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Occam's Mirror

In 2003, I was coaching for the Miami Dolphins. We were playing the Jaguars, and late in the 4th quarter in a tied game, we were on the 2 yard line going in. We handed the ball to Ricky Williams who was immediately hit in the backfield. He spun free and lunged for the goal line. Before reaching the line, the ball squirted out. All eight Dolphins coaches in the press box started yelling “he’s down! He’s down!” The ball then rolled into the end zone, and was scooped up by Dolphins’ Tight End Randy McMichael for an apparent touchdown. All the Dolphins’ coaches immediately started screaming, “he wasn’t down! He wasn’t down!”

We are all hypocrites. Every call that goes against us is wrong, or the referees are cheating. Every call that goes our way is absolutely correct, and the refs are completely honest. Did Dez catch the ball? It depends on whether you are from Dallas or Green Bay. Americans still believe the Russians cheated in the 1972 Olympic basketball game while the Russians believed they won fair and square. That’s the human inclination. When in doubt, we will always favor our own side.

The philosophical principle Occam’s Razor states that when confronted with a choice, and all information being equal, the simplest solution is most likely the right one. But in reality, when confronted with a choice, and all information being equal, human beings will choose the most self-beneficial one. We will call this amendment “Occam’s Mirror.” There is nothing wrong or evil about this tendency. It is part of our survival instinct. We are programmed to compete for our own self-interest. That works great in true survival settings, but becomes dangerously murky and counter-productive in intellectual and moral settings.

Most people at one time in their life will be accused of being a hypocrite. Hypocrisy has become the go to bludgeon to discredit an opponent. If you’ve never been accused of being a hypocrite, you’ve never stood for anything in your life. But human beings are flawed and cannot always live up to the high standards they aspire for. So falling short often elicits the accusation of hypocrisy. But is it? Human weakness is not hypocritical. Real hypocrisy is knowing and willfully disregarding the standards you vigilantly hold others to.

Present day American media is in a constant effort to expose the hypocrisy of their ideological competing networks. Turn on any of the cable news stations, FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, and the like, and you will see many clips from competing networks with the sole purpose of using their own words to discredit them by exposing their hypocrisy, and thus seizing the mantel of high journalism and truth. But in reality, these efforts to present themselves as paragons of objectivity and fairness, by showing the hypocrisy of others, only serves to highlight their own deeper hypocrisy.

They can easily see and display the bias and hypocrisy of others but completely fail to see or acknowledge their own. How can they be so blind, so unself-aware? Many of these journalists will excuse their own hypocrisy by claiming to be “opinion journalists”, and therefore, their biases are acceptable. “Opinion journalism” provides adequate cover for their own hypocrisy while calling out others for theirs. If the truth is the goal, hypocrisy needs to be identified and neutralized, but it should not be weaponized. Calling someone a hypocrite to win the argument or discredit others is pure laziness.

In the end, we are all hypocrites in one way or another. It is embedded within us, and we would do best to focus on rooting out our own hypocrisy and stop attacking others for theirs.

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Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach and executive. He is a frequent contributer to the website Real Clear Politics, and has recently published his first novel, No Wind

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