The Paradigm of Love and Hate

Every once in a while, some twit by a baby lawyer crosses my timeline. Often, it causes me to giggle in a pathetic sort of way because it’s largely incoherent, saying something that can only be deciphered by the young and hip. I am neither. But what can be discerned in these twits is that they’re working with a paradigm that’s foreign to my universe. They love people or they hate people. If the twit is about someone they love, they shower them with positivity, no matter how little it’s deserved. But if they hate the person, there isn’t a thing they can say or do that isn’t horrible. They could give the correct time of day, and it would still be wrong.

David French raises the results of a poll out of the University of Virginia that reflects a growing desire to break America into red and blue nations.

On Thursday the University of Virginia released polling results that should shock exactly no one who closely follows American politics and culture. A majority of Trump voters (52 percent) and a strong minority of Biden voters (41 percent) strongly or somewhat agree that it’s “time to split the country.”

Why would they even contemplate taking such a drastic step? Well, the poll provides the answers, and they’re not surprising. Competing partisans loathe each other and view the opposition as an existential threat. This also isn’t new. It’s been tracked in poll after poll for year after year. This one found that a “strong majority” of Trump supporters falsely believe there is no real difference between Democrats and socialists. A majority of Biden voters falsely see no real difference between Republicans and fascists.

It’s not that one side hates the other more than the other side hates it, but that “competing partisans loathe each other. It’s not that we disagree with each other. It’s not that there might be more than one way, even if directly conflicting ways, to make a more perfect union. They just hate each other.

David goes on to discuss the reasons for this hatred, the misinformation, the rank hyperbole spread across tribes to demonize their opposition, giving rise to bizarre beliefs that the other tribe eats babies or some similarly horrifying thing.

He says, “Most Trump supporters are good parents, good neighbors and solid members of their communities.” Yes, absolutely. In fact, it’s that normalcy in all other areas of their lives that blinds them to their increasingly dangerous and radical politics. They think, “I’m a completely normal person, a responsible citizen who never protests anything, and even I can see the existential threat of the left. You can’t? What’s wrong with you?”

Put aside politics and most are entirely nice people, right and left. Not all, but most, the most delusional partisans aside who shop for all black clothing and test the balance of swinging bike locks or ponder how many flags can be placed on the back of a pickup before the drag impacts their gas mileage.

The cycle works a bit like this. Malice and disdain makes a person vulnerable to misinformation. Misinformation then builds more malice and disdain and enhances the commercial demand for, you guessed it, more misinformation. Rinse and repeat until entire media empires exist to supply that demand.

Certainly the media has much to do with the fostering of hatred. It’s a money maker, on the one hand, and “moral clarity” on the other. There is no longer an acknowledged source of sound and reliable information to be seen by all at 7 o’clock in the evening, as you settle in with your Swanson’s turkey TV dinner.

But this nation has long had political disagreement, often severe, often extreme. But as left and right senators talked and shook hands on the floor, reaching compromises that could sustain a nation to this point, we may have had massive disagreement but maintained the capacity to live with each other. What we did not have was a pervasive paradigm of personal loathing and hatred. People of good will can overcome disagreement, but once you hate someone, there’s no beer to be shared together after the battle.

I’ve been sharply criticized by some of the more passionate to one end or the other for writing about, remarking or even retwitting someone they hate. My problem is that I do so for the content of what they said or did, not because they are on the love or hate list. It may be someone so utterly hated by one side as to have hundreds of twitter followers flee my words, blocking me if not screen-capping my recognition of some evil voice so they can throw it out later to conclusively prove what a bad person I am and how all their friends should hate me too.

My problem is that I don’t share their paradigm. If someone like Harvard law’s Ben Shapiro says something insightful, I might well comment on it or retwit it. This invariably evokes a shitstorm of reaction, because he’s literally Hitler to the left. And even though that may be true, something about which I’m not as clear since I don’t obsess about people in quite the way of “hate followers,” a bizarre but real thing, what do I care? If he says something wrong , offensive or stupid, then he gets called out for it. If he says something insightful, then it doesn’t matter that it came from him. Who cares?

They do. The people who get the jollies, not to mention serotonin rush, from hating, and bask in the adoration of their friends for hating the people they’re supposed to hate.

To blame this on misinformation may not be entirely wrong, but even when the information isn’t wrong, or proves accurate later, or is ambiguous, or can be reasonably disputed, it doesn’t change the paradigm. Too many people are locked into their hatred, and their love, so that neither the issues nor the information matter much anymore.

13 thoughts on “The Paradigm of Love and Hate

    1. Elpey P.

      Abraham Lincoln: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
      Every generation’s moral police to Old Abe: “Traitor! Complicit! Fascist collaborator! End of democracy!”

        1. delurking

          My faith was so much stronger then
          I believed in fellow men
          And I was so much older then
          When I was young

  1. Drew Conlin

    I don’t often agree with Cornel West. I love that in every interview he does he always addresses the interviewer as ..” brother”.. or .. “ sister”.. ; some may find it perfunctory. I think it’s a way of saying we can disagree and still be friends.
    Hopefully this doesn’t violate rules of SJ.

    1. SHG Post author

      While I can appreciate the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, there is another overtone to calling people “brother” or “sister” that I find unsettling. We don’t have to be family to be able to appreciate that sometimes the other guy is right and sometimes you’re wrong. Family doesn’t change facts or reason.

  2. B. McLeod

    It’s important to recognize who they’re polling. Trump supporters, who backed a coarse, psychopathic megalomaniac, despite the fact that half the things he said were stupider than dirt. Biden supporters, who back a shaky, timid, closet racist despite the fact that he barely knows where he is. These people are not your deep thinkers. They aren’t representative of the population as a whole. This was a poll isolated to idiots and morons, and even so, only 52% of the idiots and 41% of the morons thought splitting the country was a good idea. Unfortunately, the reporting media (a/k/a the imbeciles) don’t know how to put such poll results in perspective.

  3. Jake

    I find it fascinating in a post bemoaning the divide, that you chose Ben Shapiro for your example, a naked, cynical polemicist who has never shied away from trading angry, divisive rhetoric for profit, no matter how intellectually dishonest and hypocritical to his own past statements.

  4. James

    Creating two competing countries with a grudge against each other, nuclear weapons and the historical distinction of having used them. What could go wrong?

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