Comment Rescue: The Right Answer?



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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63 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Invalid question. The only place that question would be asked is on an on-line debate about libertarianism and liberalism. Especially the kind of debate that is more about heat than light.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I figured it’d be the restaurant owner’s responsibility to kick the guy out of his establishment.

    And if he doesn’t, well the market will correct for it, right?

    To wit: I’d go and ask the restaurant owner to get this guy out of my sight. If he doesn’t, I’d just up and leave, leaving enough to cover whatever I ordered on the table but then making sure none of my acquaintances ever showed in that place again.Report

  3. Avatar Simon K says:

    You missed chilly politeness. That’s where I’d go.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I would rather like to see what Ryan thinks is the right answer there.Report

  5. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Realize that any answer other than, “Oh, well, free country” on the part of the guy whose wife was just harped on is probably going to lead to violence.

    Also, I don’t know about the hypothetical guy’s wife…but any woman I’ve dated would probably commit violence on me if I responded with “Oh well, free country.”Report

    • Avatar Katherine in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Maybe no response to the guy, and “Don’t mind him, he’s just a dick” to the date would be a better way of phrasing option 2.

      My gut says I’d love to respond to something like that by punching the guy, but given that I know nothing about fighting and am not typically inclined to violence, I’d be unlikely to actually use violence in the situation, and if I did it would likely end in my breaking my hand on his face or embarrassing myself. More likely I’d satisfy myself with a heartfelt “Go to hell”.

      How I’d react to a date fighting someone who made that comment is another idea; I’m torn between “ooh, gallant” and “he’s an asshole, just ignore him and sit back down”.Report

  6. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    I remember years back some leftish pals arguing it was OK top disturb Dick Cheney’s dinner and call him a war criminal. [I thought not.]

    I liked Nob’s answer above, BTW, but this stuff happens often enough in public spaces where there’s no business owner to saddle with the responsibility of keeping order that I don’t think it covers the depth of the problem of civility.Report

    • Avatar Artor in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      This scenario isn’t the equivalent of harassing Cheney. The scene here involves a regressive, bigoted attitude that’s shocking when expressed in public, against a private individual. The Cheney confrontation involves factually correct statements made against a public figure who has proudly admitted to war crimes. As a citizen of the US, I feel it would be my civic duty to call out a criminal in public. Being a misogynist asshole in public, not so much.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’ve often thought about this in the context of my students, who have not yet learned all of what is considered socially acceptable. On the one hand, the point seems obvious that slugging each other out is “wrong”. “Might makes right” is a failed mindset.

    But why do we presume that words is a better approach? Isn’t that just another type of “might makes right”, albeit mental might instead of physical might?Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

      You say that like it’s a bad thing…Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller says:

        “Once again, words fail Norman Mailer.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Well, I think the burden is on the folks espousing that approach to justify it as superior.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

          I’d think the justification is that societies where the guiding principle is “be rewarded for following social rules, which you discern through social and verbal intelligence” are generally better places to live than “be rewarded for defending yourself physically whenever you feel your honor is threatened”. There tend to be lower murder rates (cf Steven Pinker), and in general it’s a good thing to be able to walk around without worrying about being punched in the face by someone stronger than you [cue Jaybird on the government in 5..4..3 ;)].Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller says:

            Dude! Punching people in the face is the job of the government!Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:

            Fair enough. What I’m really getting at is that he who is smarter is right is no better than he who os stronger is right. Often times, right is right, regardless of the individuals in question. Too often I think we defer to how well a position is defended as opposed to the inherent rightness of the position itself.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

              What I’m really getting at is that he who is smarter is right is no better than he who os stronger is right.

              The latter, though not true in all cases, is a much better heuristic.Report

            • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

              “Too often I think we defer to how well a position is defended as opposed to the inherent rightness of the position itself.”

              I can’t say I’ve thought about it in quite this way before, but I really like this point. One of course would hope that the more inherently right position would be better defended, or more defensible, but anyone who has had to deal with the guy (or gal) who prides him(her)self on “being able to argue any point, whether I agree with it or not” and who then proceeds to do just that, might draw that hope into question.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Kazzy says:

      Isn’t our entire society structured to reward mental might over physical might? And didn’t people like us make it so?Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Kazzy says:

      Yet, the existence of such a society as ours in the world depends in no small part on physical might.Report

  8. Avatar Kris says:

    How about saying “Go away Rick Santorum!”Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    “If you’d ever tried one of her dinners, you’d know why we’re eating out.”Report

  10. Avatar Kris says:

    It depends on the context. If it’s a little old lady who kindly offers this as a friendly suggestion, you politely say “Okay, maam.”

    If it is a drunken lout, you tell him to leave you alone or you’ll call the cops, regardless of the situation.

    If the person gets to close and too physically aggressive, you can say that he’s threatening you and that you will defend yourself if necessary, at which point it may become acceptable to do so.

    Is this a serious question, by the way? Pretty sophomoric.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kris says:

      It was designed to point out that Jay’s position on social relationships, which is that we can either totally ignore everything people do or have the government shoot their dogs, utterly fails to capture any of the moral duties we have.Report

  11. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Huh? Isn’t the answer pretty obvious? You ignore them, go home, and then write a blog post about how screwed up this guy at the restaurant you were just at was.Report

  12. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    Correct answer: “You know, you’re right! Thanks for the advice. You think it’d be OK if we finished our meal before going home to at least to make some babies?”

    Then do whatever the person says, cuz obviously he or she knows what’s what.Report

  13. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    It wouldn’t even occur to me to expect my husband to respond for me if the guy said it to me. Not because he wouldn’t (he can have a mouth), but because I just would answer myself. Probably something along the lines of “Are you serious? Did you just say that?” and see where things head from there.Report

  14. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I’d ask him why he wasn’t eating his own wife’s cooking instead of pestering people at restaurants, hazarding a guess that his own wife’s cooking was so bad it would explain his presence in that establishment.Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “That is an interesting perspective. Can you explain why you think that?”

    Let the fool expose his own foolishness.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    “We got bored with eating dinner and making babies at home all the time. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re about done with dinner.”Report

  17. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    What’s wrong with, “We were going to, but then we got worried we might have some that turned out like you. So we decided to go out instead. You should really try the fish, by the way; it’s to die for.”

    Silly questions deserve silly answers.

    (This assumes, btw, that in this scenario you have to respond to the person that said this. Otherwise calling the waiter and telling the waiter this man is bothering you is probably best. I have two teenage sons that come with a ton of responsibilities plus windshield time driving to soccer, basketball and lacrosse games & practices, and now I’m out to dinner with my wife. Why the hell do I have to be bothered with dealing with this guy?)Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      An additional note about your question, does saying its’s a free country make you a beta male: No.

      I’ve known me many alphas over the years, and there ain’t an alpha in the bunch that asks the guy you described to step outside. Another alpha, that’s maybe hitting on your wife? Sure. That walks up with a trophy wife and implies his wife is better than yours? Absolutely. But the guy in your scenario ain’t an alpha, and doesn’t merit much of a response. It would be undignified for a true alpha to spend much bandwidth dealing with this guy.

      The guy that stands up and swings at the clown you and Ryan describe is NOT an alpha. He’s a Beta trying to look like one.Report

  18. Avatar Will H. says:

    Myself, I would probably say, “We did that last night.”

    See Spinoza’s definition of “finite of its own kind.”Report

  19. Avatar Chad says:

    Charlie Murphy has all the answers

  20. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I would ask the “gentleman” where his wife is. If he has one, speak to her to see if she tolerates this sort of behavior or is in dire need of rescuing. If he does not have a wife, I might suggest that he examine why that is.Report

  21. Avatar Gorgias says:

    I don’t see how this necessarily leads to more violence if you engage with the asshole. Stand your ground in a verbal confrontation, use your inside voice, get in a few barbed jabs at his ignorance. If that drives him to violence, don’t stoop to his level, wait for the rest of the restaurant to pull him off of you, and settle your dispute like a civilized person- in court.Report

  22. Interestingly – and rather tragically – I’ve actually witnessed a situation much like the one described. In Japan, after my first company went bankrupt, we decided to visit a local tavern and commiserate. One of my co-workers got spectacularly drunk and began insulting another co-worker quite loudly. There were a lot of ins, outs, whathaveyous surrounding the collapse of the company, and this sort of drama had become rather commonplace throughout the week or so when we all had no idea what was going on. Some people had called for strike, some people had called for loyalty to the company, etc. It was an ugly situation that just kept getting uglier.

    The torrent of insults was tolerated for a time, but eventually the insulted co-worker just couldn’t take it any longer and began returning the boor’s barbs, while the rest of us tried our best to diffuse the situation, joined in, or just looked on in shock (it’s interesting in retrospective, in the context of this thread, to remember how various people reacted actually).

    Anyways, a few minutes into fully-erupted altercation, everyone else in the establishment had their attention on us, and none of them knew enough details of the situation to ascertain anything but “Americans being disrespectful assholes again.” The other patrons began slowly leaving.

    The following day, a few other co-workers and I took it upon ourselves to apologize to the tavern-owner for the loss of business he would inevitably experience for something that was initially in the control of the boorish party, and then in the control of the party being insulted, and then out-of-control.

    Patience is a virtue precisely because conflict tends to create negative externalities, and innocent parties get hurt. In any altercation, the most important thing is to control the situation. This is something the Japanese understand better than we do.

    As much as it would displease me to see my wife so insulted in public, she’s a big girl. I’m sure there will be little to no lasting damage if I allow this man to continue his existence without resorting to glove slap and dueling pistols. I would generally refrain from challenging someone who is obviously suffering from some sort of mental problem to a physical altercation inside a private establishment, if I thought it was in the best interest of of the safety of someone I cared for.Report

  23. Avatar stuhlmann says:

    There are two ways to answer. The first would be the British way – just say “Fuck off!”, and continue on with your meal.

    The 2nd might be called the Texas way. Politely tell the guy that the woman is your wife, not his, and that he should mind his own business. This could be combined with an implied or explicitly stated offer to take the discussion outside, away from the women-folk and breakable china.

    I prefer the British way. It is briefer and it says the same thing.Report

    • Avatar damon in reply to stuhlmann says:

      But wouldn’t the Texas way also include “Sir, I say Sir. Shall we duel” (Paraphrasing The Simpson)? Or least, a brandishment of your Concealed Carry Weapon and a knowing look?Report

  24. Re “free country” implying beta male: no, or if it does imply beta male, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Carol Tavris said in a book she wrote about anger (I paraphrase): it does not good to have clear arteries [presumably from releasing your anger] if the person you express your anger toward shoots you.”

    My ideal answer, not that I’d necessarily be brave enough to offer it: “You are out of line. It’s up to you if you want to apologize, but please stop bothering us.”Report

  25. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    I think the variety of responses, serious and otherwise, suggested by the commenters here rather proves the point I was trying to make to Jay at the time.Report

  26. Avatar karl says:

    “There’s nothing in the fridge and dingos keep eating our babies.”Report