In defence of hypocrisy

A dimly remembered episode of Have I Got News For You: Katie Hopkins attacks Occupy London protesters for drinking Starbucks coffee. Her remarks are met with murmured approval from the audience. At home, I too scoff at the hypocrisy of these flat-white ideologues. But what happens next interrupts the usual flow of this panel-show cynicism. Ian Hislop turns on his team mate and, with devastating pertinence, points out that being part of the world you criticize is not a hypocritical position. It is, in fact, inevitable.

The scene is hidden somewhere in the archives of the internet, but still stands out for me as a rare instant of clarity. Accusations of personal hypocrisy often follow complaints about gentrification, iPhones or low-cost flights. But this ‘love it or leave it’ logic rarely does anything beyond shutting down potentially interesting conversations. Complicity with an unjust world doesn’t mean you can’t campaign for something better. And I’m not sure a life uncontaminated by the things you you find problematic, were such a life even possible, would strengthen your case to change them.


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