From top: Darren Scully: George Hook and Tony Groves

Something is very broken in our society. It’s not waiting in the long grass to catch us, it is happening on the margins.

A large constituency of people are comfortable with and supportive of beliefs and behaviours that should be confined to the past.

The fact that the misogyny, racism, xenophobia and socioeconomic class warfare is on the margins should not comfort us in the slightest.

The margin, when you think about it, is a conceptualised border; a set of constraints that we in the ‘centre’ are forced to operate within.

But margins can fluctuate; they can relax or tighten. We can break down borders with events like the end of Apartheid, or voting for marriage equality. But the most recent topical events point to margins that are tightening.

Whether it’s Trump’s latest racist plan to deport people, or an Islamophobic Fine Gael Councillor tweeting up a storm, or George Hook victim blaming women who have been subjected to the brutality of sexual assault, one thing is abundantly clear; such views are widely held and growing.

The other thing that’s clear is that progressive values just aren’t progressing like we’d have hoped in 2017.

Comment Sections light up with toxicity. Links of Alt Right ‘news’ sites get shared and angry (mostly white men) internet trolls vent their spleen at those they feel are less than. If only it were only the internet trolls but it’s not.

When Fine Gael Cllr Brian Murphy was rightly denounced by the Fine Gael Party this week an interesting thing happened to me.

Josephea Madigan – TD, Dublin Rathdown tweeted that she joined the “party of opportunity for all”, I (foolishly?) replied with a screenshot of Darren Scully, Fine Gael’s former Mayor of Naas, who said “he would not take on representations from Africans”. Josephea, as is her right, promptly blocked me.

If Darren Scully hadn’t left Fine Gael, rejoined Fine Gael and then went on to blame the parents of Aylan Kurdi for his death, you could almost put his racist views down to a one off. But it wasn’t and it isn’t.

There’s a racist cohort attracted to power and right wing ideology. In Irish politics, no matter how they don’t like to admit it, Fine Gael are that party.

There’s a social psychology concept called Moral Licensing, it’s defined: past good deeds can liberate individuals to engage in behaviours that are immoral, unethical, or otherwise problematic. Basically it’s moral math, you do something good in order to give yourself the licence to do something bad.

Here in Ireland, we can observe Moral Licensing by observing the people who voted for marriage equality, but still express homophobic views, as if they’re vote gives them a lifelong pass to be homophobic. Some of these people are our friends, colleagues and family members.

We can address the issue with them, or we can block it out and allow these “marginal views” to fence us in. Sometimes blocking it out is just easier. But nothing worthwhile comes easy, especially not equality.

George Hook has apologised and that’s to be welcomed. I’m not going to question the sincerity of his apology. I would question his understanding of why people were so upset at his views.

The earlier misstep of having a section on his radio show called “Here Come the Girls” is not a good deed that licenses him to be so hurtful, unintentionally or not. George can continue to broadcast as long as Newstalk will have him. We can all just move the dial.

Daniel Effron, Associate Professor at the London Business School, used Moral Licensing to observe people who voted for Barack Obama. He discovered that “when white participants could point to racist alternatives to their past actions, they felt they had obtained more evidence of their own virtue”.

In moral sums it meant that a significant chunk of people who voted for America’s first Black President used this “good deed” to return to their racist views. He’d unknowingly identified many of the voters who would go on to elect Donald Trump.

I did my own little observation experiment, a google cross referenced word search, hardly definitive.

By linking the names of my three Local TDs, Roisin Shortall, Dessie Ellis and Noel Rock to the term Direct Provision, I discovered that only Deputies Shortall and Ellis have worked towards ending this human rights abuse in our midst. Again, hardly scientific, but not unsurprising either.

Deputy Noel Rock, to give him is due, went on the air with George Hook to assure the public that Councillor Murphy’s views were not representative of Fine Gael. I’m not sure whether that’s moral licensing, defending the shield, or just pushing back against marginal elements?

When Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach he declared that “prejudice has no hold in this Republic”.

At this point it seems important to point out that both Councillor Brian Murphy and Councillor Darren Scully supported Leo Varadkar for the Fine Gael leadership.

Moral Licensing? You do the maths.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

70 thoughts on “Moral Mathematics

  1. snowey

    mostly white men eh???
    did the author consider that perhaps they are white the geographical area each forum tends to draw it’s audience from. I’m sure if I was on an African forum , there would be mostly black people…but I know common sense….and all that….
    The author has wilfully twisted George hooks comments – he was lamenting women not taking care of their personal safety and putting themselves in danger with drink on board. he was at pains to say the rapist was to blame. His point was reasonable but in a rapid society hook is attacked and vilified – by mostly white men.
    Hook said nothing no reasonable parent would advise their kid on….stay safe and all that….common sense.
    You can point out flaws in a plan without blaming the victim , it’s not an either/or situation.

    His dig at FG as “that” party is odd – sure the lad in naas went off the range but this same party elected Leo V as their headman (gay man, Indian parents , gay man and all other ingredients for a progressives wet dream) so which is it??? It can’t be both.

    The article stinks of wailing that the world is doomed cos some people – probably me included- don’t subscribe to the authors worldview.
    The article is boarding on hysterical.

    Reply
    1. MKG985

      I’m only a girly, but I tink the point iz dat it can be both. You do a good ting to do be able to do a bad ting. Maybe read it?

      Reply
        1. snowey

          well on this kinda stuff anyway…
          we may agree have more in common on other things….
          all isn’t lost for the author…yet

          Reply
    2. Pádraig Ó Raghaill

      Good luck with that Snowey – the Tweet first, enthralled in motions of group think, the [we] are not amused and outraged at the neanderthal daring to use common sense and a position of harm reduction methodology will be water off the ducks back.

      Even when you bring up one of the multiple studies (by qualified people, and woman at that), you cannot even get people to read. The best you can get is well I read the ‘Abstract’ of the 20-page study and decided, and I don’t like it.

      Nevermind a PhD, or three, my ‘unqualified opinion’ and my outrage trumps everything. How dare you, bring up that society is not perfect and it is smart to not be out of control with predatory culture about. I will twist and turn a narrative, rewrite a black and white story until you are blaming the victim.

      Reply
    1. Nigel

      “There are two issues here. There is the cabal of angry white men who might follow rightwing groups who are carrying out this kind of misogynistic abuse and there is a cultural and societal issue of women and girls using this language. This study was extremely limited in its scope and we would like to do more research.”

      One of the most detailed studies into abuse online by the Pew Institute in 2014 revealed that more serious and illegal abuse online, including rape and death threats, is targeted at women aged 18-24 while men are more likely to experience name-calling and embarrassment.

      This female age group experienced severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels: 26% of the young women in the research had been stalked online, and 25% were the target of online sexual harassment and heightened rates of physical threats.

      Reply
      1. Milo

        What will we do about that majority of women in the US who voted for Trump? Or the fact that most irish women vote for male politicians? My granny wisely pointed out that women could have equal representation in politics if they voted that way. And she was no Regina.

        Reply
          1. Milo

            Very different questions Nigel. Nothing to do with each other. But it probably suits you to throw in a straw man and obfuscate.

          2. Nigel

            Oh. Okay. Here you go: you don’t actually have to do anything about them. You have to properly motivate and mobilise the ones that didn’t don’t vote to counter them, and keep the ones that did vote against him (and them) coming back. Easier said than done, obviously, but there you go.

      2. Clampers Outside!

        ” Overall, men are somewhat more likely than women to experience at least one of the elements of online harassment, 44% vs. 37%. In terms of specific experiences, men are more likely than women to encounter name-calling, embarrassment, and physical threats. ”

        Yes, 18-24s do experience more abuse than the greater picture. But overall, who is abused more…. men are.

        Who are the abusers? Male and Female in equal measure.
        Do you know how bitchy 18-24 yr olds are, of either gender, and who is doing the bullying Nigel?

        Did you purposefully ignore that the Pew Research does not state who the bullies are?

        Regarding the sexual harassment – who made the harassing comments? According to the Guardian (needs more work) it’s 50% women.

        Back to the original reason I posted …”mostly white men”… is a lie. The pew research

        For anyone who wants the FULL picture of the Pew Research. Here is the study – http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/

        You will also find in there that boys/men are far less likely to report bullying.

        – – – –

        Do you realise you are engaging in cognitive dissonance, using only research that suits your argument and ignoring the rest. Cherry picking. Please stop that type regressive practice. It is a form of willful disinformation to suit your own agenda. Approach the study empirically and without an agenda if you want to read and understand it fully.

        More here from another Pew Research Study – http://www.pewinternet.org/2007/06/27/cyberbullying/

        – – – – –

        And here’s another study – ” According to dosomething.org girls are almost twice as likely as boys to be both victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying. ”

        Read that again… ” According to dosomething.org girls are almost twice as likely as boys to be both victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying. ”
        https://nobullying.com/is-cyber-bullying-more-common-with-girls/

        – – – – –

        You want to make claims that boys/men are doing the bullying but the research says otherwise. That’s your cognitive dissonance and you need to get on top of that.

        Girls bully girls TWICE as much as boys do.

        More links on the research of girls bullying girls:
        http://nypost.com/2015/05/15/fewer-say-they-are-being-bullied-at-school/
        That report based on this – https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017015.pdf

        – – – – –

        Some good stuff here:
        http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/female-bullying.html

        – – – –

        A quote from teensafe.com – “Anthropologically, cyberbullying fits well with the societal expectations of girls, including their tendency to utilize language and relationships to practice more subtle forms of aggression. ”
        https://www.teensafe.com/blog/facts-cyberbullying-teen-girls-worst/

        – – – – –

        Returning again to my point, it is not “mostly white men”. It’s mostly girls, pasrticularly in the 18-24 age group.

        – – – – –

        Thanks.

        Reply
          1. Nigel

            Hmm.

            ‘Links of Alt Right ‘news’ sites get shared and angry (mostly white men) internet trolls vent their spleen at those they feel are less than’

            Is there a study showing a majority of teen girls are the ones linking linking alt right news sites and venting their spleens? Because you’re conflating stuff hard here.

            ‘Do you realise you are engaging in cognitive dissonance, using only research that suits your argument and ignoring the rest. Cherry picking. Please stop that type regressive practice. It is a form of willful disinformation to suit your own agenda. Approach the study empirically and without an agenda if you want to read and understand it fully’

            Good advice.

          2. Clampers Outside!

            Bullpoo response.

            You were making an attempt to say women are the most abused – they are not. Men are.
            You were making a point about teen girls being bullied and one can safely assume you were running with the idea that it is men doing most of that bullying – they are not. Girls are.

            Tony’s post was the start of the conversation. I pointed out an intentional lie (I believe) in his post.
            You responded to me, I came back with an answer, you run off and grab a quote from Tony and request I prove that particular situation with research, completely ignoring the research provided.. wtf?

            Like I said, cherry picking.

            Glad you recognise the good advice, you need it, clearly.

          3. Nigel

            So you weren’t able to disprove Tony’s remark and nstead posted studies mostly about teenage bullying, a hugely important area and not something to be deployed as cover for the raving abusers and harassers of the alt right. And the pew polls still don’t support your conclusion.

          4. Clampers Outside!

            Ah now Nigel, his remark of “mostly white men” is disproved. And very clearly. And without a doubt from the Pew Research.
            – – –
            The teen stuff was in response to you. And further disproves his point of “mostly white men” when it says girls are twice as likely to do the bullying of other girls than guys are.
            – – –
            You can deny what is right in front of you if you want. You do it all the time on here anyway, it is nothing new.

            It’s your cognitive dissonance remember, and has been pointed out time and time again. Nothing I can do for you with that, you need to get on top of that yourself, good lad.

          5. Nigel

            You keep saying you’ve disproved the ‘Links of Alt Right ‘news’ sites get shared and angry (mostly white men) internet trolls vent their spleen at those they feel are less than’ thing, when you clearly haven’t. You keep saying you’ve disproved something I said when all I did was literally post three paragraphs from an article YOU linked to. You keep conflating the studies of teenage bullying and the Pew study and the ‘links of alt right news sites.’ Instead of devoting so much time accusing people who find you unpersuasive of cognitive dissonance – which i don’t think you actually understand – perhaps you should consider that you are making really unpersuasive and incredibly sloppy arguments.

          6. Clampers Outside!

            ” You keep saying you’ve disproved the ‘Links of Alt Right ‘news’ sites get shared and angry (mostly white men) internet trolls vent their spleen at those they feel are less than’ thing, when you clearly haven’t. ”

            The research says otherwise Nigel.

            – – – –
            ” You keep saying you’ve disproved something I said when all I did was literally post three paragraphs from an article YOU linked to. ”

            No Nigel, I linked to the article, which referenced the study, and I backed that up with links to the source study, admittedly after your first response.

            I’d have thought you’d at least look at the source material, before cherry picking The Guardian’s few and scant facts from the source material.

            A reasonable person would go to the source material, I believe, as The Guardian has massive bias that anyone with a bit of cop on is aware of. They can be right sometimes, and the headline of the article is accurate. You clearly took The Guardian piece as read and didn’t need to look further, I did not.

            My intention of using The Guardian link is to show that ” mostly white men ” is wrong. The headline in The Guardian shows this. That’s what the Guardian link was for. And further investigation shows the the research is there to back it up, even though that is not wholly evident in how the piece was written… because the Guardian has bias, one you clearly are happy to swallow.

            – – – –

            ” You keep conflating the studies of teenage bullying and the Pew study and the ‘links of alt right news sites.’ ”

            How is that a conflation, do you know all the sites that were used in the study? Do tell… if you do.

            – – – –
            ” Instead of devoting so much time accusing people who find you unpersuasive of cognitive dissonance – which i don’t think you actually understand – perhaps you should consider that you are making really unpersuasive and incredibly sloppy arguments.

            I can accept my arguments being said to be sloppty, yours are a feckin’ mess half the time :)

            – – – –

            The “mostly white men” is a lie. The research shows this. Considering that you call anything right of left, it is safe to say that alt.right sites are in the Pew Research, you just dont seem to see that, and are incapable of seeing past it, from what I can see.

            – – – –

            With regard to cognitive dissonance Nigel, it is a persons, in this example, ability to praise research findings when it suits their needs, as you did, and then ignore the same research when it doesn’t, as you have also done.

          7. Clampers Outside!

            ” You keep conflating the studies of teenage bullying and the Pew study and the ‘links of alt right news sites.’ ”

            I think that is the bit we’re swinging off of Nigel.

            You seem to believe there are no alt.right sites in the studies. I believe there are, because pretty much anything right of left these days is labelled as alt.right.

  2. Cian

    If I Google
    “Roisin Shortall” “Direct Provision” I get 2270 hits.
    “Dessie Ellis” “Direct Provision” I get 1370 hits
    “Noel Rock” “Direct Provision” I get 4080 hits.
    Tony, can you share your method of linking their names and Direct Provision please?

    Reply
    1. MKG985

      ah Big C,
      You had me go and check, even got me IT office guy to double check. 0 for Rock.
      Sure maybe you misspelled Blue Shirt?

      Reply
        1. MKG985

          Now Big C,
          You know that there’s loadsa links for the other 2, Shortall runs for pages specific to Dir Prov. Rock is a 0 apart from this piece. He might thank Moany Tony for it?

          Reply
    2. Cian

      either way Tony, why do you find it noteworthy that two opposition TD actively oppose government policy (e.g. Direct Provision) but that a FG TD doesn’t actively oppose the same government policy? Would this not apply to most, if not all, government policies?
      There is a clue in the name: Opposition Party.

      Reply
      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        So they’re only opposing direct provision because they have to as opposition TDs? Not because they actually care about the issue?

        Reply
  3. egghead

    I’m playing Rock google here and the only hit is Noel Rock thanking Simon Coveney for his Direct answers and Providing etc etc.
    0 for Direct Provision

    Reply
  4. dav

    Hooks descent into a spokesperson for the alt-right over the last decade has been shocking to say the least – he was always a bit controversial but his self declared war on “Political Correctness” has led him down this path.
    I can only add that – if it were a female relation of him or any of us who suffered rape, will what they were wearing or if they took a drink be of any concern to you/him?

    Reply
    1. nellyb

      i believe Hook has some personal issues. i only ever heard him by accident, in the car, but his weirdness can be overbearing and freudian. once he went on talking about his underwear in details a regular person would not share at all. Luckily there is off button on every radio.
      He is incapable of talking about women in a normal way and he knows it. He compensates it with ‘ladish’ jokes (a lad from 1930 type) and makes it 100 times worse. Newstalk should tell him to stick to rugby or something and stop bloody improvising, he’s really bad at it.
      Point being – don’t give his utterances a serious consideration. He is broadcasting for his generation, where his amateur $h!t€ is still entertaining and passes for professional. Neither should Tony.

      Reply
      1. nellyb

        i.e.Tony should have not brought up Hook as some serious but misguided opinion. there is no opinion, just confused mess devoid of basic rationality.

        Reply
  5. Milo

    I get the thing about white privilege, but do we have any comment on other people being racist? I remember my first time in Chicago and being shocked at the open hostility I faced for being white. They were unafraid and unabashedly racist. In most Arab countries one can encounter obvious and open racism. What Indians do to each other in the name of the caste system would be illegal here, in Africa inter tribal racism is, as we know, incredibly common. Studying racism in its broader and more global sense could help to put a lot of our views into perspective. In fact I imagine that Ireland would come out as a shining example- something many immigrants point out already. Personally I think we have done an incredible job of assimilation, we have done an incredible job of embracing equality, inclusion, diversity etc. We took in over 10% of the population in one of the greatest migraitions we have ever seen, and mostly without trouble. Why can’t we look at things in their human perspective, back the positive and encourage more of it, identify the negative and eradicate it. As long as we remain myopic, the divisions will increase not decrease.

    Reply
      1. Milo

        We absorbed the equivalent of 10% of our population in a decade. We now have the 6th highest percentage of foreign nationals in Europe at 11.9%.

        Reply
  6. curmudgeon

    “A large constituency of people are comfortable with and supportive of beliefs and behaviours that should be confined to the past.” This translates to: my (more popular) opinion is the correct one, we’re not debating this – voice a dissenting opinion and get shut down.

    Reply
    1. Nigel

      Yup, it’s so unfair that dissenting opinions about how children should be sent up chimneys to clean them or handed over wholesale to the care unaccountable holy orders and that women who get raped are asking for it have become less popular and people don’t seem to want to debate them any more.

      Reply
      1. Milo

        Catastrophising again much Nigel. At least we know your righteous anger is aimed at correcting the problem, not just being pious and judgemental- right?

        Reply
        1. Nigel

          No. I did not not attribute those views to you, I provided clear examples of opinions that are regarded as unpopular and no longer debated to suggest that your ‘dissenting opinions get shut down’ is itself a fallacious invocation of a dubious principle.

          Reply
      2. Pádraig Ó Raghaill

        There it goes one of the go to replies to a position held that the [I] does not agree with, the quintessential Ad Hominem Tu Quoque. It would seem today there is a short list of replies, to the I don’t like it.

        Reply
    2. ahjayzis

      Free speech is not equal to consequence-free speech.

      I am free to call you a pedophile, you are then free to sue me into oblivion. Or just not spend money on my product / sponsor me.

      Reply
      1. curmudgeon

        That’s a different argument. Ireland has the toughest libel laws in the western world and corporate sponsorship is fickle and utterly amoral E.g Pride fest is now littered with products with rainbow branding.

        My argument is why should Tony and the growing majority of likeminded others decide to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t acceptable. For instance I think that Political correctness has in fact gone mad and now we cannot even democratically elect candidiates unless they’ve enough women in there party. Can I disagree with this law now, or am I just another white male chauvinistic sexist throwback to darker days? If I said that on air, would I be forced to issue and apology to keep my job and y’know avoid a national skewering on all the papers. Censorship is a slippery slope

        Reply
        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          You seem to think people shouldn’t be allowed criticise your views. Why do so many right wingers think of themselves as victims when people stand up to them?

          Reply
          1. curmudegeon

            I do, do I? I think I’m more in support of free speech than most here. As for right wingers, well I’m not one of them and I don’t think they have a monolpoly on victimisation either but that question has little relevance to the discussion at hand.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            “I do, do I?”

            Well…”why should Tony and the growing majority of likeminded others decide to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t acceptable.”…yeah. You need to come up with a good argument as to why you’re position is acceptable. Pretending you’re being victimised by the PC police is an often trotted out argument and that all opinions are equal is both hilariously ironic and terribly thought out.

        2. ahjayzis

          What do you want?

          What should compel Tony to keep his views on Hooks views to himself?

          Why shouldn’t Hook keep his odious views to himself?

          What is suddenly wrong with a counter-argument to someone’s argument?

          What about Tony’s free speech?

          Reply
          1. curmudegeon

            Jaysis that’s alot of q’s. Well about Hook – who btw I’m not a fan of and honestly thought his descent into nationalistic shock jock territory was solely due to him being relegated from drive time to a paltry early afternoon slot. Well I cannot comment on his comments because lo and behold newstalk have stricken the “listen back” link on their site. Part 1 of his Sep 8th program has been removed.

            Tony’s free speech is unimpeded, I take issue with on whose behalf he speaks though. Is he using the royal “we” in this line perhaps? E.g
            “The other thing that’s clear is that progressive values just aren’t progressing like we’d have hoped in 2017.” Some of us, (the “we” maybe) think these values are progressing in the wrong direction ala Special designated Traveler ethnicity.

    3. MoyestWithExcitement

      We’re not debating the value of human life, no. You can come up with all sorts of convoluted justifications for taking people’s rights and/or demeaning people but you’re stil just a bigot.

      Reply
  7. phil

    Thanks Tony, this has been something that been distressing me for ages, I avoid internet spaces like thejournal for that reason, but lately Ive been thinking that by doing so Im part of the problem…

    There is one perfect example ibrahim halawa , some of the things people say about him, founded or unfounded, over on the journal are just astonishing, and I cant understand why thejournal allow it. I know nothing about the man apart from the fact that he is being held without trial , what some might call indefinite internment. Thats all I needed to know. I thought we had some experience with that sort of thing in the north of this country .

    Reply

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