23 Aug

This may be outdated by now, given how fast politics can move, but it’s a worthwhile point.

I think that most people would agree that one of the major problems we face today is that no one takes responsibility for themselves any longer.

However, this exists – at least in part – because taking responsibility can result in punishment that far exceeds the crime. If, of course, it was a crime in the first place. The blame can be a finicky thing sometimes, particularly when there is a politician (or Social Justice Bully) involved somewhere.

Let us imagine, for example, that Bob wants Andy’s job. He hides behind a bush one night and caves Andy’s skull in with a hammer. Can there be any real doubt that Bob is guilty?

OR … maybe Bob can’t bring himself to murder Andy personally. He hires Tom to assassinate Andy. Tom’s the one with blood on his hands, but Bob is the one who paid him and pointed him at the target. Bob is STILL guilty of murder. (Mr. Burns was wrong; he could be held responsible for what his goons were ordered to do.)

But what if things are a little more complex? One drunken night, Clive tells a crowd that Andy is the one who stole their money; Tom, in outrage, goes and kills Andy. Is Clive still guilty of murder?

I would say he wasn’t. Tom made the decision, in cold (or hot) blood, to murder Andy. It doesn’t matter if Andy is actually the thief or not.

Now, the problem here is that some people will almost certainly try to argue that Clive is either the true murderer or bears at least some of the blame. Some of those people will do so because they want to lesson Tom’s share of the guilt, others will do so because they see inflammatory statements (even true statements) as wrong in themselves. The latter people include the sort of cowardly snakes who claim that a handful of cartoonists deserve to be murdered (thus reducing the guilt of the murderers) because of their cartoons.

This leads to another problem. If Clive apologises for what he said, afterwards, he will be tacitly admitting, in our current climate, to a share of the blame. Andy’s family could sue him (even if he couldn’t be held legally liable), he might be targeted by anyone who wants revenge and Tom might even try to blame Bob for leading him astray.

This creates problems for Clive. If Clive apologises, he gets the blame; if Clive keeps his mouth firmly shut, Clive looks bad. There’s no way to win.

This brings us neatly to Donald Trump.

You’ll probably have heard, if you follow politics, that two of his supporters beat up an immigrant, dropping Trump’s name as they did so. Trump’s response is a non-answer that many people, frankly, have found insulting.

But really, what choice does he have?

One of the cardinal rules in politics, these days, is never admit even the slightest shred of responsibility. Trump cannot disown the attackers, even when they step well over the line, for the simple fact that his disownment will become a chink in his armour. Social Justice Bullies will happily take even the slightest hint of weakness as an encouragement to attack. Trump’s non-answer is probably the best move, tactically speaking, that he can make. It is a very poor move, but I honestly don’t see any better one.

The issue here, of course, is that Trump is in the same position as Clive.

Most people would probably agree, I suspect, that the thugs who carried out the attack are responsible for the attack. This does not matter, of course, to Trump’s enemies. Why would they care about justice when they scent weakness? Thus Trump can either allow himself to be bullied into accepting a share of the blame or simply flatly refusing to admit any responsibility (even to the point of refusing to offer condolences to the victim), even though that will alienate some of his potential supporters.

At base, this is simply a reflection of our current political climate. No one dares admit to a mistake for fear they will be expected to commit political hari-kari.


5 Responses to “Responsibility”

  1. Duncan Cairncross August 23, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    This is an old old problem
    Have you not heard of Thomas Becket?

    “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”,

    History has decided that King Henry was at least partially responsible for the murder

    In your example Clive should bear some responsibility for the murder which does not reduce the responsibility to be taken by Tom
    A “Conspiracy” effectively increases the total amount of “responsibility” – it does not dilute it.

    Support – overt or tacit – from “on high” has been responsible for some of the worst crimes in history

    The fact that political enemies will leap upon an admission of responsibility does not reduce somebodies actual responsibility when crying “Fire” in a crowded theatre or agitating a mob to lynch some poor beggar

  2. Brad August 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Much ado about nothing, in Trump’s case. His candidacy isn’t really viable fourteen months out. You see that consensus in the established politicians mostly focusing on each other instead of Trump. He probably doesn’t mind the Social Justice Police targeting him, if the alternative is no attention at all. What concerns me is not his lack of viable ways to answer criticism (refusal to accept responsibility is nothing new to him), or that he will actually be elected, but that the sustained attention will allow him to horse trade into a meaningful role in government later. Look at the Tea Party, that has become an umbrella any conservative that doesn’t fit GOP norms can hide beneath.

  3. Anarchymedes August 24, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    IMHO the right thing to do for Mr Trump would be to come down as a ton of brick on the perpetrators, tell them to give themselves up and, after serving their sentences, never, ever do anything like that again. After that, his subsequent denial of guilt wold at least bear some weight. And he doesn’t even have to go all politically correct and welcoming. He could say, quite frankly: no, I don’t like immigrants, I don’t want them to come here, but I don’t bash them. Not because I feel any compassion for them, but because the law is the law. Period. That would only add to his hallmark ruthless charm.
    Otherwise… All right, Clive wants Andy’s job. He also knows that Bob suspect that Andy eyes Dorothy, the girl of Bob’s dreams. So first, Clive surreptitiously pictures Andy and Dorothy in a position that could be interpreted as compromising (adding a few touches of Photoshop if necessary). Next, he invites Bob to a bar, plies him with alcohol, gets him talking, and then produces the pictures. That’s when Bob explodes, and…
    Well, who’s guilty in this scenario?

  4. Dennis the Menace August 24, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    I give a 70% certainty that they were paid hacks by funds that ultimately originated from George Soros, whether directed by the Clintons or not. The Left in the US has no qualms whatsoever to using these tactics since Alinsky taught it to them decades ago, either. To paraphrase Rahm Emanuel: “Never let a good opportunity to set a Reichstag fire go to waste!”

    Another 20%: Occam’s Razor recognition that these could be just two yahoos ‘thinking’ for themselves as outlined by Chris and it is as simple as that.

    Last 10%: The GOP establishment that hates Trump.

    Why the 70/20/10 split? Well…

    1) I acknowledge the Occam’s Razor possibility simply out of intellectual honesty. Namely, I am recognizing the equivalent that even a broken clock tells the correct time at least twice a day. And as to the low probability figure I give to this and higher ones for the other two, that is simply because I am one cynical rat-bastard who has learned to much how politics is played in this country.

    2) Because the GOP establishment as a rule doesn’t have an Alynsky-ite bone in its body. I sure as hell wish SOME folks in the GOP did because it is like they are bringing knives to a nuclear weapon fight when it comes to the Dems. There is a new up & coming breed of Conservatives who are more than happy to finally take the gloves off — read Kurt Schlichter’s ‘Conservative Insurgency’ for more details on them, if interested. But they are not in control yet, obviously. Which brings up another related point: The GOP Establishment also does not have the experience nor ‘thug contacts’ in pulling it off competently like the Dems can. The last time that they did was Nixon’s thugs who broke into Watergate, remember?

    3) This damages the overall GOP brand…and precisely in a way that the GOP Establishment does not like. If they get their fav shill — Jeb Bush — nominated, this will hurt his chances in the general election despite it all being about Trump as the Dems will twist facts around to make it look like ALL Republicans are like this. They do it all the time anyway. It is SOP for them and their media hacks. So, assigning motive to the GOP for pulling this off is difficult.

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