Baby lies can be good!

We are all taught (at least most of us are) that honesty is a virtue, and that we should not lie to people. At least, that's the ideal.

A piece by Amy Alkon that Dr. Helen linked raises the question of whether there is any duty of honesty towards assholes. Alkon lives near what used to be a regular neighborhood "drunk bar" (I call them "dive bars" and they have a certain charm) which was turned into a popular "hipster" bar, with predictablly negative quality of life consequences. Alkon discovered that asking drunken hipsters to be quiet and courteous did not work, but that they did respond when she falsely told them that their noise was disturbing the baby:

there's a good chance some team of assholes will be out in front of my house bellowing at 2 a.m. Like last night. Twice. Once at 1 a.m., and then another crew at 2 a.m.

I used to point out the proximity of the houses -- like, four feet away from where their car is parked, not behind some thick thicket of trees, and note that it's 2 a.m. and people (like me) were sleeping, and/or would like to be. This gets them combative. Even though I like to call an asshole an asshole, it appears to be an extremely counterproductive technique.

My new move is to come out and say, "Excuse me, my baby's sleeping..." Shuts the assholes right up and gets them to move, to boot. And they even apologize. Nicely. So...if you're 45 and would like to sleep, "Fuck you!"...but if you've extruded a child, "We're so sorry, Ma'am"?

What do you make of this?

Well, I happen to live near a couple of very rowdy houses which make a lot of noise at night. There's no baby here, but as Coco is my "fur child," I suppose it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to refer to her as my baby. I never thought of it before.

I like the idea of a right to lie to obnoxious drunks and other assholes, and I agree with what commenter "brian" "Toubrouk" said:

As far as I am concerned, when someone start acting like an asshole, he forfeit all the human decency I could give him. This includes all the lies I can safely tell them.
I'm tempted to ask whether this justifiable lessening of moral standards would apply to assholes who work for the government, but I'm so sick of politics I'll just leave them out of it. (Besides, in many cases it's illegal to lie to government officials, and I don't think it would be a valid legal defense to say that they were acting like assholes.)

Anyway, there's no right to bother people in their homes in residential neighborhoods. As Amy Alkon put it in a comment,

Your right to shout outside my house at 2 a.m. ends where my ears begin.
I'm enough of a privacy lover that don't even like people knocking on my door and asking for donations. I often lie to them and say I'm busy even when I'm not. I once told a Jehovah's witness I was a Pagan, although a Catholic friend later told me that if you tell them you're Catholic, they'll never return.

OTOH, I don't think people who live in commercial areas have the same right to peace and quiet as people in a residential area. As to areas zoned for multiple residences, it gets trickier. Apartment buildings are inherently noisier than single family residences, and rental dwellings tend to be noisier than homeowner occupied dwellings. Is the rule of thumb mathematical -- that the more people there are, the less entitlement there is to peace and quiet? Or is it based on fairness? There is nothing "fair" about being kept awake by noise, but if I move into an apartment which faces the parking lot of a 24 hour convenience store, I don't think that would give me the right to have the place shut down so I can sleep.

It would, however, give me the right to tell the parking lot noisemakers that they're disturbing my baby.

Why, here she is!


Coco hates obnoxious drunks (whether in convenience store parking lots or elsewhere), so I really wouldn't be lying.

MORE: Commenter brian points that I missatributed a comment from "Toubrouk" to him, as the names go below the comments.

brian's comments are well worth reading -- especially what he says to an annoying troll who calls himself a libertarian and then insults libertarians.

posted by Eric on 07.15.09 at 01:01 PM


Heh...I pulled the "pagan" line out on a JW one time. Wiccan, actually, since the girl I was dating at the time said it was popular.

He even got a "blessed be" and everything.

apotheosis   ·  July 15, 2009 1:09 PM

In my case, it's only a half lie, because I consider myself a Pagan-Christian. (Saying that would only tend to prolong an attempt to evangelize me, though....)

Eric Scheie   ·  July 15, 2009 1:48 PM

Actually, a lot of people are more sympathetic to pets than children, so just tell them that they are agitating your dog and she's getting sick from all the noise.

Phelps   ·  July 15, 2009 2:45 PM

I've found it much simpler to call the cops and mention that there's a loud group of assholes out front that appear to be discussing breaking into surrounding cars / houses.

SDN   ·  July 15, 2009 3:15 PM

Eric - that wasn't mine. It was "Toubrouk". Names go under comments over there.


brian   ·  July 15, 2009 5:12 PM

"""I once told a Jehovah's witness I was a Pagan, although a Catholic friend later told me that if you tell them you're Catholic, they'll never return."""

That might be at least partially my grandmothers fault (or maybe collectively grandmothers like mine). She used to invite the JWs in for HOURS long discussions of theology and the bible. She was cordial, polite, and implacable. Once she'd made up her mind it would take a letter from the Pope, or a phone call from ah Arch Bishop to change her mind.

A mere Bishop wouldn't stand a chance.

It would really blow the JWs numbers for the day, assuming they had a quota.

Billy Oblivion   ·  July 15, 2009 6:32 PM

Thank you, good sir!

brian   ·  July 15, 2009 6:51 PM

My dad (who is also Catholic) would start telling the JW's about how Jehova's Witnesses stood up to the Nazis during WW2. They would be so flattered and intrigued that they forgot to proselytize. (My mom on the other hand would engage them in long theological discussions.)

Moro   ·  July 15, 2009 7:17 PM

I actually came to like the Jehovah's Witness couple that visited me regularly last year. They were pregnant and brought the newborn by to see me and let me hold her.

They knew they weren't making any progress with me, but they were genuinely nice people and we became friends of a sort.

Maybe I'll see them again next spring as even Jehovah's Witnesses do not witness in this heat.

Donna B.   ·  July 16, 2009 12:07 AM

I thought the discussion was a bit silly. The person she and her neighbors should be confronting is the bar's owner. His unwillingness to police his customers imposes costs on her, so she should impose costs on him rather than waste her time in endless unwinnable arguments with drunks. Find the point of greatest leverage and apply a lever.

Jonathan   ·  July 16, 2009 6:07 AM

And no, there's no duty of honesty to jerks. You have no more obligation to these people than you do to respond politely when a guy who looks like mugger asks you the time.

Jonathan   ·  July 16, 2009 6:14 AM

Why don't you just send that evil looking dog down there to tell them to shut up?

harleycowboy   ·  July 16, 2009 12:08 PM

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