Hatred in Politics

In an earlier post on love and hatred, I briefly discussed how religion and politics often provide us with sanctioned outlets for our hatred, reflecting the processes of splitting and projection.  The current election cycle is a perfect example.  While Fox News and the Tea Party movement dominate televised discourse with their hateful attacks, in private liberals are often just as hateful.  I’ve had friends shout me down for saying I could empathize with parents of underage daughters who felt they had a right to know if she were having an abortion.  Within certain circles, to suggest that there might be reasonable limits to abortion-on-demand is to question the Faith and to arouse hatred.  I’ve known Democrats who wouldn’t even consider dating a Republican.

Given the enormous challenges we face, the political arena is a place where we ought to be having reasoned discourse about what’s best for our country; doing so depends upon the ability to think in the presence of intense emotion, a very difficult thing to do.  Intense emotion is the enemy of thought, whether it’s a sentimental glow that blinds us to harsh reality, or hatred that makes us unable to see the other side of an issue.  Many of the conservative voices in our country today are fanning the flames of hatred in order to squelch any realistic debate about the direction of our country and the sacrifices we’ll all have to make.  For many of them, their sole aim is to win.

While Democrats don’t rely as much on hatred to mobilize the base, their attitudes toward the other side can also be hateful.  I’ve had many conversations with liberals who demonize Republicans in the most vitriolic language and seem to regard them as an inferior species, scarcely human.  In relation to the opposing side, conservatives tend to be smug and contemptuous, liberals superior and self-righteous.  Hatred permeates both positions.

Finding Your Own Way:

Whatever your political alignment, try to imagine a typical member of the opposing party.  I don’t mean the politicians but rather Joe or Jane Voter.  You probably hold an image of such a person already, and it likely tends to stereotype.  What is your fictional Joe Voter like?  Is Jane Voter a caricature?  How do you feel about him or her?  Have you ever actually known somebody just like that in a more-than-casual way?

Next try to humanize Joe or Jane.  For the most part, we tend to associate with people who share our viewpoint, but no doubt you’ve come into contact with members of the “other side” who don’t fit your stereotype.  They feel pain, struggle to make ends meet, and experience loss just the way you do.  The point here is remove hatred from the field.  Now for the real challenge:  think about their political positions without automatically rejecting them.  Any areas of agreement?  Any merit to their arguments, once you strip away the overcharged emotional rhetoric?  If you can’t respect their point of view, at least try not to view it with contempt and hostility.

We all complain about the low level of political discourse in this country, and the pervasive negative tone of election campaigns.  How different in reality is your internal political debate?

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. Here’s the text for workshops I give on Hatred:
    Hatred is one of our culture’s strongest taboos, even more taboo than anger. It is considered “politically and spiritually incorrect.” But hatred is simply an emotion that comes “naturally.” We only have to look at young children to see this, especially with the birth of a younger sibling. Acknowledging and owning our own hatred and finding a safe way to express it is in fact a way to our wholeness. Much work along this same way of thinking has been done in the past decade regarding the emotion of anger.
    Basically, the way it functions is this: we want inner peace, stillness, tranquility. Then something happens to disturb us, and we feel agitated. We may get angry. We may try to do something about the situation. When we can’t change something or someone who we perceive is at the root of our inner agitation, we begin to feel frustrated and powerless. Somehow we feel that if only that person or situation would just go away, our inner peace would be restored. That’s when hatred begins; when it feels like there is nothing we can do to regain our stillness (or our own sense of true empowerment) unless that external factor ceases to exist. Hatred is actually an attempt to bring inner peace to ourselves. At the extreme, this creates the dynamic of war. At the least, if we suppress our feelings of hatred and don’t acknowledge them, they come out in indirect, sometimes sneaky ways: passive-aggressivity, icing people out, stonewalling, withdrawing, sniping, back-stabbing, exclusion, scapegoating and so forth. We close our hearts.
    In this day-long workshop, using discussion, dyad work and film, we will explore the basis for our hatred, as well as ways to get back to our own stillness and self-empowerment no matter what is going on externally. This is not about justifying acts of hatred; it’s about acknowledging our hatred in a safe way so that we don’t have to act it out.

  2. Hatred can bond groups together but it clouds good political judgment. People define themselves by what they like to hate. They do not necessarily have any good constructive solutions about what they want in politics. This leads to bizarre outcomes.

    For example in the UK it fashionable to use psychiatric terms as terms of abuse in political discourse. This happens right across the political spectrum and it also occurs in the media.

    It is not right to bandy around words like “schizophrenic” and “psychotic” as though these words were swear words. Usually severe mental illness has nothing to do with the subject in question and even if it does can we not talk in more measured ways? Exclude hate and hysteria.

    The result of this linguistic fashion is that it hard for people with mental health problems to find themselves taken seriously in the media and in politics. That of course does not matter much to people swept up in hate speak but it makes it difficult to get on with the real business of negotiating with people who do not necessarily share your perspective.

  3. These insights reflect my experience as a surrogate White House spokesperson while a worldview-neutral participant in the stem cells war. The debates were not about truth; winning or losing were all that mattered. Regardless of veracity of my research facts or reasons for presenting them, my friends denounced me bitterly for “siding with the other side.” Now that I question Man’s treatment of Earth re pollution and climatic change, the same is true of my former ‘allies.’ Sadly, liberal and conservative leaders equally spin agendas to elicit emotional responses from grassroots voters. Coupled with the traits you describe and that Weston, et.al., mapped with fuctional MRIs (1,2) this standard political practice cripples our ability to assess critical issues objectively.

    1 Westen D, Blagov PS, Harenski K, Kilts C, Hamann S., Neural bases of motivated reasoning Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 11/06;18(11):1947-58.
    2 Political bias affects brain activity MSNBC.com, Jan 24 2006

  4. Interesting question. I come from a family that leans pretty heavily to conservatism. I, on the other hand, lean liberal. I was utterly astounded during the last presidential campaign at the levels of fear and anger that were present not just in those I knew best (including myself) but in political discourse in general. Because we love each other, my sister and I had to simply not discuss politics with each other during that time period. Since then, we’ve found ways to actually communicate meaningfully about politics. We do it at the level of the reputable, non-partisan fact-check sites. Occasionally my sister will get a chain email (I don’t get so many because my views are pretty common knowledge) and she’ll forward it to me and ask if I’ve heard anything about it. I go to the fact check sites, find her a few relevant links, and send her back a short summary, with links where she can find more info if she chooses to follow up.

    I suspect that neither of us is actually changing the others’ mind, but the one good thing that has come out of this is that we’ve both developed meaningful tools to actually consider the issues without relying on the fear and hatred.

    I was interested in your example above–the issue of parents wanting to know if their daughter was considering an abortion. I can absolutely see where good, kind, loving parents would indeed want to know that. I can also see where children of less good, kind, and loving parents might be terrified to share such information. It seems to me that the answer lies less in the laws than it does in good parenting. I know the debate and certainly changed the way I address sexual issues with my son (and I consider teenage pregnancy a genderless issue–it always takes two, one of each). We talk a lot about the emotional responsibilities of sex. But we also talk a lot about the physical responsibilities. The basic message I want him to have is that my strong, strong preference is that he not engage in two-person sex until he’s ready for all the possible consequences–and there are some pretty dire ones that don’t include pregnancy.
    But the second part of that message is that I suspect that when the time comes he might well be reluctant to share his plans with me–so it’s really, really important that he always wear a rubber. No exceptions. I’ve located a drugstore in my town that’s willing to provide them to him and simply put them on my credit card. I might prefer that my son no sleep with anyone but his own true love, but I love him too much to risk his life insisting on that (in the face of biology, I might add).

    I don’t know that my plan will work. All I know is that in parenting, as in politics, it’s really important to understand that we don’t always get to make all the decisions–and that demonizing those who choose other than we might wish can only have ugly consequences.

    1. Exactly. That’s what is so toxic about the time we live in. Both parties talk about “compromise” and “working together” but in truth, each one wants to make the decisions, do it their own way, and “demonize” (good word) their opponents. I read an article a while back, can’t remember where, about the Senate dining hall; it used to be the case that off the floor, members cultivated friendships with Senators from the other side and ate lunch together. Now, you don’t eat lunch with the opposing party and only with your own clique. Sounds kind of like high school, huh?

  5. As a survivor of politics, I lived with the hatred that people project onto those in elected office. It hurts and drives good people with good intentions away from political life.

  6. One of the most fascinating things of medicine, psychology, but it ua branch that needs people with total dedication to getting all the tools to help and clarify and sort through thoughts in such a mess of misinformation. The guidance, support and entrrega is what I find in this post, and renew the right thoughts to make a decision that marked the destiny of the person responsible for the country’s future, without limits or ineffective distractions that make the brand hatred in election campaigns! I’ll keep following elos post and recommend to my friends!
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  7. I agree. I’m watching Democrats show some of the same types of hatred that Republicans showed years ago. One common type if that you’re somehow unpatriotic if you disagree with the President. It isn’t right.

  8. Don’t be so quick to drink the political “kool-aide”! Republicans & Tea Partiers are not hateful, they just have opinions regarding the role of government in the lives of it’s citizens which differ from so-called “liberal” opinions. Be willing to be educated, and not just from a school or university. Genuinely look at both sides of an issue, and don’t believe everything that you read or hear from “news sources”. Having an opinion is not hateful. Acting in a hurtful way regarding that opinion can be hateful. Marching on Washington DC is not hateful, when one is particularly disturbed regarding taxes, ballooning deficits, and government waste. Freedom of speach. It’s a good thing. Embrace your fellow man. Genuinely listen to him/her. You may come to understand their point of view, while not embracing it yourself. It’s OK. We’re not all robots. Real love for your neighbor is a challenging task! Learn to listen, and you will truly be compassionate!

    1. While marching in Washington and being angry about deficit spending aren’t hateful, casting aspersions on the President’s legitimacy as a U.S. citizen, likening his government to Nazi Germany, and calling him a muslim as a term of denigration when it’s common knowledge he’s a Christian IS thoroughly hateful. One common form of splitting that goes on in political alignments is to minimize the extremists within our own party while focusing on the extremists across the aisle. I agree we all need to listen carefully; that means listening with great care and skepticism to voices within our own party as well.

  9. Since you are following me, I took a look at this article. It seems to be about ID’ing one’s “internal political debate” and comparing to the political arena. The political arena, you say, is a “sanction outlet for our hatred.” It’s not clear why you assume such hatred actually exists or exactly what is directed at.

    You go on to judge without reservation that “Fox News and the Tea Party movement dominate televised discourse with their hateful attacks.” I’m not so sure either of these are the source of hateful attacks, but you are, so… The interesting thing here is that the televised discourse you refer to is on channels other than Fox. I think what you’re referring to is the feeling viewers on say MSNBC feel in watching such reports, and perhaps this is hate. Or they perceive hate in what they see, and it’s unfortunate there’s no example.

    I agree “the political arena is a place where we ought to be having reasoned discourse about what’s best for our country.” I believe that is what happens there, and this might give sanction for strong emotions that are, unjustified, inappropriate, dangerous, I don’t know what exactly you would say.

    In any event you say this debate, or juxtaposition of views, demands from viewers or other actors the “ability to think in the presence of intense emotion.” You say “Intense emotion is the enemy of thought.” Maybe.

    I see how “sentimental glow can blind us to harsh reality,” but that could just be insensitivity. Certainly “hatred can make us unable to see the other side of an issue.” I’m not sure if it always makes us do that, or we just choose not to see the other side for some reason, and that results in hatred because of the injustice of it.

    Now you mention “liberals who demonize Republicans in the most vitriolic language” but in the same article you conclude “conservative voices in our country today are fanning the flames of hatred in order to squelch any realistic debate…their sole aim is to win.” I think you’re getting a little judgmental with that reasoning. Here’s why. First, I don’t necessarily agree that everybody’s “sole aim is to win” or that the “conservative voices” solely aim for this. The fact is that we are all trapped in a two-party political system. There’s a winner, there’s a loser, and after the elections, the lobbyists go to the legislatures or executive branches and cash in. Could be for the poor, or the rich, but we’ve all seen swings either way, back and forth. But the winning becomes the goal at the election level because of this perceived reality.

    I think both sides fan the flames. Liberals fan flames they see an opportunity to fan, and distract attention from their own flaws. Probably conservatives do the same. What we rely on is the critical capacity of all people, when they view either side, to perceive motive, and to discount it. I think everyone but the “true believers” for each side are or certainly should be able to do this. And I don’t know who the “true believers” are and couldn’t prove they exist. What I do know is that each “team” organizes a kind of attack strategy, talking points, and repeats them incessantly. I think most of this is done in the spirit of a team effort, which actually discounts in the individual’s mind the content of these points, and kind of goes through the motions. I don’t think these team kind of activities are hatred, and actually don’t think they’re that intense because they’re not personal, they’re political. Your idea of “sanctioning” shows this, if people said these things personally to each other, they’d be out of bounds, but with free speech, they’re not “fighting words,” and exception of the free speech doctrine.

    You say “Democrats don’t rely as much on hatred to mobilize the base, their attitudes toward the other side can also be hateful.” Yet one of the things that I disliked about Obama’s approach to opposing McCain was his personalization of the attacks. He’d start out with, “John McCain….[pause, audience response], John McCain” and then he’d make some charge, with great audience cheering, often with ridicule. I thought McCain’s points on the other hand were made respectfully, because he’s and officer, tempered by war and captivity and really didn’t need to be in the race for his own personal motives that I’m aware of.

    Your exercise is interesting and useful. But shouldn’t these steps be part of normal dialogue, especially of partisan or political matters. Sure they should. I think you might be dealing with the magnification of media.

    Media deals in stereotypes, you find out what party a person is with and then you calculate what kind of person they are, instead of humanly finding out what they really think. This blocks communication, quite apart from hatred. But that media image, that seeming universal consciousness about that one event we falsely believe everyone sees the same way, magnifies these stereotypes and seems to sanction them.

    So we need to counter partisan media portrayals (think Hitler propaganda films) by humanizing. We can do this because yes, “we come into contact with members of the ‘other side’ who don’t fit your stereotype.”
    You say we all “feel pain, struggle to make ends meet, and experience loss” but of course in the conversation as it’s portrayed by partisans, we are not all going to feel the same pain or struggle or loss based on the decisions being made. It’s easier to deal with feelings than it is to work through all those detailed outcomes and come up with policy, that’s why elected representatives.

    The exercise, “think about their political positions without automatically rejecting them” is good, again a representative should be able to do this.
    Looking for “merit to their arguments, once you strip away the overcharged emotional rhetoric” would be a great group exercise, and learning to “respect their point of view, at least try not to view it with contempt and hostility.” Great exercises.

    Overall, the exercises are great, but if hate does indeed have a grip on the country, which in a democratic society I don’t believe it does, that needs to be confronted head on. One thing that concerns me about your article is that it seems to reinforce the notion of this rampant hatred. I don’t believe that is real, although I think the exercises are great. It is precisely because in our society we expect responsible people to be able to and to actually think in these ways that we can achieve our freedom and make decisions. I tend to think it is the difficulty of the decisions that drives people to seek simplistic, or seemingly simple solutions, like the so-called “final solution.” I know Hitler or one of his buddies called it the “final solution” I don’t know all Germans actually believed that.

    So I think we need to be a little more charitable to people participating in elections, and I don’t think we should fan the flames by condemning people expressing their views, opinions and even feelings in an exercise which we try to use to solve problems, not create them. The parties use very sophisticated techniques to manipulate the whole process, much like an adversarial lawsuit, seeking to win. But in the end they do not dehumanize the other, and the government which results is designed to have safeguards against the intense conflicts which are necessarily involved in what political scientists call a “peaceful transition of power.”

    1. This debate is so fascinating to me. I tried to be even-handed in my piece, to discuss hatred on both sides of the political spectrum, but not one person on the left has written to take issue with what I said. I’m not a terribly political person (I find the level of political discourse in this country, on both sides of the aisle, with liberal Democrats and Tea Party activists, to be incredibly low); my goal was to use the election as a means to discuss the splitting of emotions and the way societal institutions sanction hatred toward approved objects. I don’t seem to have succeeded, which tells me I’d better stay away from discussing politics!

  10. Dr. Burgo, regarding your post about marching on Washington and hatred toward Obama. This is different than the political campaign. I think Brenda was talking about going to Washington to oppose policies viewed as severely hurting the country. There’s a line there between inappropriate emotions and political opposition, the kind of transition of power which in most countries is violent. Where a nation has a form of government other than a democratic peaceful transfer of power, governments get overthrown. Historically such overthrows have not occurred because of personal hatred, although ambition for power has been a factor, but because a stronger rule arises. The Chinese call this change the mandate of heaven. Here we have elections, we eschew these random historic events which were so destructive in European history.

    I don’t know how you change from assessing the right to make such a peaceful protest to focus on things which honest Americans have had questions about. If someone isn’t sure about Obama’s citizenship you call it “casting aspersions.” I read yesterday one poster who supports Obama and also says women who choose to have children are selfish and they should limit pregnancies because of this guy’s idea that there are too many people on the planet. If Obama said that, some might liken his government to totalitarianism. It’s important to separate what his supporters say from his own policies. It’s important for him to clarify some public concerns. (not this supporter’s views). But you infer also that if someone says he’s a Muslim, if it is a term of denigration, then it’s “thoroughly hateful.” I suppose it’s denigrating in such a case, sure, because the person denigrates the faith he attributes to him. But then you support this judgment that it’s thoroughly hateful by declaring “it’s common knowledge he’s a Christian.” Is it? Can you honestly judge every doubter that way? I can’t.

    I want Obama to address the concerns as expressed in Congress and finish his term with his head held high, with mutual respect. But his supporters don’t just want this, they want to win in 2012, they need to win. What we have already seen are attempts to portray those who have these kinds of questions or believes as “racists” and now “haters”. From my point of view, having been a candidate, my concerns are not his religion, the fact he is not a Nazi, or his citizenship. I recognize that for some, these allegations were spread around in the run-up to the 2008 election, much the same way Bush supporters went to South Carolina and said McCain had a black baby in the 2004 primaries. I don’t think most people now are swayed by this, since they know him better and at that time he was as yet undefined. But accusations of hatred are much like hatred itself, and should not be cast about as aspersions. We need to trust free men to reach critical decisions by balancing available information, and the best way to counter these things is to put the information out there, all of it, if you want to contest it in the election. Less principled, in my opinion, is to sit back and ridicule people who have such beliefs or even accuse them of just being hateful.

    Every candidate is subject to unfair attacks, I have been too. You have to think, the voters have a right to hear this in making their decision and I need to respond in a way that wins their trust and confidence in me and my character, using this as an example of how I’ll handle adversity. I think Obama has learned a lot of this since he started, and begins to realize the gravity of the office he has aspired to. He’s got to stick it out and meet those challenges. Currently he is trying a deal with Republicans before the new House and Senate come to town, trying to advance the country’s interests while preparing for a tougher road ahead.

    Most hate is short-term. It is very difficult to sustain a long-term hatred for anybody, it drains a lot of energy, and it is out of the ordinary. We have to trust people to be better than that. Politics is not fair. But it’s still important for both sides to play honorably (and even to recognize third-party candidates). In the end, fair Americans will remember Obama’s efforts even if they don’t agree with or vote for his policies. And democracy demands this. No one has the right or entitlement to give up on America at this time and turn cynical.

  11. The Tea Party, as a movement, does not hold the beliefs stated above. Beware of those who have an agenda, and report opinion rather than news. The vast majority of those involved in the Tea Party movement are decent, compassionate, loving human beings, who believe that government is at it’s best when it’s smaller and less intrusive in the lives of it’s citizenry. Unfortunately, those who would oppose personal freedom, feel compelled to slander the movement as a diversion, in order to indulge in their own lust for greed and power. The accusations made above, are simply accusations, and from my experience, completely untrue. I have never seen, nor heard of those in the Tea Party espousing the viewpoints expressed above. I have heard this sort of misrepresentation of the movement from some of the pseudo-new sources, but have not seen any evidence that the charges are true. I do seem to recall, that there were many on the “left” who said horrible, hateful things regarding the last administration, but have been given a complete pass by those now claiming the Tea Party is so diabolical. Political amnesia…. Double standards are really nonsensical, no matter who is indulging in them.

  12. Here’s how I see it, Dr. Burgo:

    Your goal was to discuss “the way societal institutions sanction hatred toward approved objects.” I just don’t think politics is the place where that happens. Not in this country. That is because we do have a democratic process (I don’t think the courts enforce those laws we make, don’t get me wrong) which in a way is really therapeutic. I don’t mean catharthis, I’m talking about a kind of cognitive process in which people become aware of others and of conflicts, and have a chance to participate in address those collectively. It’s not the Roman bread and circuses. It’s a rather deliberative process.

    Therefore, rather than hatred sanctioned by the state (which I’m quite sure does not sanction hatred, and certainly criminalizes in many ways), what you are seeing is those conflicts contained in society which are put to the test in these processes being displayed within the context of free speech. I do agree with Brenda that the types of behavior you labeled thoroughly hateful are not the beliefs of the Tea Party. I also think, however, that conflicts can come out and in some attach themselves to these convenient beliefs to express vaguely defined feelings that emerge in these conflicts, especially if the media and public demonstration are involved. This is unfortunate because the issues you mentioned above, citizenship and background, the nature of his government, especially on abortion, and religious background are legitimate issues. But certainly, if he had Muslim background or was not born in Hawaii, that would not justify hating him. However, he should be forthright with everybody, and if he is not, that’s just going to antagonize some of those with doubts.

    I ran against Betty McCollum. She was the one going on television and denouncing these rallies around the time of the health care vote, which I want repealed. I assume she was truthfully afraid at the depth of some of opposition in the country, and also seems to hold a belief that it’s all just whipped up by Fox News. I watch Fox News and find they present and discuss information that is missing on other channels. I also watch other channels and find what we have to day are talking heads, with the opportunity to see and listen to a few newsmakers who answer live questions. Otherwise, I get my news from the Wall Street Journal or sometimes the internet on specific issues I look up or hear/read talked about.

    I don’t think Fox News whipped up the opposition to the health care, or all the Town Halls. People really don’t want the government to take away they health care and I for one believe they are. Also having worked at the American Cancer Society I was interested in health care reform and very disappointed in the result. It’s a potpourri that will hurt health care, not help it.

    However, I do believe networks like CNN and MSNBC, who are cheerleaders for this “progressive vision” of the Democrats, did unfairly target some people at some rallies to distract from the issue and to denigrate and whip up hatred against the demonstrators among Obama’s constituency. I think Fox should have dug more deeply into the HCFA rather than just respond to the unfair attacks.

    I have worked as a professional journalist for some years, as a newspaper editor, and it wasn’t until I was out in Washington, at the Asian American Journalism Association, and Bill Clinton made an televised appearance and the whole place erupted, that I realized how unprofessional and subjective they actually are. And it still didn’t even hit meet until a Vietnamese Republican who worked at the White House leaned across the table and said to me “Don’t you think they should be more neutral and professional.” On reflection, I said, yes. Since then we have seen Chris Matthews with thrills running up his leg, wasn’t it? How do you analyze that? It’s not love, it’s some kind of super commitment though that clouds his vision. Don’t let it cloud yours. I won’t let it cloud mine. Public policy is too important to be guided by wishful thinking.

  13. I am absolutely ASTONISHED by this discussion, and not in a good way. I feel like my hair is on fire seeing clearly “educated” people displaying such a level of ignorance over the political realities of the day. It’s beyond disheartening, it’s making me hysterical.

    Fortunately, I don’t have time time — or stomach — to even begin to try to sort it out in a cohesive and orderly way, but there are a couple of things I must say.

    First, to whoever above doesn’t know if s/he’s ever met a “true believer,” you just have, depending on YOUR personal definition. I’m a liberal. I was born a liberal and the passage of time makes me ever more so. I despise politics but I spend one or more hours every damned day paying extremely close attention — purely for reasons of self-preservation. This involves a combination of cable TV and online sources — MULTIPLE online sources (cable is ancillary), including especially what’s popularly known as “deep news” and “deep politics.”

    None of these sources involve anything remotely like Fox News. Anyone who says they find anything credible or trustworthy from Fox News really ought not be discussing politics. I’m sorry, but that’s just the simple truth. They don’t have the credibility because Fox News is well-known to be pretty much the (actual but unofficial) propaganda arm of the Republican Party. That’s not hyperbole but demonstrated fact. You can find an abundance of lies, mistruths, half-truths, large and small deceptions of all kinds on Fox. You will rarely see anything remotely depicting the truth.

    (Here’s just one kinda “cute” example. A while back when a big handful of various Republicans were involved in some sex scandals, they were inevitably identified on Fox News with a D behind their names. It happened enough times that it was clearly NOT an error. http://welcomebacktopottersville.blogspot.com/2009/06/fox-news-at-its-finest-part-6.html Here’s an example of their fine, journalistic neutrality: REPORT: Fox Newsers rally for GOP in more than 300 instances and in nearly every state http://mediamatters.org/research/201004210012 and another: LEAKED EMAIL: Fox boss caught slanting news reporting http://mediamatters.org/blog/201012090003 )

    CNN is hardly liberal, and while MSNBC has recently shifted leftward, its coverage is still neutral where facts, etc., are concerned, while the evening commentary is clearly — and openly — biased leftward. I’ve noticed not nearly as much leftward tilt during daytime coverage.

    Second, there is no longer any equivalency between the two main political parties in this nation as is claimed here. There once was. Once upon a time you could say, with a straight face even, that elected leaders of both parties were people of good intention who had the best interests of the nation in mind, but simply disagreed on what to do to best serve the people and the nation.

    THIS IS NO LONGER TRUE, and hasn’t been for quite a while now. It’s been building since Newt Gingrich introduced his list of words with which to demonize the left. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GOPAC_memo That was 1994, the same time period in which Gingrich recruited a lot of young firebrands, many of whom were as narcissistic as Gingrich or worse, and were NOT particularly good for the country. As a group, they cared far more for their own power than anything else. Winning (and being in power) to Gingrich & Company was the proverbial only thing.

    Fast forward to today: Both Parties care too much for their own power, but one Party’s focus is exclusively on that (plus benefits for its powerful and wealthy friends) — at the expense of the nation itself and the nation’s welfare. As I said, they didn’t used to be this way. Republicans of old used to be able to work with Democrats to further national goals, but no more. The Republican leader of the Senate is on record saying his only goal — his ONLY goal — is to make Obama a one-term president. It’s damned hard to govern if your counterparts won’t even try. Obama is a fool for even trying, in my opinion, because he just keeps selling the nation and the people out in the pursuit of getting things done. The harm he is doing to the country by trying to work within these parameters is incalculable, but well-meant.

    Today’s Republicans are also pathological liars. They lie about who they are, what they’re up to, what they intend to do, what they have done. They lie about their agenda, and even the titles of their proposed legislation are usually lies! Perhaps worst of all, they lie about Democrats and liberals. They demonize us as human beings, so that an entire segment of the population has unreasonable and unrealistic FEARS about liberals, and consider us somewhat sub-human. I have been quite shocked to learn this — and I learned it by observing actual people’s actual attitudes and parroting of rightwing talking points.

    Do politicians on the left lie? Some do, or have. But it’s by no means systematic, innate, ingrained and congenital, as it seems to be for Republicans. Most on the left are honest and trustworthy. It’s been my observation that Republicans — both leaders AND followers (everyday folks who watch Fox, for example) — literally can’t tell the difference between a lie and the truth and would just as soon have the lie if it fits their mythology better.

    This means that you cannot persuade someone who has fantastical ideas about anything — for example, you can’t convince someone that we went to war for completely spurious reasons — because they refuse to believe, for example, that there were no WMDs, and that it wasn’t Iraqis who attacked us on 9/11, or that there was no Taliban in Iraq until well after the war started, and so on. They don’t CARE about facts, or the truth. They prefer the lies they’ve been told that fit a woldview based on — on lies.

    As for the Tea Party — I’ve seen not one whit of loving compassion or decency in the news coverage of them. I have seen this kind of behavior, however: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AOmXhmZq4o If some here want to insist they are not racists, fine. But their leaders clearly are, so what does it mean that they so willingly (and blindly?) follow?

    Hatred? The hatred is NOT equivalent on both sides. Further, what hatred there is on the left is being discussed as if there is no reason for it. George W. Bush taught me to hate — purely because of the incredible destruction he wrought on the nation. Of COURSE we talked about him “hatefully.” HE was hateful. His every move was fueled by only one thing: his own benefit or the benefit of his wealthy friends. Not a single thing was done — no, not even the war — for the benefit of the nation itself or its people. (The war was to secure their oil for his oil friends and perhaps to aggrandize his own place in history, and the war in Afghanistan had a pipeline involved. This is an example of “deep politics” — you can Google the pipeline and get quite an education in the process.)

    Even now, the hatred on the right directed toward us, toward our leaders, toward the nation’s president, overpowers anything remotely like it on the left. We do not lie about people or the nature of reality, the right does. So NOTHING about us is in anyway “equivalent” to what you find on the right. Nothing.

    This has taken more time than I have. I’m outta here.

  14. It is obvious from the discussion above, that people are seeing what they want to see. They are discounting the facts that dispute their position and exacerbate and generalize the negative view of the other. Even the basic premise that conservatives, Republicans or Tea Partiers are mean and hateful to a greater extent than liberals is an assumption without factual basis. I think I could match either side nut per nut.

    Maybe because I’m a centrist with libertarian social views and fiscally conservative views I see the bullshit. Fact-both sides have their radical nuts. The idea that Republicans haven’t been demonized and subject to hatred is just absurd. Plays were written and produce about the assassination of George W. Bush! Ronald Reagan was a bumbling old man who was going to lead us into nuclear Armageddon. Just recently, I was offended by a comment about Dick Cheney’s burps smelling like Iraqi babies. My liberal friends think this statement is absolutely hilarious and see nothing offensive about it. They believe we went into Iraq for oil and basically it was a peace-loving country prior to that. (Or at the very least their atrocities were none of our damn business. Never got a grip on why South Africa bad – Cuba good view of the left.)

    Apparently many on the left have never seen the videos of union thugs beating up people who disagree with them, or the busing of paid homeless people to harass people in their homes. (I don’t get why protesting abortion clinics is bad but harassing business peoples families is good.) Many I know never referred to anybody in the tea party by any other name than a tea bagger, a reference to a sexual humiliation act.

    You know it we faced a $2 trillion surplus the vast majority of us fiscal conservatives would not have a problem with social programs. But, there comes a point when ones it return on hard work and investment becomes so inconsequential that we say screw it, the rich pay more attention to not paying taxes than growth(can you say John Kerry and his yacht), then everyone loses.

    1. As you might expect, I completely agree with you. The demonization of the other side is widespread, and not confined to either party. And because we are so split now as a country, it is acceptable to hate and ridicule the other side; it is even encouraged. I don’t care to get into a debate with anyone about the merits of any political position; like you, I agree with much of what the Tea Party has to say on economic issues and taxation; like those in the liberal wing of the Democratic party, I am passionate about civil liberties. But on a psychological level, it is the invective that concerns me — the utter contempt and hatred for their opponents permeating political expression on both sides. I don’t see how it is possible to *think* and work towards a reasoned solution to our political and fiscal problems in such an atmosphere.

  15. Dr. Burgo,

    I believe you are misinformed regarding the current state as an aberration. For much of the 20th century, the Democratic Party significantly dominated and the Republicans were minority, the opposite of the late 19th Century. When there is a relatively equal split, the rhetoric has been very heated. The political machinations of the early 19th Century were very nasty. Basically, my point is when there is a relative equal balance and struggle for supremacy, the rhetoric get heated. But look on the bright side. No riots, no mainstream called for death of ones opponents or extra legal means – the vast majority accepts the democratic process and rule-of-law.

    Then of course, true believers are true believers and fail to comprehend how anyone cannot see that they are right. Anyone with half a brain must agree with me, if not they must be stupid or evil or both. Contrary to the way it is portrayed, liberals and conservatives are not distinct uniform groups. In the conservatives, social conservatives are the most active. (Besides the loonies, which are very active on all fronts of the political spectrum.) Social conservative, in their way, are very much like Progressives. Social conservatives want to use the power of the state to control what goes on in the bedroom, Progressives – every thing else. Both I find disturbing. I have been very disappointed when entering political discussions with facts. Most don’t want to hear the facts, their minds are made up, they become incensed and resort to diatribes. It’s a kind of tribalism where members of your tribe are human and then there is the other.

    I’ll stop before this becomes a full-blown editorial.

  16. Thanks for writing this piece Dr. Burgo. Where there is no fear, there is no hate. Despite all the chaos, destruction and suffering rampant in the world today, there are people who remain calm and poised in their thinking and communicating. I believe this is because they are confident that good will ultimately prevail. Maybe the haters need more faith. 🙂

  17. Thank you Dr Burgo for expressing so eloquently what I believe wholeheartedly, but am tired of trying to explain! I rarely express my thoughts on politics. When I do, it doesn’t matter what I say or which side of neutral I’m on, verbal and psychological abuse is sure to follow. The projections, splitting, dichotomous thinking, etc is so destructive and unproductive. Sadly, this way of thinking and communicating is becoming the norm and exists in the workplace as well. It sounds like you may be on the other side of neutral from me, yet your thoughts are intelligent and well expressed. Thanks.

  18. Hi Dr. Burgo,
    I saw your tweet about “Hatred in Politics” on my Twitter page and thought I’d check it out. I follow politics a fair bit, read, listen to radio and tv –left, right, center and outer space political positions. I have to say I was stunned and disappointed by your blog though, sigh…

    Yes, you make some good points and urge the reader to move past the hatred when dealing with people who hold opposing opinions. But you lost all credibility with me when you made comments like, “While Fox News and the Tea Party movement dominate televised discourse with their hateful attacks (what hateful attacks are those), in private liberals are often just as hateful. ” Then you go on again to kumbaya call to action and the world is good, until wham, you hit us again, “Many of the conservative voices in our country today are fanning the flames of hatred in order to squelch any realistic debate about the direction of our country and the sacrifices we’ll all have to make. For many of them, their sole aim is to win.” It goes on, it is hateful, unfounded, biased, and for a person of your education and in your field, it is lacking critical reference points thereby voiding your argument. And by the way, some call those conservative voices, passionate and patriotic; some value open discourse.

    Which leads me to ask: How can you urge people to go beyond the fighting if you as a social scientist are labeling and making broad negative generalities about groups without any citation of facts as you go? Do yourself a favor and give this piece to one of your colleagues to read, ask someone in your field to read this and tell you the truth as far as it being an objective piece. I think you will be surprised by a professional’s take on this.

    After all that has happened recently, after the murders in Tucson when the Sheriff comes out and starts blaming the right, MSNBC blaming Sarah Palin, Tea Partiers, Glen Beck, Dr. Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and on and on, as complicit in the murders. How awful! (I have heard reporters say they wish some of these people were killed, hurt or maimed! One reporter said something about harming Bristol Palin) You did not hear Fox blaming Democrats, liberals or the left, even though the Tucson murderer was described by his friends as being on the left, and he was involved in interactions with the Democrat party. But, he did not watch Fox or listen to conservative talk radio.

    Can’t you see that by writing a blog topic in the way you did, and then putting it on twitter is just fanning the flames and contributing to the divide and the attack dog tactics?

    Finally, Fox is number #1 in America for a reason, people like Brit Hume, Dr. Charles Krathammer, Chris Wallace, Greta Van Susteren, Juan Williams and so many, many more. I watch all the stations. I am a news hound and Fox is the best (of course they have their opinion/entertainment shows too). You don’t have to like it, but you don’t have to write a blog presenting them as hate mongers. It is simply not true.

    1. Linda, there are many people (including readers who have posted here) who get every bit as exercised as you do on the opposite side, about what they consider to be the blatant bias in Fox News. There have been some equally passionate and persuasive comments about how the conservative press distorts the news, with the sort of examples I don’t provide. Your post fits in with the history of long angry rants I’ve received on this post, and most of them include hostile, ad hominem attacks. I rest my point.

  19. Wouldn’t even date… when I met my husband he voted republican – but we sorted this mess out quickly. I listened to him and described my perspective and he quickly changed his mind. He now wouldn’t consider voting republican. His parents, from Oklahoma now wouldn’t even consider voting republican.

    I am working my magic one at a time, and hopefully by the time I die I’ll have converted many more.

    Hatred is definitely not the way to go. always seek common ground. Agree as much as possible. I have seen liberals screaming abuse at republicans knowing all they are doing is shutting down all communication.

    You’ll never change someone’s mind by screaming at them. this is why I suspect torture doesn’t work.

    However I do find it very therapeutic screaming at prolifers who don’t understand prochoice isn’t the same as antilife. Sometimes it feels good to destress some by tearing them from limb to limb. I know it won’t change people’s minds. But I am doing it for my benefit rather than change their mind.

  20. Aug 8, 1974…I was 17. George McGovern had every right to bring a baseball bat for that speech.

    I am not blue in a red state, I am appalled. I raised two kids, worked over 33 years and we are being diverted, a smoke and mirrors, to the Olbermann’s talking over the Beck’s and vice versa.

    While “Winning the Future”, as President Obama stated; an America as a business leader of the World.

    Business as usual, on an angry, dying planet?

    “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” The elephant in the living room is drinking tea with his donkey friend. Unfortunat­ely, this is now a tea party.

    My “SCENIC” New Hampshire has 12 miles of coastline, capped with Seabrook Station. I see oil rigs…”LI­VE FREE OR DIE”.

    They say the Old Man collapsed, hearing rumors of fracking.

    The state of the planet is appalling, and so is the state of our ability to do something about it.

    My recent polling suggests that Americans are ill-informed, and easily misled.

  21. My only concern here is: you are only illustrating examples of how liberals might be mean spirited in public discourse. I once had a man tell me he felt people were too hard on Helen Thomas after the comments she made on Israel, and he said people should be more accepting of others. Then he went on to say in the next breath that he hated gay people, and that same sex marriage was a sin. I have had plenty of conservatives call me name in private, and on blogs just because I support health care reform.

    Also, I do not consider it narrow minded if a liberal wants to marry a fellow liberal. I have talked to plenty of conservative people who will only marry other conservatives, and in most cases it is probably safer to date and marry people who share your worldviews, unless you want to get into arguments all the time. I even knew people who divorced over religion and politics, so I think compatible or at least similar world views minimizes this. Just like with money, people need to marry those who will agree with them on the bigger issues.

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