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Let’s set that simplistic reaction to one side for the moment, and ask a different question: what happens when people decide that some common human emotion is evil and harmful and wrong, and decide that the way to make a better world is to get rid of it?As it turns out, we have a very good idea what happens in this case, because a first-rate example of the phenomenon finally completed its historical trajectory on the edge of living memory.Here again, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that people a century and a quarter ago—most likely including your ancestors, dear reader, if they happened to live in the English-speaking world—saw things the other way around.To them, hate was an ordinary emotion that most people had under certain circumstances, but sexual desire was beyond the pale: beastly, horrid, filthy, and so on through an impressive litany of unpleasant adjectives.Now of course most people these days, when confronted with the sort of things I’ve just written, are likely to respond, “Wait, are you saying that hate is good?”—as though the only alternatives available are condemning something as absolutely bad or praising it as absolutely good.
It just meant that people got hypocritical about it. Some insisted that in certain sharply defined contexts—for example, within the bounds of legal marriage—it wasn’t the same, no, of course not, how could you suggest such a horrid thing?If you want to slap the worst imaginable label on an organization, you call it a hate group.If you want to push a category of discourse straight into the realm of the utterly unacceptable, you call it hate speech.Back in January of 2016, when I first predicted Trump’s victory, I pointed out that if you wanted to hear really over-the-top hate speech, all you had to do was listen to a group of comfortably well-to-do Americans in the bicoastal urban bubble talk about white working class Americans in the flyover states. Take the rhetoric currently being flung by well-off Democratic voters at Trump supporters, swap out the ethnic labels for any other set you choose, and you’ll have a hard time telling it apart from the rantings of any other group of bigots.The class dimension of all this rhetoric about hate, by the way, is one of the most telling things about it.
If you’re speaking in public and you want to be sure that everyone in the crowd will beam approval at you, all you have to do is denounce hate.