Whether you’re wringing your hands about the next four years or pumping your fist, we all need some news that isn’t necessarily inauguration-related. You’ve come to right place!

1. The New York Times ran an op-ed this past Sunday about the real reason we dislike hypocrisy. As a part of their Gray Matter column, the article contends that the real issue we have with hypocrites is not their inability to “practice what they preach,” but instead their belief in their own virtue. As they say it, “We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication — not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.”

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with championing a cause while also not being a part of said cause. If you find out your friend the obnoxious environmentalist tends to waste a lot of paper towels, we should still, in theory, be glad that he/she is a champion of the environment. It’s a good cause, right?

It is a good cause. But we are not glad, precisely because his/her environmental ideology comes across to us as moral judgment. Moral claims he/she makes always signal a moral superiority he/she has.

This idea makes sense if you think about moral condemnation not as a tool for reproaching others but as a way to boost your own reputation. In one set of studies, we found support for this view: People tended to take someone’s normative statements — such as “It is morally wrong to waste energy” — as an indication of how the speaker himself acted. In fact, our findings show that people would be more likely to believe that the speaker did not waste energy if he said, “It is wrong to waste energy,” than if he simply said, “I do not waste energy.” Moral condemnation seems to act as a particularly powerful signal of behavior — more powerful than even direct statements about behavior.

Once you understand moral criticism this way, you can see why people feel deceived by hypocrites. In another set of studies, we found that people viewed hypocrites as dishonest — more dishonest, in fact, than people who uttered outright falsehoods. Remarkably, hypocrites were rated as less trustworthy, less likable and less morally upright than those who openly lied: e.g., characters who wasted energy after explicitly stating that they never wasted energy.

Take this a step further: the researchers found that if you want to really improve your reputation, exchange your false signaling for some truth. Tell people about your environmentalism, but also tell them you’re a hypocrite, and you’re off the hook!

It’s that his outspoken moralizing falsely conveys his own virtue, earning him undue reputational benefits — and at the expense of the individuals whom he publicly shames. He would be better off if he simply admitted that he sometimes falls short of these ideals himself.

2. Okay, okay. So we’re not not going to talk about Trump. This is Inauguration Day, and not just any Inauguration. You have to, silly! Amongst all the angry, self-righteous screeds out there right now, this piece from Salon seems to talk a lot of sense. We spent some time talking about it on the podcast—it’s an interview with philosopher and linguist George Lakoff, one of the leading thinkers behind metaphorical language. According to Lakoff, Democrats lost the ‘language’ battle, which wound up costing them the election itself. That’s all well and good, but what’s interesting is the way that Lakoff describes the use of language and ideology in both parties.

While conservatives have tended to use a lot of cognitive science, branding, and marketing strategies in their use of political language, progressives tend to use Enlightenment principles of language—they use the language of logic and argument. In short, Lakoff argues that conservatives have (correctly) located voter decision-making within their emotional value system (their heart), not their rational, fact-checking system (their head). Paging Dr. Haidt!

a1036895450_16What Lakoff also points out is that conservatives and liberals both have moral worldviews and value systems that cause them to vote the way they do. While the Clinton campaign may have believed she had votes with certain demographics across the country, many of those demographics—even with all facts about all the issues leaning her way—voted for Trump instead. Why? Because people do not vote against their value system. Lakoff describes the conservative model as the “strict father” model, and progressive model as the “nurturant parent” model.

All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. When applied to politics it goes like this: Citizens care about other citizens, they have empathy for other citizens, and the work of the government is to provide public resources for everybody.

And on the flip-side: the strict father.

If you have strict-father morality what that says is it’s your concern alone that matters, reteaching individual responsibility. That means responsibility for yourself, not social responsibility. Not caring about other citizens; that’s weak. You should care about yourself; that’s strong. That is how he sees that the world naturally works. There is a hierarchy of morality because the strict father in a family gets his position of strength because he supposedly knows right from wrong, and in that there is an assumption that those who are most moral should rule.

What Lakoff is saying here is that both sides have (and have had) value systems that shape and frame the way we talk about ourselves. Progressivism, on the whole, tends to hold a higher anthropology, believe that we naturally long to take care of one another. Conservatism, on the other hand, tends to require an authority figure. What Lakoff does not see, though, is that his own frames and metaphors are being drawn out within this very article. He sees conservatism as a “strict” father, not a “secure” or “devoted” one. He sees progressivism as a “nurturing” parent, not as a weak parent, or a helicopter parent. Metaphors are everywhere—he’s right. And he’s using them!

3. Can we worry about something else now? Yes. Teenagers. Take it from Science of Us, who wrote this week about the growing phenomenon of tech-addicted teenagers, losing sleep to refresh their feeds.

While almost half of respondents said that they never interrupted their sleep with refreshing their social feeds, Cardiff University researcher Sally Power and her colleagues found that 21.6 percent of the younger cohort (12- and 13-year-olds) and 22.5 percent of the older cohort (14- and 15-year-olds) said that “they almost always wake up during the night to use social media.”

Simon Sinek says something similar in his interview on IQ (which DZ mentioned in his weekender a couple weeks ago). Here he discusses the millennial problem—with job satisfaction, with purposelessness, with a lack of resilience when it comes to the stresses of life. Sinek provides a pretty comprehensive picture of the plight of the adultescent (and makes a profound case for tech addiction), and one of his/her greatest deficits: relationships. With an age group that is setting all kinds of records (and not the good kind) in the mental health department, the data-proven lack of deep, meaningful relationships seem to go hand-in-hand.

And then there are these teenage girls who are dying everywhere you look, a la McSweeney’s.

BRENNER, LIANNA, age 15, lived a healthy life until she made the fatal decision of watching a video of a puppy splashing in a puddle. She clung to religion until the very end, crying out to God via the YouTube comment section, typing “omg omg” in interest of time, but it was too late. She was dying, dying, omg, and then proclaimed dead.

HRUBY, SIERRA, age 13, heard that Emma said Dan told Rebecca that Maggie was hosting a party that Henri would also attend, but it was actually Rebecca who told Dan that Molly was throwing a get-together and Emma was wrong, but it was so confusing that she just gave up and died.

4. Staying on the Silence train, the National Catholic Reporter interviewed Liam Neeson about his role in the film, and the depiction of God he found in Ferreira’s apostasy.

The Jesuit training, through the Spiritual Exercises, is very profound. You strike up a relationship with Christ through the Gospels, so that ultimately Christ becomes your brother, someone you talk to regularly, every day, throughout the day. We see it happening with Rodrigues, this prayer, but God is not returning his calls. Only in the silence does he hear Christ’s voice: “I am still with you. …” I think Ferreira had gone through something similar, lonely nights of thinking, “What should I do?” They tortured him for five hours, hanging upside down over a pit. Some of the Japanese Christians lasted for days.

I think Ferreira’s idea of God was ultimately one of love, but this is what I choose to believe myself. If God were a stern master, I would have given up the faith long ago. God is love, love is God. I have had personal experiences of God’s love, beautiful and calming, all the things the Psalms talk about. If he was a stern master, well, I don’t know.

5. The Freakonomics podcast asks whether or not the American Dream is alive anymore. Based on the work of Raj Chetty, the episode asks whether social mobility—something championed on both sides of the aisles—is achievable for people in all tax brackets and opportunity levels. The answer? No. Not really. There are factors that make the American Dream possible, but the episode goes on to say that, among other things, your environment says a lot about who you wind up becoming.

6.From the Babylon Bee: ‘Religion Is a Parasite,” Says Guy Living In Mom’s Basement

7. Cannot wait for this one to come out, from some of our friends in Dallas.

8. To close, it’s worth rementioning the incredible post CJ did earlier this week, and the NYT article which inspired it, “The Stories We Tell Ourselves.” While Todd May does an impeccable job of drawing up the inner-workings of the self-justifying, meaning-making mind, CJ ends it on a much more hopeful (and truthful note). Glory be to God for the story that supercedes our own.

But there is someone who tells a different story about us; it is a story much bigger and yet much simpler than the ones we tell about ourselves. You could Sparknotes your way through required reading lists and still hear it. It is the story of a God who (absolutely) loves us, no matter what. It is the story of Jesus dying so that we might live. In The Jesus Storybook Bible, he tells his disciples:

“This is how God will rescue the whole world. My life will break and God’s broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart—and your hearts will heal…I won’t be with you long,” he said. “You are going to be very sad. But God’s Helper will come. And then you’ll be filled up with a Forever Happiness that won’t ever leave. So don’t be afraid. You are my friends and I love you.”

QUICK NOTE: The Mockingbird’s NINTH ISSUE, The Food & Drink Issue, was sent to the printers yesterday! We expect the boxes at Mockingbird HQ on February 3rd. Stay tuned, the issue will be available for pre-order on the site early next week.


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