Inconsistency is the Death of Credibility

double standads

One of the mistakes people make when they point out someone else’s hypocrisy is that they assume that everyone understands that the inherent inconsistency undermines the credibility of the hypocrite.

Years ago, that may have been more practical but not today.

One of the more glaring examples of this is when a group of students who don’t like a visiting guest speaker, so they decide to shout down that speaker when he comes to campus. They know their right to free speech is protected, but they have a problem with the speaker’s right to free speech. They demand that their rights to shout down the speaker be protected, while at the very same time demanding that the speaker not even be permitted a forum.

The hypocrisy is glaring, but unless you point it out, unless you connect the dots, a lot of people won’t make the connection. Why?

Making the Connection

Two reasons, mostly. First, people are overwhelmed with new information, new controversies and newly contrived drama every day. If you have a social media account, you’re subjected to a steady torrent of outrage, attacks, virtue signaling and general pettiness. You get numb to it.

The other reason is that numbness. People don’t care. Apathy is a thing. They conduct a personal, emotional triage that starts with the answer to the question, “How does this affect me?”  If the answer is “not at all,” or “not much,” they don’t allow the event, the words, the story to penetrate their consciousness. They decide not to care. This all adds up to create an environment where hypocrites and people who exercise double-standards get away with it.

Of course, this does not mean you will get away with your own inconsistencies. In my crisis and issues management work, ironically, we see a general inconsistency on which double-standards matter and which ones don’t. It’s up to your critics, the media and big tech, for the most part, who have emerged as the arbiters for how we should be, and how we should think without getting into trouble.

The Inconsistency of Inconsistency

Depending on the issue, your hypocrisy will or will not matter. The media and others sometimes have double-standards of their own.

Going back to that controversial campus speaker, let’s say the very topic the speaker is known for is free speech. More to the point, he’s against giving too much unchecked power to the corporate, big tech platforms who regulate speech at will, censoring or banning content or users as it likes.

There was time not long ago when the media took such pride for its commitment to consistency on the issue of free speech that no matter what this guest speaker had to say, the media would universally have endorsed his right to say it. More than likely it would have sided with him on the issue of free speech.

Today, that’s not the case. If the approved narrative in the newsroom is not aligned with that speaker’s message, it’s entirely plausible that the news media would take the stance that the speaker did not deserve the platform and should be shut down, mainly because a vocal group of students feel triggered.

Increasingly, the same news media outlets that demand and expect freedom of the press, even on corporate-owned digital platforms, don’t concede the same rights to the individual, particularly if that individual doesn’t support an approved narrative. The double-standard on viewpoint discrimination is glaring.

At the end of the day, it’s still important to understand that whether the prevailing narrative seems to tolerate or even endorse certain inconsistencies, that narrative can be a fickle thing and rather inconsistent itself. There are times when your inconsistencies can and will be called out.

Still, even in situations where it appears the general narrative approves of certain inconsistencies, most people see through the ruse if they are helped to see it. This is why the media’s credibility is at an all-time low.

If you want to obtain and keep credibility, the most important starting point is to eliminate and avoid any inconsistencies in your behavior and your own messaging.

What do you think? Is this something you’d like to talk about? Get in touch.

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