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Personality Flaws Related to Hypocrisy

Tue May 01 2007 12:50 am
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When it comes to manipulating people, there are other personality types that are worth mentioning that are related to hypocrisy: Demagogues and Haters.

Demagogues are leaders, political activists or celebrities who use popular prejudices, fears, emotions and false claims and promises in order to gain power for themselves or a cause by revving up people  to support a cause. Often the followers don’t understand the method or the solution that the demagogue offers (if there even is a solution or plan), but are responding to the emotion of argument. Often the demagogue lacks power and knowledge of a subject and simply brings out any logic they can muster without a complete and thorough backing of facts to their argument.

The use of half-truths, omissions, and distortions are what define demagogy.

Methods of demagogy not involving violations of logic
Apples and oranges — mixing of incomparable quantities. For example, “our government has increased social spending by 5 billion dollars, while the previous government has increased it only by 0.4 percent.” Obviously, the latter sounds like less, but one cannot be sure without an absolute value. Bringing up analogies that don’t really apply to the argument is another example of mixing apple and oranges.

Half-truth — making statements that are true only in a strict and relatively meaningless sense. For example, “the opposition have accused us of cutting foreign aid, but actually our government has increased foreign aid by 500 million dollars,” not mentioning that (adjusted for inflation) the allocated funds have in fact gone down.

False authority — relying on the general authority of a person who is not proficient in the discussed topic. For example, “the professor read my book, and liked it very much,” omitting the fact that it was a professor of chemistry who read a book on anthropology.

Methods involving violation of logic
False dilemma — assuming that there are only two possible opinions on a given topic. For example, “Smith is not with us, therefore he is against us,” ignoring the possibility of a neutral position or divergence.

Demonization — identifying others or a situation as a mortal threat. Often this involves scapegoating — blaming others for one’s own problems. This is often advanced by using vague terms to identify the opposition group and then stereotyping that group. This allows the demagogue to exaggerate this group’s influence and ascribe any trait to them by identifying that trait in any individual in the group. This method can be aided by constructing a false dilemma that portrays opposition groups as having a value system that is the polar opposite of one’s own, as opposed to simply having different priorities. Conservatives would argue that comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler is an unfair demonized portrayal of George W. Bush. Liberals would argue that Bush’s naming nations as part of an axis of evil would be using demonization to raise fears of citizens. Perceptions and representations often involving filtering and ‘cherry picking’ priorities to uphold one’s own beliefs.

Straw man — mischaracterizing the opposing position and then arguing against the mischaracterization.

Loaded question — posing a question with an implied position that the opponent does not have. “When did you stop taking bribes?” The news media often constructs interviews to ‘spin’ a conclusion with a desired message.

Arguments unrelated to a discussion
Unrelated facts — bringing unrelated facts that sound in favor of the speaker’s agenda. For example, marking a vegetable or cereal product as “cholesterol free”. Since cholesterol is only found in animal products, such labeling does not actually distinguish this product from similar competitors.

Emotional appeal or personal attack — attempting to bring a discussion to an emotional level. For example, “Everyone is against me!”, “Can’t I be right just once?”, “You’re stupid!”, “You are demagoguing!” bringing up a past personal problem not related to the current argument, bringing up a personal problem of a relative, spouse or friend that is not related to the current argument, or just the classic retort “Shut up!”

More coming soon …


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