Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Let those who are without sin share the first post

Jerry Stratton, September 8, 2015

…it is one thing to believe in witches, and quite another to believe in witch-smellers. — G. K. Chesterton (Eugenics and Other Evils)

Replace “witch” with “hypocrite” and you have my opinion on people who claim to be able to interpret another person’s religion for them, to look into their heart, and proclaim that they have sniffed out a hypocrite.

On Sunday I read about the Muslim flight attendant who does not wish to serve alcohol, as it conflicts with her religion. Just as I wrote about the Kentucky clerk, if I were her boss I would be inclined to find a way for her to continue her job without selling alcohol; but I would (as with the clerk) also understand if those in charge of her decide to fire her.

I also, as I wrote about the clerk, would personally think it more appropriate to resign, but understand that other people have different needs when it comes to jobs.

People can disagree about what would be appropriate for the flight attendant to do, and what would be appropriate for her employer to do.

What would not be appropriate would be for her employer to publicize photos of her past drinking habits, if any, regardless of how factual the allegations were. Nor would it be appropriate for her customers to try shaming her by publicizing her personal drinking, nor for people who just generally disagreed with her to join in.

There could be any number of reasons she could legitimately have a religious conviction against serving alcohol even though she has a (completely hypothetical)1 record of drinking.

  • It could be that she learned from hard experience that it was wrong, and she changed her ways because of her experience.
  • It could be that she recognizes her own weakness, and is public about it, while still affirming her religious belief. There’s nothing wrong with that, if she’s honest about it.
  • For that matter, some religions count it as more of a sin to help someone else sin than to sin yourself.
  • It could even be that she is a recent convert, that she did these supposedly hypocritical things before a spiritual awakening.
  • It could even be that her past transgressions triggered her religious awakening. This is hardly unheard of in the annals of religion.

Any of these would melt hypocrisy into simple humanity.2 Would it be legitimate for her employer to start a campaign publicizing her past drinking habits because she’s asking not to serve alcohol? Would it be legitimate for her passengers to do so, passengers who could get a drink from another flight attendant? Would it be legitimate for third parties who simply disagreed with her stand to join the campaign and shame her on social media?


Certainly there are times when hypocrisy is a valid complaint. A prosecutor whose tough-on-crime campaign targets prostitution while he secretly takes part in the trade himself. A muck-raking journalist who assails his target for lying while he secretly fakes their responses in interviews. An industrialist who praises the cleanliness of his factories, while refusing to let them build in his neighborhood because he secretly knows that they aren’t clean. Legislators who create laws while exempting themselves.

But these all have some important attributes in common: there’s secrecy, the hypocritical stance fuels corruption, the secret behavior is ongoing, the hypocrite uses their hypocrisy to engage in hypocritical behavior, or the people they’re targeting are falsely accused of the behavior even as the hypocrite does it themself.

Without at least some of those exterior elements it is very hard to see into a person’s heart and know that they are hypocrites. And without knowing, all you’re doing by posting people’s personal info is publicly shaming them for them disagreeing with you.

Which is a little hypocritical. After all, you disagree with them, too, and you’d be justifiably angry if they did the same to you.

It isn’t hypocrisy to do wrong. It is hypocrisy to benefit from it while pretending to hold different views. By all accounts, both the flight attendant and the county clerk are seriously holding their views and are not benefiting from them. The flight attendant was willing to risk being fired, and the county clerk was willing to go to jail. She’ll probably also lose her job, and she probably knows this.

It would be hypocrisy, on the other hand, to shame people who disagree with you politically while reserving the right to complain about the similar shaming of allies. The people perpetrating this social media campaign against the county clerk have no credibility to bring up New Tone arguments later.

Unless, of course, they apologize, publicly, for their failings, and don’t revert back to their old behavior when it suits them to do so. I’m not going to hold my breath.

In response to Quakers refusing gun permits: If a Quaker were to refuse to deport an illegal alien because of their religious beliefs, would the left denounce that government official like they’re denouncing the Kentucky Clerk who is refusing gay marriage licenses?

  1. I am speaking hypothetically here because I have no desire to investigate her personal life.

  2. As it turns out, both the flight attendant and the county clerk recently underwent a religious renewal, according to news accounts.

  1. Kentucky Compromise ->