When Hypocrisy Isn’t as Bad

India is a land of breaking news. And now it’s not just news channels. Thanks to twitter, we don’t even need news channels anymore. We make news out of who tweeted what. By ‘we’, I mean the non-troll and non-lechers community, whether right or left leaning but people who have opinions, get outraged for the wrong being said and sharing it out there. In the last two days, there were two-three such things. One of them being:

Narendra Modi said, “Our Muslim sisters should get justice too (on triple talaq)”

People said, Narendra Modi talking about Muslim sisters is so ironical. He abandoned his wife.

Snapchat CEO allegedly said that “Snapchat is not looking to expand in India because India is a poor country and the app is for rich people.”

There was such a huge outrage that Indians began uninstalling Snapchat and downrating it. Some idiots also confused it with Snapdeal and uninstalled the app. “How dare he call us poor?”

Yesterday, I began reading Givler Ray’s book, “Don’t Get Fooled!” The book is about Cognitive Biases and Fallacies (now don’t get scared and run away, I’ll explain what it is). A Fallacy is a mistaken belief, generally based on an unsound argument. Argumentation doesn’t mean to argue but it means to have sound reasoning behind what you say and believe. We tend to make fallacies based on our biases about things. Our arguments, negotiations and relationships can be more swift and peaceful if we keep our biases and fallacies. The first step to being a rational person is to learn to keep our biases aside.

Interestingly, the first chapter of this book talks about:

Appeal to Hypocrisy

Like the examples given above, it so happens that when someone who doesn’t do what they are asking others to do, we call them hypocritical and try to channelize our effort in not accepting what they are trying to say.

Appeal to Hypocrisy attempts to undermine someone’s argument by showing that the person in question does not follow their own advice.

I love the example that they gave:

(Mrs. Champ, the teacher, returns math tests.)

Dennis: You got a D! Man, you need to study!

Manny: Look who’s talking. You got an F!

Dennis: Yeah, but you usually get A’s.

Manny: So it’s better to be a consistent failure?

Dennis: You’re right. I’m the one who needs to study.

Manny appears to get the better of poor Dennis, but he does not. Dennis’ position is that Manny needs to study. Manny’s position is that he does not need to study because Dennis has a greater need to study. Manny’s argument is illogically grounded in Tu Quoque. Manny needs to study no matter how poorly Dennis does. Manny could argue that Dennis does not believe in studying, but that is a separate point. When you hear the phrase “look who’s talking,” your fallacy radar should start to beep.

From “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments”

In the same way, just because Narendra Modi is saying something that he does not seem to have applied in his life, it doesn’t make the statement false. We need to remember that what he’s saying is still true. It may be ironical, yes. And it might be for the vote banks, yes. But it is still true. So why raise the issue and fuel the fire?

Snapchat’s CEO said we are poor. Aren’t we? We are. We know that we are. The only thing that hurt us is that he said it. According to research reports, whether or not he said it, this might actually be true that it will not be fruitful for Snapchat to expand in India currently. Because the app requires just too much bandwidth with cheaper internet connections. So turns out, there was nothing to be outraged about, in this.

Appeal to Hypocrisy is a fallacy. So when the person we disagree with, says something correct, there’s no point in denying or making fun of it. Or even the person we otherwise like, points out something bad in us and if we know it is true, there’s no point in outrage in that. Try to find better arguments. It’s okay. Let it pass.

I got the idea of reading the mentioned book through Kunal Shah’s (Founder, Freecharge) Facebook Status where he was talking about how we Indians need a compulsory school training on Cognitive Biases and Logical Fallacies to really better deal with such situations. It’s a simple book and free on Kindle. Must read. 



One thought on “When Hypocrisy Isn’t as Bad

  1. there is a saying of ‘devil quoting Bible.’
    the point is : it always matters who speaks what.
    There is a difference between ‘a person with whom we disagree’ and ‘someone whose acts are completely opposite to what s/he speaks/preaches.
    you have rightly mentioned the irony part. (I’m not specific about this particular example)
    the irony part itself is and should be reason for criticism.


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