THE 2016 presidential race is already upon us. Do you find that prospect exciting or exhausting? If you chose the latter, I’m willing to wager it’s in part because of the destructive rhetoric that threatens to accompany the election.I'm willing to wager it's because our campaigns go on for two freaking years, which is about a year and three-quarters too long. But that's just a hunch.
... The conventional approach is to blame the politicians and tacticians for this dreaded odium politicum. But we citizens need to look inward a little. Whether or not we want to admit it, political hate is a demand-driven phenomenon. We are the ones creating a big market for it.Arthur Brooks has obviously learned a lot from David Brooks: If you want to coat the right-wing pill and get totebag-carrying liberals to swallow it, the most effective sweetener isn't sugar, it's moral guilt. Tell the readers that their souls are in peril! Then they'll swallow anything.
Political hate generally appears in one of three basic forms.Wait, what? Tom Paine was a "shadowy," hate-spewing Internet troll? No, that can't be right. And who's putting "pressure on news organizations to publish any and all anonymous feedback"? Is there some sort of government edict or market imperative that forces news organizations not to police comments sections? Or did Brooks write this screed against Net anonymity in 2008 after drinking too many tequilas while reading Lee Siegel's Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, then dust it off this week as his deadline approached?
The first is what some psychologists call “hot hate,” based on anger. Imagine yourself yelling at the television, and you get the picture. Most Americans would be ashamed to say “I hate Republicans” or “I hate Democrats.” But our market preferences tell the true story. We reward professional political pundits who say or write that the other side is evil or stupid or both.
For some haters, the hot variety is a little too crude. They prefer “cool hate,” based on contempt, and express disgust for another person through sarcasm, dismissal or mockery....
The last variety is anonymous hate. Political discourse has always had a shadowy component, all the way back to Thomas Paine’s pamphleteering in favor of American independence. But nothing has empowered casual vitriol in the Internet age like the pressure on news organizations to publish any and all anonymous feedback. This has scaled up our ability to express political hate with astonishing efficiency.
I could go through the rest of the column, but let me go back to Hate Varieties #1 and #2: hot hate ("political pundits who say or write that the other side is evil or stupid or both") and cool hate ("disgust for another person [expressed] through sarcasm, dismissal or mockery"). May I remind you that Arthur Brooks is the president of a think tank that employs, as "scholars," the likes of Jonah Goldberg and Lynne Cheney?
Goldberg I don't have to tell you about:
Cheney ... well, perhaps you can't blame her for the many times her husband and daughter have called their political opponents evil and disloyal. But I'm struck by this moment from 2006, when Cheney accused CNN of treason for showing video footage of insurgent snipers shooting American troops in Iraq:
. CHENEY: Well, right, but what is CNN doing running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting Americans? I mean, I thought Duncan Hunter ask you a very good question and you didn't answer it. Do you want us to win?(A number of similar videos have surfaced during the Obama years. Mrs. Cheney has, to the best of my knowledge, never objected to their widespread dissemination.)
BLITZER: The answer, of course, is we want the United States to win. We are Americans. There's no doubt about that. Do you think we want terrorists to win?
L. CHENEY: Then why are you running terrorist propaganda?
BLITZER: With all due respect -- with all due respect, this is not terrorist propaganda.
L. CHENEY: Oh, Wolf.
BLITZER: This is reporting the news which is what we do. We're not partisan.
L. CHENEY: Where did you get the film?
BLITZER: We got the film -- look, this is an issue that has been widely discussed. This is an issue that we have reported on extensively. We make no apologies for showing that. That was a very carefully considered decision, why we did that, and I think -- and I think -- that if you're ...
L. CHENEY: Well, I think it's shocking.
BLITZER: ...a serious journalist, you want to report the news. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes the news isn't so good but ...
L. CHENEY: But, Wolf, there's a difference between the news and terrorist propaganda. Why do you give the terrorists the floor?
There are a lot of AEI scholars who are nasty in other ways: Charles Murray, John Yoo, Christina Hoff Sommers, Marc Thiessen, Michael Barone ... We can argue about the extent to which these folks have participated in a culture of political hate, but I'm struggling to recall when any of them has ever objected to political hate -- at least when it came from their side.