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On Vick (and Sorkin)

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I’m glad Obama did this. I think that the following points should be obvious, although there seems to be substantial disagreement about them:

  • Convicted persons who have paid their debt to society have the right to earn a living.  You don’t have to root for Vick, of course, but I find the idea that the NFL should have suspended him for life or something is bizarre.
  • In the abstract, there is a very good argument that Vick deserved the severe punishment he received, perhaps more severe.   Perhaps as severely as the countless DUI cases playing the NFL who were slapped on the wrist and allowed to play with a minimum of controversy actually deserved.      But given the norms of actually existing American society, in which animals are systematically tortured and the fruits of this torture are widely and legally distributed and consumed, I find it pretty hard to justify giving Vick 2 years in federal prison.

While I’m on the subject, Anna North is 100% right about this silly Aaron Sorkin piece.   Let’s play “spot the glaring logical flaw” with respect to Sorkin’s argument that his anti-animal actions are so much more moral and ethical than Palin’s anti-animal actions:

I eat meat, chicken and fish, have shoes and furniture made of leather, and PETA is not ever going to put me on the cover of their brochure and for these reasons Palin thinks it’s hypocritical of me to find what she did heart-stoppingly disgusting.

[…]

I’m able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don’t watch snuff films and you make them. You weren’t killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I’ve tried and tried and for the life of me, I can’t make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing.

Granted, there’s a point there about Vick, although I derive a different lesson from it. But Sorkin’s whole argument collapses on the “killing for food/shelter/fashion” and “killing for fun” distinction. At least for someone of Sorkin’s location and income bracket, eating, wearing and/or sitting on animals is something you do…for pleasure. He doesn’t need to consume animal products, and the products he consumes are almost certainly derived from inhumane treatment. The fact that he prefers someone else to do the dirty work if anything makes him ethically worse than Palin, not superior — the bad faith on Sorkin’s part is worse. To be clear, as I say in the link above, my practices are no better than Sorkin’s — which is precisely why you’ll never in a million years see me getting up on my high horse about someone hunting, even if they’re filming it for a crappy reality show.

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