Wrong is Wrong, and Hypocrisy Doesn’t Change That

Recounting the events of today:

An American comedian posted to social media a picture that included a likeness of the President in an extremely vulgar, grotesque, and at least plausibly threatening context.

There was widespread outrage and condemnation of the image. Virtually no one of consequence defended the comedian or her content.

Nonetheless, that didn’t stop people from political tribe A from demanding where all the outrage from political tribe B was. A common refrain by tribe A said, “If political tribe B’s president were treated like this, the media would all have a meltdown!”

This true but ultimately meaningless point provoked the ire of political tribe B, who responded that actually, tribe B’s president was depicted in an outrageous, offensive, and violent context. More to the point, where was tribe A’s outrage during all that? If tribe A cares so much about offensive depictions of the President of the United States, why didn’t they mind it when it happened to tribe B’s president?

While tribe A had the opportunity to unequivocally condemn any offensive treatment of tribe B’s president, they unfortunately opted to make it a point of order. “Where did your president ever get depicted like that,” demanded tribe A.

Tribe B responded by producing evidence of the charge. A fair rebuttal, but then tribe B sadly decided to interpret the evidence: “See? You didn’t say ANYTHING when this was going on. Fair is fair. If it’s OK for it to happen to our guy, it’s fair for it to happen to yours!”

If there’s anything in the above that makes you feel good about where American politics are in 2017, bless you, because I can’t find anything. Identity politics, tribal loyalties, and bad faith are completely dominating not only public discourse, but how we even respond to things that are clearly wrong. When presented with an objectively objectionable thing, Americans don’t even have time to articulate the moral principle behind its objectionableness. They don’t ask “what.” They ask “who.”

Who made this? Which group created it? Who is endorsing it? Who is talking about it like it’s a good thing? It’s like the world’s worst game of Clue. The point of Clue isn’t that murdering someone with a lead pipe is bad. The point of Clue is that somebody did it, and we need to know who it was. That’s where the American politics of outrage are at the moment. Nothing is good or bad in the abstract anymore. The only question that matters is, “Is this from our team, or from the bad guys?”

Wrong is wrong, and hypocrisy from the other tribe doesn’t change it. If you think the biased news media isn’t as worked up about this comedian’s garbage as they should be, fine. But that doesn’t prove that that other garbage that was made about the guy you didn’t vote for is now magically better. If being a moral person means anything at all, it means telling the truth, no matter how many people whose politics you despise will gain satisfaction from it. It is absolutely insane that what should be a clear cut case of the degenerating quality of our public square is somehow turned into a contest of, “Who was outraged first.”

If you’re wondering why politics is in the mess it’s in right now, look no further.