Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slippery standards to excuse hypocrisy

Stanley Fish has provided liberals with a get-out-of-hypocrisy-free card as he tries to figure out why it is okay for liberals to excoriate Rush Limbaugh, but excuse Bill Maher and Ed Schultz for doing the same thing. In his analysis people should side with their friends even if they're doing the same thing that they're criticizing others for.
If we think about the Rush Limbaugh dust-up from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective, the similarity between what he did and what Schultz and Maher did disappears. Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?

There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.
Isn't this great? Now liberals can be as despicable as they want to be. After all, they're self-identified as better people so that is more important than being fair.

Think of how this twisted principle frees liberals up. They never have to hold those on their side to the same standards that they whip out for those they oppose. They can rely on their own circular reasoning that they agree with each other so they're all fine on whatever they say or do. No longer do they have to try to explain away when Obama is now doing that which he criticized Bush and Republicans for. What a relief that is for them since that list keeps piling up. Instead they can comfort themselves that what Obama does is by definition right, because he is a liberal and they support liberals because those are their friends. End of tale.

Now if Stanley Fish can only figure out a way to use the same sort of persuasion on independents who haven't been gifted with this particular insight and who might notice hypocrisy when it rears up and smacks them in the face. I doubt if liberals will be able to convince swing voters to ignore hypocrisy just because liberals cut their friends some slack.