Duplicitous is a devastating accusation aimed a person who is believed to have acted in a two-faced manner. It is the intention of the speaker to present (himself) as agreeing with different people, even though those people are diametrically opposed to each other in opinion.
For instance, if a Member of Congress wants to gain support from the Tea Party, he will tell his conservative friends that he is opposed to immigration reform. At the same time he will tell his progressive friends that he is fully supportive of immigration reform. He must naively believe that such things do not get talked about in Washington. The reality is that it will be within minutes that the word will be out that he is two-faced, like the Roman deity, Janus, who may well be the patron saint for liars.
President Bill Clinton’s protestations that he was innocent of the charges lodged against him for inappropriate behavior with an intern could have been his undoing. His denials became more heinous than the acts of which he was accused. He survived. Nevertheless, he will always be known by some as a duplicitous person. Richard Nixon’s “inside” and “outside” stories about the machinations taking place under his administration suffered from the same depiction, but over dramatically different topics.
Duplicity is not confined to politics. It occurs in business, as well. Some sales people will tell potential customers anything to get a sale. It may even be a lie about costs or safety factors of a product. We are witnessing a massive scandal at General Motors, for instance, in which it appears that people “in the know” about safety hazards of cars chose to lie to the company and to the public. The result could be billions of dollars in fines, lost sales, and company devaluation.
Duplicity is a word built from the Latin prefix dupli which means “two sided,” as in the word duplex, two homes in the same building.
The mysterious thing about duplicity is the belief that it will never be uncovered. In this age we know that news is instantaneous. It is only a matter of minutes before a “hot” story hits the internet.
Machiavellianism is a psychological phenomenon named for the 16th century character whose duplicitous behavior is the source of his negation. Machiavelli , a brilliant political theorist, became known as “The Father of Modern Political Theory.” Yet his employment of deceptive political techniques was his downfall. Instead of being known for his brilliance and significance, he is known as the model for duplicity. Psychologists identify patients who exhibit characteristics of duplicity by his name.
Illustration Credit: downwindatrisk.com