Saturday, August 04, 2012

I like Adam Smith (in spite of his being human)

Yes, I'm talking about that guy that is the current subject of the conservative blogosphere's two minutes hate --the guy who was rude to that wonderful Chick-Fil-A checkout girl:

Just for some background: I've never met Adam Smith. I enthusiastically support the pro-Chick-Fil-A protest that Adam Smith was opposing. Mr. Cathy should have a right to express his opinions without having mayors and city aldermen say that they are going to sabotage his business by denying licenses and such. I would have gone myself to support Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday if I could have found one in the area --and I looked.

But more than that, I actually agree with Mr. Cathy's views about traditional marriage and I consider Adam Smith a twit for claiming that Cathy's viewpoint --which is held by over half of Americans and was held by almost all Americans as little as fifteen years ago-- is an inherently hateful viewpoint.

But the conservative attacks on Smith are over the top. In comments of this Patterico post, people have been calling him a coward for not going into the restaurant (it's August in Tucson, people. If the line was stretching outside, it would take a martyr to wait for any length of time in line). They accused him of hitting on the woman at the end but when he says "I'm a nice guy", it is clear to me that he was starting to struggle with his conscience at that point (his conscience lost the wrestling match, at least for the next few hours). They have opined that he must be a habitual bully, but it was obvious from the video that Adam Smith was not cut out for the bullying role and that this was unusual behavior for him. They have even been gloating over the fact that he was fired --a father of four young children.

 Was he inexcusably rude to that nice young lady? Yes. Was he a bully to someone smaller, younger, and less powerful? Yes. Did he take unfair advantage of their differences in situation? Yes. I agree to all of the above. But even when I first watched this clip, I felt a certain kinship with Adam Smith; I thought, "Wow, that could have been me", because --and this may shock you-- I have been known to exercise poor judgment at times. I've been known to get carried away with righteous indignation. I've even been known to display fits of unjustified and improper aggression, sometimes even taking actions that I knew very well --somewhere in the back of my mind-- I was going to regret later.

I'm not talking about violence here; I'm talking about speaking, writing, and other actions that can be used for non-violent aggression. These kinds of things can seem like a great idea when I am feeling unjustly provoked and am riding the sweet, sweet adrenalin rush of righteous wrath, yet seem foolish, petulant, or even cruel a few hours later.

I could see the signs of that in Mr. Smith's first video. I thought to myself as I watched it: "I'll bet three or four hours after he posted that, he was feeling like a real jerk and wishing he could take it all back." And apparently I was right:

If you watched the rant, you have to watch this apology. It has received hostile reviews that I think are completely undeserved. William A. Jacobson sniffs that an apology without a lecture would have been better, but that is not fair. Smith does not give a lecture --only an explanation. He still thinks he is right and he wants that to be clear. I would do the same. And it's important to point out that the explanation is actually explanation and not excuses. For example he says that he viewed the young woman as "collateral damage" and then admits that this was a bad thing to do. That's not an excuse; it's an explanation, and one that I'm glad he made.

At Free Republic, and Hot Air, they just say "no sale" or mock him for being fired or accuse him of doing it out of fear or just call him names again.

It's an ugly scene and one that I am frankly rather ashamed to be associated with because the apology is very heartfelt and generous. I could see his pain, and I don't think for a minute that the pain was caused (entirely) by losing his job. I think he genuinely regrets both that he bullied the young woman and that he is now indelibly associated with  behavior that he genuinely does not approve of. We all do things that we do not approve of. No one lives up to their own moral standards, and part of realizing that is the ability to forgive others when they fail like this.

This video took me from feeling sorry for the poor son of a bitch to outright liking the poor son of a bitch. Us basically peaceful but occasionally mean-tempered passive-aggressive types have to stick together --even if he is a dick who thinks that no one could possibly have any reason other than bigotry and hatred for wanting to defend a thousands-year-old tradition designed to provide for the welfare of women and children, and protect them as well as less powerful men from abuse and exploitation of powerful men.

See what I mean? In a few hours, I'm probably going to regret calling Mr. Smith a dick. Well, OK, probably not. But I still like the guy. He's a flawed person, certainly, but who of us is not? But he is well meaning. He wants to do the right thing He wants to defend people that he feels are being ill-treated by society. He is just wrong, not evil. And I say that even though I know that he could not bring himself to say the same about me over this disagreement.

So, guys. Fellow conservatives, and you libertarian that sometimes hang out with us: can't we be better than the people we oppose and stop demonizing random, insignificant members of the opposition?

Not that I don't understand what motivates this. For decades, liberals have used their control of the mass entertainment and news media to demonize conservatives and (to a lesser extent) libertarians, forcing us to spend all of our time defending ourselves from false charges of racism, hatred, bigotry, warmongering, and a secret desire to enslave women and see people starve or die from curable medical conditions (especially the poor, the old, and little children) so that we couldn't even get a hearing on the merits of our policy and social proposals.

Adam Smith obviously reminded many of us of that history by repeating the scurrilous charge that opposition to gay marriage is based entirely on hatred and bigotry, and presented himself so neatly packages as an object of revenge for the frustration and anger that we have all felt over these tactics.

But that doesn't justify this sort of meanness. Adam Smith is just as much a victim of propaganda as we conservatives are; he's a victim because he falls for it. Don't viciously attack a decent (if misguided) human being over a political agenda the way that the Left has so maliciously attacked Carrie Prejean, or Joe the Plumber among others.

I mean, you all thought those were mean-spirited, uncalled-for vicious attacks on minor figures just for expressing their political views, didn't you? Does a mean-spirited, uncalled-for vicious attack suddenly become virtuous when it is done in the name of a cause you believe in? If you think that, how are you different from Adam Smith? Well, there's this: at least Adam Smith felt bad about it the next day.


Foxfier said...

So, guys. Fellow conservatives, and you libertarian that sometimes hang out with us: can't we be better than the people we oppose and stop demonizing random, insignificant members of the opposition?

For my part... he's still the guy who thought it was cool to be nasty and vicious to a gal who could do NOTHING to stop him, who had done NOTHING to him, in support of a pathetic "philosophy" and then... and then he went and bragged about it online.

There is no condemnation I could heap on him that would be worse than "I am the kind of ass that seeks out a target that has zero chance of being a threat to me, abuse her, and then brag about it online...until I get smacked."

He felt guilty? Still uploaded the video.

I do not wish him ill, assuming that he gets his head out of junior high-- otherwise my wishes won't matter for much.

He's an ass. Not an unusual situation in our times.

Foxfier said...

I've been the choice victim for "random, insignificant members of the opposition."

News flash, their "random, insignificant" actions-- as seen from a national POV-- can still royally blank up your life.

Doc Rampage said...

Foxfire, when Perez Hilton was criticized for his attacks on Carry Prejean, he doubled down and got even nastier. Adam Smith didn't do that. He could have been defiant and made a you-tube video saying that the girl deserved what he did to her for working for that evil company. He could have put all of the blame for losing his job on right-wing "Rethuglicans" who went after him for speaking truth to power.

He didn't do those things. He admitted that what he did was wrong. He apologized to the girl. He took at least part of the responsibility for losing his job.

This isn't like those forced apologies that people always call for when a politician runs his mouth off, where he has to apologize to save his job. Smith really didn't have a strong reason to apologize other than a feeling that he owed an apology. I think the apology was sincere; but even if it wasn't, this is the kind of apology that should be encouraged.

As to "royally blanking up your life", I believe you. It is terrible when it happens to conservatives and just as terrible when it happens to liberals. He may have lost his job as a consequence of his own actions, but it is still terrible for people to celebrate that.

Foxfier said...

Being somewhat less than a psycho who is paid for being an ass isn't much of a defense in my book.

Just means his level of civilization is on par with a three year old, rather than psychopathic. My daughter will say "sorry" when she's caught and scolded, too.

I'm glad he's been held accountable; that isn't being glad he was harmed, or that his actions harmed his family. (That is a very important point to keep in mind-- it was HIS CHOICE.) Same way that when a criminal goes to jail, I'm not "happy" that there are kids left without a father.

For something way higher importance but closer to matching would be the way that killing in self defense is OK, even though killing a human is always bad: you do not WANT to end a human life, you want to stop them from hurting you. Having to kill them to manage that is just the only reasonable path.