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Actions (and public speech) matter, not private speech

Dennis Prager on

Very few things I have said have elicited as much negative attention as this: What people say in private tells little, if anything, about their character. Left-wing critics have had a field day mocking me (mockery is the left's substitute for argument), but even some religious conservatives have taken issue with me (without the mockery) -- don't I know that it is precisely how we act in private that most clearly reveals our character?

This issue, of course, originally arose as a result of what then-reality TV host Donald Trump said in private to then-"Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush in 2005. I thought then, as I do now, that people greatly overstated the importance of the remarks -- because they were made in private.

In order to understand why private remarks usually mean nothing, we need to make two critical distinctions: between private and public, and between speech and actions.

Here are the four categories:

1. Private speech.

2. Private actions.

 

3. Public speech.

4. Public actions.

The last three are very important and, therefore, reveal a person's character. But what we say in private is not important. Why? Because it doesn't necessarily affect anyone (except potentially the person hearing us).

This is so obvious that it is depressing that it needs to be spelled out. It shows how small a role reason, especially moral reasoning, plays in many people's lives. We live at a time when what people feel substitutes for thought and reason. In the infamous "Access Hollywood" case, most people feel repulsed by what Trump said, and for most of them, that suffices to determine Trump's character.

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