Monday, August 29, 2011

stephenson on fernandez on perry

i agree with matthew yglesias. the problem with rick perry is not hypocrisy, it is extremism. having extremist views on policy issues is a lot worse than merely being a hypocrite. but unfortunately the political press hates delving into policy issues and so hypocrisy is a convenient way to criticize without having to get into messy discussions of the issues on their merits.

which reminds me of a bit from the diamond age by neal stephenson, a science fiction novel i read about 15 years ago. the diamond age takes place decades in the future,in a world dominated by moralizing neo-victorians. in this one scene, a scene that has stuck with me through all these years, one of the characters talks about the role hypocrisy played in the days of his youth, by which he is referring to our own society right now:
You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices,” Finkle-McGraw said. “It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticise others-after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism? … Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others’ shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour-you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.
(a tip of the hat to the now-inactive blog critically, for posting five years ago exactly the quote i was looking for today)