Hypocrisy is a favorite accusation in our society, the charge tossed about with carefree abandon by Left, Right, and the nonpolitical. No one has ever died at the hands of hypocrisy, yet it's a deadly accusation, widely treated as among the greatest of evils. A mere accusation of hypocrisy can halt a debate by silencing the accused, forcing him off-topic to defend himself against the tangential charge of hypocrisy. This is how and why so many talking-head shows quickly degenerate into everyone accusing everyone else of hypocrisy, with nothing of substance actually discussed.
Most everyone agrees that a speaker's moral character is irrelevant to the validity of his argument, and yet in contravention to this rule of Logic, most everyone also regards hypocrites as unworthy advocates.
The Congressman who has an affair is deemed unfit to advocate "family values," regardless of his legislation's merits. The celebrity who builds on her country estate is deemed unfit to promote environmental conservation. The parent who smokes is deemed unfit to counsel against drugs. All may (or may not) have good ideas, but presumably, we should not listen to them and decide on the merits, because they are "hypocrites."
Yet the accusers are often guilty of worse than hypocrisy: dishonesty, disingenuousness, and intellectual laziness.
Intellectual laziness, because charging hypocrisy allows the accuser to avoid the difficulty of defending an argument. It is intellectually easier to accuse an opponent of hypocrisy, and leave it at that.
Disingenuousness, because often their hidden motive is to avoid the risk of challenging a popular position. It is politically safer to accuse an opponent of hypocrisy, and leave it at that.
And also dishonesty, because the charge of hypocrisy is rarely accurate. It has been bandied about so recklessly — on talk radio and daytime TV, in high schools and colleges, among pundits and activists — that "hypocrite" has come to mean: "I don't like you. You're bad. And I don't want to have to defend that position."