Like millions of news junkies, I am guilty of addictively breaking the cardinal rule of traversing the modern media landscape: Never read the comments section.
And while I am often discouraged that the strife on display represents a further polarization amongst our political parties, a closer review reveals that, at least amongst this surly sample, commonalities in attitude transcend party affiliation.
The two dominant political parties would like to believe they have an equal market share of fealty, but they are both beaten by an informal party that transcends either platform. I propose for consideration that the dominant party in American politics is the Hypocritan Party.
Members of the Hypocritan Party are agnostic to the actual issues. Even the most hot-button topics, such as abortion, gun rights, federal spending and immigration, don’t matter much to them.
They have a unique, remarkable, and infuriating ability to see, and even argue, both sides of an issue with ease.
For these Rhetorical Rambos, the ultimate goal is not party dominance or power in government. They thrive on a platform of proving that YOU (whoever you are) are not only wrong but that you are a hypocrite for your beliefs and arguments.
And while we’d like to hope that members only have the courage to wage their battles anonymously online, unfortunately, the party is multi-faceted and medium-integrated. It knows no bounds, and anyone who has dared to bring up politics in what you had assumed was polite company knows there is always a Hypocritan ready to instantly research anything you say or recall how you once felt differently on an issue 10 years ago.
So, do we choose to ignore the Hypocritan?
That question does yield the concern of whether ignoring them will create more partisan “echo chambers” and “bubbles.” The truth is that while they may masquerade as Republicans or Democrats and will demand our respect and a platform, they are not members of either party and do not deserve respect.
A Hypocritan has not earned our respect or even a voice or platform as their belief system is based on animus and cynicism. When an individual rejects the norms of conversation to instead embarrass and belittle their opponent, they have abandoned the merits and benefits of discourse. We shouldn’t offer them a platform or our engagement.
Ignoring them, whether in real life or online, is the only way for us to ensure they do not grow in number. Even the smallest engagement can lead you down a dark hole resulting in you inevitably being called a Nazi.
Similarly, while we must personally rebuff existing Hypocritans, the ultimate destruction of the party comes from an even greater inward strength.
We have to resist the urge to join.
Calling out hypocrisy to strike the satisfying death blow of someone admitting they are wrong now or before is alluring and, ultimately, addictive.
Instead, we must resist that urge and recognize that the satisfaction we seek in proving others wrong is fleeting and poisonous to our belief systems. When we seek only to prove others wrong rather than to learn, we turn our back on the value of authentic discourse.
We must remain humble despite the Hypocritan rejection of humility, silence and reception.
And, while they falsely and foolishly rationalize their motives as serving larger purposes like justice or truth, they only serve themselves and their own egos.
These are the qualities that make us anxious to get together with friends and family and to share ideas or engage in honest debate. If it is true that our country is getting further divided, it is the Hypocritans that are the wedge.
Yet, there is hope in all of us. We all have the ability to be, as writer James Rebanks put it, “quietly smart.”
A quietly inquisitive populace is the antidote to the poison of the Hypocritan Party. Avoiding their pointless and draining traps, and not joining their ranks, reserves our strength to fight for truly worthy causes.
Greg Behr is a founder of GBW Strategies in Raleigh.