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I’d like to think that Jesus would flak for my book, but… let’s just say that he’s not a tame lion. Jesus was hyperbolic and vitriolic and perhaps, as Christians believe, absolutely right. He thought hypocrisy was bad but not so much for the deception as for the bad behavior that it masked. And he cautioned people that they should still listen carefully to what the teachers of the law had to say, and follow those teachings. Today, we’ve created more of a “saint or shut up” approach to hypocrisy. We tend to approach the issue with the opposite set of assumptions as the rabbi from Nazareth.
Okay, so you’ve made your argument in defense of hypocrisy. Say the book catches on and you convince a good deal of the world you’re right. They accept, as you contend, “It is better to have the bad acknowledge the good and to publicly conform to the right than for it to operate with no restraints at all.” Would widespread societal acceptance of hypocrisy as, in your estimation, “an engine of moral progress” undermine the very reasons why it is such an effective engine? Once people know those who promulgate the terms of the restraints are not bound by them would those borders become, in effect, porous?
Good question. There would still be certain limits in place, I think, and they’d stick. In order for hypocrisy to work, the deal is that you try very hard to pretend to be living up to your ideals and we then reward that effort by not noticing when you stray unless things get out of hand. This wouldn’t stop us from encouraging consistency. It’s much more effective to pull someone aside and say, “You’re absolutely right when you say X. And because of that, I encourage you to…” than to just call them out as lousy hypocrites.
Now that the book has been out for a few weeks, have any reactions/ misunderstandings to the text taken you off guard? Is there anything you would change in light of this?
I’ve yet to be cold-cocked by any of the responses because I anticipated the parts of the book would drive certain people batty (Strom Thurmond, clerical sex scandals, etc.). However, I was surprised by one thing. A few sympathetic critics have argued it shouldn’t have been titled In Defense of Hypocrisy. It’s not a systematic defense of hypocrisy, though it contains many arguments in favor of hypocrisy. They have a point, but On Hypocrisy or Thinking about Hypocrisy would be fairly boring titles.
Is there any specific question you wish people would ask about the book, but have as yet not? (And, sure, you can go ahead and answer it, too.)
Q: What were you thinking with the Reverse George Costanza Exception? A: Um, it made sense at the time. Sorry about that.
You close the book with what you describe as “a Rodney King-like plea for a ceasefire in the hypocrisy wars,” adding that if that doesn’t convince us, “give this book to your niece.” Should we take that to mean nieces are particularly hypocritical or at least more open to arguments in favor of hypocrisy?
That’s the hope. Plus, they’re cuter than nephews, so there’s just no downside.
If “our normal activities are fraught with hypocrisy of self-deceptive variety,” are those who disagree with the argument behind In Defense of Hypocrisy self-delusional hypocrites?
I should use that the next time I’m on television. “You, sir, are a lousy hypocrite. You just won’t admit it, even to yourself. For shame.”
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