Rhetoric and the Morality of Hatred

Yesterday, I presented In Defense of Hatred to the Northwest Forum, run in absentia by Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents. My speech focused primarily on the importance of rhetoric in defending what we love and the moral legitimacy of hatred. You can listen to it above, or read the text below.

There are few things more hated today than hatred itself.

I read an article about two weeks ago from Psychology Today that a family member shared with me. The article was about Oxytocin, the hormone we associate with love and affection. It facilitates social bonding, especially between babies and mothers, and between partners during sex. It wards off depression. Sounds good, right? Well, it turns out that there’s also a dark side to oxytocin. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The same hormone that helps people feel warmth and camaraderie with friends and family is also implicated in the hatred and contempt they may feel for opponents. In recent years, researchers exploring the intricacies of oxytocin have revealed that it rouses envy as well as gloating over others’ misfortune. Psychologists conjecture that oxytocin plays a part in fueling ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and intergroup conflict.”

What I thought was truly impressive was the conclusion they came to. They did not consider whether hatred may have some benefit, or question why love and hate appear to be related at a neurochemical level. Instead, they decided to attenuate their appreciation for the “love hormone.” Since most scientists these days are materialists, this attenuated appreciation for oxytocin extends into a moral suspicion towards love itself. Maybe love isn’t so good after all.

This line of thinking might seem a little shocking, but it really is symptomatic of our culture’s collective opinion of love and hatred. And once you notice it, you begin to see it everywhere. Many in our society would rather not love at all than love something if that love carried ANY potential for hatred.

I wrote In Defense of Hatred because I noticed that this moral position had crept its way into the public consiousness, and was manifesting itself in attitudes so stupid it defied rational comprehension. One prescient example of this manifestation is the reaction we often see in the aftermath of Islamic attacks. As you all probably know, an injection of diversity explosively enriched Manchester at the end of last month. 22 were killed, and 59 injured. Then at the beginning of this month, another truck of peace brought the strength of multiculturalism to London Bridge, killing 8, and wounding dozens. These are just a few of the more recent episodes. I’m sure we can all think of dozens more. But it’s the responses to these sorts of attacks that reveal our society’s strange relationship with hatred, and it was a particular response to an incident that happened about a year and a half ago which really crystallized the matter for me personally.

In November of 2015, 9 otherwise totally ordinary Parisians led an attack against their countrymen with bombs and guns, focusing especially on the Bataclan theater. They killed 130 people, and wounded 368.

At this time, I was already beginning to get a little jaded to the novelty of terrorist attacks. However, as the flames and the blood and the bodies passed across the news headlines like white noise, the empty and unserious quality of the most prominent and public responses to the massacre came into sharp focus. I remember a video of a Parisian father and his son, of no more than five or six years old, being interviewed by a news channel in the aftermath of the attack. The young boy was quite concerned about what his family would do, now that there were clearly mean, bad men with guns in his city. His father, however, gently but firmly assured him that Paris was their home, and that in any case there were bad men everywhere. And then he told his son “they might have guns but we have flowers.”

“But flowers don’t do anything,” replies the boy. He flounders for a moment, trying to think of what flowers are actually for.

“Of course they do,” retorts the father. “Look, everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against the guns.”

“It’s to protect?” asks the young boy?

“Exactly,” assures the father.

Now, quick show of hands, does anyone present listen to that and think “what a good father?”

Who here actually feels their blood boil when they hear that kind of nonsense?

Alright, and who is so used to the banality of it that they aren’t even surprised or bothered anymore?

This father resonated with millions of people, who all thought that this was inspirational, and captured the soul of how a Western man ought to respond to concentrated and intentional violence like the Bataclan massacre.

At a biological level, there’s something deeply pathological about the desire to ignore or accept a threat against your family, your city, your nation, and yourself. We can all see that a father who tells his child that flowers will protect them from brutal, totalitarian theocrats with guns will leave the defenseless against threats that are very real. It is a pathology of unseriousness, and it is the same pathology that can compel scientifically-minded researchers to hedge their appreciation for love rather than accept that some degree of hatred or intergroup conflict may be necessary or good.

In Defense of Hatred is an exploration of the nature and origins of this pathology. It also provides a framework for understanding how hatred is not merely a necessity, but a moral virtue in its own right, precisely because of its relation with love. If love means anything at all, it implies an elevation of worth, and for this reason love is inherently relative. We love some things more than other things, and our behavior should reflect this. Does your family matter more to you than a stranger? If so, what would you do to protect your family, if it was threatened? What wouldn’t you do?

If something that we do not value threatens something that we value very much, we must stop the threat as though we hate it. Failing to do so would be an active denial of the love that we claim to hold. If we don’t protect what we love from things we don’t care about, it tells the world—and worse, it tells ourselves—that we don’t really love it that much after all.

Hatred and love are inextricable, because they are both facets of care. A world without hate would be a world without love, because hatred is love’s final and best defense. Without hatred, the probability of loss would make love an intolerable risk, in a constantly shifting world of competing interests, decay, and death. Hatred is no guarantee of the survival of what we love, but it is an effective tool and a powerful deterrent, which helps to make hope in love possible. I think this is something that everyone understands intuitively.

And yet here we are, in a culture that condemns hatred as a moral evil. This contradiction between our stated beliefs and our behaviors means that we did not get here through philosophy, but through rhetoric. If we’re being totally honest, the rhetoric appears purpose-built to deny the legitimacy of the love we have for ourselves and ours; love is just the collateral damage in a narrative power-play. If we want to have any hope of advocating on behalf of what we love–hell, for love itself–we will have to use more effective rhetoric, and we will need to steel ourselves against the pressure of theirs.

Towards this end, it may help to go back to the basics. Aristotle held that there were three aspects of rhetoric: Ethos, what is usually translated as personal qualification; pathos, that which stirs people’s emotions; and logos, what we might think of as oral demonstration of truth.

Let me begin with ethos.

Ethos is usually translated as the qualifications that make you someone worth listening to, but it is far more than mere credentials. Aristotle said, of ethos, “Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech [is] so spoken as to make us think him credible.” In other words, ethos is about more than just the individual. In fact, as it’s used today, ethos is really best thought of as the characteristic spirit of a group. You may hear of the ethos of doctors, derived from the Hippocratic oath, or the ethos of the US Marines. It’s not a coincidence that our word “ethics” comes from ethos; you can’t have a systematic framework for judging right action without a group with shared goals and values. When Aristotle talks about ethos, he’s talking about the speaker’s demonstration that he holds and adheres to the values and characteristic spirit of the audience. He’s demonstrating that he’s on their side, and can be trusted because they share a common identity, if not a common interest. That’s what makes him qualified and trustworthy. That’s what makes him persuasive.

By contrast, what is the ethos of the anti-hatred culture we live in today? Is there one at all? Out of the one great law “thou shalt not hate,” we can identify a rough moral consensus that promotes universal love; the kind of Rawlsian love that holds no preference for the child in your home over the child in another country. But this kind of love carries little in the way of commitment. It is a compassion of whim and convenience, that gives no sense of validation or security to its recipient. There is no elevation, and there is no loyalty.

This means that anti-haters tacitly acknowledge that they have no loyalty to any meaningful ethos. Their ethos is the ethos of the jellyfish. They can sort of squirm and undulate around a little, provided they’re in a fluid and amorphous environment, but they mostly drift wherever the currents take them. This makes them inherently untrustworthy to anyone who believes in or cares about anything concrete, anything hard, anything real. They are liabilities, liars waiting for the moment to betray you, and the fact that there might be no malice in their amorality is irrelevant. Their love is jellyfish love: more a function of chance than intent, and it stings when you recognize its nature.

We should all learn to identify this jellyfish love, and point it out. The anti-hater has no skin in your game; he openly says that he won’t help defend what is most precious and important to you… because that might be hateful. Nobody who gets on a soapbox about how terrible it is to hate can be trusted, because they do not share your identity, your interests, your ethos… because in condemning hatred, they condemn adherence to any identity; to any ethos.

How about pathos? What about the emotions?

Aristotle described pathos as “awakening emotion in the audience so as to induce them to make the judgment desired.”

When condemning hatred, anti-haters always reference the harms that follow from acting out in hate. They talk about lynchings, war, genocide, anything that can conjure a mental image of intense suffering, and this induces two responses. Can anyone guess them? Pity and fear; the tragic emotions. We naturally want to avoid these things. By tying hate to visually and symbolically significant violence, they persuade the typical person to avoid hate.

Like any good lie, it works because it captures half of the truth. Yes, violence, brutality, even cruelty, often follow from hatred. And in truth, there are inappropriate, weak, and self-defeating forms of hatred, just as there are inappropriate and even dangerous forms of fear, joy and love. Hope can be especially dangerous; just a few days ago, the british journalist Douglas Murray remarked that in Europe, a huge amount of damage has been, and is continuing to be done by “optimists.” We should all acknowledge that hatred which is not justified by good information, understanding, and the competence to act upon it, is almost always a bad thing, and that “hot” hatred tends to be ineffective because it makes the actor predictable and easily manipulable. For these reasons, I think the superiority of “cold” hatred is something we should all remember.

Of course, the anti-hater doesn’t want any hatred, cold or otherwise. They want to avoid the violence, and they correctly notice that violence can sometimes come from hatred. But they never answer–and sometimes seem unable to comprehend–the sorts of questions that follow from their stated position. For example, do they ever consider what motivates hatred in the first place, and if that motivation may in fact be worse than the hate itself? Have they considered, for example, why Vlad the Impaler erected his forest of Turks? Do they know where he learned this sort of barbarism from, and what probably would have happened to the people of his kingdom had he not deterred their would-be invaders by speaking to them in their own language?

Even if they were right, and contrary to all of the converging interests of evolution, haters are a bunch of Jokers who just want to watch the world burn, wouldn’t there be something both stupid and sinister about wanting to love everyone? Everyone? And isn’t there’s a paradox lurking in here somewhere?

The hardest question, of course, and the most important to ask is simply this: what, exactly, are we supposed to do with these hateful people? Where do we draw the line of distinction between the saints and sinners, the good people and the pure evil, and what sort of hell should we throw the latter into for their hatred? Can’t we all vividly imagine — in all the Orwellian details — how the cure is almost certain to be far worse than the disease?

They want a world that does not exist, one in which hatred not necessary, and for that reason, not tolerated. Their utopian vision cannot fathom its own contradiction with human nature, because all utopias are, to some degree, explicit attempts to overcome human nature. And since they cannot grasp the contradiction, they explain away all expressions of the contradiction as exceptions and anomalies, to be done away with, and forgotten. Anyone who has read a book like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago knows how fast the number of exceptions can add up. The body count of utopian idealism is infinitely greater in scope and often worse in its detached cruelty than the schemes of any petty dictator or warlord, even the most sadistic ones. The reasoning is explained by another great 20th century thinker, C.S. Lewis, who I think is worth quoting at length. He says:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

Aside from the murderous destruction of ideologies that defy human nature, those who oppose hatred wish, fundamentally, to cure us of being human. Beyond the gulags, the famines, the censorious oppression and the fear, there is the willingness to be condescended to like children, that should deeply offend everyone that has even a shred of pride, and should terrify anyone who understands the sorts of condescending people that will end up in charge of it all.

Is all of that really worth it, to avoid the possibility of an occasional violent conflict?

We all wish to avoid needless suffering, violence, death, and destruction, but denying the moral validity of hatred is not the way to minimize these. It is far more likely to generate the most destructive of all forms of hatred: the resentful hatred of the disappointed idealist, whose nihilistic justice will condemn you by default and destroy you, for failing to transcend your own humanity. So our pathos is this: If you want gulags, if you want purges, if you want genocide; if you want censorship, fear, and loneliness that defies comprehension, simply lay out an impossible foundation as a moral standard, like forbidding a natural human emotion, and watch what happens.

Finally, we have logos: the “speech itself.” Logos is the etymological origin of the word “logic,” and refers to proving the truth of the claim through reason.

I’ve already gone over most of the logical substance of the argument for hatred, but in short form it is this:

Real value is expressed through actions, not through words, and any expression of “love” that is not backed up by some willingness to fight for what you love is essentially meaningless. The call to end hatred, therefore, is the call to end love itself. The kill-shot to the anti-haters is this: anti-hate is nihilism.

Like oxytocin, hatred is an intrinsic part of human nature, and a natural response to a threat against what we love. And there will always be possible threats against what we love. So we should all cultivate the capacity and willingness to hate, and to hate effectively, if we are to be moral and loving human beings.

Let me close with one final point on rhetoric.

It may be tempting to at times grant the liberal premise and run with it. We can see the hypocrisy so clearly, and yet they don’t seem to care that the real feminists would be protesting Islam and Saudi Arabia, et al. We should all be careful about accepting too much in the name of irony and memes. We become what we repeatedly do, and no matter how much we think we can separate our beliefs from what we say, we eventually become invested in the premises of our own rabbit-hole arguments with liberals. “Democrats are the real racists” began as a flippant rhetorical jab at liberal hypocrisy, but has since morphed into a core conservative premise. In some circles of the Alt-Right, “White Sharia,” which began as an ironic observation of the tolerance liberals are willing to extend to conservative Muslims, is beginning to take on the trappings of an unironic position.

I think that we on the Alt-Right should avoid making the same mistake with hatred. It may sometimes look convenient to say “we aren’t the haters, the progressives and globalists are the REAL haters!” But that grants the premise that hatred is bad. We are ALL the real haters, or at least we should be.

The prevailing anti-hatred ‘ethos’ of our age — the jellyfish ethos — has put our movement in a unique position. We have a real opportunity to actually speak truth to power. If we want to attract people and hold them, memes, humor, and wit are certainly important, but so is being serious and courageous about things that truly matter. Our friend Jack Donovan spoke at the National Policy Institute, and said that genuine culture is the product of love and hate, even if it’s not about hate. People are yearning for genuine culture, for feeling alive, and not separated from the world by screens, drugs, and protective bubble-wrap. We can be that beacon of courage, hope, and life, but only if we disentangle ourselves from the web of ironic premises that everyone else uses to hide from the world.

Let me close with a short quote from the book itself.

“The answer is not trying to manufacture hatred in ourselves. That is empty hatred, or at best unjustified hatred. Rather, it is to love, deeper and more passionately and more honestly. Let sincerity and joy drive out your fear. Any hate that you may require will arise organically and naturally from the unfettered love that you hold.”

Towards these goals—of love and of life—we should all embrace hatred, and we should not be afraid to say so.

Thank you.

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