The Great Hate Debate

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I justifiably criticize and reprehend, but you hate. I have well-thought-out, rational opinions, but you have mere prejudices.

I hate hatred. I hate those who hate, especially those who hate the wrong things, that is to say the things that I do not hate. Such people are hateful. It is a pleasure as well as a duty to hate them. If you do not hate something or somebody, after all, do you really believe in anything?

Those who desire a world as bland as cottage cheese, without hate or even disdain, forget that one of the prime human needs, almost as great as that for love itself, is for someone to look down on and despise. Everyone wants to feel superior to, or better than, someone at least. Prisoners despise sex offenders, rapists despise child molesters, and child molesters look down on the children they molest. I remember an old Afrikaner lady in the days of apartheid (when whites freely expressed their disdain or hatred of blacks by calling them kaffir), complaining that, these days (1975), you weren’t allowed anymore to use the word kaffir (A Dictionary of English Usage in Southern Africa, published by the Oxford University Press in that very year, decreed its use to be “unacceptable”).

“And if you can’t call a kaffir a kaffir,” the old lady wanted to know, asking in a very plaintive voice, “who can you call a kaffir?”

The important thing for her was obviously to be able to call some group of people by a derogatory name; it fulfilled a deep need in her—and perhaps (if we are honest) in all or at least most of us.

As it happens, a law before the French Parliament, not yet agreed upon and perhaps never to be passed, ostensibly aims to control the promotion of hatred on the internet. Whether, if passed, it would do anything other than stifle discussion is extremely doubtful, and indeed so obviously so that one might wonder whether this was not its real purpose. The promoters of the law have pieties that they wish to protect from being the target of mockery or even mere irreverence, let alone serious criticism. Actually, as I know from experience, the only criticism that truly hurts is that which is justified.

The proposed law aims to ban (which is to say, censor) commentary on the internet that has the effect, or is designed, to promote or propagate hatred toward any person or group of persons simply on account of his or their identity, whether it be religious, sexual, national, etc.

It is a useful step when criticizing a proposal to consider what might be said in its favor. In this case it is that words of hatred will sooner or later result in acts of hatred or hateful acts. Moreover, expression of hatred does not serve as catharsis but rather to whet the appetite for yet more extreme expression and yet greater hatred. It is not a coincidence that, historically speaking, those who committed the most atrocious large-scale crimes first stimulated hatred, both their own and that of other people, by the use of zoological terms to describe the objects of their hatred, terms such as vermin, cockroaches, rats, and so forth. It is true that sticks and stones may break my bones, but it is not true that words will never hurt me.

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