The Two Hypocrisies


Thanks, Obama. I mean, Trump.

I want to thank Donald Trump for playing so much golf as president. Not because I think it’s a good idea for him to do this, obviously. The Rated Zed editorial line is that golf is stupid, and people should find hobbies that comport more exactly with Rated Zed aesthetic preferences. Have you considered scrambling and/or translating bossa nova songs? I hear it’s really fun. But Trump’s golfing has helped me understand something that I’ve struggled to understand a lot.

Which is this: why do people hate hypocrisy so much? I am generally OK with hypocrisy for La Rochefoucauldian “the debt vice pays to virtue” reasons. Hypocrisy is treated as an incredibly stinging accusation, whereas for me, it’s obvious that no one can live up to their ideals, and so hypocrisy is an entirely toothless thing to claim about a person. I’m obviously a hypocrite, and that’s OK. I would rather be a hypocrite that aspires to be a person doing good than a nihilist that says any claim about what is moral is just posturing.

However, in the case of Trump, it really does bother me that he talked on and on about how bad it was that Obama was golfing all the time, and then as president goes and golfs an order of magnitude more or whatever. And I think the reason that it bothers me is that it’s totally transparent that it’s not a case of him failing to live up to his ideals. It’s not that Trump thinks presidents shouldn’t golf but just can’t stop himself. He just didn’t at all believe what he was saying to begin with. Which is annoying, because usually you use what people are saying as a guide to what they think.

So I think I should make a habit of distinguishing “direct hypocrisy” a-la golfing Trump, where the obvious implication of your actions is that you don’t believe in your stated principles and “indirect hypocrisy” a-la Kim Davis or Al Gore, where you act in a way (that might be construed as) inconsistent with your principles, but it’s still totally plausible that you actually have those principles.

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3 Responses to The Two Hypocrisies

  1. yx says:

    This one I like!

  2. Boris Smus says:

    Agree but not sure about nomenclature. If, like Trump, you say whatever feels good or convinces the right people at any given moment, you inevitably end up a hypocrite. That’s not the objective though, just a second order side effect.

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