moral relativism taken to dangerous extremes

Yesterday the Globe and Mail ran an editorial titled "A Disgrace to Journalism". It began:
The journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush is being hailed as a hero by some Iraqis, but he is a disgrace to his profession and should be fired by his employer. The fact that he has not been dismissed, and is instead being treated as a martyr by the television company he works for, says a great deal about its standards of journalism.

It goes on to say that "to its shame," Al Baghdadia, Al-Zaidi's employer, is defending him, and "to their shame," organizations like Reporters Without Borders did not "condemn the attempted assault".

While this is not surprising, I find it no less wrong-headed and maddening. As we see all too often in our society, order and decorum are what matter most. When millions of people take to the streets to protest an immoral war, what matters is whether or not the protesters were peaceful and how many people were arrested. The violence, destruction and injustice being perpetrated by the state are secondary. How did the crowd express its anger? Was order kept? Did they behave politely?

I can't blame this on the mainstream media, as in this case it reflects what too many people believe and have been conditioned to react. In comments on my original post about the shoe-throwing, I learned that "two wrongs don't make a right" has become a standard response to the incident.

This is the same moral illogic that says war is wrong, but war resisters should be punished because they signed a contract. It's the same moral illogic that condemned human rights protesters when they dared to disrupt the Olympic torch relay.
A commonly heard sentiment goes something like, "Now that the protests have turned violent and protesters are committing vandalism, I question my support for Tibet!" . . .

The authoritarian streak in so many ordinary people amazes me. Some people are so besotted with order that their moral code runs for cover when the voice of the people gets too loud. If you are in such a huff because a protest turned rowdy or (heaven forbid!) somebody's property was damaged that you would actually stop sympathizing with people struggling against an occupation, I have to question your core values.

What is this "order" so many people hold so dear? Sometimes it's fear. Capitulation. Submission. Sometimes it's allowing the state to be more important than the people who it purports to represent.

Here are some replies to the G&M editorial that ran today.
Your editorial points to the harm done to a free press by Muntadar al-Zaidi's flying shoes. Of course, a lot of people around the world have been wondering for a long time where the "free" press was, particularly in the United States, in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

The real disgrace to democracy and freedom is when the press does not play its role in questioning leaders, parrots the official neo-con line and plays down anti-war protests across the globe.

Shahid Salam, Toronto


Just because your country is invaded and destroyed and hundreds of thousands of your people die in the ensuing mayhem, just because your countrymen are tortured, just because your national infrastructure remains in ruins, all without provocation, is no reason to be rude and throw shoes.

Better for journalists to behave as they did at the outset of this war - as enablers and toadies.

J.C. Henry, Mississauga


They say "the pen is mightier than the sword." Well, it looks like a flying shoe wins hands-down. Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi who threw his shoes at George W. Bush, expressed the helpless outrage of many around the world. It was only in 2006 that Mr. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act, giving immunity to U.S. government officials. What are a couple of flying shoes?

Helen Sadowski, Edmonton


The Globe thinks the shoe-throwing journalist's behaviour unprofessional and calls for his firing. Etiquette trumps honest rage at the deaths of uncounted thousands.

Rick Taves, Wheatley, ON

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