There seems to be no sense of shame or its cousin, guilt, in our time.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones tormented the parents of Sandy Hook’s murdered children by spreading the lie that the massacre was faked. The families sued. As the jury’s decision ordering Jones to pay almost US$1 billion to them was read in court on Oct. 12, 2022, Jones, appearing online from his studio, was “laughing and mocking the amounts being awarded,” NBC News reported.
GOP Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, resolutely anti-abortion – with “no exception” for rape, incest or the life of the mother – denies allegations that he paid for a girlfriend’s abortion. Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley riled up the Capitol rioters with a clenched fist salute on Jan. 6, 2021 – and then ran from those same rioters when they invaded the Capitol.
While Republicans are by far the most prominently shameless among politicians, the condition is bipartisan in some areas. Democrats and Republicans showed up on a long list of legislators caught violating a law that requires them to disclose stock trading.
Shame and guilt seem equally foreign to many politicians and public figures these days. But here is what is different now from those in the past who behaved badly: Where once the lack of guilt and shame would have been cloaked by a veneer of virtuousness, today’s shameless see no need for that veil of hypocrisy.
For millennia, hypocrisy was the sneaky cloak of choice for miscreants. They used it to signal respect for society by pretending to play within its rules.
Now, they smirk. Hypocrisy is old-fashioned and, apparently, unnecessary.