Hatred in Politics — New Article for The Atlantic

My most recent article for The Atlantic — this one about splitting and hatred in politics — went live this morning. You can find it here.

By Joseph Burgo

Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.


  1. way to go! one of my favorite magazines. I am impressed with both them and you. (though I haven’t read the article yet, I did read your book, so I think I’m covered). Bravo!

  2. Absolutely spot on . So many levels including applying to marriage therapy. Best takeaway : the ability to live with ambivalence is TOUGH !!! Either/or thinking is much more comfortable than both/and. Ambivalence leads to so much anxiety ; we don’t manage it well. As you say , real life just is not black and white. Jung said our ability to tolerate the following three feelings is a sign of maturity : ambiguity , ambivalence, anxiety . Thanks for a great article . I will definitely buy your book now!

  3. Nice Article Dr. Burgo. I love the Atlantic magazine. A lot of the content is obviously from the chapter on splitting in your book but there were some nice revisions which helped me understand this concept even more. Splitting is one of those things which I feel like I understand intellectually but for some reason it it hard to turn the light of the concept towards myself and take a good hard look. Maybe it is because I am just as caught up as everyone else in the current political craziness and don’t like to admit I’m not as balanced as I think I am. Even harder on the personal front. Congrats on the article!

  4. I think a politician should ask themselves not only whether or not they are being impartial in their choices but also whether or not they should be making those choices.
    But as hard as I am trying to understand the side that accepts the state as a good thing, if I were a politician I could not justify controlling the lives of other adult human beings and forcing them to pay taxes to me. I wouldn’t have to force them if they were willing.

    More on topic, I think the deficiency of ambiguity in politics has a lot to do with the absence of ambiguity in morality.

  5. Another great Atlantic article, Joseph. The piece, however, concludes with an ominous cliffhanger. Has the system grown too toxic for repair? Is there any hope?

  6. “Voices on the left sometimes employ similar tactics.”

    I just read this article and I agree that one finds these tactics in both parties–the black and white thinking, over-simplification and vilifying the opposition. I respectfully disagree with the use of the word “sometimes” in regards to how frequently the left employs these tactics. I tend to view myself more as a boring moderate so that’s the distinction and as a result am vilified by both.

    I’ve been accused of being disloyal to the left and not “left enough” and their irrational, ugly screeching is off-putting. However, I’ve experienced the same by conservatives if I offer an opposing thought. I bitterly resent attempts by both to back me into a corner and the arrogance and dismissive behaviors employed by the more extreme types of people in both. It’s interesting…currently two of the people closest to me are more conservative and both have made better friendship material. One is a man and although I don’t share some of his viewpoints, he is respectful towards me and as a result we just agree to disagree on some topics. The fact that he is respectful demonstrates that he values me and that has allowed us to strengthen as well as deepen the relationship. I cannot say the same thing for some of the liberals that I’ve encountered.

    While at the park the other day I thought about your article and my experiences and I’ll just offer one. I was once at the same park and a simple greeting and exclamation about what a beautiful day it was turned into a woman proselytizing her political beliefs. She never bothered to ask how I felt or what my thoughts were. She just pushed her own agenda–that I should check out “Move On” as she was opposed to Bush. I’ve met similar people–in fact so many that I tend to view most people as having an agenda and I view their friendliness with a lot of suspicion.

    I see a lot of the problem as failed journalism. The moderate voice isn’t as interesting or dramatic. That voice tends to analyze problems and weighs both sides and it is drowned out because it’s not dramatic and that just doesn’t hook or interest most people. then again, I’m quite cynical. I believe 60 Minutes featured a segment about the lack of moderates in congress within the last year or so. Thanks for the article and link.

    1. Thanks for talking about your own experience. It’s pretty much the same for me and I find it crosses the political spectrum. I agree with your points; I also think it has to do with the inability of most people to think. Conversation isn’t about the exchange of ideas but rather the narcissistic display of one’s opinions, along with a demand for agreement.

  7. “It’s pretty much the same for me and I find it crosses the political spectrum. I agree with your points; I also think it has to do with the inability of most people to think. Conversation isn’t about the exchange of ideas but rather the narcissistic display of one’s opinions, along with a demand for agreement.”

    I agree wholeheartedly and feel and see the same and especially about the inability of most people to think. This has been a long-held observation that I’ve mainly kept to myself. Most people don’t want lively intelligent debate or nuanced conversation and few seem capable of it. Most it would seem are mere showboats expecting others to hold up a mirror and make appreciative noises at them. So I usually don’t share such observations with others except with a friend who feels the same. I actually sent my friend the link to your article and website and we discussed it. He’s very politically active, passionate about his beliefs, aggressive and outspoken. His being outspoken about his positions has made him a target by the opposition which use the law (or should I say misuse the law) in an attempt to bully him into silence by threatening him with hefty financial consequences and those people are liberals. He is involved in the legal battles of others who are being victimized by this system and it is all due to the misuse of power. They purportedly do not like his political views as they are in direct opposition to theirs, but they actively seek to discredit him and silence the opposition by misrepresenting his words. It’s a smear campaign only I feel that they are misusing the law. They treat him like the enemy and seek to destroy him and he naturally would view them as the enemy as well. It’s a long story and difficult to summarize.

    Anyway, I do agree as sadly I see very little evidence of critical thinking or rational thought. Humans are born free, yet everywhere they are in chains limited by their muddled thinking. The greatest freedom we have is the freedom of thought. Followers cannot be freethinkers. Only sheep need follow. My friend and I call these types the mindless grazing herd. In our private passionate discourses on the matter–politics, life and humanity we’ve puzzled about the state of humanity and that is the question for the ages isn’t–why the mindless grazing herd, which is humanity, acts so mindlessly. It is most irritating…the idiotic herd!

    Well, I’ve appreciated your attempt to provide a missing link and add to the conversation with your article. It is always a pleasure to read your insightful articles. Thank you for your splendid blog.

    1. Sorry for the delay in posting your comment and my reply. The problem with thinking is that it’s actually quite difficult to do. It means tolerating uncertainty, bearing the fact that the world is complex and that there are no easy answers. Most humans find that very hard to do, and it’s why simplistic political slogans are so effective. So much easier to believe that “government is that problem” than to have a discussion about the appropriate boundaries for government — what can private enterprise do better, and what are the social tasks that private enterprise can’t accomplish? I’m sure you know what I mean.

      The other problem is that people often confuse a feeling with a reasoned opinion. I know many liberals who believe that their views on government spending are correct because they feel so much compassion for poor people. They genuinely do, but that’s not the same as having a reasoned discussion about how best to help the poor. I could go on and on! I’m afraid I have few really good discussions about politics, which is sad because I enjoy them so much when it’s thoughtful and productive.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *