The Usefulness of Hate

Hate may not be useful for anything but corrupting the soul. Despite what hatred itself seems to advocate for itself, it does not actually lend strength or energy or conviction or moral probity to one’s cause, and, like the itch that promises relief if you scratch it, it betrays its promise and merely aggravates itself when indulged.

But the usefulness of accusing one’s opposition of hate, of pretending he is moved by the darkest and most despicable of motives, that is useful to the point where no other weapon is needed in the arsenal, no other arrow in the quiver, no other argument on the lips, no other though in the head. It is a tool of infinite utility and zero cost. Like the catalytic Philosopher’s Stone of myth, as an excuse, accusing the opposition of hatred creates infinite riches and is never consumed nor grows less.

Consider that if the opposition’s motive is the darkest and most shameful of motives, hate, that nothing he says with his lips has any meaning. For we all know that like the flattery of the infatuated, the obloquy of the hater is merely an expression of inner passion, words without reason. A man in hate, like a man in love, will say anything.

In one blow, all the arguments, no matter how carefully reasoned, of a man accused of hatred become like the protests of a crone accused of witchcraft: No one need pay the least attention to them.

So the first utility of the accusation is that it gags the arguer without the difficult mental exercise of addressing his argument.

The second utility appears when and if the butt of the accusation is himself informed of the accusation, or if he anticipates it. If he grows annoyed or angry at the baseless slander, why, then, his anger can be interpreted as evidence that the accusation has struck home. If he denies it, he can moreover be called a liar or a neurotic, depending on whether we wish to accuse him of knowing he is motivated by hatred, or whether we can accuse him of various psychological malformations which make a man unaware of his true motives —  a truth that the accuser, by one means or another, is merely assumed to be able to assess at a distance, usually about a man whose middle name he does not know, although he knows the secret content of his heart better than he does.

But if the accused even without anger spends any time discussing or debating his character rather than debating the issue at hand, why, then, this is a win for the accusation, which was meant only to gag the argument from the first.

Every word spent on whatever the debate point was is a loss for the accuser, since the accuser would argue rather than accuse if he had an argument. But every word spent by a man defending his own character is a win for the accuser, because then the argument languishes, or, better yet, the success of the argument has been moved from an objective to a subjective footing.

This is what I mean by a subjective footing: in a court of law, there are arguments given the judge on matter of the logic of the law. An argument can be made, for example, that a man who does not enter a house but nonetheless extends and arm or an instrument through a window is “breaking and entering.” This argument depends almost purely on the logical reasoning touching the definition of the crime. That argument is on an objective footing. On the other hand, in a court of law, character witnesses can be called to the stand, who, not having any evidence to give about the crime, can give evidence about the generation reputation and trustworthiness of the accused. This, the jury hears and tries to get an assessment of the character of the accused. This is argument on a subjective footing.

If we are arguing about some matter of policy and grave import to the public weal, the conversation suddenly stops being about that, and starts being about the character and reputation of the speaker. The speaker is at two disadvantages here:

First, the argument is no longer about a matter where the facts and evidence are available, as when discussing a matter of the public weal, to the public. If we are arguing about the effect of high tariffs or fiat currency on the boom-bust cycle, so as to assess the wisdom of further public borrowing to “prime the pump” with easy credit policy, that is a matter open to public debate, at least among those who bother to familiarize themselves with the subject matter. The argument now is about a matter where no facts are available, and anyone’s judgment is as good as anyone else’s.  By an irony I shall examine in a moment, the less evidence there is, the more opinions merit a hearing.  Whether I am motivated by phobia and hatred when I advocate low public peacetime debt is a matter any man, even one who neither knows my middle name nor knows the first thing about political economy, has as much (or as little) standing as anyone else to voice an opinion.

Second, the normal modesty of a civilized man makes him unwilling, perhaps unable, to defend himself robustly, lest he seem to boast. When someone says, “behold I am an honest man!” we automatically tend to disbelieve him.

As a general rule, when a man makes a statement against his own self interest, as when he makes a self deprecating remark, we tend to sympathize, even to laugh, and tend to believe him, and our natural humanity often impels us to disagree. If a man makes a modest remark, the normal reaction is to assume it is false modesty, to pity him, and to compliment him. Contrariwise, when a man makes a statement in his own interest, as when he makes a self aggrandizing remark, we tend not to sympathize, and there is no humor and no pity to be found. The normal reaction is to deflate his inflated ego.

Being accused of a wicked and despicable motivation but the accused in a position where he cannot defend himself unless he makes what sound like self aggrandizing remarks. The sympathy of the audience is diminished hearing such remarks.

When the motivation is shameful, moreover, everyone expects a man truly moved by a shameful motive will deny it just as quickly as one who is falsely accused. Both the guilty and the innocent plead not guilty.

The main point, however, is that when debating matters of public weal on objective grounds, not everyone has the education or the inclination to partake of the discussion. But when the argument is replaced by an accusation, every man, and the young and foolish more than most, feel s himself wise and acute judges of human nature.  Rare is a man who knows he does not know what is going on in the hearts of other men.  Everyone thinks himself an expert; everyone thinks himself a psychiatrist, everyone thinks himself a priest in a confessional booth.

Nor is the thought necessarily wrong, when used properly; that is, when used within the circle of personal friends and acquaintances. If you have had the opportunity to see a man in his betters days and his worse, when he is under pressure and when he is at ease, and seen him in a variety of companies and circumstances, your measure of his nature is probably as good or poor as any other man’s.  But if the only thing you know about a man is the public image he carefully attempts to create, or which is adversaries carefully attempt to deprecate, or, worse, if you know nothing whatsoever about the man save only that his opinion differs from yours on this one point, then the thought is indeed wrong. Assessing the character of an acquaintance is an art every man not a hermit has in equal expertise; assessing the character of a total stranger is to mistake rumors for proofs, first impressions for careful meditation, prejudice for judgment.

In what way, really, is the statement “All opponents to gay marriage are bigots” so different from the statement: “All Jews are greedy” or “All Irish are drunks”?

Because each man is indeed a judge of character when he chooses his friends, and because no man ever has reason to reassess his rash assessments of famous figures he never meets,  each man, unless he is scrupulously cautious, overestimates his insight into human nature.

And the acute insight everyone incautiously congratulates himself for having is merely this: to believe that one’s opposition, the members of the other faction, the partisans of the other party, or nation, or race, or clan, are loathsome, cronies of demons, whereas the angels fight alongside you and your own, if not are your own.

So the audience is always eager to hear the accusation of the accuser, because the audience basks in the reflected and implied flattery. You see, if the accused is a witch, even if I in the audience am not a saint, once compared to the witch, I am.

Even if the accused is wise to the game, it does not matter.  I have already mentioned that answering the accusation seems to confirm it, since this is what the guilty would do; likewise, if he ignores the accusation, or pleads “no contest”, this is also taken as a confession that the accusation is valid. The accusation is unanswerable.

The third utility of the accusation is that, because it is unanswerable, it can be used just as quickly on the audience as on the opposition. Having seen the innocent accused of witchcraft, and knowing that any act of self-justification will be seen as self-condemnation, the only way to escape condemnation is never to be accused.

This means that one must not believe the party line with any reservations or quibbles or nuances of definition. One cannot be lukewarm or take exception when the party line topples down the ever steeper slope from partisanship, to zealotry, to fanaticism, and then over the brink into drooling cross-eyed madness.

One cannot believe, for example, in the rights of some oppressed group yet not believe in all special privileges awarded them or to be awarded them, lest one be accused of being a hater just as much as one who despises their rights. The only way not to be a hater is to be a full-throated advocate of whatever the accusers advocate.

The final utility is its ease of use. To accuse a man of hate requires a few syllables or a few keystrokes. In the modern Internet age, this can be done with the same anonymity as a villager stoning a victim to death. No one knows which stone was the final stone that struck the living man dead.

And the accusation is self evident, that is, merely the act of making the accusation is all the evidence one needs to make it. One need produce no writ, no warrant, one need not even prove knowledge of the accused. One need not know the age nor sex nor race of the accused. Merely knowing that he dared utter a doubleplus-ungood thoughtcrime is sufficient.

And this same ease is present in the minds of the audience, if the audience is unwary enough to fall for the trick. Because now the complex and objective matter, requiring no doubt some wisdom or insight into human nature or knowledge of history to answer, has been reduced from a difficult problem only the wise can ponder to a simple problem any sophomore can answer.

The weighty matters of public import are ones were the opinions of amateurs are worthless. You don’t have a right to voice an opinion on a matter where you have not studied. You might think you have an opinion, but you don’t. What you have is mush, merely the dribbles collected from the circumambient atmosphere created by those whose profession it is to create an atmosphere of opinion.  On matters outside your field, dear amateur, you are merely parroting badly something you skimmed in an editorial, or an attitude you gleaned from a movie, book, or stump speech, or that your neighbor’s did. When you hear a physicist, expert in his field, making howlingly stupid  arguments and uttering childish opinions on matter philosophical, political, or theological, now you know why such an bright man can be so dim: outside of his field, his opinion is as worthwhile as that of a fairly well-read teenager, and, like a teenager, he is more prone than usual to fads and fashions that excite the atmosphere of opinion.

So no one, aside from intellectuals who by the nature of their vocation are shameless, wants to hold forth an opinion on a matter where he knows his expertise does not lie. But matters of judging the honesty of a speaker, of assessing the character of a man, on that one matter everyone’s opinion does have weight, because everyone is a human being. This is the reason why the juries in Anglo-American law are drawn from the common stock, and not from a panel of lawyers or doctors or scholars or priests. No expert opinion is needed to assess a man’s character because all men deal with all men as much or as little as anyone else.

The act of accusation reduces the complex problem only the wise can debate to a simple matter of assessing honesty. Whoever seems to have the nobler motive is ergo the one telling the truth.

* * * *

In my life, I have noticed that the Leftist side of the debate is always, always, always accompanied by an accusation against their opposition’s motive. This is as true of, for example, staunchly Catholic socialists as for staunchly atheist semi-Fabians. It does not matter what their opinions and beliefs are on other topics, if they are Left -leaning in politics, they accuse and they believe accusations related to the one thing no man knows of any other man, and not even angels,  but God alone: the secret motives in the hidden heart. It is as if they think themselves telepaths. And yet their telepathy is strangely one-sided: they can only pick up negative thought waves. They only ever level accusations of vile and hateful motives. They never make the accusation, and it seems as if they cannot imagine, a sincere and yet mistaken opposition to their creed.

I assume so widespread an effect must have a widespread cause. I think it is a specific case of the general problem I mentioned above: no one in a democracy would like the laws to be debated and decided by legal experts alone. That cuts against the grain of the democratic spirit. And yet no one aside from libertarians advocates having the laws be so few, so simple, and so plain that every man can understand them. So the solution for non-libertarians is to advocate having complex laws and codes and regulations directed to goals simple and plain enough that every man can understand the goal of the laws, even if he cannot understand the laws. The camps then fall into the more experienced, who know how often good intentions go astray, and who believe that whatever you reward, you encourage; and the less experienced, who believe good intentions are or should be sufficient.

For this reason, no discussions between the two camps can proceed until and unless each apprehends the starting point, the assumptions, of the other. To the Inexperienced, the fact that the well intentioned plans have no good results is irrelevant, if not impertinent. To the Experienced, the unwillingness of the Inexperienced to distinguish productive from counterproductive is maddening, if not madness.

But of the two, the Inexperienced fall prey more easily to rhetoric and demagoguery, since any cause can the attached to an allegedly noble motive, and even the opposite causes and be, at one time or another, supported by the enthusiasm of the selfsame high motive.

For this reason you see the same parties who feared global cooling in the 1970’s, and suggested the sacrifice of Western industrial luxuries as a solution, feared the opposite problem of global warming in the 2000’s, but suggested the self same solution. It was the sacrifice that was seen as noble and well intentioned, and no relation to the real world was needed or desired.

In short, anything, any bill of goods, can be sold as well intentioned, from killing babies in the womb to overthrowing laws and customs, to making war, to surrendering without war, to feeding the poor, to enslaving the poor — anything can be said to be prompted by a good motive once only the motive matters.