The late comedian George Carlin made hypocrisy and double standards in America a focal point of his act. He never shied away from talking about America’s flaws, both historical and contemporary.
Carlin was one of the greatest standup comedians, in part, because he was so great at mixing comedy, politics, and culture. But, unlike many comedians and even most political commentators, Carlin was also unafraid to criticize America as a whole. Most people try to compartmentalize and segregate when they criticize America. They’ll say things like “oh, it’s just a small group that’s the problem” or “it’s just the Democrats” or, “it’s just the Republicans.”
Not Carlin. To him, the whole system was rotten – political and cultural.
He went right for the source of the problem: the American people. “If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders,” said Carlin in one his stand-up specials.
Our politicians, Carlin said, come from American institutions. We are a product of our society, as are the politicians we scorn and pretend we’re better than. The problem isn’t the apples. It’s the tree.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Notwithstanding President Donald Trump, who is in a league of his own when it comes to hypocrisy, the American people have been hypocrites for many years. Just like the people they elect. But social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, have magnified and exposed the problem. Before social media, if you wanted to express something on the internet you basically had to set up a blog. It wasn’t an impossible task. It wasn’t even that hard. But it took some effort. More effort than most people wanted to invest.
But now with Facebook, posting an opinion on anything has never been easier. And with the rise of cable news and the explosion of information on the internet, there’s always something to comment on.
That combination has led to many people constantly rendering opinions to their family, friends, and the rest of the world. With so much opportunity, it’s only a matter of time before we contradict ourselves. We might not even realize we’re being hypocrites. But, whether we realize it or not, we have our own double standards. We’re fine with a president signing executive orders, if we trust and like him. But, the minute the guy we don’t like or trust gets into office, executive orders become a sign that the president is exceeding his authority. Or, when we benefit from a government program, it’s something we need and deserve. But, when someone else benefits from a government program, they’re an entitled, lazy moocher.
As Carlin said, “Maybe something else sucks around here. Like, the public.”