“The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch, and I don’t like anybody very much!” (The Merry Minuet, by The Kingston Trio)
I remember hearing The Merry Minuet on the radio as a teen, and laughing about it—especially laughing at the last lines, which present the “solution” (go listen to it on Youtube). Because you have to laugh, at least once in awhile, at the truth of the song; something bad is always happening somewhere, and most of the time the bad thing that’s happening is us. As a species we are flawed and often hateful, and we know it. “We have met the enemy, and they is us.” (Pogo)
We hate each other. This is obvious, at least if you follow the news media much.
Part of this of course is that hate sells, and “People get along!” or “People agree to disagree!” isn’t a grabby headline. But part of it is the simple truth; when it comes to blaming others for our problems, to quote another song “Any Mick’ll do, any black, any Jew. Any poor wee bugger who’s not like you.” (Any Mick’ll Do, by Brian McNeill.) It’s baked into our DNA or written into our souls, or what have you; it’s human nature to separate the world into Us and Them and hate Them. This is nothing new, and it seems that no sooner do we bury one prejudice against someone Not Like Us than another appears or exhumes itself; it’s like zombies—you can shoot as many as you like, but you’ll always be in a target-rich environment.
But lately I’ve been paying attention to a phenomena that is new to me; fake hate.
It has multiple causes, but I think it comes back (as most of my observations on social conflict do) to The Syllogism.
- I am a rational/good human being.
- Because I am a rational/good human being, I believe X.
- If you do not believe X, you are either ignorant, stupid, or evil.
- Because you are ignorant, stupid, or evil, it is useless to debate with you and pointless to listen to you.
It hinges on Statement 3: If you do not believe X, you are either ignorant, stupid, or evil.
If you believe that Statement 3 is true about someone—for example if you believe that their opposition to abortion is rooted in misogyny or their opposition to Affirmative Action is rooted in racism, or their opposition to the 2nd Amendment is rooted it their desire to render you defenseless—then you expect those people to act in specific ways. You expect the hateful to act hatefully.
And often, they don’t.
I’m not saying there are not plenty of racists or sexists out there (and reverse-racists and reverse-sexists); you can trawl the internet and find all the hate and vituperation you can stomach, coming from people on every side of every social conflict of our time. Neither the Far Right nor the Radical Left have a monopoly on hatefulness. But for all of the words many of us hurl at each other online and at protests, apparently, as a society, we are not being hateful enough in practice.
Apparently, the haters are good at disguising their hate.
And this is a problem for radicals or reformers who want to change society. After all, if Statement 3 is true, but your ignorant, stupid, evil enemies are hiding it or at least not acting on it, then right-thinking people will not get angry enough to see the rightness of the changes you want to make.
When you’re right but nobody is listening, being righteous is not enough. You need to show them you’re right.
Which brings us to this sad event: http://www.kvue.com/news/local/whole-foods-accuser-drops-lawsuit-over-cake/196619953 .
To sum up;
“An openly gay pastor who claimed that a grocery store bakery wrote a homophobic message on his cake has dropped his lawsuit against Whole Foods, claiming he made up the story, according to news reports. ‘I apologize to the LGBT community for diverting attention from real issues,’ Pastor Jordan Brown said in a statement, according to the ABC affiliate in Austin and other news reports. Brown normally preaches about love and acceptance, with a particular focus on outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians, at the church he leads in Austin. But after he picked up a cake in April that was supposed to say ‘Love Wins,’ he turned to preaching in the media, and in court.
“The company’s response to Brown’s statement on Monday was brief: ‘We’re very pleased that the truth has come to light. Given Mr. Brown’s apology and public admission that his story was a complete fabrication, we see no reason to move forward with our counter suit to defend the integrity of our brand and team members.'”
Now, I do not pretend to see into the heart of Pastor Brown. I like to think that he didn’t make up the accusation to attack a blameless employee and an entire corporation for selfish reasons. I believe that he believed he was committing the sin of False Witness in a good cause; drawing public attention to ant-gay sentiments by providing a concrete incidence of anti-gay behavior. Photo evidence and a public lawsuit is certainly one way to get attention. (I know my first reaction on hearing the story was disgust.)
But then it turned out that Whole Foods could provide video evidence that the cake’s packaging had been tampered with after purchase, and Pastor Brown’s own pictures raise doubt that the employee who made the cake provided the last, deeply offensive, word. And now Pastor Brown has admitted that he fabricated the story, and apologized.
And I wish I could be surprised. I don’t like to be cynical about anything, but in the past few years fake-hate reporting has become increasingly common. I first saw it appearing in reports of on-campus incidents; someone would hang a noose, paint up offensive graffiti, or commit some other disgusting act of racist expression on campus, everyone would go crazy, and then the investigation would reveal that it was actually done by an “anti-racist” group or individual to raise awareness of racism. But it has spread off campus, too, with impacts that range from trivial to life-destroying.
As another example, a young Muslim student recently made up an account of anti-Muslim aggravated assault and posted it on Facebook. When it came out that the hate-crime was fake, one respondent wrote “Why would she make it all up? I don’t understand, she needed attention that bad. She had the whole Muslim community in an uproar and I as a Muslim student attending Uta was very worried. Instead of honoring the victims of the chapel hill shooting she fabricated a lie to gain attention from others focusing on that tragedy. I’m truly ashamed.”
The most famous (or infamous) recent example of this is the University of Virginia fraternity rape story published in Rolling Stones magazine, which now appears to be entirely false and is the focus of several ongoing lawsuits.
In the incidents when they have falsely claimed victimization, less generous opinion of the perpetrators of these incidents would be that they are just attention-seekers. They themselves reject this judgement, claiming idealism and good intentions. Authorities are also lax to prosecute these incidents.
“A University of Chicago student who claimed his Facebook page was hacked and filled with racist and violent messages against him and another student has now admitted he faked the attack.
“Intended to shame the school into making drastic changes around race and speech on campus, the hoax appears to have worked.
“The students behind the ruse, the hoodwinked university and the school newspaper have argued that the hoax – which provoked a federal investigation – should not detract from fixing the school’s “culture of racial intolerance,” in the words of a petition demanding policy changes.”
(The College Fix, http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/20329/ )
So people lie. We know this, and what makes these incidents so bad?
Fake-Hate is a serious problem because every time a story like this happens, the public trust is damaged. There are serious social issues to be discussed today, but any discussion in good faith depends on trust; injuring the public trust is a disservice to everyone, but especially to those on the same side as the persons telling these lies.
What can be done about it?
It’s disingenuous to simply say that we should all calm down and stop hating on each other so much (buying into Syllogism Statement #3) that we’re willing to Make Up Crap about them because They Deserve It. A more realistic approach is to use the law; after all, laws are being broken here. And this is happening with some cases.
If enough liars are convicted for their actions, others will decide that the price of lying for the cause is too high. Meanwhile, the next time you hear reports about a senseless and disgusting expression of hate, wait awhile; it may be an incidence of Fake-Hate.
(Note: for more incidents of Fake-Hate, just google “fake hate crimes.” You’ll find enough to read for hours if not days.)