Given that hatefulness is an irrepressible part of the human condition, the quest to eliminate it is a utopian fantasy, a recipe for totalitarianism. Since everybody hates something, the only question concerns exactly who must be cured of their intolerance. The answer is obvious: racists, those opposing open borders, xenophobes, defenders of traditional marriage, and religious fundamentalists. All of them now require treatment. Excused are militant man-hating feminists, black nationalists, gay activists, and crusading anti-racists. In other words, by sheer force of political power versus reasoned argument, those on the left can decide who is afflicted with “dangerous hate.”
Another modern regression was to make inner thoughts central to stamping out heresy, a throwback to 16th- and 17th-century religious strife when heretics were tortured to confess their true beliefs. Again, John Locke was the preeminent thinker here. He argued that only God knew what lies in a person’s heart and it was futile to punish matters of conviction since it was all too easy to tell falsehoods. Moreover, said Locke, eradicating dissenting thoughts—not its behavioral manifestations—guaranteed perpetual civil strife. Better to let God—and only God—punish heresies.
The shift to thought crimes is wonderful news for entrepreneurs committed to rooting out odium independent of actual behavior. In an instant, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its ilk can raise millions since so many people harbor wicked thoughts. The evidence of “dangerous” thinking is everywhere—white-power music, racial stereotypes, websites insisting upon racial differences in IQ, and even opposing affirmative action. Recall Anthony Comstock and his followers’ manic efforts to cleanse society of all vice.
Stamping out “bad thinking” to build a hate-free world is unnecessary unless you want to turn anti-hate into a political weapon. Scientific research literature demonstrates that attitudes don’t necessarily lead to actions. Those who insist that “bad thinking” is a precursor to “bad behavior” should ask adolescent males about their sexual fantasies. Billions of people successfully repress “bad thoughts” daily. Human society is impossible without such repression.
Let me suggest an intellectual campaign to recover a legacy that today’s multicultural left has hijacked. It is no grand strategy but we can at least challenge those who mistakenly conflate aversion with intolerance and therefore insist that thinking “bad thoughts” is itself dangerous. The slogan from my childhood—“sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me”—deserves repeating. A brief history lesson about European religious wars might also be useful.
Next time you are chastised as a “hater” for saying that gays are despicable, respond with, “but I will still tolerate them” and for good measure, “government has no business intruding into private thoughts” and “if government asks me, I will lie.”
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