Thursday, October 2, 2014

Some Highbrow Words On The Misused Word "Hypocrisy"

Believe me, driving to Central Mexico and unpacking your piano and trying to learn Spanish and two octave Dorian scales on the guitar and write country songs may sound easy but it takes real commitment. If I had something worthwhile to share with y'all I would write it. In the meantime, divert yourself with this treat from the back pages of my disregard.

I was recently browsing an uber-conservative/constitution website that makes Fox and CNN seem tame, and couldn't resist the temptation to question some of the outrageous claims/assumptions/suppositions I read. Every article inspired me with some level of disgust for the misuse of logic for political influence but one stood out: some college newspapers with an ad for a pro-life advice clinic in Iowa were destroyed probably because of the ad itself. The article's author assumes they were destroyed by "a liberal" who is consequently destroying the 1st Amendment.* Wow, quite a leap, but if it stopped there I would merely shrug. Probably, perhaps, maybe...ahem. Whomever destroyed the paper definitely doesn't grasp that the 1st Amendment is not to be selectively obeyed or abused. (Although the Amendment doesn't address average citizens, rather it acts as a limit on Congress specifically, it's enforced and recognized that citizens ought to follow the same rules. Basically, you can write a book but Congress can't prevent you from publishing it. I can buy the book and read it or burn it as I wish, but I can't prevent you from publishing it. That's the 1st Amendment.) But the vigilante decided that his annoyance with the clinic ad outweighed the clinic's 1st Amendment rights and the paper's decision to run the ad, and the limit on Congress to allow it to be published. This is all futile and hypothetically argumentative but, without any evidence, the author then goes on to accuse all liberals of attacking the constitution by proxy. No evidence liberals approve the destruction or even if a liberal committed the vandalism. This conclusion seemed inciteful and unsettling.

If you're a liberal who approves of destroying pro-life newspaper ads to prevent others from reading them or to intimidate the ad's writers then please email me with the responses to these questions:

1) Do you consider yourself a liberal or conservative? Elaborate please.
2) Are you familiar with the U.S. Constitution 1st Amendment? (It's only 45 words long and it's at the bottom of this page so you'd better be)
3) Do you approve of ideologically motivated destruction of advertisements in free papers?
3a) Even when you personally don't approve of the message in those advertisements?
3b) Even when you vehemently loathe the sentiments in the advertisements?
3c) Even when you can't read the advertisements without being sick to your stomach?
4) What's your favorite ice cream flavor? 

The article's author could have done this basic research to bolster his argument before publishing the salacious article but he didn't. No, the punditry went from A-Z without any pause at the points in between. Someone destroyed these papers = all liberals hate freedom. I foolishly questioned this dubious equation and was subject to some angry responses including being called a hypocrite because, as an alleged liberal, I approve of the destruction of these newspapers because the pro-life clinic is not in line with my pro-choice opinion, but when pro-choice ads likewise are destroyed I am offended and cry for the protection of the 1st Amendment. I realize this hypothetical and alleged online debate is really juvenile and beneath most adults but believe me that there are many people who spend most of their day arguing about such things even though they basically change tires or masturbate or sleep for a living. Fox Television is almost exclusively devoted to punditry and unsupported liberal-bashing and they are worth at least a few thousand dollars. Well, I took offense to being called a hypocrite and pointed out, as I usually do in such cases, that even if I agreed with the scenario, I would not be a hypocrite but merely selectively critical. In that scenario, I do support the 1st Amendment when it applies to my beliefs. If you write something that I disagree with, I argue, then it should not be protected by the 1st Amendment. That's not what I think, I clarified, but it's not hypocritical. That scenario is called being selectively critical, I am imposing my opinion onto the 1st Amendment, basically projecting my beliefs onto a 1776 Ben Franklin and saying that if he could have clarified his writing in more than 45 words, he would agree with me so I'm going to destroy this ad or this book before anyone can read it because that's what he would want me to do. This isn't hypocritical, it's selectively critical and it happens all the time. In fact, I could argue that to do anything less than destroy the ad would be equivalent to destroying the 1st Amendment as I understand it. See? I love and defend the 1st Amendment so I must destroy this ad. This ad is an abomination and attack on the 1st Amendment. It's my terms and definitions that compel my actions and not my hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is when I say I support the 1st Amendment and then don't give a shit when either a pro-choice or pro-life newspaper ad is destroyed. I say I care, but I don't. That's hypocrisy. Thus begins Oggy's miserable morning, defining and defending the fucking 1st Amendment to a constitution of a country he doesn't live in....

The responses to my critique ranged from, "That's what pet niggers like you do, they destroy freedom." to "This is why we need to immediately execute all scum sucking liberal faggots including the Nigerian fraud in chief :)" to "Military coup NOW!" to "Your mom should've aborted you and fed the fetus to wild dogs."

Think of this next time you take a shit.
I'm paraphrasing but trust me, there were few thumbs going up for me that day hahahahar! Lol. ROFL. LMFBO. BLAH.**

I reflected on this experience for a day or two of tired and sullen depression, watching clouds roll in and out of the quaint valley, reading the verbose Dianetics fruitlessly, becoming convinced my mother  repeatedly tried to abort me, playing piano like a wooden soldier next to a sparking volcano, and finally decided I could do better if I had a prepared statement on hypocrisy I could cut and paste into future comments. So this is what I wrote. Enjoy!

On the Usage of Hypocrisy
By Oggy Bleacher
Please reprint with proper credit given.

A few words are confused and incorrectly interchanged with hypocrisy:
Biased, contradictory, selectively critical, discriminatory, taste, preference. All these words have their own meaning and I’d like to inspect them all in their own context and demonstrate how their misuse leads to unproductive arguments and offer an alternative approach.

Let’s start with hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is when someone espouses a virtue they don’t have. I say I believe in heterosexual relations only, but I’m having sex with someone I know is my same sex. Hypocrisy is a blatant and complete contradiction in personal values or espoused virtues. People usually label others hypocritical incorrectly because the other person has different values than them. That’s not hypocritical. That’s merely having different opinions. If I think one comedian is funny and you don’t then it’s incorrect to label you hypocritical. You do have a sense of humor, but it’s not the same as mine. You are only hypocritical if you say you have a sense of humor and actually have none, you find no comic funny, you never laugh, but insist you have a sense of humor. You say you’re a vegetarian but you say it with a mouth full of ham. If you don’t have some fancy justifications then you’re a hypocrite because your values do not correspond to your actions. See how blatantly obvious that scenario is? It's not a word to be used casually.

A popular misconception is when someone is selectively critical, but is labeled hypocritical. The two aren’t the same. Selectively critical is when a legislator prohibits the use of marijuana because it’s harmful but votes to allow the use of alcohol and tobacco. It’s not hypocritical because the lawmaker sincerely believes Marijuana is harmful…so he outlaws it. It’s selectively critical because all the evidence suggests alcohol is at least as harmful as marijuana…but he does not outlaw it or even discourages its use, and in fact drinks alcohol himself and smokes. This is selectively critical and could be argued that it’s contradictory, but not hypocritical. “Marijuana,” he would say, “is not exactly the same as alcohol, so my opposition of one does not need to include my opposition of the other.” They are two separate substances with two separate moral/legal assessments. Period. Even whiskey and vodka are not the same and may be judged differently with no hypocrisy intended or committed. Thus would be the beginning of a fact-based debate on the merits or dangers of one over the other. A hypocritical lawmaker would outlaw both marijuana and alcohol and condemn it publicly, but still personally smoke marijuana and drink alcohol or be indifferent to it in private. This is hypocritical because he espouses virtues (health) that he doesn’t actually exhibit in the private world of his own definitions. Even this blatantly opposing stance can be considered merely selectively critical as long as the person maintains that he is the only person in the world not affected adversely by marijuana and alcohol. Yes, he ignores his own law and is unlawful, but everyone can reserve their own predilections for their private life and merely be considered selfishly selective. The politician may also state that he’s outlawed these substances for the good of humanity, but he, specifically, is not the same genetically as the rest of humanity so he is exempt from his own law. It’s not likely (thus easily disproved), but it is also not hypocritical to the letter of the word. It’s selective criticism. His biased definition exempts him from the law. Only if he provides no argument for disobeying his own law is he a hypocrite. Everything hinges on the strength of the argument.

Hypocrisy is very clearly the espousal of virtues you don’t have, your actions or opinions do not correspond with your own definitions. It is not when you are in disagreement with another, no, it’s when you are in blatant disagreement with yourself. You knowingly contradict yourself within your own paradigm.

I think the main problem with the usage of this word is when two people have a disagreement over grand terms like “Justice” or “Faith” and so one’s action or opinion may defend their own definition of justice or faith, but not someone else’s definition. And because of this disagreement over the same word it’s common to accuse the other of hypocrisy, when it is not hypocrisy as long as the person is consistent to his or her own definition. As long as they abide by their own definitions then it’s selectively critical or biased, but not hypocritical. The hard part is reaching an agreement on definitions because even the definition of “Justice” will contain words that also will require debate and so an argument could technically go on forever.

An example of what is ordinarily called hypocrisy, but which is actually selectively critical, is when someone opposes the hydro-fracturing procedure to obtain oil and natural gas…but they also drive a car that uses gasoline. This is a current topic (actually leading to my first draft of this essay in defense of these fracking opponents) and those people are usually labeled hypocritical because they are opposing a process that gets them gas, while at the same time they are using the gas they oppose. But, wait, hydro-fracturing is not the only procedure to obtain gasoline. Soon, it probably will be, but for now there are traditional drilling methods that the critic does not, in our scenario, vocally oppose. The critic is saying, “I oppose this specific method, but approve this specific method.” That’s classic selective criticism and is unobjectionable. It is not hypocritical because they are admitting that one method does not violate their [environmental] values, and that’s the one they would prefer to obtain their gas from, but as long as retail gas pumps do not allow for that discrimination then they are forced to oppose the hydro-fracturing procedure itself, but not oppose traditional drilling. Selective criticism is common, but hypocritical people are not common. In this scenario you cannot argue that the person is hypocritical but you could argue that they are being contradictory by overlooking certain facts, just like you could argue the contradiction in the above scenario involving alcohol and pot. The argument would be fact-based. I stress this because everything will depend on science, research and experience in the tangible world. Any reference to an ethereal source of motivation renders the argument intractable. This is when, “We agree to disagree.” comes to our aid. In the previous scenario I could argue that both traditional drilling and hydro-fracturing share elements of environmental destruction so, if you value the environment, then neither is permissible. The argument would be a fact-based attempt to demonstrate this alleged contradiction, and if you can succeed in making the argument and the person still insisted on driving AND opposing all forms of oil exploration, then they could be accused of hypocrisy, although the person could still argue that until gasoline is outlawed it’s not hypocritical to use gasoline but it is self-defeating to financially support an industry that one opposes. “I oppose gasoline as a destructive substance, but until it is outlawed I will use it.” Being self-defeating certainly weakens ones argument (my conviction is so weak that even I can't abide by my own advice) but it is still not hypocritical because the virtue does exist but the opportunity to obey it is unclear or impossible. All the elements of selective criticism must be understood before a debate can proceed. Casually referring to someone as hypocritical minimizes the process by using the word as kind of trump card to dismiss another opinion, but I insist it’s being misused and it impedes the fruitful conclusion of the debate.

Again, hypocrisy is blatantly and broadly opposing something like abortion, as you are in the process of getting an abortion. If you oppose abortion up until the point you decide you want an abortion, at which point you change your opinion and unreservedly get the abortion, then after the abortion you return to your original anti-abortion position then you are not a hypocrite…you are a strategic and selfish flip-flopper, but not a hypocrite. The strength of your argument is weakened but you technically obeyed and upheld your values. This is also common as people often manipulate their opinions/values to suit their own situations. It’s common as a defense mechanism to avoid hypocrisy, which is antithetical to man. Likewise, if you value health then neither alcohol or marijuana fit the description of healthy substances, according to my definitions, so neither should be used. More likely a politician who politically favors alcohol over pot is merely being opportunist and deceitful. Tobacco manufacturers and purveyors of spirits fund the campaign fund so the politician selectively ignores the facts about them. Maybe he gets kickbacks from prison contractors to build more cells for convicted pot criminals. They are being selfishly selective about their vote because it benefits them. It’s selfish and dishonest but that’s clearly not hypocrisy. I think calling it what it is has more strength. The word hypocrite has been so overused that it has no teeth left.

We could argue the finer points of these scenarios, and that’s a debate currently going on in many forums, but the main argument I’m making is that hypocrisy is not a disagreement with virtues as others define them, or even as you once defined them, but a disagreement with your own defined virtues at that specific moment. Hypocrisy is not a process of manipulating your own virtues to optimize personal results, that’s selective opportunism; hypocrisy is when you don’t manipulate your stated virtues at all, you knowingly contradict yourself.

I’ve read one definition of Hypocrisy that includes the example of parents who say, “Do as I say and not as I do.” But that’s an overly broad/simplified definition because the parent may be referring to cold medication that the child needs for a fever but the parent doesn’t have a cold…so they don’t need the medication, and even if they get a cold they may choose not to take any medicine. It’s their preference. They feel it’s not in their best interest to take the medicine, but it is in the interest of the child to take the medicine. That’s their selective criticism, their bias. Furthermore, the parent must recognize the child as a separate entity like pot and alcohol are separate substances. It matters not at all what the parent does or did in regards to his recommendations to his child. This is selective criticism. The parent is splitting his virtues into two realms, one for the child and one for personal application. The parent is not hypocritical if he smokes pot but forbids his son from smoking pot. That’s selective criticism/enforcement, which the child might resent and smoke twice as much pot because of, but it’s not hypocrisy. The parent is hypocritical if he forbids himself from smoking pot, but still smokes pot.

Socrates commonly asked a student to “Define your terms.” and the fact these kinds of debates have been going on since 400 BC should give you some idea of their resilience. Every generation has to learn their own process and I hate to think ours is worse than one that's 2400 years old. Defining our terms isn’t a modern habit and it leads to all kinds of incorrect accusations. Hypocrisy, again, is a very specific and uncommon scenario where one blatantly and knowingly contradicts their own sincere statements even as they are making the statements. Lying or diversion tactics are completely different and require their own vetting process.

“Bias” has a negative connotation, like the word “discrimination”, but these words, applied to something like Humor, are immediately deprived of their negativity. I discriminate in my choice of comedians. I have a bias in my preference for comedies. Or chocolate; I prefer white chocolate. Am I a hypocrite if I don’t like dark chocolate? Well, it's chocolate also, how can you say you like chocolate if you don't like dark chocolate? You hypocrite! No, it’s a preference, a personal taste. Most political opinions are developed the same way a taste is developed as the nuances of political science are as varied as the tongue’s sensitivity. There is nothing negative about the words bias, preference, discrimination, taste, but they have been accepted to indicate an unfair, contradictory, politically motivated position on an opinion that does not benefit or consider all parties equally. Although these words are not commonly used in place of hypocrisy they are words that should be called upon more often in a debate about hypocrisy. If one has a racial bias to one’s race then that’s a personal preference, albeit unenlightened for modern society, that will motivate one's opinions. If one selectively ignores crimes against another race then that’s one’s choice. “I’m not voicing approval of these crimes but I don’t object either.” That’s a race related bias that is also not to be confused with racism, which is a very specific type of aberration where one believes they have evidence to support the claim a race is fundamentally superior/inferior to another. Much discrimination is race related or prejudiced, but not racist, just like one can be robustly racist but nevertheless refuse to discriminate. I suspect the misuse of these terms leads to these divisive topics continually being unresolved.

What we need is a step-by-step method for determining the root of a disagreement in opinions. Name-calling, insults, threats, bullying are a sign of frustration that we don’t even know what the argument is about. Since the most common disagreement is when two parties have different biased definitions of the same term that’s where I want to examine. It seems that labeling someone a hypocrite is a shortcut to making a case for your definition when in reality it does the opposite and postpones any resolution. Now, there is no easy way to argue the finer details of, for example, a definition of justice or of education or of racism. These are usually the kinds of terms people have disagreements about so there is no simple scenario I can point to as an example.

I'll attempt to analyze a current one: A white officer shoots an unarmed black man and a cry for justice goes out from the black community. A black officer shoots an unarmed white man and some expect that the same who cried for justice in the black man’s case should now cry for justice in the white man’s case. If they don’t then they are labeled “hypocrites”. Are they? It’s equally likely that a black officer will shoot another unarmed white man and fewer people will cry for justice in that case. Are they hypocrites? Or an officer kills 4 unarmed men and only 2 of the dead men are mourned, justice is demanded for only 2. Neither are hypocrites in this scenario. If they are outspoken about one case and not another that is their preference, their bias and their choice. It says everything about their bias, and nothing about their sincere belief in justice, which is the value being defended, and the value they have defined in their own mind. They may even choose to voice no opinion about all three cases, but still have a valid definition of justice. It’s rhetorical to label them hypocritical. It’s up to one side or another to make their case, to convince others to support them based on evidence. That’s a process of debate that is not the subject of this essay, but this essay as a whole may be taken as an example of that process since I know some will not agree with my definition and application of the word hypocrisy just as I disagree with how others define and use it. That's why I wrote this. So this is my statement about the term hypocrisy and if you disagree please do not call me a hypocrite because that would be a metaphysical disaster. "You're a hypocrite because your essay on hypocrisy was hypocritical." My objective is to isolate the central problem in disagreements and I hope I’ve made a case for using restraint when using the label “hypocrite”, and one should more commonly use the words “selective criticism”.

Despicable, but not hypocritical
Consider the comments I read about a military coup or assassination of The President. These are written on a blog that claims it "supports and defends the constitution". So, one might argue that killing the President and all liberals, or advocating it, would be in opposition to the Constitution, so "libhunter" is a hypocrite? Ah, not so fast! His argument is indeed consistent with his definition of a "True US Citizen" within the paradigm of his terms and definitions. Since liberals are a threat to the constitution, even though they are protected by the constitution, libhunter projects his opinion back in time to 1776 and decides liberals, including their fascist president, must protect the constitution. He's not a hypocrite because he is defending his own specific terms. He's selectively critical of liberals, and not conservatives. In fact, by his definitions, he would be a hypocrite if he allowed the President to live since he is defending the constitution. That's his taste and preference and it's my job as a soon-to-be-killed liberal to convince him otherwise since even the administrators of the blog make no attempt to censure seditious and traitorous remarks. Admittedly, it gets muddled when a writer is so infuriated about a cop killer that he promotes killing the President and all liberals as an answer. How is that not hypocritical, Oggy, you might ask? And again I return to his terms and definitions. The cop is a "True US Citizen", and the President is an impostor. He's not being hypocritical because he's defending what he has defined as the Constitution. His selective criticism obviously weakens his authority on the constitution or justice or peace by exposing a completely polarized bias/preference, but it does not make him a hypocrite. He does love and defend his view of the constitution. We merely disagree on our definitions. You see, nothing to be worried about, it's a semantic misunderstanding.

This is good place to point out that the labeling of liberals and libertards or libernazis or saying liberalism is a mental disorder, are all ways to self justify discrimination. A liberal is not afforded rights under the Constitution, thus killing one would not make a Constitutional patriot guilty, because the liberal is mentally deranged, he is deficient, unworthy of the protection of this Constitution. That is how an extremist manipulates terms to avoid hypocrisy. They are sincerely defending the Constitution at the same time as advocating complete liberal holocaust because liberals are un-American, are mentally ill, traitorous, etc. See? This extremist is not hypocritical. He is being selectively critical because in his terms and definitions only a conservative white marine is a true American worthy of protection by the Constitution. So, his anger with and hatred of a liberal does not mean he himself is un-American, something that he would easily be confused with. No, he's devoutly American in the framework that all Americans are conservative white Marines. As long as you fall under under that umbrella then you are safe and the Constitution applies to you. The way some of these extremists talk about race you would think the black man had enslaved the white race for 300 years instead of the other way around. But it only demonstrates that there is no limit to the hatred that can be manufactured with sloppy reporting and assaultive media and relentless propaganda campaigns. Believe it: take a lower class white American teenager and feed him a diet of Fox News and Glenn Beck for ten years and you will have an extremist with few exceptions. Fox News manufactures hatred as surely as Ford Manufactures cars. Because that is their mandate they are not hypocritical. They are merely deceitful.

Another scenario is this author's personal journey from opposing hydro-fracturing to an electrician in the hydro-fracturing industry. Isn't that hypocritical? My explanation is that upon becoming employed for Shell and Exxonmobil and Rosetta, I ceased opposition to hydro-fracturing, not because I thought it was less harmful, but because it would be inconsistent with my actions and the futility of resistance was soon apparent. Hydro-fracturing is dangerous but so is starving to death and Oggy chose species extinction in the long term to avoid immediate personal extinction in the short term. His opinion didn't change, but his degree of self-destruction did. I could say that the in-depth exploration of the oil industry would help me form a better understanding of it (which it did) but the choice was mainly one of expedience. I knew it was bad but the alternative was worse, which sort of confirms the reason I was opposing it to begin with. When your choices are either death or society-approved Holocaust does it really matter what you do?

And take the tale of Edward Snowden: he determined the Government itself was violating the Constitution, so he released documents...and the act of releasing the documents was a violation of the Constitution. What a mess! So, either he's a patriot for protecting people from an unconstitutional Government, or he's a traitor. The answer is in how we define the terms in the Constitution. He's not a hypocrite because he defended his own terms by his actions. He is biased to his own definitions and the Government is biased to their own definitions. The problem I see with that story is that the Government also baited whistle blowers into believing they would be safe if they came forward, and then they were tortured and imprisoned. That just makes for a government one can not trust as their word is not true. They aren't hypocrites because they lied in order to bait whistle blowers into revealing themselves. That's politically devious, but it isn't hypocritical. The mandate in modern Government is self-protection at all costs. The Obama admin took a page from Mao and invited disloyal employees to reveal themselves, promising them rewards and then torturing them instead. It's smart and effective for a short time but, as long as the Government's conception of the Constitution is maintained, it isn't hypocritical.

An alternative approach is easy to teach. Practice this, write it out ten times and say it and record it and listen to it: instead of saying or writing, “That’s hypocritical. You’re a hypocrite,” which will usually lead to no productive discourse, say or type the following:

“That’s being selectively critical, define your terms and justify your selection. Here is my defense of my selection and the reasons why I think I have a broader and more equitable application…”

Say that ten times. “That’s being selectively critical, define your terms and justify your selection. Here is my defense of my selection…” “That’s being selectively critical, define your terms and justify your selection. Here is my defense of my selection…”“That’s being selectively critical, define your terms and justify your selection. Here is my defense of my selection…” etc…

Break the habit of using the word hypocrisy because you'll encounter it about as often as you encounter someone who is entirely without bias. Try to see the whole argument in the same light as food preference or humor or grammatical rules. I’m not a hypocrite if I use a comma correctly once and incorrectly another time. I’m not even a hypocrite if I disagree with one rule on using commas so refuse to use commas that way even if everyone else agrees with the rule I break. I’m only a hypocrite if I agree with the comma rule but still break it. Remember to define your terms. That little change in debate procedure may lead to some progress in social debate.

Some other food for thought.

*"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. "

** Disclaimer: Before you go to this right wing blog and start mouthing off I want to caution you about some things. The people who write those comments easily could be writing scandalous things for the thrill of writing it. They have no dog in the fight. Those people are referred to online as Trolls. They also could be trying to discredit one side or the other by pretending to be a crazy radical when they are not. That's a Mole. Also, they may really be crazy and have the time to track you down online and fill your email with spam or worse yet single you out to behead in a video they put on Al Jazeera for the rest of us to watch while eating bagels and cream cheese. That's a fucking dangerous person and I accept the world is full of them. My personal opinion is that it's futile to engage them in dialogue so don't bother. End of Disclaimer.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.