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Old 05-13-2020, 12:03 PM
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Does hypocrisy really matter? (inconsistency in one's own behavior)


It's often claimed by pro-choicers that many pro-lifers are hypocrites because they publicly oppose abortion yet secretly have abortions themselves (the phenomenon sometimes referred to as "The only good abortion is my abortion.") Yet, suppose that pro-lifers were actually strictly consistent. Suppose that pro-lifers utterly adhered to the same standards they set for others - that they never had abortions, every unwanted pregnancy by a pro-life woman was carried to term, etc.

In such a scenario, pro-choicers would still be every bit as adamant that abortions should remain legal and accessible for women who want them. They would still say, "My body, my choice" - they wouldn't say, "Well, since our opponents are consistent and they are not having abortions, then they have earned a right to control our reproductive choices." The fact that pro-lifers were not having abortions would not dissuade pro-choicers one bit.


Similarly, it's often claimed that conservatives who oppose homosexuality are secret closeted gays themselves (which may or may not be the case; I'm sure there are a few.) But even if every single anti-LGBT conservative were truly 100% heterosexual themselves, this wouldn't budge the pro-LGBT community an inch. They'd still insist that same-sex marriage remain legal, they'd still advocate for LGBT this, LGBT that - they would say that the strict consistency of conservatives makes no difference.

Perhaps Governor John Doe calls for all private gun ownership to be banned, while himself possessing a closet full of Uzis and Glocks, which leads to the 2nd-Amendment folks calling him a hypocrite - but even if Governor Doe himself owned no guns whatseover, the gun-owning folks wouldn't tone down their stance a bit - they would still insist that gun rights not be infringed upon.


My point isn't to hyper-focus on those examples (one could name many more,) but rather - isn't hypocrisy ultimately just a red herring? There is no conceivable situation whereby one is willing to concede ground on one's political turf if an opponent is consistent, but not if not.
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Old 05-13-2020, 12:56 PM
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In general, I agree with the sentiment of this post. In politics, when one side accuses the other of hypocrisy, they're not really demanding consistency or expecting them to change their ways. Most of the time, they're simply trying to score imaginary points that nobody's keeping track of anyway.

This has been going on as long as I can remember, but it's easier to do now because you can use the internet to research someone's past statements and actions. I'm a Democrat and I used to read a lot of lefty blogs and websites like Huffington Post, and that sort of thing always made me roll my eyes. "Bush said X three years ago, and now he's doing Y! HYPOCRISY!" Sure, it's hypocrisy, but so what? Did anyone really think that Bush was going to say, "Oops, you got me!" and reverse course on some policy? Of course not.

Sometimes, a charge of hypocrisy might have a genuine tactical intent. Case in point—Republicans are now calling the Democrats hypocrites for their reaction to Tara Reade's accusation against Joe Biden, and comparing this situation to the debate over the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination. They're hoping that the "hypocrisy" taunts will goad the Democrats into forcing Biden out of the race and replacing him with a weaker candidate. If that happens (and I don't think it will), will the GOP say, "Congratulations, Democrats! You stopped being hypocrites and did the right thing! Kudos!" No, they won't. They'll just start attacking whoever the new candidate is.

There's nothing noble or honorable about being a hypocrite, and if a friend or family member told me I was being hypocritical, I'd step back and do some serious self-examination. But cries of "Hypocrites!" in politics? Most of the time, pointless.
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Old 05-13-2020, 01:19 PM
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Being a hypocrite doesn't necessarily make someone wrong or right. It often makes someone an asshole, but that's different.

For example, Al Gore supposedly lives in a big, energy consuming house and flies on private jets. If true, that doesn't make him wrong in any way on his environmental positions. Hypocritical, yes. Maybe even an asshole. But not wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
Yet, suppose that pro-lifers were actually strictly consistent.
In this case, they would be completely consistent and not hypocritical, but still wrong. And very possibly assholes, because their personal behavior does not take into account the factors experienced by everyone else and likely ignores many aspects of the issue experienced by others. They would be wrong to expect the same behavior from others.

I personally reserve the hypocrisy-definitely-equals-asshole situation when a change of mind or policy is clearly opportunistic. That's very different from a heartfelt or thoughtfully considered change of one's position, and unfortunately politics often doesn't allow for such.

Last edited by Llama Llogophile; 05-13-2020 at 01:23 PM.
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Old 05-13-2020, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
My point isn't to hyper-focus on those examples (one could name many more,) but rather - isn't hypocrisy ultimately just a red herring? There is no conceivable situation whereby one is willing to concede ground on one's political turf if an opponent is consistent, but not if not.
I feel hypocrisy is a real issue. I'll offer two responses, one for liberals and one for conservatives.

The response for liberals:

Let's use your example of abortions. I agree pro-choice people would still want to keep abortions legal even if everyone in the pro-life movement was complying with the position they advocate.

But the reason it's legitimate to call out hypocrisy is because it's reasonable to assume some people wouldn't be part of the pro-life movement if they thought the pro-life laws they were advocating for would apply to them.

The response for conservatives:

Let's use your example of guns. I agree gun rights people would still want to keep guns legal even if everyone in the gun control movement was complying with the position they advocate.

But the reason it's legitimate to call out hypocrisy is because it's reasonable to assume some people wouldn't be part of the gun control movement if they thought the gun control laws they were advocating for would apply to them.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 05-13-2020 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 05-13-2020, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
My point isn't to hyper-focus on those examples (one could name many more,) but rather - isn't hypocrisy ultimately just a red herring? There is no conceivable situation whereby one is willing to concede ground on one's political turf if an opponent is consistent, but not if not.
My sense is the the purpose of crying "hypocrisy" is it tends to weaken the sincerity (and, thus, persuasiveness) of your political opponent's position.

It's relatively common, for example, to opine on what "really" motivates a particular viewpoint. I find most of those opinions are pretty stupid, but credible accusations of hypocrisy would seem to strengthen them.

If the speaker is a hypocrite, then it diminishes his personal persuasiveness (limiting the audience of people he might convince) and it allows the accusation that there are other motives (riling up people who care about those things). So, it seems like a effective political tactic to use against your opponents.
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Old 05-13-2020, 05:10 PM
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My sense is the the purpose of crying "hypocrisy" is it tends to weaken the sincerity (and, thus, persuasiveness) of your political opponent's position.

It's relatively common, for example, to opine on what "really" motivates a particular viewpoint. I find most of those opinions are pretty stupid, but credible accusations of hypocrisy would seem to strengthen them.

If the speaker is a hypocrite, then it diminishes his personal persuasiveness (limiting the audience of people he might convince) and it allows the accusation that there are other motives (riling up people who care about those things). So, it seems like a effective political tactic to use against your opponents.
This. In the case of abortion, we have antis who claim that abortion is murder, but obviously don't really believe that based on their actions and their inconsistent views. (For example, I've heard pro-lifers propose exceptions to allow abortion in the case of rape or incest, or with the father's consent, which is clearly not the standard we apply to murdering one's children.) I point out this hypocrisy not because I think it's relevant that these antis fail to live up to their beliefs, but because I don't believe their beliefs are what they say they are, and I refuse to concede the moral high ground. I believe their real motives are about controlling women, and so I cite as evidence the ways their seemingly inconsistent views and behavior are actually perfectly consistent when you look at them through that lens.
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Old 05-13-2020, 07:57 PM
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Does hypocrisy really matter? (inconsistency in one's own behavior)

If you care about being credible, then yes. Otherwise you just sound like you are making shit up to not say what your real reasons are. Real reasons that you know everyone knows are bullshit.
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Old 05-13-2020, 08:37 PM
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Coincidentally I came across this quote from Dostoyevsky yesterday:

“A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others.”

Being a hypocrite means to lie to oneself and that does things to people; a hypocrite can't be trusted, their worldview is rotten by suspicion and at best display an inability to form fair judgment about things, specially since hypocrisy is often paired with projection.
So, yeah, it's a big deal to be a hypocrite.
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:22 PM
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I disagree. Most everyone is a hypocrite. I suppose absolutely everyone is a hypocrite if you decide to dredge up some statement made in the past. Few of us live up to our ideals. Almost nobody never changes their minds. We often make statements as a way of thinking out loud. Our actions and our words often differ.

I no longer use the charge of hypocrisy. I know I am one myself.
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:38 PM
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I disagree. Most everyone is a hypocrite. I suppose absolutely everyone is a hypocrite if you decide to dredge up some statement made in the past. Few of us live up to our ideals. Almost nobody never changes their minds. We often make statements as a way of thinking out loud. Our actions and our words often differ.

I no longer use the charge of hypocrisy. I know I am one myself.
I agree that everyone is a hypocrite. But the question is should it matter. And with most things, it comes down to context. if you want to be credible in whatever it is you are talking and passionate about, or trying to pass legislation that affects millions of people, then it absolutely matters. Self awareness gets you points, and you should strive to reduce your hypocrisy when ever you can. But If I'm just talking to some guy at a bar about some dumb shit, then I'll gladly point out my own hypocrisies...or not, and go on with my life.
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by snfaulkner View Post
Does hypocrisy really matter? (inconsistency in one's own behavior)

If you care about being credible, then yes. Otherwise you just sound like you are making shit up to not say what your real reasons are. Real reasons that you know everyone knows are bullshit.
Ideally, one's decisions on the issues themselves should not be based on the credibility or character of the arguers on either side. They should be based on objective research and on one's own principles. It is possible to listen to arguments pro and con, and make up your own mind, without knowing who made the arguments.

At least two things in current life militate against that ideal. One is that many/most people don't have the time or interest to evaluate things on their own so they grow to rely on received wisdom from authority. If that authority becomes impugned, then the arguments are automatically discredited, at least to those who already disagreed, even if they were valid. The merits of the arguments cease to matter, only the merits of the person who made them. This is pretty much the definition of the ad hominem fallacy.

The other is tribalism faintly disguised as partisanship. A point of view on a given issue becomes indelibly associated with a certain ideological group/tribe, and so the value to oneself of any argument for or against that point of view is based entirely on what tribe one has associated oneself with, regardless of the actual validity of the argument. I'm not sure what fallacy that is, but I'm sure it is one.
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Old 05-13-2020, 10:04 PM
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I agree that everyone is a hypocrite.
Well, you are. I'm just flexible.

But seriously...

To take the Al Gore example* further, what about a prominent individual known for insisting that justice be impartial and not affected by improper influence, who turns out to have exerted monetary and political pressure to get criminal charges against a family member downgraded or dropped altogether? Seems to me that would irreparably damage that person's influence on the subject.

*don't care about Al jetting around to give speeches on climate change. It would've been better from the standpoint of not handing ammo to his opponents if his "carbon-free lifestyle" had included a less flamboyant mansion.

Last edited by Jackmannii; 05-13-2020 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 05-13-2020, 10:08 PM
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I would say that accusations of hypocrisy should matter, but not for the reasons the OP describes.

To single out one example:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
It's often claimed by pro-choicers that many pro-lifers are hypocrites because they publicly oppose abortion yet secretly have abortions themselves (the phenomenon sometimes referred to as "The only good abortion is my abortion.")
If someone speaks out against abortion, but has one herself, having her hypocrisy pointed out should matter; not in the sense of scoring points in public for one side or the other, but to re-examine her own beliefs. Assume she searches her soul before reaching her decision. Maybe every woman takes that decision just as seriously; and maybe ending a pregnancy isn't the frivolous, devil-may-care process that opponents paint it as.

It's the same with gun control. If you really feel that owning a gun makes you, and your family, safer, that's the same feeling of safety that you're trying to deny to other people. Gun owners aren't all whooping rednecks or potential school shooters. Some of them are just like you.

I don't know if anyone does that kind of self-examination anymore. The internet has given so many people a voice that I don't know if anybody still listens anymore. Even if we are still capable of it, calling someone a hypocrite is probably not the way to start a dialog. Attacking someone doesn't make them think, they just circle the wagons and dig their trenches a little deeper.

Hypocrisy should matter, but it probably doesn't.
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Old 05-13-2020, 10:09 PM
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This would fall under what I've been discussing....no matter how advanced we think we are or become...we'll still struggle with hypocrisy because of the depravity of human nature. It cannot be solved by our own means no matter how hard you try unless we become machines and void of our own free will.
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Old 05-13-2020, 10:43 PM
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This would fall under what I've been discussing....no matter how advanced we think we are or become...we'll still struggle with hypocrisy because of the depravity of human nature. It cannot be solved by our own means no matter how hard you try unless we become machines and void of our own free will.
I disagree. We can always choose to use our faculties to the best of our ability without becoming machines. Our faculties may be inadequate to the purpose, or we may fail to do our best for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't make us depraved.

Your post sounds like a lot of convenient excuses for not trying at all, which is depraved.
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Old 05-13-2020, 11:21 PM
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I would say that accusations of hypocrisy should matter, but not for the reasons the OP describes.

To single out one example:If someone speaks out against abortion, but has one herself, having her hypocrisy pointed out should matter; not in the sense of scoring points in public for one side or the other, but to re-examine her own beliefs. Assume she searches her soul before reaching her decision. Maybe every woman takes that decision just as seriously; and maybe ending a pregnancy isn't the frivolous, devil-may-care process that opponents paint it as.

It's the same with gun control. If you really feel that owning a gun makes you, and your family, safer, that's the same feeling of safety that you're trying to deny to other people. Gun owners aren't all whooping rednecks or potential school shooters. Some of them are just like you.

I don't know if anyone does that kind of self-examination anymore. The internet has given so many people a voice that I don't know if anybody still listens anymore. Even if we are still capable of it, calling someone a hypocrite is probably not the way to start a dialog. Attacking someone doesn't make them think, they just circle the wagons and dig their trenches a little deeper.

Hypocrisy should matter, but it probably doesn't.
I agree very much with this. I would only add that it is based on what is rapidly becoming an archaic idea that debate is meant to air every side of an issue with everyone keeping an open mind and possibly adopting the opposition idea if the facts and argument are sufficiently persuasive.

In that spirit, the pro-life and anti-gun examples are apt. But it shouldn't be used as a hatchet and believe that it scores a "win" in an argument.

Take someone, for example, who believes that pornography should be illegal yet it is found that he has a stash of it on his computer or in his basement. That person may have a legitimate argument of how that is exactly why it should be illegal. Perhaps he states that instead of channeling his sexual desires towards his wife, his marriage has suffered because he lusts after these nameless women in the material. Maybe his argument against legal pornography is strengthened by his consumption of it and his desire for it. Maybe an alcoholic who believes that alcohol prohibition should be brought back, because alcohol has destroyed his life, has a good point even though he does the very thing he wishes to outlaw.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with those statements in the last paragraph, but I believe that a charge of hypocrisy should only be the starting point, not the end point, in that discussion.
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Old 05-15-2020, 09:53 PM
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I disagree. Most everyone is a hypocrite. I suppose absolutely everyone is a hypocrite if you decide to dredge up some statement made in the past. Few of us live up to our ideals. Almost nobody never changes their minds. We often make statements as a way of thinking out loud. Our actions and our words often differ.

I no longer use the charge of hypocrisy. I know I am one myself.
There’s a fundamental difference between not living up to ideals and denying that one has acted counter to one’s ideals. The former is human, the latter is hypocrisy.
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