July 12, 2021 Editor

Signs of a Need to Hate

(A Window into the Psychopathology Driving the Right)

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image above: David G. Brown / Flickr

WN: The article highlighted below asks why Conservatives (not all) have such a need to hate. Sadly, Liberals (not all) evoke such a question too. The answer for puzzling Liberals according to the author is:

Trump’s supporters love him, this hypothesis declares, because he attacks and hurts the people they hate.

The answer is somewhat another way of saying: All cultures past and present embrace/exhibit a violent societal scapegoating mechanism. There is a massive body of academic research on this associated with the writings of brilliant anthropologist René Girard.

Girard would endorse the author’s last comment:

But the Republican base chooses strife (not “Peace on Earth”) to express some deep hostility (not “Goodwill Toward Men”). And just as the Christian message offers a path toward a more whole world, its opposite is sure to make it more broken.

In fact, Girard’s anthropology points to the Christian message as the only way out of the cloying scapegoating mechanism matrix.

For something lighter along these lines, see Seth Meyers in A Closer Look:


[This piece is running as a newspaper op/ed in my very red congressional district (VA-06).


There’s a reason that Christianity presents the combination of “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill to Men” as a central message about the Good in the human world:

  • “Peace” says how people are supposed to engage with each other;
  • “Goodwill” is the feeling that inspires people to engage with others in harmonious and constructive — rather than conflictual — ways.

In America today, however, we see signs of the very opposite: people seeking an excuse to feel hostility and to express it through strife.

That same dark spirit is manifest – less blatantly, but ultimately more importantly — in how readily those Americans who constitute the Republican base are supporting their party’s waging a political war that quite clearly will injure their own present and future well-being.

News of the alleged plot comes amid an alarming rise in domestic extremist violence in the United States. According to a Washington Post analysis in April of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the number of domestic terrorism incidents hit an all-time high in 2020, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left and causing more deaths.Felicia Sonmez, July 16, 2021, Two men charged in alleged plot to firebomb California Democratic Party headquarters

That political warfare was declared by the Republican leader of the Senate when he said that the Republicans would be “100% focused” on blocking “the Biden agenda.” That’s a sure-fire strategy for national brokenness, that will hurt everyone, because:

  • At times of crisis the divergence between best- and worst-case scenarios is exceptionally wide, depending on the actions taken;
  • The course of paralysis and drift – which is what Republican success in obstruction would imply for America, at this time of crisis — surely leads toward the worst outcomes for the nation;
  • Far better outcomes would come from the nation steering a well-planned course, and
  • the “Biden agenda” gives every sign of offering such a competent, responsible (widely-supported) way to serve the common good; And therefore

for any rational American it should be obvious that the Republican path is indefensible.

And, conversely: “Why wouldn’t they insist that their party take what – equally clearly – is the appropriate policy, i.e. to act on ‘the Biden agenda’ in whatever way will best serve the nation’s future?

The answer to that question seems to overlap with a question that liberals – including me — have been struggling with since the Trump era began: “How can America’s conservatives align themselves with a leader who continually works toward the very opposite of the values that conservatives have always stood for—the Constitution, Christian values, the virtues of good character?”

After puzzling over that question throughout this era, I’ve noticed lately that liberals seem to be converging on a particular answer: Trump’s supporters love him, this hypothesis declares, because he attacks and hurts the people they hate.

The mystery that liberals first perceived as “How can they support someone so outrageous?” gets solved: “It’s precisely because Trump so effectively outrages us liberals,” the thinking is, “‘Owning the libs’ isn’t a by-product, it is the purpose. That’s how much they hate us.”

If that emerging liberal interpretation is correct, it dovetails with the support the Republican base gives the disastrous obstructionist choice the Republicans in Congress are making: when one is driven by hate, attacking the “enemy” can be gratifying enough to obscure the costs.

This need to hate answers another puzzle that liberals have pondered: “How can those Republicans believe that the election was ‘stolen’ when that claim has been so thoroughly exposed as a Big Lie?”

Answer: that Big Lie – “They robbed us” — provides a justification for the hostility that seems to possess the Republican base. It’s less that the belief they’ve been robbed causes the hatred than that the hatred motivates people to believe the Lie.

Please click on: The Need to Hate and Scapegoating

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.