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All That and a Bag of Mail: United Airlines Blame Rankings

It's time for Outkick to assess blame in the United Airlines passenger debacle.

The Internet exists to blame people for things that go wrong. Seriously, all of social media is just one big blame factory. An incident happens and then people argue online over who is to blame. Typically these blame rankings become horribly slanted in one direction or another. Police are murderers! Donald Trump is Hitler! Black Lives Matter! Hillary Clinton killed those men in Benghazi!

Eventually all the screaming and blame shifting can leave reasonable people like me, and most of you who read Outkick, totally adrift in a sea of idiocy.

Such has been the case with the United Airlines passenger "reaccomodation" this week. 

Outkick has been inundated with questions about this story all week long so I decided to turn the entire mailbag into one long answer to your many questions. In so doing, I also decided to do a power ranking of blame for this story.

But first let's put out the basic, agreed upon facts from this case: A United Airlines flight was going from Chicago to Louisville. After boarding the passengers four United employees arrived needing transport to Louisville so they could be the flight crew for another flight leaving from Louisville. This required four people on the plane to give up their seats. Three of these people exited the plane without creating a disturbance, the fourth, a doctor from Kentucky, refused to leave the plane, arguing that he needed to see his patients the next day. (There are reports that this doctor had previously agreed to accept an $800 travel voucher and then changed his mind, which is how he was selected.) When police are called because this man will not leave the plane, he still refuses to leave, upon which time he is dragged off the plane in a video that has since gone viral.

That's the story. 

Here is the video, including the officers politely requesting that the passenger leave the airplane. Watch that here:

With that in mind, here we go with the power rankings for blame.

1. The Asian doctor is the most to blame in this story and there's a huge gap between him and number two on my list.

Let me explain why.

ALL THIS DOCTOR HAD TO DO WAS WALK OFF THE PLANE AND THIS STORY NEVER HAPPENS.

None of it.

Not the debates about overbooking, not his injuries, not the absurdly delusional comparisons of him to Rosa Parks, there is no story at all if the doctor just does what the United employees tell him to do or, lacking that, IF HE JUST LISTENS TO THE POLICE WHEN THEY TELL HIM TO LEAVE THE PLANE.

As you can see from the above video, here's the audio before he was removed:

First he threatens to "make a lawsuit" against the airline. 

"No I am not going, I am not going!" says the doctor.

The officer responds: "Well, we'll have to drag you."

"Well, you can drag me. I won't go. I'm not going," says the doctor.

"They're trying to use force," he tells the person on the other end of the call.

The 69-year-old doctor then says he flew from Los Angeles and would "rather go to jail" than be forced to depart the plane.

"You'd rather go to jail than just get off?" questions the officer.

After this conversation the law enforcement officers remove him from the flight. 

That's why I find this doctor to be the true villain in this story. He doesn't own his seat, he doesn't have a legal right to dispute his eviction, airlines have the right to kick people off their planes and refund their money when they decide to do so at their discretion. You agree to that when you buy the ticket. If you don't want to give up that right you can drive or walk instead. Here is what you agree to when you purchase a ticket to fly on an airline in the United States. Of course, most people don't actually read the fine print on their tickets. But your ignorance of the contract you've agreed to is no defense. 

Once this guy refused to exit the plane he left the law enforcement officers no other options, they had to drag him off. In fact, he actually said to them, "Well, you can drag me. I won't go. I'm not going." 

Think about what an insane decision this was. 

It's almost impossible to embarrass me, but I would be mortified if I'd behaved in a way that left law enforcement no options but to drag me off an airplane. If this were me in a viral video, I think there's a decent chance I'd lose my radio show. (Outkick would fire me too except I own the company so they can't fire me.) This doctor's position, when you view more than a 15 second video and consider his actions in a larger context, were indefensible. 

It's almost like this doctor is the kind of dude who would trade pills in exchange for sex. Wait, he did that? Yep. And he lost his medical license for ten years as a result of this and also served five years of probation.

Put yourself in his situation, if you'd been on probation for five years and lost your medical license for ten years would you ever, and I mean ever, not listen to police again? Leaving aside the question of how in the world the state of Kentucky agreed to license this doctor again, wouldn't you not want to create any situation whatsoever that could create legal peril for you? 

I mean, hell, your wife already stayed with your ass despite the fact that you were trading pills for gay sex, do you really want to give her another reason to finally leave you? (Maybe he does and that was his master plan. If so, well done.) Further, you have kids and their dad got busted in a pills for gay sex story, do you really want to relive that humiliation?

And stop with all you virtue signalers going on social media saying, "WHY DOES HIS PAST MATTER?!"

Two reasons:

1. When you say that you have to stay on the flight because you're a doctor and have patients to see the next morning, you make your profession relevant to the story. 

The moment this dude tried to play the, "I'm a doctor," card to avoid getting kicked off the plane he was essentially saying that his profession mattered more than other people on that plane. That's why only dickheads do it.

The doctor made his professional life relevant by using it as a defense to why he shouldn't have to leave the airplane.

(By the way, who the fuck is going to see a doctor with a felony conviction for dishonesty? Are there no other doctors in Kentucky to go see?)  

Put it this way, if this doctor were, say, the doctor who had operated on Ronald Reagan and saved his life after the assassination attempt, don't you think we would hear about that? Your past as a doctor, good or bad, is totally relevant to this story.  

2. HELLO, HE'S A FELON!

It's almost like people who have made bad decisions and been convicted of felonies in the past are more likely to have issues with authorities than people who haven't been convicted of felonies.

Which is exactly what happened here.

Newsflash, it's pretty damn hard to get arrested. 

Do you know how close I've come to being arrested in my life? Zero. I'm sure the same is true for most of you as well. Moreover, the number of you who have been arrested after the age of thirty is even tinier.

That's why I'm so sick of people saying things like, "His past criminal history doesn't matter here."

I disagree completely. If you have a past criminal history it's a sign that you've made bad decisions in the past. I'm much less likely to believe that you're 100% innocent if you've previously been found to be 100% guilty.

If I was head of United Airlines I would not pay him one red cent in settlement, I'd let this go to trial to send the message that we aren't going to encourage people to be assholes to our flight attendants and law enforcement officers by refusing to get off planes.

If that United crew hadn't made it to Louisville there would have been hundreds of additional customers who missed their flights. Yes, it sucks to get bumped, but it's happening because that inconviences the fewest number of travelers. If you doubt me, you need to read this article from a pilot's wife which is fantastic.

2. Idiots on social media. 

Everyone who sees a 15 second video decides they are an expert on a situation and most people never ask a single question, they assume the absolute worst about the "villain" -- here the airline -- and the absolute best about the "hero" -- here the doctor. 

My first thought when I saw this video wasn't this guy's a hero it was this, "What in the world happened that three police officers were on this plane?"

I have traveled my entire life and never seen three police officers board a plane. You know that something has gone awry when three members of law enforcement board a plane to deal with a situation. So unlike the vast majority of people on social media who tried to turn this dude into the Asian Rosa Parks, I assumed there was a larger context to the video outside of the 15 seconds that I saw and that the video didn't reflect the entire interaction between the passenger and law enforcement.

Now I wasn't perfect, in the immediate aftermath of the video I initially blamed United on my Periscope, but I then dove into the details of the story and stopped believing the mob here.

I'd encourage all of you to do the same when the next viral video emerges. 

As you can see from a later video that was released and provides greater context police tried to get this doctor to walk off on his own and he refused. In fact, he told them they were going to have to drag him off the plane!

This doctor is the villain of the entire story and he's been covered as if he's the hero.  

Given the way people online have reacted -- and the media has covered this story -- I believe we've actually incentivized idiots to refuse to listen to flight attendants and the police. Hell, United has already had to apologize and had to say they won't allow police to remove passengers from their flights any longer. So you know what happens the next time a situation like this arises? We'll have hours and hours of delay because the passenger will know that no one is going to remove him or her. And they'll be hoping that they get dragged off the plane so they can sue.

How does that help anyone? 

Given how dangerous plane flights can be -- hello, 9/11 -- we need to be encouraging passengers to listen to flight attendants and police. Instead with the reaction on social media and the way this story has been covered, we've encouraged the exact opposite behavior. 

3. Law enforcement.  

If they get him off the plane without injury, the video never goes viral and none of us ever hear about it. 

This dude was not a physical threat to law enforcement officers. 

I blame the doctor for his injuries -- which is why he's number one on the blame list and way above law enforcement -- but was it not possible to get him off the plane without the injuries he sustained? I think it probably was.

Again, he's to blame for his injuries and that's why he's number one, but the law enforcement officers did injure him, which made this story go viral, so they're number three on the blame list.  

4. United Airlines

If United hadn't needed to get its employees to Louisville four passengers wouldn't have had to be removed from the flight. So they are number three here. 

Ideally the airline wouldn't have allowed all the passengers to board the plane before taking them back off the flight. If you need to bump someone from a flight then ideally you need to do it before they get on the plane. Once passengers are on the plane they are more likely to be assholes like this doctor was. So keep the passengers that you think you might have to bump off the plane until the last possible minute before takeoff.

And for all of you who will complain about overbooking, I actually don't have an issue with overbooking because I think it generally works to the consumer's benefit. That's because 5% of people who book flights don't show up for them. So overbooking allows you to use every seat on the plane and charge lower prices.

And if you end up with too many people for the seats and have to bump someone off a flight then they get compensated well, often via voluntary decision on their part.  

I've booked too many flights on the day the flight takes off -- frequently on full planes -- for me to complain about this. I've also taken the airline's offer to stay behind before as well and accept their compensation. If your travel is flexible, which mine used to be before I had 18 jobs, three kids and a wife, it's a great way to add some free flights. 

While the airline has received almost all the blame, it's the least blameworthy of all the actors here.