20 September 2011

PROBLEM: Hatred in the public domain creates undesirable dynamics by polluting the public domain, inviting and reinforcing negative behaviors, and reduces participation in the public domain.

FORMULATION: By hatred I mean actions (spoken, written, or non-linguistic) that model any attempt to exclude (suppress, deny) suppress the presence of a class of people in the public sphere. This attempt to exclude amounts to refusing the recognize both the presence and the legitimacy of the presence of the given class of people; it is not a failure to include in as much as the class already has the right and the privilege, like anyone else, to be present in the public domain, so the exclusion is a refusal to acknowledge an already present (if excluded) group. Hatred may be directed against either individuals as perceived members of a given class of human being, toward non-present members of that class of human being, or toward non-members of that class of human being who feel solidarity, kinship, or otherwise align themselves with the targeted group.

WHO NON-BENEFITS: Those for whom this is an immediate problem are those who bear the burden of laboring under hatred in the public domain, whether this manifests in well-known kinds of discrimination (as towards people of color or women) or in still-culturally accepted forms of discrimination (as towards people caught in the judicial system) in such a way that the intactness of their being (physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, or economically) is put in jeopardy. Second, people who witness such hatred may non-benefit from it if the hatred touches them personally in some way or creates a sense of vulnerability to such hatred (if of another variety) as well. Third, the whole of the texture of the public domain as we occupy it non-benefits from the presence of hatred in it insofar as (besides what has already been noted) a degradation of the public domain, and thus less desirability to operate in it in a more-than-minimal mode, occurs, to the detriment of the public domain. Finally, those who hate also are non-beneficiaries in ways familiar from gurus who advocate for inner peaceableness as a route to serenity and the like.

SOLUTION BENEFICIARIES: Freeing the hated of the burden of social hatred—all personal benefits aside—increases potentially their participation in public life and thus brings whatever resources that person has into the public discourse where otherwise it was lost to (attempted) exclusion. The maintenance of the public sphere as a place of safety—to the extent that gross acts of abstract scapegoating and judgmentalism are not frequent occurrences, if ever, in the public domain potentially increases the participation of the largest number of people, currently diligently keeping to themselves as much due to the unpleasantness of the public domain as from a desire to just do their own thing. For the haters, the potential benefits include, of course, not dragging around a hatred but the boon of that must outweigh whatever benefit is being accrued by hating. So far, this suggests that there are targets of hatred and targeters of hatred, and that even the targeters are targets of hatred in a way. This is correct and leaves out how the targeted hatred reaches its intended target; that is, what media does hatred move through to (try to) hit its mark.

WHO BENEFITS: The most significant beneficiary of public hatred is the judiciary-media complex. In brief, the media (for merely economic or other reasons) creates various kinds of sensationalistic panic (about terrorists, child molesters, or illegal immigrants), and then people tend to readily make demands for tougher laws, tougher sentencing, more funds for the judicial apparatus, for the Department of Homeland Security, etc. An excellent symbol of this is the online sex offenders registry, which purports to increase public safety by better informing its citizenry, when the registry may likely create an ungrounded sense of safety (exactly the opposite of the stated claim) while also increasing the danger to victims of sex offenders because such a public list increases the chances that a sex offender both will not feel safe in the community (i.e., shall be subject to physical violence) or cannot support himself because no one will hire him for a job. It is clear in this that those targeted for public judgment (sex offenders) and the largest percentage of those making that public judgment (parents) are working against their best self-interests (public safety) by trusting those invested in ensuring a steady flow of judiciary-media money keeps moving into their pocket.

WHY NOT SOLVED YET: It can be considered an open question to what extent hatred serves a person in their life. White supremacists, religious bigots and the like may be ideologically committed to their ideas or they may be doing it cynically (like most talk-show hosts) to make a lot of bucks. Insofar as hatred links to feeling superior, the reward-oriented hierarchy of capitalism may make hatred rational for those who want to find an argument to put themselves “up” in the hierarchy. More systemically, hatred in the public domain has not been extirpated because (a) it sells and (b) those selling it want to continue to feed themselves, live in luxury, and see to the well-being of their children. Although it depends on how exactly hatred is defined, one could say it can at times be fun to hate, and so it might be that human beings will always find an occasion for it. And if that must be so, then the occasion will never arise in the public domain either overtly or through media productions. Meanwhile, whatever leverage hatred can gain with individuals, its social use by the judiciary-media complex is the more daunting problem. People might be rationally persuaded in some way that their hatred is misplaced, and emphasizing their real self-interest might be a window to chastening public displays of hatred. Persuading the judiciary-media complex to stop lining its pocket with fearmongering seems more difficult and, perhaps, not necessary if individuals realize that hatred doesn’t serve their interests.

COMPONENTS:  Of the many components, in particular the discourse surrounding targets of public hatred seems one of the most crucial, because even if the judiciary-media complex cannot be persuaded overtly to not monger fear, the message it sends can still be intercepted and transmuted before consumed in and by the public. Another important component is that certain kind of decorum that makes us mind our own business in the presence of public hatred (in part because we may feel alone and not safe, due to a threat of reprisal or even violence).




  1. critical info scholar said

    This is an excellent post and the questions/comments you raise about who “non-benefits” from an erosion of the public domain are interesting. I hope you will bring this conversation up in class.

    You skillfully argue that harm actually accrues to all of us by ignoring hate in the public sphere, and that the constricting of laws and social norms has significantly impacted those who are not direct targets of hate or state action. I agree that our silence only hurts our collective efforts, and therefore, no one is free from harm or impact from the actions that occur against others.

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