Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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That drug called hate

There is an abundance of material that can put you slightly on edge these days: a marital conflict gone awry and political, a local celebrity’s social media blunders, a price hike in commodities, the terrible weather, allegations of corruption in Customs, and again the weather. Add to the list the idiosyncrasies of that certain friend, neighbor, or stranger, which aren’t national news material but piss us off anyway.

These days, we call it the state of being “triggered,” which is defined by the Urban Dictionary as the state of “getting filled with hate.” Blood boils, nostrils flare, pupils dilate. There’s no doubt about it: Every day we get triggered. As Gerry Georgatos writes in Neos Kosmos, “There is a capacity for hate today never before known.”

But for all the bad rep that the feeling of hatred has earned, it’s quite clear that we have become immersed in it. A research study published in Neuroreport by Rajendra D. Badgaiyan in 2010 shows that dopamine is released during the processing of negative emotions. Research also shows that hate activates the same regions of the brain in the same way that “passionate, romantic love does,” according to Semir Zeki and John Paul Romaya. Hate is addictive, and today, it is continuously being fueled.


Hatred is a peculiar thing, though severely underrated. As a result, it is often left unchecked. Samuel Cameron in his book “The Economics of Hate” provides some important insights: one, that it is the most extreme emotion, and two, that it is more socially provocative than any other emotion. Hatred can be so extreme that it can cause a person to turn against another, and it is so provocative that many individuals or groups have reaped massive support by expressing hatred more than any other emotion. “Towards a common goal,” writes Cameron, “it can bring strong approval.”

It is no wonder many—ourselves included—have the strong tendency to jump on the hate train. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong reports in BBC Culture that taking in media displeasing to the consumer can actually bring pleasure to that consumer. As massive end users of such media, we have become hate-readers, hate-listeners, and hate-watchers. Ideally, we avoid those things that trigger us. But we have become pursuers of material we hate to read, listen to, or watch for that righteous feeling of criticizing and mocking, to both the chagrin and delight of the producers. It is both massive love and massive hate that spawned the successes of “50 Shades,” or Taylor Swift, or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Hate is not just a trigger in popular culture; in some ways it also keeps the survival of the players in business, and even in politics. It is hatred that fuels the activism of the participants in the broad political spectrum. Writing in “The Outrage Industry, ” Sarah Sobieraj says that “in the case of the left and the right, they would have a hard time existing without the other.” Opposition keeps the ball rolling.

Surely, to hate is unavoidable. Frankly, I’d rather feel hatred than indifference. Nonetheless, its toxicity and vitriol have also reached a capacity never before known. It is hatred that has triggered hate speech, isolating groups of people and certain beliefs. It is hatred that has pushed us to hold trials by publicity. It is hatred that has allowed us to persecute with fervor and zeal. Social media sites such as Facebook are in constant struggle to combat hate speech on the precipice of freedom of expression. Even Google has a hate speech algorithm.

There must be a fine line in there somewhere, but we have our feet planted on both sides.

We are all victims, as much as we are suspects. We have pushed other people’s buttons, as much as we have been triggered. We have taken an extra dosage of hatred more than we’d like to admit. There will always be something to hate, and there are various ways of expressing it. But as Betty Greene has said, “There is more nobility in building a chicken coop than in destroying a cathedral.”


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