Argument Ad Hypocrisy: the spell of Christ

There is a particular brand of right wing journalism which takes voyeuristic joy in portraying acts of hypocrisy. Consider the following from Toby Young’s latest Daily Mail column:

“I hesitate to criticise my father, whom I loved dearly, but his commitment to equality didn’t extend to his choice of motorcar — a vintage Bentley.”

In any given economic or political analysis, what is the relevance of the car of the father of Toby Young? When the bank of of England decides on what is an appropriate interest rate have they properly considered the car of…? It is common to see stories like this brought up in the mainstream press. Although I have noticed that any individual seems to place extra weight on the car of their father. My dad once had Ford. What a hypocrite; he didn’t like hamburgers, another famous american export. Pointing out errors in the Daily Mail is hardly a revelation but arguments like this can be found in any of the major newspapers.

My father was once run over and yet he later spoke out against road traffic accidents. Hypocrite!

Perhaps Toby Young is the finest purveyor of argument ad hypocrisy. To be a hypocrite may or may not be a negative personal quality, but lets assume it is a deeply negative quality. Lets agree with Christ that it is the master sin. I will here attempt to show that putting hypocrisy at the centre of political argument is a form of argument ad hominem and therefore a lesser use of subjective analysis. Something that can be traced back to Blair’s ‘I only know what I believe’. A general feature of democracy is this obsession with the speaker over the statement. When you vote for a party you are more concerned that the policy is not in contradiction with the leader’s behaviour rather than whether the policy has an effect that you want or don’t want.

My father once took a bus. What a hypocrite! He had a lifelong hatred of the poor.

The next question I want to address is why the hypocrisy obsession is so broadly associated with the right. Is there no opposite to the champagne socialist? The poor right winger? In attacking a champagne socialist are you not implicitly calling the poor right winger a self hater? Are you not implicitly assuming that left wing politics is useful to the poor? Otherwise there could be no hypocrisy in a non-pauper calling for policy which would harm themselves and committing the master sin of acting or at least speaking against self interest. But is not the central tenet of rightist thinking that a small inactive state helps the poor and that the economy is not a zero sum game and inequality is a price worth paying for overall increases in productivity. That is not an argument but a statement without evidence (there may be evidence but none is often provided). The truth is surely that economic performance is related to state economic activity and that as a game it is neither fully zero sum nor capable of infinite growth. In a system of total inequality (one person has everything and everyone else has nothing) we would not see maximum GDP growth even if that person was the best and most ‘hard working’.

My father once took a ferry to France. And yet he also believed the channel tunnel was good!

To fully take the hypocrisy fetish seriously we must ask if the left fulfills a similar role to charity. Is not charity primarily concerned with making the giver feel better about themselves and if anything aiming to maintain the object of the charity. Perhaps the nightmare of the left is to get what it wishes for and to have no-one to feel sorry for. Down this road lies the bizarre internal logic of self reference implicit in statements like ‘I vote to lie to myself about my true motivations which are ultimately inaccessible to me and concerned purely with building a set of theoretical relations which allow me to enact a deep and mysterious want about my setting myself in relation to real events in a pleasant way’ as opposed to the brutal leftist, objective, ‘veil of ignorance’ argument style of ‘this act causes this effect’.

My father once flew in an aeroplane. I wonder how he squared this with Bernoulli’s theorem.

This is how I am framing the two cultures. The right with Karl Popper’s anti-dialectical-materialism and the left with its objective inhuman analysis. The spell of Plato is clashing with the spell of Christ on a daily basis. Which side are you on? Plato, Hegel, and Marx vs Christ, Burke, and Popper. Is a good political argument one that is consistent with the behaviour of the person who says it or one that is true?

My father once walked somewhere. What a cunt!