EMBRACE OF HATE: Hatred seems to be on the rise!

MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2017

Part 1—Professor wonders why:
According to the New York Times, Anna Fels is "a psychiatrist and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College."

Last Friday, Fels published an intriguing column in the hard-copy Times. Her column appeared beneath this headline:

"The Point of Hate"

Fels began by describing two recent suicide bombings in Egypt. In her second paragraph, she stated a basic premise and posed her basic questions:
FELS (4/14/17): Lately it seems like hate is in the air, including in the United States, where hate crimes are reportedly on the rise. Like most people, I’m horrified by this outpouring of venom, but as a psychiatrist who tries to understand feelings, I also find myself asking: What is the underlying motivation? And what is it about hate that makes it different from other reactions like anger or frustration? Clearly evolution has preserved hate as a powerful motivating force. Is there perhaps a benefit to experiencing hate?
According to Fels, it seems that hatred, and hate crimes, are on the rise in the United States. She seems to be talking about political hatred—about the hatred of targeted groups, rather than the hatred of one's spouse or one's boss.

Is such hatred on the rise in the United States? As with Fels, so with us—it seems to us that it is.

Fels seeks "the underlying motivation" for such hatred and for such acts. More specifically, she wants to know why evolution has preserved this type of hate in our world.

(In hard copy, her boxed sub-headline said this: "Why has evolution preserved such a destructive emotion?")

To our mind, it doesn't seem hard to understand why hate of the type Fels describes is on the rise. Beyond that, we're puzzled by Fels' puzzlement concerning evolution.

Quickly, let's explain:

In our view, it's easy to see why the gods of evolution would have selected for this type of hatred during the vast sweep of prehistory. Consider the surroundings:

Your tribe lived in your mountain pass; our tribe lived in ours. There was no order of any kind. There were no laws, no policemen.

In that environment, fear of The Other might well have been a survival skill. If you feared (and therefore avoided) The Others, you would have lived long enough to pass on your genes.

Those who didn't fear The Others may have wandered over for a visit. These more trusting, less fearful souls may not have made it back.

In such a world, fear and loathing might well confer an evolutionary advantage. Today, such instincts tend to be less socially useful. Beyond that, these instincts confer no evolutionary advantage on the suicide bomber, who takes his own life in the pursuit of his hatred of The Others, who now live close at hand.

The suicide bomber removes himself from the gene pool. For this reason, Fels wonders why the gods of evolution have preserved this unhelpful emotion.

To us, that question seems puzzling. The answer seems fairly simple: evolution takes a long time!

Indeed, evolution typically takes a very long time. By removing themselves from the gene pool, suicide bombers may be tilting the evolutionary frame away from the love of hate. But changes like that only take place over a vast expanse of time.

Whatever! We're somewhat puzzled by Fels' puzzlement over evolution's preservation of this type of hate. Beyond that, it doesn't seem gigantically hard to speak to her other question, which is a bit more basic:

Why would hatred of this type be on the rise in the U.S.?

Is it true that this type of hatred is on the rise in the United States? We'll agree with Fels—that's how it seems. To us, though, this apparent rise in hatred of The Other doesn't seem real hard to explain.

We'll start with a possible meta-point—the loss of the Soviet Union as an object of hate. To the extent that we're all inclined to hate The Other, the Soviet Union tended to "bring us together," to use the Nixon-era phrase.

We all got to funnel our instinct for hatred Over There. When the Soviets went away, we lost a beloved hate object.

That strikes us as a relatively minor point. There's a more obvious reason for the (apparent) rise in this type of hate: the selling of this type of hate is now a very big business.

The selling of hate has become a big business! With the rise of talk radio, cable and the Internet, everybody can take part, and almost everyone does.

Back in the day, we had a half-hour of news every night. Basically, you could watch Walter Cronkite for this half-hour, or you could watch David Brinkley.

Lesser groups were peddling versions of hate at this time. But for the most past, it was fairly hard to access these groups. You had to go looking for the types of specialized hate which Walter and David weren't selling.

Today, the selling of hate is a 24-hour, seven-day per week business. For ourselves, we'd be inclined to say that this type of peddling mainly started on the right. But today, it's also being directed at us, Over Here in our own liberal tents.

Over and over and over again, we're being taught to loathe The Others, the very bad people found Over There. We're sold this product in various ways. This constant peddling is done for profit, for fame and for fun.

Important note to Professor Fels—the selling of hate tends to work! Prehistory wired us for it, and some of our biggest media stars have happily jumped in the game.

Tomorrow: Levels of hate


  1. Sometimes, Bob, your word salads seem to accumulate into self-parody. Clarity is sacrificed for curmudgeonly snideness and coy false praise; your fog level is so high, we're often left foundering on the rocks.
    That said, occasionally your blunders (which, Trump-like, you never acknowledge) rise to the top. I'm writing today to call you to account for your post of March 9, where you questioned, coyly and passive aggressively, the offerings of a letter writer to the Times who suggested that Trump's travel ban WAS a Muslim ban. It bothered me then that you were tied up in language rather than intent in your snide questions about yet another failed liberal tactic. It was, you implied, a losing proposition to call it a Muslim ban.
    And yet. And yet. That exact argument, that a year of campaigning calling for a Muslim ban could not disguise the intent of a "travel ban", overwhelmingly won the day in court and denied Trump and his despicables a victory.

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  2. I don't know if it is certainly the order of the day here but ad hominem hurts more than sadness or rancor helps and it is a fact it is impossible to escape Bob Somerby.

    1. What did you think of Maddow's dishonest report?

    2. Clearly it was a Dickensian attack on other's lack of integrity

    3. Pretty obvious you don't know who Dickens was. Weren't you going to leave this site?

  3. ...we'd be inclined to say that this type of peddling mainly started on the right....

    You think, Bob?

  4. Darwin highlighted the power of social instincts. Suicide bombers are pretty obviously acting in some measure out of group solidarity. And it is recognized that culture (including religion) long ago assumed a large role in the evolution of humans. An individual's self-sacrifice is easily explained in these terms - indeed, how is this different from any individual participation in war, one of the constants in human social behavior. And what about the role of memes in replicating themselves through their human carriers? This clearly bears on the types of political hatred being looked at. Instead of puzzling out evolutionary explanations, let's just evolve already, and discuss the hatreds themselves and why they are stupid and evil. Or not.

    1. Thanks! I like this site's focus on being the evolution you want to see.

    2. Aw lookee -- David found a sock puppet!

  5. I;m with you, Bob. Let's be positive and loving, not negative and hating.
    In that spirit, I believe Trump voters will get everything they deserve from him, and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

  6. Hate has been much worse at other points in history. The stuff on Game of Thrones comes straight out of medieval history, including the red wedding. Even with terrorism times are much better now.

  7. We will never evolve out of an instinct to hate and fear the other. The haters and the fearers would first have to be identified as Others, then hated, feared and killed off by haters and fearers. We've tried it before and have exactly zero perfect societies to show for it, and every attempted perfect society's brutality, oppression, and failure to show for it. We're stuck with hating and fearing the Other, and a better society depends on which group is better at identifying and eliminating the more evil and socially destructive instincts. Most Republicans believe moral absolutism grounded in a higher power is superior to moral relativism grounded in human opinions and self-interest in producing a less hateful population.

    1. Most Republicans believe in a pussygrabbing pervert, lying piece of shit, flim flam con artist, treasonous bastard raging lunatic who mocks disabled people, insults women for their menstrual cycle, attacks the men and women of the press in the most crude vulgar manner possible, tax cheat.

  8. Liberals like to believe that their hatred is less than conservative hatred, or that their hatred is only a reaction to conservative hatred. But, is that really so?

    IMHO liberalism suffers from success. Liberals have successfully made discrimination illegal, provided Social Security for the elderly, provided health care for all (more or less), made abortion legal, promoted safety through numerous laws and regulations, created and maintained a United Nations. No doubt there are other accomplishments I've left out.

    Because they've achieved almost all of their goals, what's left for them to offer the voters? Fear and hatred is what's left. So, there are unending personal criticisms of Trump and of conservatives in general. Accusations of racism. Accusing conservatives of wanting to poison the planet.

    Conservatives OTOH don't have to run on hate. Although, liberals like to pretend that Trump ran on hate and bigotry, he actually ran on a platform of undoing various liberal policies.

    1. "...he actually ran on a platform of undoing various liberal policies."

      Good. I'm tired of all this clean air and drinkable water.

    2. "Because they've achieved almost all of their goals, what's left for them to offer the voters?"

      You've got to be kidding! Free higher education, equal rights and pay for women, serious efforts to reduce domestic violence, progress on addressing climate change, Dems also want infrastructure improvement and support for business growth and more jobs, a livable wage, single payer health care (in the true sense of the term), more funding for research, serious approaches to addiction (not war on drugs), protection for internet equality, a sane foreign policy, serious efforts to reduce income inequality and control bank fraud, support for alternative energy...need I go on? You could have just read Hillary's proposals. I'll bet you never once visited her webpage!

      Trump didn't run on hate? Where did "Lock her up" originate? What about "Throw them out?" And all those alt-right (white supremacist) tweets with fake crime statistics and lies about minority groups? What about Ted Nugent?

      David, you are clearly a troll but do you also have to be a total idiot?

    3. 7:43 your example supports my point. Dems need to make up hateful reasons to vote for them. E.g., that Republicans will support dirty air and poisoned drinking waterwater.

      Anon -- you haves a point. However, equal rights and pay for women have long been the law of this country. That's something liberals have already achieved.

    4. ...he actually ran on a platform of undoing various liberal policies.

      Yes, dumbfuck, like getting rid of the EPA.

      The Republican Party’s 2016 platform proposes getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a massive regulatory body and turning it into an “independent bipartisan commission.”

      Democrats support the EPA, like Republicans used to before their brains were infected with the prion disease from eating too much monkey brains. (HT to the great Charles P)

      There's a reason the EPA was created, and you fucking know it Comrade DinC. It has to do with the word "protection"

      It is not hate to support the party that believes in protecting the people from industry shitting all over them, and passing on their costs to everyone else.

      Now that pussygrabber is President, and the GOP controls both houses of congress plus the supreme court, it should be no trouble for your party to fulfil their pledge to abolish the EPA as the platform they ran on called for.

      Except of course they are too chickenshit to actually do it, but would rather undermine it's mission by appointing corrupt politicians to run the EPA.

      Pruitt has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the very agency he is being nominated to lead.

    5. mm -- All you have to do is pretend that reforming or shrinking an agency means getting rid of it and you can find Republicans to be hateful. It's so easy to do this.

      To have an intelligent debate, one would have to know many details about thousands of specific pollutants, effectiveness of thousands of EPA restrictions, impact of these restrictions on the economy, etc. But, as Rachel Maddow shows, it's easier and more fun to just exaggerate or misstate the opposition's plans.

    6. fuck you DinC, I exaggerated nothing.

      That was a specific plank in the GOP Platform.

      Abolish the EPA as we know it.

      The platform calls for turning the EPA into "an independent bipartisan commission" and shifting responsibility for environmental regulation to the states.

      You can't make this shit up.

      This would remove the federal government's ability to study the effects of pollution and establish safe standards. In a particularly Orwellian touch, the Republicans promise that a kneecapped EPA would adhere to "structural safeguards against politicized science." That actually means safeguards against scientific findings they don't like. In other words, they would politicize the science.


    7. DinC,
      Speaking of water, I hear denial is not just the longest river in the world.

    8. DavidinCal,
      You don't have to pretend shit. This is who Conservatives are. if you don't like it, you can change. But don't try to take away the rights of Conservatives to fuck over the citizenry in support of their corporate constituents.

  9. I agree with so much of what you say today and every day, mm. I understand the disbelief and anger that anyone could vote for Trump after hearing him or learning anything about him. I think maybe Bob would say that, yes, his rabid fans at his rallies cheered him on, but not everyone who voted for him did that. There are people in my family who voted for him, but they weren't cheering his bs. They may have made some sort of calculation, based on abortion or the Supreme Court, for example.
    I don't know. Maybe Bob is saying that anger at Trump voters won't win elections for Democrats. Or maybe Bob is being too idealistic in thinking that people are willing to listen to reason anymore. And yes, by voting for Trump, all those people enabled his worst excesses. and there was a palpable visceral negativity (hatred?) directed at Hillary.

  10. Just because it's drowned-out in volume by paranoia and self-pity, doesn't mean Conservatives don't run on hate too.

  11. Anger is motivating renewed activism and cooperation among dems. That may very well help is win future elections. Bob is not interested in Dems -- he is promoting Bernie's revolution.

  12. Oh forget about your theories--what are we going to do about Rachel Maddow! Now she's inspiring hate crimes and church massacres and we just sit here chatting.

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  14. Wow
    Just came back to this post to see if there were any comments to my post.
    And how surprised to find that my post was not there. WTF

  15. Anon, thank you for your comment. I know people who voted for him too.

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