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516: Contrary Outing

Should politicians that act in ways contrary to their stated positions be forcibly outed?


Full episode script

Several years ago when I first asked this question, I had no idea it would be as…. Relevant… as it seems to have become. It’s not like dishonesty in politics is a new thing — heck, it’s the butt of so many jokes it’s practically a trope. Of course politicians lie, and of course they’re hypocritical. As Olga Khazan wrote:

Dan Stalder, a psychology professor at University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, told me that people don’t typically realize when they’re being hypocrites, and they usually don’t stop after they’re called out for it, either. Instead, they might deny the accusation so they can “stay in a state of hypocrisy,” he said. Less commonly, hypocrites might “acknowledge the inconsistency and either undo it or vow to do better.”

According to Daniel Effron, a professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School, people underestimate how much they’ll be condemned for being a hypocrite. The condemnation is painful, and if it’s painful enough, people might try to resolve the inconsistency.

That repercussion from lying — from behaving in ways contrary to the way they said they would, or even saying two different things, could be losing face, losing office, or hundreds of other things. In this question, it’s about forcible outing — which, frankly, could have two different meanings. It could be that impeachment — a process that sometimes is successful, and sometimes not.

In March of 2016, University of Nottingham’s Simon Gaechter completed a study that examined honesty in a dice game in 23 different countries (but not the United States) and then compared them to a corruption index for those countries. The more corrupt a society was, the more likely the people there were willing to deceive in the simple dice game. In other words, consequences rom lying don’t always happen.

Forcible outing can mean something very different, though, too. Forcible outing can also mean having one’s gender identity or sexuality disclosed publicly without your consent.

For many in the GLBTQIA community, myself included, it’s a painful question. There are plenty of politicians who act contrary to their stated positions and beliefs — enough that even the magazine The Advocate has an article listing 16 anti-gay activists who were outed as possibly gay or bi.

But – as Arielle P. Schwartz, Holley Law Fellow, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force writes:

We do know that outing—the act of exposing an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity— has been linked to suicide. Marcus Wayman committed suicide after a police officer threatened to tell his family that he was gay. Thereafter, a federal court held in Sterling v. Borough of Minersville, that the Constitution of the United States clearly protects a person’s sexual orientation from forced disclosure.

Hypocritical beliefs and actions are never a fun thing to confront – for anyone. And they may even be necessary for the functioning of Congress, at least according to some.

As quoted in The Atlantic in 2015,

Recently retired Representative Barney Frank made the argument that For legislators, cooperation is a form of political currency. They act in concert with other legislators, even at the expense of their own beliefs, in order to bank capital or settle accounts: “Because parliamentary bodies have to arrive at binding decisions on the full range of human activity in an atmosphere lacking the structure provided by either money or hierarchy, members have to find ways to bring some order out of what could be chaos,”

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.