By”I hate all hypocrisy… Except my own, of course.”
I’ve noticed over the years that, beyond the main definition ‘do as I say not as I do’, there are subcategories of hypocrisy, but I’ve never seen them classified. Maybe they have been, and my Google-fu has failed. It’s not an easy thing to look up. So, I thought I’d explore a few of them, maybe start making a taxonomy of hypocrisy.
I don’t mean political hypocrisy, religious hypocrisy, or any such thing; for the purpose of this article, those are things you can be hypocritical about, but not different types. No, I mean things like somebody pushing you towards Column A with all their might, then telling you to choose Column 2… you’ll see. I have names for some, but not all (any suggestions?)
Paragraph 3: This article is just a thought experiment. A little game that I’ve been thinking about, probably since before the Atomic Junk Shop was a thing. What it is not, is an attack on any particular person or group or ideology or political leaning. I will avoid using any of those in specific examples below (a few are examples from ‘The Government’. When I say that, I don’t mean the right-wing government, the left-wing government, the centrist government, the anarchic government; I mean ‘The Government’. Whoever gets voted in, they all do the same things; meet the new boss, same as the old boss.)
If hypocrisy is one rule for me, one rule for thee, then I propose there’s a positive side to it: a person who is stricter with themselves than they are with other people. Hypothetical example: Phil rushes back to the cash register because the cashier gave him $1 more change than he should’ve got. Then, a few minutes later, Phil’s friend comes to return some money, and Phil says ‘forget about it, it’s just five bucks’. Would this technically be hypocrisy? And if so, would it not be a good form of it?
Asking Me To Buy Local
This is when somebody offers you a choice. The person will give you no incentive to pick option A – will, indeed, put obstacles in your way, and Option B will be better for you across the board – but they’ll tell you to choose Option A anyway out of the evilness of your heart.
Named for government pushes to buy local, to support local jobs, when “All the best stuff is made in Japan.” The local product is more expensive, lower quality, and shorter-lasting. The foreign version works better, is cheaper, and will last longer. But buy the local one! To support local jobs! (I’ve never quite figured out why foreigners don’t deserve jobs.)
I’ve actually started using this one as an expression.
My workplace, for example, says they support families. They also have a policy that you’re never allowed to bring your kids to work, even if there’s no other way for the kid to get taken care of and you have to bring them in to get your job done. They say they support it, but their actual actions oppose the thing they’ve just said they support.
Like lip service, I don’t think rebranding is necessarily hypocrisy; but it can be. I hate it as a trope – ‘we know this thing we do has a bad reputation, so we’ll change absolutely nothing about it except the name. That’ll fix everything, right?
The hypocrisy comes in when they label something bad as something good, and expect that to change my feelings about the something bad. I find it usually changes my feelings about the label first. We all know the great philosopher, Calvin, and his feelings about ‘building character’:
This is like rebranding, but from the other side. It’s where they use words to mean things that those words don’t mean; often the exact opposite, in fact.
A few years ago, my local government brought in a law around what foods we were and were not allowed to buy / sell on their property. It meant, among other things, people weren’t allowed to sell charity chocolates in government offices. (That isn’t a slippery-slope argument, btw; that was specifically spelled out in the law.) They called it a ‘healthy food choices initiative’ – in other words, they took away our choice and called it ‘choice’. Right now, that’s more of a rebranding; but they also sent out a survey asking us (among other things) ‘do you feel this law empowers you to choose healthier foods’. My thought was ‘forced’ does not mean ’empowered’. In fact, quite the opposite. (I think I answered the survey, and said exactly that, btw.)
They also have endless ‘consultations’, including one about this law, where they tell people what they’re going to do. That’s, uh, that’s not what a consultation is. It’s not consultation if you don’t listen.
I’m not sure if this one is actually hypocrisy per se, though? Discuss.
Public Breakdown, Private Apology
Somebody has a bad reaction to something you do, which everybody can see, then they give an apologetic explanation, one that makes them look worse and you look better. The apology is in private. This way, they manage to make you look like a monster but still say they’re being reasonable and kind to you.
This one has happened to me a couple of times in my life. Once, we were moving house. My mum asked me to go to the old house at a certain time so we could pack up and move stuff. She, my sister and my sister’s then-boyfriend rocked up at least an hour late, at which time I started to leave because I had to go to work. My mum was apologetic, but I said something Not Very Nice like ‘I’m used to it’ in a mean, sarcastic way. (I’m not absolving myself here.) Mum started crying in front of the others. Later on, she came to me privately, when nobody else would see the admission, and told me she was crying because she was sad at how bad she treated me. So, I’m still a monster in everybody’s eyes, and Mum thinks she’s patched us up without admitting to anybody else that she’s done anything wrong.
This when somebody tries to act both strong and weak at the same time, whichever one will support their position. Named after the character in Gremlins who did a long, delight-filled rant about how she’d destroy our hero’s dog; then acted like a weak old lady when the dog barked at her.
The buses in my city once had stickers on the back that said “Please give way to the bus. It’s the law.” ‘Please’ – position of weakness. ‘It’s the law’ – position of strength. Every time I saw them (Every. Time), I’d immediately think ‘Pick one. One!’ (They eventually did.)
You Mean It Worked?!?
This one is purposely trying to do something, then getting upset at the results of exactly what you were trying to do.
I’m my own worst example of this: I spend most of my life acting like a child. I deliberately and with malice aforethought try to give people the impression I’m about nine years old. Then I get quite upset if people treat me like a child. The horror!
I’m Horrible To You. Tell Me I’ve Been Good.
I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people out there who will keep committing a certain bad behaviour, oftentimes directly affecting you; then, when you call them on it, they’ll say ‘you can’t call me a bad behaviourer! That’s hurtful to me!’ (Never mind how hurtful their behaviour is to you, or to the people around you.)
I was once in Colorado in winter. My bed was in the same room as the TV, which my hosts would watch until late in the night. They told me I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted, but when I did, they complained behind my back when they thought I couldn’t hear them. A couple of years before, where the drains had frozen up, causing a plumbing explosion. This had been fixed, but because of it, I wasn’t allowed to shower. (I got taken to the gym every other day, and showered there.)
So, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t shower and couldn’t leave (remember, I was in a foreign country, and didn’t have access to a car). I felt more like a prisoner than a guest.
One day, a fellow guest came up to me and said my hosts were paying for us to go on a ski trip, because they wanted to feel like good hosts.
I’ve never come closer to outright refusing a ski trip. (Well, one time I did refuse such an offer, but my knee had been damaged in a bike accident at the time.)
Light The Fuse
I think Daffy says it all, don’t you?
Ignoring Your Own Argument
We’ve all had to… discuss things with people who clearly weren’t listening to (or reading) a word we had to say. But have you ever noticed that sometimes, people don’t listen to themselves, either?
People can go for years using the same argument, then suddenly back track when it’s used against them.
A pseudo example came up on AJS recently: in the Man-Wolf trade collection, there’s a bit where Spider-Man captures an ordinary mugger. The mugger challenges him about his motives. Spider-Man. He spends the next thirteen pages questioning why he does what he does. (It’s resolved on page 62, anyway. He’s not on all those pages, and isn’t always thinking about it when he is.)
The one superhero whose motive has become so cliché, even normals recognise and shun the quote.
So, there are a few different forms of hypocrisy I’ve noticed.
Thoughts? Can you think of the types I’ve missed? Do you relate to any of these? Or is this all academic?