Monday, January 27, 2014

Categorical hypocrisy is not actual hypocrisy

I draw a lot from the Robbers Cave Experiment when I write about political attitudes, where people see their political opponents as a monolithic group while seeing their own side as diverse and nuanced.

Far too often this takes the form of labeling a large loosely-associated group of people hypocrites because of two views that are both supposedly common within that group. These accusations of "categorical hypocrisy" include:

Feminists who supposedly don't care about women in poor nations,

Guns owners who don't see gay marriage as a personal right,

Pro-lifers who support the death penalty

Pro-choicers who oppose the death penalty

Critics of Obama's economic policies who tolerated Bush's big spending

Opponents of Bush's war mongering who give Obama a pass

In all of these cases, the problem stems from the assumption that everyone in the group holds the same position. Individuals can be hypocrites and hold two opposing view, but it doesn't make sense to take that example of hypocrisy and apply it to all other members of loosely-defined groups like "feminist," "gun owner" or "Democrat." Feminists who oppose female genital mutilation are easy to find, and gun-owning libertarians who support gay marriage are crawling out of the woodwork these days.

While it can be tempting to label groups or ones political opponents as contradicting themselves, its usually a cheap stunt that can reveals a low level of discourse. Categorical thinking is a crude way to form a world view and categorical hypocrisy is not really hypocrisy.

No comments:

Post a Comment