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Friday, December 8, 2006

Hypocrisy - double standard - controversy

Who's on first?

Issue spokesperson Andris Antoniskis, M.D. has stirred up a controversy over the diagnosis of Multiple-Standard Syndrome as it applies to the strange conduct displayed by editors of The Oregonian.

While sociobiologic forensic experts labor to determine the etiology of the illness that has overtaken the state's dominant news organ, The Oregonion takes an opportunity to inform readers of the key terms and definitions in play.

Hypocrisy is the act of pretending or claiming to have beliefs, feelings, morals or virtues that one does not truly possess or practice. The word derives from the late Latin hypocrisis and Greek ὑπόκρισις hypokrisis both meaning play-acting or pretense. The word is arguably derived from ὑπό hypo- meaning under, + κρίνειν krinein meaning to decide/to dispute [1].

Truly believing in one's right to a behavior whilst denying others the same right does not fit under the definition of hypocrisy, but should rather be termed as holding a double standard, thus leading to the most common misuse of the word. Examples of behavior mistakenly attributed to hypocrisy include issuing or enforcing dictates one does not follow oneself and criticizing others for carrying out some action while carrying out the same action oneself. This erroneous application of the word leads some people to believe that most people, if not all, are hypocrites; they tend to criticize what they perceive to be bad behavior in others, yet will justify it when they are inclined to perform the same action. Rather, this form of behavior is closely related to the fundamental attribution error, a well-studied phenomenon of human psychology: individuals are more likely to explain their own actions by their environment, yet they attribute the actions of others to 'innate characteristics', thus leading towards judging others while justifying ones' own actions.

Hypocrisy is a deliberate pretense used to convey sentiments or ideas that are false (acting as if one likes something or someone or agrees with a belief or political position when in fact they do not).

Some people sincerely regret that they cannot overcome temptation over some harmful behavior. An example is someone who says something like, “Please never start smoking. I wish I could stop." Also, some people genuinely fail to recognize that they have character faults which they condemn in others. This is called Psychological projection. This is Self-deception rather than deliberate deception of other people. People understand vices which they are struggling to overcome or have overcome in the past. Efforts to get other people to overcome such vices may be sincere. There may be an element of hypocrisy as well if the actors do not readily admit how far they are or have been subject to these vices.

"Do as I say and not as I do" is not a false representation of one's own true feelings or beliefs (including moral beliefs). It is the belief that one is above or otherwise not subject to the same rules they apply to others. An adult proscribing alcohol or tobacco use, or driving or sexual behavior to a minor is an example. As is the proponent of one religion condemning the adherents of another religion for conduct or actions that members of the first religion carry out. Or a person indulging in licentious behavior and at the same time, forbidding or denouncing others for practicing the same.

A passage from the Christian Gospel of Matthew is often cited as the typical example of the hypocrite: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye" Matthew 7:5. The passage means that it would be ridiculous to help someone remove a splinter or a piece of sawdust from their own eye, if you yourself had an entire log in yours and hadn't first tried to remove it (i.e. attempt to resolve your own flaw). See the Discourse on judgementalism.

See also:A double standard, according to the World Book Dictionary, is a standard applied more leniently to one group than to another. For example, the belief that it is permissible for teenage boys, but not teenage girls, to engage in premarital sex is a double standard. When judicial processes are applied more strictly to some people more than others, such double standards are seen as unjust because they violate a basic maxim of modern legal jurisprudence, that all parties should stand equal before the law. Double standards also violate the principle of justice known as impartiality, which is based on the assumption that the same standards should be applied to all people, without regard to subjective bias or favoritism based on social class, rank, ethnicity, gender or other distinction. A double standard violates this principle by holding different people accountable according to different standards. While double standards are generally condemned in the abstract, they are also very common.

There is a subtle distinction to be made between double standards and hypocrisy, which implies the stated or presumed acceptance of a single standard, but which in practice may be disregarded. If a man believes it is his right to have extra-marital affairs, but that his wife does not have such a right, he holds a double standard. A man who condemns all adultery while maintaining a mistress is a hypocrite.

Efforts to defend real or purported double standards usually take the form of denying that a double standard is being applied or attempting to give a good reason for the disparate treatment (in which case it is a double standard but it is a favorable or acceptable double standard). For example, children are generally forbidden from acts such as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, while adults are usually permitted to perform such acts with impunity. This differential treatment could be described as a double standard, because people are being held to different standards. However, one defending this differential treatment could argue that there is a good reason for the different treatment — that children are inherently less capable of making mature decisions regarding those activities, so they should be protected from risky and potentially harmful behavior. Supporters of this argument may also point out the fact that use of alcohol and tobacco at a young age can irreparably cause damage to a child's brain development. The counterargument, then, would be that children are not inherently less able to make good decisions, as there are some people who are more mature in their decision-making than other adults, so that age is an arbitrary criterion.

A controversy is a matter of opinion or dispute over which parties actively argue, disagree or debate. Controversies can range from private disputes between two to large scale disagreements.

Perennial areas of controversy include religion and politics. Controversy in matters of theology has traditionally been particularly heated, giving rise to odium theologicum. Controversial issues are held as potentially divisive in a given society, because it leads to heated debates, arguments and tension. Some controversies are considered taboo to many people, unless a society can find a common ground to share and discuss their feelings on a certain controversial issue.

Benford's law of controversy, as expressed by science-fiction author Gregory Benford in 1980, states "Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.

The term is not always used in a purely noble manner. The use of the word tends itself to create controversy where none may have authentically existed, acting as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Propagandists, therefore, may employ it as a "tar-brush," pejoratively, and thus create a perceived atmosphere of controversy, discrediting the subject:

"Beatrix Potter's creation, Peter Rabbit..." vs."Beatrix Potter's controversial creation, Peter Rabbit..."

Thus controversy may itself be judged controversial: see list of controversial books.

On the other hand, controversy is also used in advertising to try to draw attention to a product or idea by labeling it as controversial, even if the idea has become widely accepted to a given segment of the population. By doing this, the company hopes that people will wish to "see what all the commotion is" and pay to view the medium. This strategy has been known to be especially successful in promoting books and films.

Many of the early Christian writers, among them Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Jerome, were famed as "controversialists"; they wrote works against perceived heresy or heretical individuals, works whose titles begin "Adversus..." such as Irenaeus' Adversus haeresis. The Christian writers inherited from the classical rhetors the conviction that controversial confrontations, even over trivial matters, were a demonstration of intellectual superiority. See Christian theological controversy.

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