This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

That United Airlines Passenger: The Saga Continues

United Boeing 767-300 at Chicago O'Haire

Oh, perfect.  First, a sixty-nine year-old man was told he was being booted off the flight he paid for, because reasons.  Then he was dragged away and battered by those valiant defenders of corporate profit, Chicago PD, who managed to re-accommodate his face into an armrest with enough force to draw blood.  That was yesterday.


Now comes the character assassination.

Louisville Courrier-Journal, in an article that has since been extensively revised (even the title has been changed)sounded the clarion by dregding up the doctor’s 2004 conviction for fraudulent prescriptions (a non-violent offense for which he served no time), and the temporary loss of his medical license for that, plus for carrying on an affair with a patient, who was also an employee.  I am not going to downplay any of this.  I don’t have to.  The goons who roughed up a defenseless sixty-nine year-old man couldn’t possibly have known any of this.  And even if they did, what in the name of Odin does any of it have to do with Sunday’s incident?  The doctor wasn’t roughed up because he was dealing drugs, he wasn’t roughed up because he was sexually exploiting anyone, he was roughed up because he didn’t feel like bearing the cost of United’s speculative booking policies.  He may not have had the legal right against being bumped, because consumer protection in this country is in the toilet, but his “belligerence” is understandable, and the way he was treated was out of all proportion to the conflict.  But no matter (comments assure us; never read the Disqus comments), the airplane crew and the police officers are all  #TrainedProfessionals, and they could just see, in his eyes, that something wasn’t right about this guy, because as I wrote yesterday, this is America now:  if a Trained Professional doesn’t like your face, all bets are off.


(Parenthetical note:  The doctor’s license has been restored, with limitations.  One of those limitations is having to work under the supervision of another physician.  Which goes a long way to explain why Dr. Dao started freaking out at the prospect of not being able to make his Monday appointments.)


And, for good measure, the original version of Courrier-Journal’s piece included a photo of the doctor’s house, because that’s totally relevant and newsworthy.  I’m sure the serious journalists at that most excellent periodical will get right on providing their eager readership with the names and past histories of the cops involved in this incident, along with photos of where they live.


Courrier-Journal’s editor defended this travesty by pointing to Dr. Dao’s “convictions” (it was actually a single conviction on multiple counts, but who cares about such details?) in a “high-profile case”.  Say what?  A handful of bogus oxy prescriptions is “high-profile” now?  In Kentucky?  PLEASE.  And again, what the every-loving fuck does this “high-profile” prescription drug shit have to do with this other shit that went down on Sunday in Chicago?


But whatever: even if you think being treated like trash for the rest of one’s life is simply the price one pays for committing a crime — even if the garbage treatment comes at the hands of people who don’t know about it — take a look at some of the other things that the best journalists of our age have dug up  as evidence that Dr. Dao was No Angel and therefore Deserved It.


The New York Post describes Dao’s past as “sordid”, like he’s the modern Pablo Escobar.  TMZ focuses on the scandalous fact that Dao won a large sum of money in a poker tournament.  Which is legal, mind you (and unlike some other “legal” activities — cough, cough — doesn’t involve physical assault).  Another bastion of investigative journalism reports juicy details apparently stemming from the doctor’s childhood trauma in war-torn Vietnam — because having mental problems going back to one’s childhood is also good retroactive probable cause for cops to get punchy, and then we wonder why people with mental problems are reluctant to seek help.


So, to summarize:


Dr. Dao had a criminal conviction 13 years ago, so he deserved to get battered for something totally unrelated.


Dr. Dao is a professional gambler, so he deserved to get battered for something totally unrelated.


Dr. Dao has a house, so he deserved to get battered for something totally unrelated.


Dr. Dao had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient/employee (still not as bad as this guy, if you ask  me), so he deserved to get battered for something totally unrelated.


Dr. Dao’s patients complained about him, he’s a shitty doctor, apparently, so he deserved to get battered for something totally unrelated.


Dr. Dao was “disruptive” (of United’s pure and virtuous scheme to oversell its tickets) and “belligerent” (after United very politely and non-belligerently ordered Dr. Dao to get the fuck out of his paid-for, non-refundable seat), so he deserved to get battered.


As I wrote yesterday, this is now America: you are only human and maybe have some arguable rights if you are a paragon of virtue, and have a likeable face, and watch your tone, and don’t respond belligerently when you are being fucked over, and allow a Great American Business to fuck you over without disrupting the process, and, you never ever ever ever contradict a cop.  Fall short of that standard, and you deserve whatever cruelty, brutality and unfairness that may befall you in the future, regardless of whether it has anything to do with your past transgressions.  (Unless you are a muffin-faced Republican dude; there is literally nothing those guys can do that could ever tarnish their reputations as moral, family values, god-fearing Good Men.  Gross asshole Bill O’Reilly reacted to the video by cackling like a maniac.)  After all, our Trained Professionals can see if you are No Good a mile away.  And if they fuck you up (because they can just see you are No Good, being Trained Professionals) smart people in the journalisming business will follow it up by dragging you through the mud.


All that said, I want to end on a positive note, because there are still enough decent people in this country that United has finally caved to the pressure and apologized to Dr. Dao.  (No word on whether United intends to thank Sean Spicer for that whole Holocaust centers thing.)  My heartfelt thanks and appreciation — no irony, no sarcasm — to all who contributed to the well-deserved backlash against the airline and the cops.

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6 thoughts on “That United Airlines Passenger: The Saga Continues

  1. Pingback: Our New Normal | This Ruthless World

  2. Been lurking at this blog for a while and I really enjoy your writing, but this is my first time commenting here: I’ve been wondering, how likely do you think it is that Dr. Dao would be able to sue United? Like you said, even if United could “legally” kick him out the security still roughed him up way more than necessary. Could he take legal action against the airlines on grounds of excessive force? I really hope some justice is done for all the crap he was put through.

    • The Consumerist blog had a post on that yesterday. Apparently buying a ticket comes with a string of conditions, including lots of vague grounds for kicking someone off a flight.

    • Hi, gunlord500, thanks for reading! As you probably have heard, Dr. Dao has already hired lawyers, and while he has a case, it’s not without its problems. In fact, it’s a better case against the Chicago PD than United. In terms of excessive force, I think United can show that it doesn’t control the way the cops do their jobs, and unless a United witness admits in a deposition that PD officers routinely rough up passengers at the airline’s behest — which is, of course, extremely unlikely — they can’t really be held liable for what the cops did.

      @frasersherman: Oh yes, you are paying for a “revocable license”! Hotels have the same right to boot people after taking their money, and their liability in such situations is limited to the value of the service sold, but doesn’t extend to such things as loss of business, etc.

  3. Not to mention they confuse two different doctors, David Thanh Duc Dao the victim and David Anh Duy Dao the other doctor with questionable background.

    • I saw the thing about the two doctors Dao in Kentucky, and decided to get to the bottom of this myself, since the issue can be cleared up fairly easily (for people who regularly fact-check stuff) by going through Kentucky Medical Board and American specialist board lists. My conclusion: David Anh Duy Dao, the doctor with the questionable background, IS the “right” Dr. Dao. The other Dr. Dao is his wife. (Somehow the Internet combined “Dr. Thanh Dao” and “Mrs. David Dao” into one.) Not that it makes one bit of difference, anyway. People with questionable backgrounds shouldn’t be treated the way Dr. Dao was treated, either.

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