Posted by: N.S. Palmer | June 12, 2011

Three Cheers for Hypocrisy

By N.S. Palmer

Hypocrisy is the tax that vice pays to virtue.”

That quote has been attributed to various people: to the Irish satirist Oscar Wilde, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, and the French social reformer Francois La Rochefoucauld, among others. Perhaps they all said it.

But it spotlights a truth: However much we dislike hypocrisy, it serves an important social function.

President Obama, like President Bush before him, now claims the right to order anyone killed, anywhere in the world, without a trial or conviction for any crime.

Here’s a non-surprise: The U.S. government has been doing that for a long time.

Someone gets in the way, whether of the U.S. government, the oil companies, or the multi-national corporations, and he gets killed. Saddam Hussein, who was the first President Bush’s favorite Middle Eastern dictator until he got too independent. Ngo Dinh Diem. Patrice Lumumba. News reporter Danny Casolaro. Now, it’s Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi‘s turn. He has a target on his back because he annoyed the oil companies.

But in the past, there was a difference. Even if the president knew what was going on, he avoided any personal involvement. He had “deniability.” The president pretended that he knew nothing about it. And the rest of us went along with the charade.

Yes, it was hypocritical. But that’s the point. The hypocrisy was a good thing. When a hypocrite sins covertly, he breaks moral and statutory laws but he acknowledges their validity.

President Obama and President G.W. Bush are not hypocrites, at least not on the issue of government-sponsored murder. They embrace their evil acts. They even boast about them. By so doing, they deny the validity of the moral and statutory laws that forbid such evil acts.

Not only do they do evil, but they compound their sin by weakening the moral foundations of civilization. They avow that we are nothing more than lawless, bloodthirsty barbarians. And they have the power to prove it with their actions.

So let’s hear it for hypocrisy. If people are going to sin, they should at least have the decency to lie about it.

Copyright 2011 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL ( are included.

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