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Hypocrisy has become the “only unforgivable sin”

Brand with DeGeneres in 2011. Michael Buckner/WireImage/Getty

Why is it, asks Martha Gill in The Observer, that some public figures can get away with murder for years, and others can get away with nothing at all? Russell Brand long behaved “in ways that would kill most other careers”. It was the same with the influencer Andrew Tate, the rapper R Kelly, and indeed Donald Trump. Yet for others, the slightest transgression is enough to torpedo their careers: US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres lost her job after rumours emerged that she was sometimes “mean” to staff; Chrissy Teigen, the internet celebrity, lost her sponsors when it emerged that she had once sent a string of nasty messages to a 16-year-old. Why couldn’t they weather the storm?

The answer is hypocrisy. Whereas the likes of DeGeneres and Teigen tried to “con the world into thinking they were nice people”, Brand and the others didn’t bother. They were open about their philosophy, and stuck to it. And that’s crucial, because people today view hypocrisy as worse than all other human flaws – it is, as the writer Judith Shklar puts it, the “only unforgivable sin”. This gives predators and criminals a “handy loophole”: if you want to guard yourself from scandal, just “become an advocate for bad behaviour”. It’s the same in politics. Jacob Rees-Mogg got away with implying that those who died in the Grenfell fire had “lacked common sense” in part because he “poses as a contemptuous aristocrat”; Boris Johnson “had no principles at all, so got away with almost everything”. No one likes a hypocrite, of course – we’re right to despise them. “But there are worse things.”