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America’s 1984: Welcome to the Hate

Summary:
Is it time for The Hate? It’s a question that we, like the protagonist of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984, may be asking ourselves now as we tune into a news program or click on our favorite website. For Orwell’s Winston Smith, the Two Minutes Hate occurs at 11:00 a.m. as coworkers assemble in front of a telescreen. Together they watch as Emmanuel Goldstein, designated enemy of the Party, demands freedom of speech and an end to war. And together they scream, kick their chairs, and hurl books at Goldstein’s image. The scene reveals the devastating effects of sustained hatred. After thirty seconds, half of the spectators are enraged. By the second minute, they are in a frenzy. As Smith reflects, The horrible thing about the Two

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Is it time for The Hate?

It’s a question that we, like the protagonist of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984, may be asking ourselves now as we tune into a news program or click on our favorite website.

For Orwell’s Winston Smith, the Two Minutes Hate occurs at 11:00 a.m. as coworkers assemble in front of a telescreen. Together they watch as Emmanuel Goldstein, designated enemy of the Party, demands freedom of speech and an end to war. And together they scream, kick their chairs, and hurl books at Goldstein’s image.

The scene reveals the devastating effects of sustained hatred. After thirty seconds, half of the spectators are enraged. By the second minute, they are in a frenzy. As Smith reflects,

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness . . . seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.

It’s Oceania’s 1984. But it’s becoming America’s, too, as any news program or social media feed will confirm.

Left uninterrupted, the current of hate could start a fire we may never extinguish. But how are we to stop it?

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”

Start with language. In 1984, one editor of the dictionary of Newspeak rhapsodizes about the destruction of words. By eliminating phrases, the Party destroys the ability of people not only to express ideas but to think them: “In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

What words have ceased to exist in this dystopia? Honorjustice, and morality, to name a few. One cannot demand something one cannot express.

Today we might build our own list, starting with civility. It is elitist, we are told, to insist on treating other individuals with dignity and courtesy. To use it in some contexts, particularly at universities, is to incite a frenzy akin to The Hate.

To be safe, one must use sanctioned slogans, such as those in 1984: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” “Ignorance is Strength.”

And now we are on the verge of creating new slogans, such as “Riots are Peaceful Protests,” “Unequal Treatment is Equity,” “Looting is Justice.” After all, looting is “a political mode of action” that “attacks the idea of property” and the way in which it’s “unjust.”

Perhaps people really believe these mantras. Or perhaps they know that today’s Big Brothers are watching, ready to cancel them as quickly as the Party vaporizes its opponents.

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