mater: the University of Connecticut. The Hartford Courant reports on the investigation both into a music professor who may have abused kids while volunteering at a camp, and into how much UConn officials knew about what he’d been up to, and when (WebCite cached article):

The University of Connecticut will pay an outside law firm to investigate its own employees’ handling of allegations the school received as early as 2006 that a music professor engaged in sexual misconduct.

The school said it is cooperating in multiple law enforcement investigations into allegations against Robert Miller, 66, a former head of the music department who has worked at UConn since 1982. Miller was placed on administrative leave June 21 and barred from campus. He could not be reached for comment Monday. He is being paid his $135,741 salary and has not been charged with any crime.

However, investigations by UConn and state police are continuing – and now UConn’s Board of Trustees has asked state Attorney General George Jepsen to solicit proposals to retain an outside law firm to investigate whether UConn officials handled the allegations properly. The firm also would represent and advise UConn in an internal probe into whether it complied with federal Title IX procedures concerning sexual abuse allegations.…

Some of the alleged misconduct by Miller, according to court documents and Jepsen’s office, involved claims of improper physical contact with boys at a summer camp.

A spokesman for The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford confirmed that Miller was a volunteer at the camp from 1989 to 1992 when the improper contact was alleged to have taken place.

“These events date back more than 20 years. At that time, the camp immediately removed Mr. Miller from his position,” Ryan Thompson, the organization’s senior development officer, said in an emailed statement. “When the current investigation began several months ago, it was unclear whether the matter was reported to the appropriate authorities at that time. Therefore, the camp immediately made a report to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and has continued to cooperate fully with authorities.”

The focus of the investigation is on Miller’s activities at the camp, however, the possibility he might have been involved with UConn students has been broached:

Authorities also are investigating a statement that a student made to a UConn faculty member soon after news of Miller’s suspension last month “that the student was not surprised to hear” of the investigation “because the faculty member was known to have visited freshman dorms, provided drugs to students and had sex with students.”

The latter statement appears in Jepsen’s 40-page request for law firms’ proposals to do the investigation. It also says that the faculty member who reported the student’s comment “also indicated that the faculty member now being investigated was known to have a history of having sex with boys.”

This whole situation is just intolerable. It’s possible that university personnel might have known about Miller as long ago as 2006. If so, it will have been 7 years that UConn might knowingly have had a child predator in its faculty.

As for the R.C. Church … I’m sure a lot of their apologists are jumping for joy, pointing to this case, and screaming, “See? It happens at public universities, too! It’s not just a Catholic problem! Stop picking on our Church!” I hate to break it to them, but this case hardly makes any such point. That other organizations’ personnel abuse children, does not and can never make it acceptable for R.C. personnel to do so. That some folks at UConn might have known about Miller but kept quiet, does not and can never make it acceptable for R.C. hierarchs to cover up for and protect abusive clergy. That kind of reasoning is called “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and it’s fallacious.

What it means is that abusing kids and obstructing justice are not acceptable at any time, and can never be tolerated, no matter where it happens. It means it can conceivably happen almost anywhere, and one must always be ready to deal with it. It means Catholic hierarchs need to stop ignoring it, stop looking away, and stop making excuses. It means that the organization that views itself as the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet, cannot afford to use other groups’ misdeeds as justification for its own.

And lastly, it means numbers are not on the Church’s side. Miller may turn out to be the only UConn employee who’s ever accused of child abuse that was known to university staff. The same cannot be said for the archdiocese of Hartford, which is on at least its third case in only the last couple years … and it has many other cases before then.

Photo credit: PsiCop modified UConn logo by Nike.

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Because expressing how dumb that was in words, just doesn't work.No sooner had I blogged about a report of a military chaplain declaring that a soldier’s rape is “God’s will” and that she could get over it by worshipping the deity who ordered it to happen to her, I read about an outspoken Religious Rightist giving her (yes, her!) stamp of approval on the sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan during a post-revolution celebration in Cairo (WebCite cached article). Here’s what the ferocious religiofascist Debbie Schlussel had to say about it (cached article):

As I’ve noted before, it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are. In fact, it kinda warms my heart. Still, it’s also a great reminder of just how “civilized” these “people” (or, as I like to call them in Arabic, “Bahai’im” [Animals]) are

To Schlussel, this attack on Logan is acceptable, because of what’s been dished out to her:

Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara.

Of course, death threats that are made but never carried out are a far cry from an actual physical attack. But Schlussel just conflates it all into the same thing and — using “two wrongs make a right” thinking — says it’s great that Logan was attacked.

In an update to her post, Schlussel simultaneously claims moral rectitude and that she never expressed approval of the attack:

The reaction of the left to this article is funny in its predictability. Sooo damn predictable. Of course I don’t support “sexual assault” or violence against Lara Logan, and I said that nowhere here.

Schlussel must be right, you see, because she’s been widely criticized. (In the religious mind, criticism is equated with persecution which in turn is equated with veracity.) She also claims not to have supported sexual assault, but her support for the attack was clearly implied in what she originally wrote, which included (emphasis mine):

it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are …

Schlussel clearly stated that she was “not bothered” by the attack. Thus, her attempt to backpedal, by saying she never stated that she supports sexual assault, fails miserably.

Way to go, Ms Schlussel. Thank you for displaying your (total lack of) character. Please, by all means … keep it up! I couldn’t possibly ask for any better confirmation of the moral abyss which is the Religious Right.

Hat tip: Romenesko blog.

Photo credit: Village Voice.

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Two Wrongs Are Inequal To A RightIn my experience, one of the most common fallacies that people fall into, themselves, or hear and accept from others without noticing it, is two wrongs make a right. This is in spite of the fact that most of us were taught by our mothers that two wrongs do not, in fact, make a right; however, this simple teaching that most or all of us received in childhood, can’t seem to contravene the overpowering emotional effect of seeing someone else do something wrong, thus triggering a sense of an entitlement for oneself to do the same. The frequency with which grown adults — who by definition should all know better — plumb the depths of this fallacy hit home over just the past couple of days, in two ways.

First, CBS News reports on how extreme Religious Rightist and radio host “Dr Laura” Schlessinger used the “N word” on the air, in a barrage aimed at an African-American caller (WebCite cached article):

Talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has issued an apology for saying the N-word several times in an on-air conversation with a caller that she said was “hypersensitive” to racism. …

During the exchange on Tuesday’s show, Schlessinger said the woman who called herself Jade was too sensitive for complaining that her husband’s friends made racist comments about her in their home.

Dr Laura’s reasoning for why this woman was being “too sensitive”? It was the old “two wrongs make a right”:

When the woman asked if the N-word was offensive, Dr. Laura said “black guys say it all the time,” then went on to repeat it several times.

Schlessinger did not direct the epithet at the woman, but said she used it to suggest how often she hears it, and that it should not automatically be cause for offense.

When the caller objected, Schlessinger replied: “Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.”

For Dr Laura, then, the “N word” becomes acceptable to use, because some African-American comedians use it, and because it can be heard on HBO … therefore there’s nothing wrong with the word, and her caller should not be insulted by it.

A second use of this fallacy was one I encountered while reading about the childish Religious Right caterwauling about the Cordoba Center proposal in lower Manhattan (about which I’ve blogged already). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who apparently is trying to reintegrate himself into Rightist politics after having shamed himself out of office years ago — has come up with this rationale for opposing it, which you can see him spew in this Youtube video:

Here’s a transcription of his key remarks, courtesy of Reason.Com:

I find it very offensive to get lectured about religious liberty at a time when there are no churches and no synagogues in Saudi Arabia and when no Christian and no Jew can walk into Mecca…. I’d love to have these folks say, “Let’s build a church and a synagogue in Mecca, or rather Saudi Arabia, and that would balance off our having an interfaith mosque [in lower Manhattan].” They’re not saying that. It is entirely one-sided. It is entirely, I think, a kind of triumphalism that we should not tolerate.

For Newt, Saudi Arabia’s religious intolerance means it’s OK for us to prevent American Muslims from building cultural centers where they want. In other words, he thinks it’s a good idea to get into a pissing contest with Saudi Arabia to find out which country can be more religiously intolerant. What he fails to understand is that Americans should do what Americans should do, and not emulate others, just because they feel entitled to do so.

These are but two examples of how “two wrongs make a right” thinking sneaks into common rhetoric. It happens much more often than this. Be on guard against it, and don’t be swindled into thinking or doing the wrong thing just because someone can point to someone else who thinks or does it.

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I blogged about Patty Robertson’s insane and insulting drivel about the earthquake in Haiti last night, but now I find that another Rightist figure has found yet another insulting and horrible way to comment on that same disaster. Rush Limbaugh has managed to say not one, but two, despicable — and in the case of the latter, possibly racist — things about it.

His first gem: “We’ve already donated to Haiti, it’s called the US income tax.” Here’s a Mediaite recording:

Limbaugh implies that no American need donate anything to Haitian relief, since it’s already been done by the federal government. Gosh, what a wonderfully charitable sentiment!

Then, he said: “[The Obama White House will] use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community, in the light-skinned and black-skinned community in this country.” Here, again, is a Mediate recording:

Limbaugh is correct in suggesting that politicians “use” disaster responses to promote themselves politically. This is old news. It’s also something all political parties do and it’s something they’ve long been criticized for (e.g. George W. Bush, who was accused of this back in 2004 (cached article) when he was running for re-election). The remarks about light-skinned and black-skinned and appealing just to “the black community,” though, are ridiculous, and reveal Limbaugh’s own racist thinking rather than saying anything about the Obama administration. If he thinks politicians like Obama only care about how “the black community” sees them, then he’s an idiot … politicians such as him typically want to look good to as many different kinds of people as possible, not just to a subset of the population!

So far this has only been reported by the usual partisan-political outlets, such as Huff and Media Matters, not by the mass media. They’re likely not aware of it yet. (It’s always partisans who first pick these things up, since they’re the ones with banks of monitors listening to and transcribing the comments of people like Robertson and Limbaugh. The mass media don’t have the personnel to devote to that.)

It’s absolutely unbelievable that people like Robertson and Limbaugh manage to get away with this. Once again I must ask a similar question to the one that ended my blog entry on Robertson’s latest spew, which is, “When are conservatives going to figure out that Rush Limbaugh no longer possesses the moral foundation to be their spokesman any more?” At what point have they had enough?

Update: Limbaugh is now saying (WebCite cached article) that his racist or near-racist remarks were merely his way of pointing out that Senate majority leader Harry Reid hasn’t taken any heat for his own quasi-racist comments during the 2008 presidential campaign (as reported in a recent book). There are two problems with this, however. First, Limbaugh is incorrect in insisting that Reid hasn’t been criticized for his comments. Reid has been criticized (cached); he has apologized (cached) for those remarks; and the apology was accepted (cached). Second, this is two wrongs make a right thinking, which is both fallacious and immoral. That someone else did something wrong, is not license for anyone to misbehave. Not to mention that Limbaugh’s claim that Reid hasn’t been criticized is … as noted already … factually incorrect. Thus he compounds the immorality of using another’s wrong to justify his own, with the immorality of deceit.

Nice. For that the man gets paid millions of dollars a year.

At that rate of pay, he can afford to hire a nanny who can make him grow up, for the first time in his life.

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