13 Dec 2010

Hypocrisy Check

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I don’t have any particular people in mind–otherwise I would have busted them–but I bet there are lots of people, both on the (conventional) left and right, who have had a different attitude to leaks during the Climategate and WikiLeaks discussions.

In other words, I bet there are lots of left-wingers who were outraged at the betrayal of trust, etc. etc. of the leaking of the Climategate emails, yet those people are defending Manning/Assange as heroes.

On the other hand, I bet there are lots of right-wingers who were buying rounds at the bar after the brave souls leaked the Climategate emails, since after all the public was being duped and science was being abused. But these same people are now demanding Assange’s head.

20 Responses to “Hypocrisy Check”

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I suppose I’d be more left than right. Personally, I see “climategate” as pretty clear theft that ends up embarassing and revealing a few climate scientists to be sloppy or nasty, but pretty much vindicating the scientists. In all those emails there’s nothing really that changes our view of the science. But it’s clearly theft. So I’m “mildly annoyed, certainly think those who were stolen from have a case, but ultimately not really outraged in one direction or the other by the theft or the revelation”.

    Wikileaks offers a somewhat different situation – again, as with Climategate, I don’t think any of the information was a game-changer. Nothing was all that surprising. It was mostly just an embarassment. You’ve got two important differences with Wikileaks, though. First, you’re stealing classified information that is classified for a reason – it could ostensibly put Americans at risk if it were revealed. This was not true of Climategate. Second, you’re stealing from the government which, all else equal, we’d like to be transparent and honest. Again, this is not true of private emails between scientists. Those obviously work in opposite directions. If you value the transparency you can celebrate Wikileaks, and if you value security you can condemn them. Both are obviously very good arguments – it’s just a question of which you place a higher premium on. I think there’s enough to both of these arguments (for security and for transparency) that any given liberal or conservative could legitimately differentiate between Climategate and Wikileaks.

    I think the common thread between these two is that pundits give it far more creedance than anyone else does. Neither seem to me to be a very big deal. There were some revealing embarassments, but my view of the government and of climate scientists didn’t really change.

    It does concern me that so many documents could be stolen from the government. That that could happen is my real concern. In this case I really don’t care. In a case like the Pentagon Papers it could actually be a good thing. But one could imagine other cases where such a leak could be very, very dangerous and not beneficial for anyone.

    • Roger Ritthaler says:

      When they want our blessing, politicians say that we are the government and that they work for us. When their documents are made public and their secrets exposed, then we’re stealing. How can we steal from ourselves?

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Agents of a principal don’t lose all rights to the principal. Let’s say you own stock in a company. It doesn’t mean you can break into the CEO’s office and steal all his stuff.

        We do and should expect transparency in government, but I’m not sure that amounts to completely nullifying any confidential status of any government document.

        Assange, keep in mind, is not an American. This whole “how can it be treason if he’s not an American” is a good point and an opportunity to laugh at knee-jerk reactionaries who don’t think about what they say. But still… isn’t treason by a foreigner essentially espionage?

        • JimS says:

          Two things everyone forgets; Actions have consequences; our hero Assange makes a lot of money off his thefts or the pawning of stolen goods. Not as selfless as one might think. Someone will say that he could pursue some other liner of work for renumeration. Certainly true, but the same could be said of the iron worker.

          Yes, I think we could classify Assange more as a spy than a traitor, but there are consequences for such actions, ask Nathan Hale.

          This comes up time and again with whistle blowers; they want to experience no repercussions for their actions, they want to keep their job, they want to be lauded as heroes. It doesn’t work that way. There is nothing heroic about one’s actions if nothing or little is at risk. In fact, I am not sure there is such a thing as an selfless act. The perpetrator of the act values what he might receive (real or intrinsic) or create (again, real or not) by his actions to be of greater value than what he has or what he sacrifices; basic market principles. A soldier storms the machine gun nest because it fulfills his sense of honor, duty, courage and commitment. That is his payoff. It might be in the hereafter, as in the case of suicide bombers, or by creating an revered name as in the case of many poets seeking immortality. Certainly , it may not be rationalized by the individual that way at that moment, but I think the indoctrination one receives has an effect.

          I think we might ask why someone like Dr. Murphy does what he does. We may assume, some of his actions are financially rewarded, to what extent is likely none of our business, but he does have to eat and if he profits greatly, good for him, it certainly does not harm us, it is not a zero sum game. Other things he does have little or no financial return let alone profit, so why does he do them? Does he feel an obligation to us? Does he feel it is part of his faith to engage in such actions? Does it satisfy his ego? Who knows and does it really matter? Those of us who frequent this site and patronize Murphy’s goods and services obviously find some sort of value. If we didn’t, he likely would still pursue his calling in between shifts of whatever outside work he finds. I think many of the principles laid out in “Human Action” are not restricted to the market, but are pervassive throughout our lives.


          • RS says:

            “I am not sure there is such a thing as an selfless act.”

            That depends on how you define “selfless”. If the “self” is not the standard of ones values, as it is commonly (mistakenly IMO) viewed, then the values chosen are “selfless”. If the self is the standard then the values are selfish. The hard part is correctly/logically determining what is, and is not, in one’s interests.

            Painting every action as inherently “selfish” makes the false assumption that every action is necessarily in one’s interests when clearly it is not. actions based on whim can never be in ones interest no matter what the short term gains may be.

          • RG says:

            Altruism is a myth. Human action demands subjective preferences in every decision. That doesn’t mean your selfish decision would never involve inherent risks to benefit additional people.

          • RS says:

            @ RG

            “Human action” and “subjective preference” are predicated on an end to be achieved by some means. If the “action” taken is antithetical to the “end” you have chosen then that is altruism.

            If any action is to be considered as “selfish” simply by the fact that one has chosen to “act” then there could be no differentiation between ends and means. Choosing ones values or goals and the actions or means taken in their regard are two different things. One does not equal the other. Self-sacrifice and altruism are concepts that describe actions that necessarily go against ones previously chosen values, they are not, by themselves, values. One cannot “value” the negation of all values, it is blatant contradiction. People choose values and either act to acquire them or give them away.

            Altruism/Egoism are concepts that are defined by how one acts in relation to the values that one has chosen and “efficacy” is determined by how well the means employed achieve the desired end. A person who values nothing has nothing to give up and could neither be an altruist nor an egoist but is in fact a nihilist. A person who values much but gives it all away is an altruist precisely because he values it, it is mystery to me how such a person could be considered virtuous but that is what most people believe, to all of our detriment, unfortunately.

          • Robert Greenwood says:

            @ RG
            This semantic argument regarding altruism and selfishness completely ignores not only the common meanings but the formal definitions of the terms.
            According to Merriam-Webster, altruism may be defined as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others”. By this definition one may be altruistic and still act to attain his desire/end (that is to promote the welfare of others over self). Obviously “interests” is not synonymous with “welfare” however people often use them interchangeably. e.g., “He unselfishly putting others’ interests before his own” where “He unselfishly put others’ welfare before his own” would be more appropriate.

            Similarly, the word “selfish” is over-analyzed. “Selfish” is used to describe one who acts with little or no consideration of others. This very different from acting in self interest.

            It’s absurd to default adjectives as absolutes. “That shirt is red.” “No, it has an ever so slight blue hue to it! No such thing as a red shirt!”

            Regarding Assange, he has to some limited degree considered the interests of others by withholding some sensitive details that he possesses. The degree to which he has been selfish or selfless is simply a value judgment.

          • RS says:

            @Robert Greenwood

            The posts by Jim S and RG made broad generalizations regarding acts of selflessness and altruism (e.g. “I am not sure there is such a thing as an selfless act.” “And Altruism is a myth”) so my argument is in keeping with that context.

            Given that, “selfish” and “self-interest” are used interchangeably as are “selfless” and “altruist” and all are concepts that describe the nature of values in relation to the person doing the valuing. A value is something one acts to gain or keep. A person who acts against his own self interest is an altruist, the essential characteristic being a disregard of self in deference to others. This is the essence of the altruist moral code and how it is most widely accepted in our society.

            Conversely, an “egoist” (selfish/self interest) would be someone who disregards others in deference to self. Jim S and RG were arguing that there is no difference between such codes or that they do not exist, I am simply pointing out that it does and there are. Granted, there are degrees between an absolute “altruist” and an “egoist” but that does not mean they don’t exist. That is a common epistemological mistake.

            The essential characteristics exists, without them you would not be able to determine any “degrees” at all, the fact that you can is proof that you know it, even though you deny it.

    • Evan says:

      I don’t see how it’s “clearly theft”. Wouldn’t “theft” necessarily mean that the victim was deprived of tangible property? As far as I can tell, this would be trespassing, at worst.

      • RG says:

        Agreed, trespassing at worst. If someone had broken in and taken their servers then theft. There was no physical property that changed hands.

        David could use some Kinsella training.

        • RG says:

          I meant Daniel

      • Roger Ritthaler says:

        It’s not even trespassing, since the soldier – alleged to have made COPIES of the documents – was authorized to be where he was. right?

    • RS says:

      “First, you’re stealing classified information that is classified for a reason – it could ostensibly put Americans at risk if it were revealed. This was not true of Climategate.”

      On the contrary, because the pseudo science of global warming is being specifically tailored to provide the environmentalists with an alledged justification for increased governmental legislation (e.g. Cap and Trade) and regulations (e.g. CAFÉ) it is most certainly a grave threat to life, liberty, freedom and the standard of living of everyone on earth so stealing those emails and exposing the scientists fraud is rightfully an act of self defense just as is the US Governments need to keep military secrets secret in times of war so no, there really is no hypocrisy in being for the exposure of global warming fraud and against wiki leaks, not if the standard is the protection of individual rights.

  2. Daniel Hewitt says:

    Rush Limbaugh is one example that I can think of. He was absolutely giddy about Climategate, and now he is disgusted witth the WikiLeaks cables. Even to the point of standing up for Hillary Clinton (never thought I’d live to see that).

    Don’t worry, when WikiLeaks publishes Obama’s birth certificate, left and right will switch sides again 🙂

  3. Bob Roddis says:

    Anytime a “theft” of information is performed to expose lies and fraud, it should be applauded. As I recall, in “Climategate”, the “victims” were scurrying around trying to hide embarrassing info from a FOI request. We Rothbardians were long aware that both the Global Warming hoax and the terrorist hoax were perpetrated by the same folks in order to enable the government total control over a sheepish population. The whole object of the GW scare was to force people to obtain government permission to even heat their homes and food (or to breathe out) – a totalitarian vision. And the latest Wikileaks docs show the US Government bullying othe countries into adopting GW policies.

    Having been a Rothbardian since January, 1973, I’m sick to death of these right and left thought patterns.

  4. Bob Roddis says:

    1. Is it hypocrisy for Keynesians to support more money dilution in order to restart the process of unsustainable sprawl while being hysterical about Global Warming?

    2. Are we winning when David Letterman makes fun of The Ben Bernank?

    Top Ten Least Popular Holiday Television Specials

    10. “A Charlie Sheen Christmas”
    9. “The Queasiest Elf”
    8. “It’s a Wonderful Life for Rich People Thanks to the Republicans”
    7. “Santa’s Got Gout”
    6. “Mel Gibson’s Rant-Filled Hanukkah”
    5. “How the Grinch Stole Obama’s Birth Certificate”
    4. “Jack Frost Becomes Jaclyn Frost”
    3. “Ben Bernanke’s Pantsless Yuletide Jamboree”
    2. “Larry King’s ‘Which Holiday Do I Celebrate’ Special”
    1. “Brett Favre’s Yule Log”

    BTW, I think Bob Murphy is a lot funnier standup comic than Letterman.

  5. Contemplationist says:

    To be frank, Bob, I’m truly BORED of hypocrisy. It is such a rampant, ubiquitous phenomenon, that its simply not interesting anymore. I used to be outraged at it a few years back but really who has time.

    • Roger Ritthaler says:

      Perhaps hypocrisy should be more the source material for comedy and sarcasm.

  6. Robert Greenwood says:

    My first exposure to WikiLeaks was when my anarchist (not the free-market breed but rioting type) cousin reposted the wiki-leaks “Collateral Murder” video depicting apache pilots as cold blooded murderers when they mistook journalists toting photography equipment for combatants with an RPG. It’s too bad the US Gov tried to suppress the video but as a veteran of OIF having experienced first-hand the vulnerability of flying in a helicopter, I can assure anyone that the pilots in the video acted soundly, not murderously. Never mind the stupidity of a journalist entering a combat zone without a military escort, then pointing a large tubular object at an Apache. Throughout the 15 months I was in Iraq, there was tremendous pressure to respect the locals and avoid civilian casualties. The same conclusion however can be reached without personal experience, with only a critical eye.

    It is clear that the aim of wikileaks is not truth but is anti-Americanism or anti-American-foreign-policy-ism and they have no problem using soldiers as a political football in the Vietnam-era counter-culture baby-killer sort of way. Regardless of their aims, I would like to see them left alone and deprived of their fame by the US drawing back it’s foreign policy.

    Ahh, dreams…