Friday, June 12, 2009
How Hate Grows
The drive to completely and quickly divide the world into "us" and "them" is so powerful that it must surely come from some deep-seated need. The exact identity of that need, however, has been subject to debate. The late Henri Tajfel, of the University of Bristol in England, and John Turner, of the Australian National University, devised a theory to explain the psychology behind a range of prejudices and biases, not just xenophobia. Their theory was based, in part, on the desire to think highly of oneself. One way to lift your self-esteem is to be part of a distinctive group, like a winning team; another is to play up the qualities of your own group and denigrate the attributes of others so that you feel your group is better.The article exams the we vs. them in terms of race and ethnicity but the concepts can easily be applied to liberals vs. conservatives. Don't expect any mind blowing revelations. I found the article rather elementary.
The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin/March 1, 2003 outlines a seven step process of hate.
Stage 1: The Haters Gather
Stage 2: The Hate Group Defines Itself
Stage 3: The Hate Group Disparages the Target
Stage 4: The Hate Group Taunts the Target
Stage 5: The Hate Group Attacks the Target Without Weapons
Stage 6: The Hate Group Attacks the Target with Weapons
Stage 7: The Hate Group Destroys the Target
It seems obvious that a lot in Internet/blog hate falls in Stage 3 and Stage 4. David Letterman's "joke" concerning Willow Palin falls into Stage 3. Perhaps, calling tea-bagging morons racist reaches the level of taunting (Stage 4). A hater accusing someone else of hating seems to be a common theme in blog comments and posts.
The Internet provides a unique method of completing the first four stages of hating. You can "gather," define your group, disparage and taunt in forums, blogs, discussion groups, instant messaging, etc. So easy you don't even have to get out of your pajamas.
The FBI bulletin focuses on skinhead groups but gives an example of how the 7 stage hate model applies to other situations.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this hate model has a wider application. For example, when a coworker becomes a hate target for reasons other than race, sex, or national origin, the hater immediately seeks out others in the office who dislike, or can be persuaded to dislike, the hated coworker (Stage 1). The group establishes an identity using symbols and behaviors. They use a lifted eyebrow, a code word to exclude the hated coworker from a lunch invitation, or any number of other actions to demean and isolate. The haters even may adopt a name for their group (Stage 2). At this point, the haters only disparage the hated coworker within their group (Stage 3). As time passes, the haters openly insult the hated coworker either directly or indirectly by allowing disparaging remarks to be overheard from afar (Stage 4). One morning, the hated coworker discovers his desk rearranged and offensive images pasted over a picture depicting his wife and children (Stage 5). >From the sophomoric to the terroristic, acts of hate have the same effect. Eventually, the haters sabotage the hated coworker's projects and attempt to ruin the individual's reputation through rumors and innuendoes (Stage 6). In so doing, the haters make the work environment intolerable for the hate target (Stage 7). Scenarios like this occur every day across America and, indeed, around the world. The targets of hate may change, but the hate process remains constant.I find it encouraging that a couple of liberal bloggers that I read occasionally, Aunt B and Southern Beale have taken a step in the right direction in stopping hatred in political blogging although I believe they could look at the problem a little deeper. Reading some the commenters to Southern Beale's post, you can see hate from both sides and virtually no insight.
Check yourself. Are you in one of the stages of hate? I know I disparage liberals although I find greater satisfaction in remaining cool and pointing out their fallacies, prejudices and bigotry. In the words of Caskie Stinett, "Diplomat: A person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip." At the least, we can all work to be good diplomats.
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