How we got here - the weaponization of Hate

Will the weaponization of hate be the downfall of the great democracies? This article illustrates in my opinion exactly how we got here, but proffers no answers. It has long been known that the best path to power is through fear (see Machiavelli’s The Prince). It worked then, it worked for Hitler and it has worked for the GOP, among others. It is great for winning elections and gaining power, but awful at governing in a fashion which doesn’t destroy the people. How do we change direction in the face of this?

It was back then that Finkelstein started developing a political method that now reads like a how-to guide for modern right-wing populism. Finkelstein’s premise was simple: Every election is decided before it even begins. Most people know who they will vote for, what they support, and what they oppose. It’s very difficult to convince them otherwise, Finkelstein believed. It’s a lot easier to demoralize people than to motivate them. And the best way to win is to demoralize your opponent’s supporters. That’s what Trump did to great effect against Hillary Clinton, and what he meant when, after the election, he thanked black Americans for not voting.

Finkelstein had long been studying the big political trends, and he settled on simple issues that could do the most damage. In the end, he noticed, it usually comes down to the same concerns: drugs, crime, and race. These are the issues that create the most political division, he wrote in a memo to the Nixon White House in 1970.

Finkelstein’s goal was to polarize the electorate as much as possible, to pitch each side against the other. The fuel: fear. “The danger has to be presented as coming from the Left,” a 25-year-old Finkelstein advised Nixon.

Whoever doesn’t attack first will be beaten, he argued. And Finkelstein made things personal. Every campaign needs an enemy to defeat. He developed negative campaigning into a technique he called “rejectionist voting” — to demonize the enemy so much that even the laziest of voters would want to get out and vote, just to reject them.

Interesting article. It’s quite a bit more fleshed out than the semi-editorial comment I read a while back, below. Neither has real answers, but I’m sure there are some out there. The BuzzFeed News folks are batting a thousand lately.

I’m going to bold one part that he mentions because we’re seeing it here among our zen-view of QT3.

Fact-checking makes no difference; tribes trump truth. When reporters try to hold the President accountable for inflaming the hatred, he attacks them for bias, for fueling division. When partisans on the left call for fighting fire with fire, they validate the tactics that debase our discourse.

It’s hard to step outside and bring things back to discussion, especially so when both sides hold so much vitriol that they can’t stand down off that edge and listen. We cannot throw everyone who says they aren’t on our side off the cliff and attempt to blaze ahead thinking it will work. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Of note, this isn’t just an American problem. One has only to look at politics worldwide right now to see that it is an issue everywhere. Never in my lifetime have I felt we would ever lead back to world wars but I can certainly see now how they came about, and it’s scary to think that no check on the current path will lead us there.

“both sides”

aaaand I am out!

Don’t be, Rod, what do you propose vs. discussion of normalcy?

Sway me, not the folks writing the articles. How do I not write off anyone that votes republican as a human being? Or hell, how do I save half my extended family or move their position, if at all?

It’s my conundrum.

I know man, I feel you I really do. I respect the fact you want to make things better. My opinion is the way to fix hate in the United States is for Republicans to stop creating it and become committed to living in a respectful society. Maybe committing to democracy and people who dont look like them as well, that would be nice. Heck even crazier they might want to actually help our planet we all live on instead of destroy it.

It makes me sad seeing so many good folks like yourself trying to kick Lucy’s football for so many years. I respect you see the good in them, I am afraid I have just come to accept they mean what they say and do. They are just not nice people. They burnt down the house deliberately, if we are gonna rebuild it I see no reason to let them back in, particularly when they are carrying lit torches.

I am bowing out because I honestly dont see any way to convince them to stop being horrible. Just wait them out. Sorry. And I regret my snarky response to your post. You mean well, I just dont think the people you want to change do.

How do I not write off anyone that votes republican as a human being?

Human beings are dumb and shitty. Republican voters are working as designed and are perfectly valid human beings.

Or hell, how do I save half my extended family or move their position, if at all?

The problem isn’t so much your family (see above), it is the propaganda aimed at them and the funding for the propaganda. Without the continual goads of right wing media, these people would just go back to being low-key terrible in their own small local sphere without being harnessed together to cause larger national problems.

I’d recommend placing parental controls on their internet enabled devices and televisions, to keep them from being exposed to such harmful content. More serious answers than that are a lot more complicated.

Yep. Both sides garbage. It’s a non-starter. That’s like telling Europe they should have just asked the Nazis to nicely stop. And make no mistake here, there’s a good chunk of the right advocating, literally in some cases, for the death of the “right” people. Until you get rid of that, you can’t ask the left to lie down and take it.

If you point at a brown person and tell them to go back to Africa, if you point at a Native American and shout build that wall and then try to claim it has anything to do with immigration, when you shout about government hand outs and then go claim your government subsidies… yeah, over the edge you go.

Yep, the entire both sides narrative is one that has to be defeated, and cannot be tolerated anymore. There is no both sides. Right now we have a political party that is outright and totally, irredeemably evil. Any sort of compromise can only be transactional.

They tried to do just that.

Yes, and the point is exactly that.

Here is the problem with this kind of framing: One side wants to kill and eat the other; while the other wants only not to be killed and eaten. When you describe this situation as ‘both sides hold so much vitriol’, you’re obscuring the truth, and that is not helpful. If you truly want to save your crazy loved ones, recognize first that they’re crazy and you’re not.


One has to understand that trying to escape polarization is simply putting your head in the sand, constraining yourself to lose. Society has a lot of problems, and more and more develop as the times go on, and it takes passion, devotion, and fire to actually deal with them… The only way you’ll beat a Donald Trump is to build your own strong base and not run out Hillary Clintons, but to fight his message with something even stronger- to weaponize America’s loathing for who they perceive as elites for better ends. You work with the America you have, not the one you want.

They also tried to build a wall. That didn’t work all that well either.

I think the thing to remember Is that it’s not so much the voters who are the problem, it is that hate and fear sells, asked are far more effective tools to manipulate people with. When easier in the age of mass media, especially the internet.

Neville Chamberlain and Gandhi both.

Dear friend,

That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed.

I hope you will have the time and desire to know how a good portion of humanity who have view living under the influence of that doctrine of universal friendship view your action. We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms.

But ours is a unique position. We resist British Imperialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We seek to convert them, not to defeat them on the battle-field. Ours is an unarmed revolt against the British rule. But whether we convert them or not, we are determined to make their rule impossible by non-violent non-co-operation. It is a method in its nature indefensible. It is based on the knowledge that no spoliator can compass his end without a certain degree of co-operation, willing or compulsory, of the victim. Our rulers may have our land and bodies but not our souls. They can have the former only by complete destruction of every Indian—man, woman and child. That all may not rise to that degree of heroism and that a fair amount of frightfulness can bend the back of revolt is true but the argument would be beside the point. For, if a fair number of men and women be found in India who would be prepared without any ill will against the spoliators to lay down their lives rather than bend the knee to them, they would have shown the way to freedom from the tyranny of violence. I ask you to believe me when I say that you will find an unexpected number of such men and women in India. They have been having that training for the past 20 years.

We have been trying for the past half a century to throw off the British rule. The movement of independence has been never so strong as now. The most powerful political organization, I mean the Indian National Congress, is trying to achieve this end. We have attained a very fair measure of success through non-violent effort. We were groping for the right means to combat the most organized violence in the world which the British power represents. You have challenged it. It remains to be seen which is the better organized, the German or the British. We know what the British heel means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end the British rule with German aid. We have found in non-violence a force which, if organized, can without doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting. It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deed, however skilfully planned. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war. You will lose nothing by referring all the matters of dispute between you and Great Britain to an international tribunal of your joint choice. If you attain success in the war, it will not prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. Whereas an award by an impartial tribunal will show as far as it is humanly possible which party was in the right.

You know that not long ago I made an appeal to every Briton to accept my method of non-violent resistance. I did it because the British know me as a friend though a rebel. I am a stranger to you and your people. I have not the courage to make you the appeal I made to every Briton. Not that it would not apply to you with the same force as to the British. But my present proposal is much simple because much more practical and familiar.

During this season when the hearts of the peoples of Europe yearn for peace, we have suspended even our own peaceful struggle. Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace during a time which may mean nothing to you personally but which must mean much to the millions of Europeans whose dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attended to hearing the dumb millions? I had intended to address a joint appeal to you and Signor Mussolini, whom I had the privilege of meeting when I was in Rome during my visit to England as a delegate to the Round Table Conference. I hope that he will take this as addressed to him also with the necessary changes.

I am reminded of Stewart & Colberts “rally to restore sanity” in 2010 when 215 000 people came to the Washington Mall. It feels like a lifetime ago and in Stewarts final speech he directed a lot of his ire at the 24hr news media cycle creating the noise that polarises the country. Sad thing is that since then things have just gotten sooo much worse.

Its stated purpose was to provide a venue for attendees to be heard above what Stewart described as the more vocal and extreme 15–20% of Americans who “control the conversation” of American politics the argument being that these extremes demonize each other and engage in counterproductive actions, with a return to sanity intended to promote reasoned discussion.

Seems that 15-20% has escalated to a lot more…

Here’s his speech:

(sorry during my quick search I couldn’t find a better quality)
Jon Stewart's speech for those curious but not wanting to watch the 12min video

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my
intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of
activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate
argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing
to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end
times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The
country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not
cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much
harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing
them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that
magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of
shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.
If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists
and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You
must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists
and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an
insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put
in the exhausting effort it takes to hate–just as the inability to distinguish
terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our
immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker–and
perhaps eczema.
And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because
the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and
media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the
good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the
kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old
pumpkin and one eyeball.
So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to
a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true,
of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and
reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our
Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but
their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on
the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that
we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work
together to get things done every damn day!
The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live
here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the
foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that
prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives
solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans
live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something
they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do
it–impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little
reasonable compromises that we all make.
Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to
the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These
cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too
high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small
kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another
car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA
and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay,
also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a
fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z
fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with
individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles
and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.
And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by
one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty
river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their
differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll
go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA
sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s
okay—you go and then I’ll go.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the
shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is
scorned and not hired as an analyst.
Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the
darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is,
there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the
tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do
it anyway, together.
If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only
assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I
Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To
see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored
mine. Thank you."

Posting here just to make sure the usual suspects can quote me while tut-tutting about radicalization and being mean to Nazis.

Good and thought provoking comments for me in this thread. I’m appreciative to those who did and for further exploration of the subject. There are times lately when I’ve NOT been depressed about where things are and rather happy to see small glimmers of hope for a correction. Certainly midterm elections were the start of it. I guess we will all see where this goes.

It’s almost as if the decision makers and powerful interests are using partisan divides to distract the energy of the masses, so their control and policies don’t get directly challenged by the 99%.