Why Boris Johnson may have gone too far in the end

Boris Johnson, long known for brush off Allegations of misrepresentation, misrepresentation, or total lie that, not slowing his growth, seems to only strengthen his image as a rebellious bastard who suddenly faces potential political death to the very charge to which he appears to have been immune.

Even his detractors have expressed surprise by the speed with which the public and political class has turned against Mr Johnson, the UK prime minister, over allegations he lied. attend parties at his official residence in May 2020, which violated his government’s lockdown order.

But even if some of his past beatings may have done more harm to those around him, the act struck a special sensibility that psychologists have developed. appeared, had the special power to cause outrage.

Hypocrisy – behaving badly while at the same time calling on the rest of us to do good – evokes a degree of anger without lying or self-revealing wrongdoing, studies have shown. discovered times.

Mr Johnson’s real crime, in this story, was to push Britons away for the sake of the common good, while his office organized events that violated this spirit of shared sacrifice and by taking risks. spread, reducing its effectiveness.

He admitted a lot, tell Congress Earlier this month, “I know they feel angry with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street it is the people who make the rules that are not being followed properly.”

As if to underline the backlash that such violations can bring, tennis star Novak Djokovic is also facing, after he himself Long record of controversies never caught up with him, heavy loss of expertise accusations which he fabricated or fabricated in Australia’s Covid vaccination waiver application.

The case has become the focus of global debates over vaccine regulations. But it has also sparked intense anger perhaps in part because, like Mr Johnson, Mr Djokovic is looking to benefit from social compliance with those rules, which has made Australia safe enough to host tournament he is scheduled to compete in. And he did it while bending or breaking those same rules to satisfy his own desire to avoid vaccines and move freely.

Neuroscientist Erman Misirlisoy argues that “Hypocrites use a double layer of deception. Written in an essay on the extraordinary power of this behavior to anger people.

First layer: urging others around them to follow the rules in their favor, even if only implicitly by signaling their support for those rules. For example, Mr Johnson’s order to ban the door would improve his own safety and political standing. Or Mr Djokovic told Australian officials (and on social media, his fans) that he was abiding by the country’s Covid rules so he could play in its tennis tournament.

The second layer – lying about their own compliance – is annoying because it minimizes the collective effort they require of others.

Writer Hannah Arendt, reflecting on society’s disgust at hypocrisy, called it “Deputy of evils.” While terrible crimes can “confront us with the embarrassment of extreme evil,” she writes, “only a hypocrite truly corrupts to the core.”

As Dr. Misirlisoy wrote, “This is a recipe for hatred when caught.”

But why?

“When you stop to think about it, it’s really a psychological puzzle,” said Jillian Jordan, a Yale University psychologist who studies this behavior. said. People sometimes break the social norms or rules they support.

And hypocrisy is hardly uncommon in public figures. Athletes projecting public images often participate while living amidst the splendor of yachts and helicopters. Mr. Djokovic emphasized togetherness in the new era while appear along with the Serbian extremists.

Dishonesty, in itself, often causes many surprises. Mr. Johnson mocked his own reputation, speech at a 2018 event, “My strategy is to seed my career with so many decoy mistakes, no one knows which one to attack.”

However, acknowledging that there is something different about people being caught pressuring others to uphold standards they flout, Mr. Johnson told a reporter that same week, his entire political journey began when he encountered left-wing elitist students at university and felt “indignation at their tangled hypocrisy. “

For this reason, some psychologists believe that, in a way, hypocrisy represents an attack on the social contract itself.

Because of our origin as a species, societies have operated by an implicit pact: each of us would be better off if we all contributed to the common good, even if it meant give up some things.

This only works if everyone trusts everyone else to come along. If that falls apart, so does the motive of serving the common good of each individual.

In nomadic tribes, where our communal instincts have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, this is a matter of life and death. Without trusting cooperation, the group will perish.

(The pandemic has returned those mortal perils, not to mention forced personal sacrifices for the public good, in the form of masks, vaccines and social distancing, which may be the reason. why sensitivities to hypocrisy have suddenly become so acute again.)

The hypocrites turn this common sense of duty against the very group to which it is served. They hoarded the fruits of collective self-sacrifice – Mr. Johnson enjoying a party while locked, Mr. Djokovic tossing through societies secured to him by harsh restrictions – and in ways that undermine the interests of others.

And, when their hypocrisy is revealed, it sends a dangerous signal: You too can benefit from other people’s work while just pretending to come along. For the rest, condemning the hypocrite with the strongest possible terms was an act of self-defense, a way to prevent others from trying the same.

This may be why, Dr. Jordan found in a series of studies, people will condemn hypocrisy much more heavily than any other type of violation her team has tested.

The core violation of hypocrisy, as well as the outrage it provokes, is well documented in a Photo throughout this month, accompanied by news bulletins and social media discussions about Mr. Johnson’s parties.

It shows Queen Elizabeth II at a funeral service for her husband, Prince Philip, sitting masked and alone in another empty chair, strictly following the lockdown rules that Mr. breach at a party, it turns out, just the night before. .

Of course, Mr Johnson’s parties have barely caused a pandemic to force the queen into a social distancing mourning regime. But the implications of her sacrifice, and the national sacrifice it represents, are too much for some Britons.

“I can only reiterate my apology,” said Mr Johnson, in a highly unusual gesture to the king, “both to His Majesty and to the country”.

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