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After all, it is necessary to get behind someone before you can stab them in the back.
—Sir Humphrey Appleby, Yes, Prime Minister[1]

Hypocrisy is a deceitful tactic used most often by those in power. Hypocrisy is when one takes up a position that a particular action is wrong and tells people not to do said action, yet the person who holds this view does said action anyway. For example, a politician who believes in "family values" is known to cheat on his wife, or when a self-help author tells people to save 10% of their income yet never does so themselves.

A hypocrite (from the Greek, "actor"[2]) is someone who espouses a view, perspective, or philosophy without adhering to it in any meaningful way themselves, especially if they claim that their philosophy applies to all people. The ultimate snarkology of the hypocrite is, "Do as I say, not as I do." Generally, "hypocrite" is a pejorative term; there are practically no cases where hypocrisy is considered a good thing unless you're a demagogue like Donald Trump, or one of his followers. And even then, nobody with a functional brain sees the hypocrisy in question as commendable.

As a double standard[edit]

How is it that a supposedly perfect God doesn't know — or doesn't believe — that slavery is wrong? How is it that God doesn't believe men and women are equals? How can it be that such a God can condemn shellfish and pork, yet cannot level an outright condemnation of rape? How is it that when Hitler commited[sic] genocide he was a monster, and condemned by religious people the world over — and yet these same people can read of acts of genocide, committed either in the name of God, or supposedly committed by God himself, and find that to be righteous and holy? Why is it that when dealing with — and thinking about — God, one must set aside our moral and ethical standards? More importantly, I ask myself each day why religious people don't ask these questions?
—Casper Rigsby, Holy Sh!t — The Insanity of Blind Faith[3]
You cannot be Pagan and homosexual or even tolerate homosexuality. […] there are other rules in the Pagan philosophy for women, though.
Varg Vikernes[4]

Hypocrisy often takes the form of the "double standard", the act of judging similar acts differently depending on who is responsible for them or judging people by different criteria because of who they are. Thus, a woman who has had many sexual partners may be seen as a "slut", while a similarly-experienced man may be admired for his studliness. In American legal history, the use of double standards may be seen in the higher penalties attached to the possession of crack cocaine (typically more popular with African-Americans) as opposed to the lesser penalties for possession of the powdered form of the drug typically favored by white people.

What is not hypocrisy[edit]

True friends stab you in the front.
Oscar Wilde[5]

This is in contrast to the willful recommendation of acting against a personal practice. Someone can believe that it is better to live in a suburb and may want to themselves, but due to obligations or lack of resources is unable to. This, though not hypocrisy, can be dangerous because making such a recommendation without personal experience may lead someone to do something they regret.

On the other hand, a (former) drug addict who suffers for their drug usage may be very well qualified in admonishing others to not get started in harmful, expensive, illegal and addictive substances.[note 1]

Degrees of Hypocrisy[edit]

There is an argument sometimes made that there are degrees of hypocrisy, and some are worse than others. In a very rough order from (what is usually held to be) least to most blameworthy:

  • Hypocrisy from external constraints (e.g., "I usually hate people who voluntarily eat junk food, but I understand if you're driving through the middle of nowhere and that's the only food for sale within 30 miles, I've been there myself")
  • "Honest" Hypocrisy, where the hypocrite is aware of their hypocrisy and decries it as weakness (e.g., "[takes out cigarette] Kids, please take my advice and don't start smoking, it's a really expensive habit, and you'll start hating yourself for doing it.") or serving a greater purpose (e.g., "By the way, I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it, so don't bother pointing that out.")
  • Unthinking or Unknowing Hypocrisy, where the hypocrite is unaware that they are being hypocritical.
  • Straight ahead knowing hypocrisy, but without deception, is usually placed as worse than Unknowing Hypocrisy, but less bad than Deceptive Hypocrisy, below,
  • Hypocrisy where deception is a significant factor on the part of the hypocrite.

There's a further, special case: What TV Tropes calls "Straw hypocrisy", where somebody advocates for a position they do not actually believe in.[6] The exact blameworthiness can vary wildly based on such factors as the position advocated, the difference between the claimed and true beliefs, and reasons for doing so.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Of course, if one is still using the same drug as they recommend against without making efforts to try and quit, it may project a different perception about themselves.


  1. [https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=yes-prime-minister-1986&episode=s02e04 Yes, Prime Minister (1986) s02e04 Episode Script A Conflict of Interest] Springfield! Springfield!
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Hypocrite § Etymology.
  3. Volume One: Christianity, Chapter 3 (18:00), Audiobook version.
  4. Paganism: Part I - The Ancient Religion by Varg Vikernes (06th January 2005) Burzum (archived from May 25, 2019).
  5. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/oscarwilde100745.html
  6. “Straw Hypocrite” article on TV Tropes