Awash in a sea of retread partisan political tomes, former AmSpec Assistant Managing Editor Jeremy Lott’s In Defense of Hypocrisy was bound to stand out. That the hypocrite gets little love in modern America is hardly breaking news, but my former colleague Lott enters the fray with such verve and chutzpah it’s tough not to get caught up in the vindication or at the very least revisit some long-held assumptions. Lott was kind enough to answer a few ancillary questions arising from my reading. A transcript follows:
We’ll get this over with straightaway: In Defense of Hypocrisy? I’ve heard “suffer the little children,” but never “spare the rod and spoil the hypocrite.” How’d a nice young man such as yourself get mixed up in this business?
I lost a bet. Maybe that’s why the book begins with a defense of Bill Bennett.
Toward the end of In Defense of Hypocrisy you declare, “If you have read this far and do not think better of hypocrisy than you did going in, then this book has failed.” Yet in earlier chapters you contend, amongst other things, that “by far the most terrifying part of the taxonomy of hypocrisy is self-deception.”
In other words, our hypocritical revulsion to hypocrisy is deeply entrenched. Do you not expect a certain amount of resistance to such an audacious argument at first, even by those who with a little time and consideration might be won over? A book that, to varying degrees, defends Strom Thurmond, Britney Spears and Michael Moore might take a bit of time for mainstream America to digest, no?
I expect tons of resistance. Thus the Moment of Decision line at the start of the last chapter. The book is supposed to be a conversation between the author and the reader. It begins with “I” and ends with “you.” The thrust of the last chapter is, “So what do you think about this?” I put my e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the author bio so readers can tell me.
Are you optimistic about winning admirers for hypocrisy?
What I hope to do is reinvigorate our old grudging respect for hypocrisy and take some of the sting out of the more ridiculous hypocrisy accusations. Whether I’ll succeed in that is up to my readers. If they find it convincing and a good read and they tell friends they must read this then it might make a dent.
Is what constitutes hypocrisy always open to interpretation? Is one man’s hypocrite another man’s freedom fighter?
It’s a fairly elastic term, but we can still come up with a rough two-part test for uncovering hypocrisy. First, does it involve deception or contradiction? Second, is the would-be hypocrite playing a role? (“I am shocked — shocked! — to find gambling…”)
One of the great strengths of this book is the way it weaves the political, personal, and (pop) cultural into a single tapestry. Were these connections apparent to you before you started or did the process of writing reveal the strands in the hypocritical web, as it were, for you and crystallize your thinking on the topic?
Some of it was planned out but then the writing took over. I didn’t plan, for instance, to do a whole section on Britney Spears. And several sections wouldn’t write where I had planned to write them, so I kept moving them around until they seemed to fit. Also, since writing is a good way of sharpening your thinking, my ideas about hypocrisy developed along the way.
You’ve said you found it impossible to write a book about hypocrisy without talking about Bill Clinton. Since this is The American Spectator, perhaps we should talk about your brilliant little Clinton Fallacy formulation? What is it? And is the former Boy President’s appeal in part because of or despite his proclivity for this not-so-damnable damnable offense?
The Clinton Fallacy was the argument that he broke the rules, but that he was for tougher rules so he should get a pass. This worked for campaign finance reform and also for sexual harassment laws, and it absolutely infuriated conservatives. Bill Clinton was a scoundrel and a cad but his genius (if that’s the word) was that he understood how hypocrisy works in politics. We tend to see it in our political enemies but have blinders when it comes to our allies or ourselves. Also, when he was up against it, Clinton bet the White House on the basic hypocrisy of the American people about sex, and won.
The chapter “Plank in the Eye” likewise suggests you couldn’t write a book on hypocrisy without talking Jesus. You contend the Messiah would “not find common cause with our many modern anti-hypocrites.” For those eternally wrestling with the jelly bracelet query, “What Would Jesus Do?” is the answer, “…buy a copy of In Defense of Hypocrisy today!” Or do you think the Lamb of God would consider such a statement tantamount to a smear campaign by Swift Money Changers for Truth?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online