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« 09 11 11 - Architecture in the Shadow of Ground Zero (Norman Costa) | Main | The Armenians of Calcutta »

April 03, 2012


I think the jail sentence is ridiculous. Since when is it a crime to be a jack ass? From what I gathered, Stacey was also drunk to his gills. Moreover, he didn't declare that Muamba "should" be dead. He was expressing his satisfaction that he IS (already) dead due to circumstances that Stacey didn't cause. So, he wasn't guilty of incitement either.

According to the Guardian piece, he admitted the intent to provoke "racially aggravated public disorder." It also appears there were racially charged follow-up messages. I'd say the "He's dead" part of the first message was the most innocuous. The rest of it, uttered shortly after the incident, was surely more provocative.

I came across the story for the first time yesterday. I found the rest of the tweets after posting and updated. You might have seen the original posting if you use RSS etc.

Ruchira - I also think the 'incitement' angle is pretty bogus. He's tweeting drunkenly and offensively to a hundred followers, not fomenting violence. Basically I think he's being plonked in jail for sounding ghoulish to a country that witnessed a heart attack on live TV. It's probably somewhat like calling Princess Di an irrelevant airhead right after her death, which, I was showing above, is rarely considered tasteless enough to treat this seriously. His being a nobody is really hurting him here.

I even think the racial/gender angle is more in the way of convenient post-facto rationalization - in general I'd say the British, particularly the football crowd, are rather less enlightened about such matters than Americans, at least based on my probably non-random web samplings. It's just easier to use as an argument for prosecution than just saying 'you're mean!'

Dean - yeah, it's basically a fixed point of my ethics that with very few exceptions (roughly scotus, though I'd carve out narrower "defense" loopholes) saying awful things isn't criminal, so I continue to think dude's more sinned against than sinning, but he's clearly a less than ideal model case.

I did momentarily wonder reading your comment why on earth we should consider rejoicing in an innocent's death more 'innocuous' than bashing someone's race or gender. I was able to persuade myself you're likely correct actually - even if rejoicing in an innocent stranger's death in front of the grieving is morally worse than being racially bigoted (that's my intuition, but 'innocent' and 'stranger' are also doing a lot of work here; I don't think Taibbi or Hitchens above were really out of bounds) presumably it's fine more to worry about the latter, since the first is a socially negligible problem while the latter is very far from. Still not entirely sure, it's the sort of thing one would wish to 'calibrate' internally to see it fits.

Hmm, I'm less sure, and a quick think convinced me it's too large an issue to quickly think through, too many different questions and issues, plus it's very context driven...cases I considered [*] yield pretty different intuitions, so I stopped :) There must be an ethical literature, even a focused one, but I don't know how to find it.

[*] Rumsfeld vs Dahmer, drunk driving vs child rape, nipples rating R vs bloodied breasts being hacked off rating PG-13.

I think it is a bit like buying an organ from a poor person vs sending the same person to war where s/he may damage the same organ or worse. We are culturally programmed to react with greater disgust in certain situations than others even if the outcome in the cases may be morally equivalent. Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld did greater harm to humanity than did Dahmer if sheer loss of human life is what we are counting. But there is an impersonal, greater good angle to war, however immoral (opposing political ideology/ clash of civilization etc.), that a secretive murderous sexual fetish of a lone man does not have. Famous people on different sides of an issue calling each other names qualifies as public debate and is therefore par for the course in the public arena of a free society. An individual spewing venom based solely on the physical or cultural "otherness" of another individual comes across as hatred. Given the racial climate in the US and the imperial history of most of Europe, such public display of private prejudices is looked upon with alarm. Probably rightly so.

But the Stacey guy seems to be paying for reckless idiocy more than anything else. I mean couldn't he just have been put in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct?

Speaking of another "famous" person who routinely blames people (feminists, gays, the poor) for bringing on god's wrath in the form of natural disasters, recently said this in the context of an NFL trade. Sounds like one of those angry and easily annoyed Vedic sages (or Stacey) who went around cursing people, wishing them grievous harm and injury.

Not knowing the story, I nevertheless knew immediately the identity of Ruchira's famous person, even before glancing at the URL to confirm it.

"He's dead" is relatively innocuous for three reasons. First, it might at the time have been entirely true. Second, even if it weren't true--which turns out to have been the case--it was arguably figurative. Stacey might have been referring to the athlete's career, for instance. Third, "LOL" and "Fuck Muamba" are just downright disrespectful, gloating, and juvenile. Had Stacey tweeted, "Crap. Muamba's dead," or even, "That moron Muamba's dead," he might not have ended up where he did.

Then there are the passive agressive and self-righteous who are disrespectful of others while pretending to be precious goodie two shoes. Just note the fear they spread! At some level, they are more annoying than overtly abusive drunks like Stacey and Hitchens. (Am I now being insensitive, calling a dead man a drunk although he really was one?) I have heard that these types are more numerous on the body conscious, eco-friendly left coast than in Brooklyn. But I don't know much about them personally - not my peer group.

Now that's funny. By "these types," Ruchira, you mean the selfish, snooty Brooklyn parents, not the abusive drunks, right? Well, I have a confession. A couple years ago, when as it so happens my son was four years old, we were visiting suburban Southern California. I'm usually there to tend to family matters, not to take a vacation, and the poor kid often has to endure more of the adult agenda than is fair. So we make time to go to parks and a children's museum. He and I were at a park in the late afternoon. He had been in a so-so mood. While we were swinging and rolling down the grassy hill, the tinkling of the bells of an ice cream vendor's cart interrupted our fun. He wanted ice cream. I dutifully denied him the pleasure. We'd soon have dinner. He stomped his feet, but settled down. Minutes later, an ice cream truck rolled up the street and into the parking lot adjacent to the park, its miserable soundtrack luring hordes of kids. My son cried and complained when I again prohibited a purchase. I kid you not, a third ice cream vendor, another truck, shortly rolled into the lot. My son went bananas, total meltdown. I had visions of this. But I would not have thought for a second about banning the trade.

I could share nightmare stories of off-the-charts episodes of Berkeley parents, usually involving decades ahead preparations for junior's stellar career. Berkeley parents do take the responsibility very seriously. But then the Berkeley Parents Network can be a wealth of good information. Skimming this thread about kids and junk food, I don't see too much that shrieks, "Berkeley!" There's a mention of tofu, and this superficially astute sounding question-begger: "I think it is important to start a child off with a taste for nutritious foods..." Mostly, though, the talk is sensible.

I have no problem with parents keeping their children from eating ice cream, candy or anything else at all hours of the day. I also would like more parents to learn how to train kids to eat more veggies, fish and fruit. But they shouldn't think that they can go around "banning" things they don't like or uttering inanities like, "I should not have to fight with my children every warm day on the playground just so someone can make a living!" Hey, reality check here - having kids means having to "fight" them ... a lot! Parenting isn't a "walk in the park."

Am I mildly wicked for thinking the modal American parent ought to have his kids on a tighter leash, period? The more so when it comes to food, with all the high-calorie, low-nutrient around everywhere, the no running about in the streets playing, and with so many kids bloating up to look like nothing so much as tubby widdle balloons. The french I remember we were recently told handle their children better. I dunno about behavior, cuz I'm largely spared their society, but they do seem a lot less tubby here. Then again, there's that famous 'je veux les bonbons' ad..

Anyone know how the relevant statute reads?

The Brits have been very sensitive, lately, to anything that could incite public disorder or worse.

Prasad, you may see kids running around on the safe neighborhood streets in India, but obesity is creeping up on the children's population there. It's something more insidious than mere lack of activity, more to do with mother's nutrition pre-pregnancy and influences on fetal development, combined with ready access to food once the baby is born/switching over too early to cow's milk based formulas. At least, that's my theory, and I'm sticking with it till a study is designed to refute it.

Norman, the Brits have other things to beware of, like news columnists who think they are being ostracised for 'being too beautiful':
Maybe Liam Stacey was too 'pretty' to be let off for his foul-mouthed diatribes?

I saw the Daily Mail article on Facebook. It is so bizarre that I had to read it again to make sure if it was an Onion style spoof. But it appears that Samantha Brick is serious about the impact her "beauty" has on others. I don't know what gave her the idea that she is particularly beautiful. Perhaps her lack of female friendship is not because she is good looking but because she lets her friends know that she thinks she is. Another very annoying type of person. I hope she doesn't have any children.

If other women hate Samantha Bricks, I doubt if it's because she looks pretty.

Here is a hilarious (and fitting) response to Samantha Brick's misdirected self-appreciation.

Samantha Brick's piece may be the typical Daily Mail trolling, because it sells, and generates the requisite number of eyeballs for the paper, if one buys this Guardian article's thesis: it possible that the public is being gullible in assuming that the whole thing isn't a setup, and that the article by Brick shouldn't have come out without the disclaimer (*This piece does not reflect the opinions of the writer)

Elatia tried and failed to post the following comment:

Glad to see what's up here re: Samantha Brick. Someone sent the article to me in an email. I have known some women whose heart-stopping looks were truly an obstacle to trusting friendships with other women. A woman who thought she was of their number married into my family, so I have been exposed to the drill. I just want to say -- is this imagining yourself to be impossibly lovely when you are in fact perfectly ordinary (or even kinda funny looking) perchance a subset of the Dunning Kruger Effect?

Indeed, it seems to be that. I don't know for sure, but my unscientific observation leads me to believe that men are more prone to the Dunning Kruger Effect on knowledge and women on vanity. True? Could be the outcome of what the two genders are brought up to value by society, however unconsciously.

PS: Is everyone else now seeing "two" words for verification in the CAPTCHA feature for comments? More annoyance on TypePad because the second word in italics is often unintelligible!

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