Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Word Is "Flipocrisy"


Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy asks for a word
for when advocates on both sides of an ongoing debate switch rhetorical positions, and yet they insist on decrying the inconsistency of their opponents while overlooking their own inconsistency.
Kerr doesn't mention the case of Saddam Hussein and the Iraq war, but it's hard not to notice that many Democrats who have opposed the war -- and by extension the overthrow of Saddam -- sang in a different key when Clinton was president. There's also the case of deficit spending, on which members of the two major parties have, in the main, reversed positions since Reagan's ascendancy.

I think "flipocrisy" captures the phenomenon nicely. "Flip" for reversal; "ocrisy" because we're seeing a form of "hypocrisy" in action.

John Holbo at Crooked Timber suggests "poetic justice as fairness" (for those who are in the Rawls joke-getting set). It's not a ringing phrase, but its logic is impeccable; to quote Holbo:
"Poetic justice as fairness" denotes a vendetta-based, rather than abstract reason-based approach to argument. Dialectic as feud; Hatfields and the McCoys do thesis and antithesis, with stupidity as synthesis. The rule is: if you think your opponent commited a fallacy in the recent past, you are allowed to commit a fallacy. And no one can remember when it started, but the other side started it. It is difficult to break the tragic cycle of intellectual violence once it starts.
Spot on!

PG at de novo gets Rawls jokes but prefers "rubber glue-ism" -- as in "I'm rubber and you're glue, and whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you."

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