Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents.
— Eric Hoffer
Years ago, when I read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, the section about how propagandists use hate to manipulate people really hit home with me. Here are some excerpts.
“Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements… Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify his Germans but also to sap the resoluteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. He made similar use of anti-communism.” (p. 86)
By concentrating hatred on a single foe, Hoffer notes, it unites disparate groups as “adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category.” (p. 87)
With the advent of the Internet, I have been on the receiving end of quite a few “pass this to ten friends” emails that fostered hatred toward either Muslims or Hispanics. The Democrats do nothing to discourage hatred either, though, with a different object who goes by the name Dubya.
EdNote: This blog post was written ten years ago. Hoffer’s book was published more than 65 years ago. I find it strange when pundits today blame our current president for the current hate we hear echoes of everywhere. It has much deeper roots and a longer history than this.
The Oscar-winning film Crash showed the corrosive power of prejudice, fear and mistrust. And the tragic consequences at an individual level. Unchecked, racial prejudice leads to unnecessary horrors like Executive Order 9066.
On the national level hatred, whether from left or right, may unify disparate groups for a time, but it does not lead to a good society in the end. If the masses are led by manipulators instead of educators, we will most assuredly see them manipulated in ways that are not good for any of us. (See, for example Ibsen’s Enemy of the People.)
My big concern today is that in the name of freedom (from Muslims or illegal immigrants or whatever we can be coerced into being afraid of) we will give up still more of our freedoms.
In the light of history, it is not unwise to be wary.