July 07, 2010

Hypocrisy Part II

Side note: anyone who wants to talk about how they don't like Zuska, etc. can please stay the hell out of this comment thread.

There's some confusion over the intent of my last post, enough that I think it's worth a follow-up post to clear some things up. I'll start with Zuska.

Stephanie, are you really inviting your readers to honestly let you know if they think you behaved in a hypocritical manner? Or are you just hoping to hear a chorus of "nuh uh, no way, you are the best!!!"

I really am asking. Outside perspective is good for, well, perspective. I'd also like to hash the issue out a bit.

To be transparent, I don't really expect to get answers that indicate hypocrisy. I do, however, expect answers that will illustrate what people object to when they're calling me hypocritical. In particular, I wanted to draw becca out on the topic in a forum where we could discuss it with less sniping going on. Controlling the sniping didn't work so well, but at least I got an answer from becca.

I think there's a bit of hypocrisy inherent in tolerating shit from out friends we wouldn't from strangers. But without that, few of us would have friends.

I think becca's characterization here is part of the problem. I'm pretty sure it's a big part of the answer to my questions about why people see hypocrisy in my behavior. In the press to "win" bloggy arguments, we've lost track of what "hypocrisy" means.

a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

Hypocrisy is not failing to be perfectly consistent in the application of ideals one actually has. It's not even having different standards for different people. It's a form of dishonesty that prompts the wrath we reserve for people who lie to us. Describing behavior that doesn't meet that definition as "hypocrisy" started as a way of invoking that wrath to back up a failing argument. What someone online means by it now is anybody's guess--unless you ask.

This is why I rarely use labels when I'm pointing out fallacious argumentation and the like. This argument effect is starting to render them meaningless. I'd much rather say to someone, "Your opinion of me is very interesting, but do you have anything to address my reasoning?" than accuse them of argumentum ad hominem. When people no longer understand what the problem is from the name, we need to address the behavior directly.

That said, there are a couple of things about becca's friends versus not friends idea that I want to dig into. The first is that you don't, and won't, see a lot of my interaction with my friends. I'm just not that exhibitionistic (bloggerfail?). That's doubly true on those occasions when I want to work to change their minds about something. Turning that discussion into an adversarial interaction in public with people taking sides or being happy to see a disagreement is about the least productive tack I could possibly take. There is no point.

Secondly, I think that much of what is being seen as double standards is a difference in the level at which we understand others' behavior, kind of an extension of the actor-observer bias. We are privy to much more information about why our friends do what they do. We understand it better. We see a wide range of behavior from them. We have the context to understand why they do what they do--and to empathize.

People who aren't our friends, however, or even those who are our friends but are new friends or are at some distance from us? Them we don't know as well. We see a smaller range of their behavior, and we see less of the circumstances that provide context for the behavior. We just don't have the same basis for empathy, even though we might well offer it if we did.

Of course, even though it isn't a double standard, this effect is still something to be wary of. It can make you very, very wrong.

And, finally, because this is important to me, back to Zuska.

I thought we were friends.

Me too. I still think we're friends.

We're friends at a distance and both of us busy with other things, which makes it a hell of a lot harder when we have disagreements. It makes it hard to even know when we're disagreeing. Making it harder yet is the fact that people keep telling us we have lots of disagreements. We're primed to see them even in places where they don't exist. And we just don't talk enough to sort out what's real and what's not.

Take the idea that I called anyone, much less you, a bully in the comments on Jason's post. It didn't happen. I did get angry enough at the presence of "so-and-so deserved it" comments that I wasn't clear that "junior high" wasn't meant as a descriptor of all the comments I objected to, and for that, I'm sorry. I still disagree that you would apply the same simple argument about power to other circumstances, but I wish I had been more careful of your feelings.

Something similar happened with your post, wherein people thought you were attacking me as a bully. I didn't know what to think, so I set it aside until it got sorted out on its own or I had time to sit down long enough to ask. I'm glad you clarified.

For the record, I don't think we have that many disagreements. Those that we do have mostly have to do with our perceptions of other people, where I think more priming bears a lot of the blame. We simply don't get the same things from the same words.

Aside from that, I don't see much in the way of disagreement usually. I'm appallingly focused on tactics a lot of the time and your focus is different, and that's cool. I get slightly annoyed when people mistake venting for tactical work, but that isn't you. I also love it when you do get tactical.

So yes, friends. And I'm glad you asked and hope you will again if you ever doubt it.


Becca said...

Hmm. My ideolectic gut feely notion of "hypocrisy" seems quite sloppy now.

However, it raises another question.
What I've had to grapple with (and perhaps Zuska has, as well) is 'what degree of a show of loyalty/defense from attack can I expect from this person if they are my friend'?

Greg Laden said...

Becca, is this for a friend with whom you have private communication on a regular basis? If so, then I'd expect one would form reasonably accurate expectations from the private negotiations that happen in friendships. Otherwise, things are kind of up for grabs, and very much open to error and mayhem.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Becca, I think we all have to deal with that. I wish there were an easy answer. I generally try to take risks, but that can break down under stress.

D. C. said...

What I've had to grapple with (and perhaps Zuska has, as well) is 'what degree of a show of loyalty/defense from attack can I expect from this person if they are my friend'?

Are we distinguishing between "friend" and "ally?"

Maybe I'm just a cold SOB, but I don't get the relevance of "friend." I work pretty hard at staying out of outright pissing contests, mostly because I figure everyone can get along without me. I have to admit that all to often the question of "right" just vanishes in the "them" and "us" aspects. I'll pass on those.

If it's anything remotely about truth, though, the chips can scatter themselves among the sawdust.

Assuming that I even have enough credibility to make a difference (doubtful) about the most difference that "friend" makes is that I may just bail rather than defend someone I dislike even when they seem to be taking unjustified abuse. Ain't proud of it, but there you are.

Glendon Mellow said...

These posts are as nuanced and clear as your best stuff, Stephanie.

When I see your reactions on a thread of contention, I always have to stop skim-scrolling. From speaking with you and reading your work, I know you're an intelligent, articulate person with possibly many viewpoints I have in common, but I have to stop skim-scrolling to check what you're going to say. I'm never sure which way you'll go.

You're one of the least "tribal" people I've encountered online.