“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
—Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
And today, class, that word is “hypocritical,” a word most popular with people who have only the slightest inkling of its definition.
I happen to have an example right here, because it’d be a pretty short post if I didn’t. This observation was posted in the comments section at the Rolling Stone website’s coverage of last weekend’s Live Earth series of concerts:
I thought Gore said that people need to use less energy and depend on fuel less to help put a stop to global warming. So lets put together a set of concerts that use tons of lights, problably the amount of electricty it takes to power several towns. Also, How did the artists get to these concerts? They had to take jets and then either a car or a bus to get to these venues. These concerts were so hypocritical, it just further proves how stupid some of these artist really are.
This comment comes from someone named Teabag, who lives by the old axiom that spelling, punctuation, and subject/verb agreement don’t matter on the internet, though of course he’s hardly the only member of that club. Teabag says it’s hypocritical for people who want to raise awareness about global warming to use any energy at all in their attempt to spread the word.
Now, I suppose it’s possible that the old Teebster actually means what he says, that he’s opposed on general principle to large well-lit gatherings to which the attendees traveled on anything other than bicycles. He might well walk to work, reuse the same brown bag for his lunch day after day, and use a hamster-powered generator to fire up his laptop long enough to rail against the wasteful ways of those jet-takin’ musicians.
But that doesn’t seem likely, does it? No, Teabag seems more like one of those global-warming deniers whose favorite talk-radio guy told him it was a hoax and gave him a few talking points for doing battle with us bleeding-heart do-gooders. (“One of the concerts was in Antarctica, which, if you liberals haven’t noticed, is covered in snow year round—some global warming, huh?!”) Teabag also shows his true colors by trotting out that old standby of the pretend-confused: “But I thought Al Gore said people need to use less energy!” (You can get away with the “But I thought you said” ploy until you’re about six years old. After that people know you’re fibbing.)
And of course, there’s the hypocrisy angle. Concerts involving “tons of lights,” or gatherings where people have to come by jet or bus, are okay as long as nobody involved states a political view that conflicts with those Teabag holds dear. The poor guy can’t get his head around the fact that people who understand how important it is to raise awareness of global warming would actually make an effort to raise awareness of global warming. Each musician could have stayed home, played songs on the front porch, and relied on his or her neighbors to pass the word along, but somehow the concert organizers thought it might be more effective to reach, oh, two billion people at once.
I think that’s the part that bothers old Teabag. Whatever energy was spent on producing the Live Earth concerts will be counteracted in the long run as more and more people get the message and adjust their lifestyles. That’s how raising awareness works, and there’s nothing hypocritical about it.