Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Blame Game

Schramm had two offerings yesterday which are more related than they first appear. The first was on Jesse Jackson’s defense of a Chicago nightclub where 21 people died, and the second concerned the McDonald’s lawsuits. Both are evidence of individuals attempting to place the blame on others for their own bad actions.

In the case of the nightclub, a judge had ordered the second story of the club closed in July because of safety concerns, but the club continued to operate it. To make matters worse, when a fight broke out, the owners allegedly chained the upstairs exits before employing pepper stray to break up the disturbance--a move which channeled the fleeing crowd to a staircase where the 21 victims were trampled to death. And yet Mr. Jackson, who allegedly is friends with one of the owners, has tried to place the blame on the police for not more vigorously enforcing the code. This makes about as much sense as the family of a junkee suing the police for not better combating the drug trade. The bottom line is that the club owners had a court order telling them not to do something, and they did it anyway. The police aren’t to blame for not coming down on a daily basis to enforce the order. Even if there was not an order, chaining emergency exit doors is so clearly a violation of safety codes that in a famous Boston case, a club owner who had chained his doors prior to a an emergency was held liable not just for monetary damages, but for criminal manslaughter. And yet Jackson would look past this and place the blame on the police (who I’m sure he would have blamed for acting in a racist or capricious manner if they had closed the place down before this incident as he now suggests).

Similarly, the McDonalds case is the height of blame shifting. As a frequent McDonald’s diner, I can tell you what everyone else who eats there can: it is not exactly low-cal cuisine. That said, I choose to eat there, and to supersize what I order. To use the legal terminology, I "assume the risk," because it is common knowledge that their food contains large amounts of delicious fat. McDonald’s doesn’t need to tell me about the risk either--you don’t need to be a dietician to understand that burgers aren’t alfalfa sprouts. Yet if those who brought the lawsuit had their way, McDonald’s--and ultimately me as one of their supporting consumers--would have to pay because others are immoderate in their dining habits.

So Jackson and the fat-kids’ lawyers have something in common: both are representing the interests of people who are at fault, and both are seeking to shift the blame and the cost to someone else.

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