In the wake of my posting the "Moral Endo- and Exo-Skeletons" piece, I thought it would be apt to share also this piece posted Friday on Huffington Post in which the author, Nathaniel Frank, makes an effort to understand this recurrent pattern among the pious folks on the right to pratice what they preach against. In other words, to answer the question: what does all this apparent hypocrisy mean, and how does it happen?
To my eye, Frank manages to articulate the question better than he answers it. His gesture in the direction of the psychoanalytic idea of "reaction formation" does not seem all that illuminating. But this idea does point in the right general direction: toward a kind of inner conflict, toward what I have called a kind of "brokenness" in the human psyche, and in particular toward a failure of integration within the person of the creature's feelings and needs and impulses on the one hand, and the moral injunctions internalized from the socializing culture on the other.
If Frank's answer does not settle the question satisfactorily, that's at least largely because of the difficulty of the question. And Frank does a service by raising it as well as he does, for it is the kind of question that is worth continuing to pursue, even if no complete and definitive answer emerges. This contradiction between the walk and the talk --common to human affairs, but apparently especially common to a certain kind of rigid and righteous conservatism-- is a window into one of the important mysteries of the human soul.
Some more from me follows this piece by Nathaniel Frank.
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