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Dual Response To Cnn Opinion “How To Stop The Pandemic Of Hatred” By Van Jones And David Kamenetzky

I have two distinct reactions to the May 21 CNN Opinion by Van Jones and David Kamenetzky.

The first is to applaud them for coming together to issue a “call to conscience” to avert the “potential pandemic of hatred against a variety of vulnerable groups” resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. They point out that this pandemic has “triggered enormous insecurity” and “a growing sense of powerlessness” which make individuals and nations alike vulnerable to hate. The Opinion includes also suggestions to “detect and eliminate hate speech” namely, that people should speak up, document the hatred, react through social media, create artificial intelligence tools, and teach children. I thank them because my April 7 blog on “political partisanship in post COVID-19 America” focused on the “high level of social responsibility among Americans of all ages” and that “we are all in this together,” but I missed the pandemic of hatred that they highlight so well.

My second reaction is that any serious attempt at tackling hatred in our society must be based on a scientific understanding of this human emotion. Speaking of hatred is like speaking of an infection. Just like there are many types of infections, there are many types of hatred: cool, cold, hot, boiling, simmering, seething, and burning. Inter-individual hatred is different from group hatred and political and ethnic hatreds are subcategories of group hatred. In 1944, the Nobel Prize French philosopher Albert Camus warned that using an inadequate designation can bring about sorrow and misery in the world. His warning is highly pertinent to hatred. The word hatred or hate has served us well to convey notions of hostility, aversion, or loathing, but it comes short when the goal is to curb or uproot this emotion in our society. As pointed out in my two books on this subject (“Baseless Hatred: What It Is and What We Can Do About It” and “Mending America’s Political Divide: People Over Partisan Politics”), a national conversation on hatred is long overdue, especially since Van Jones and David Kamenetzky consider that hatred “is a systemic problem in the United States.”


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