Reducing Argument to Hatred
Nothing epitomizes the moral and political discourse of this moment more definitively than the rhetorical reduction of all dissenting opinions or alternative voices to just so many expressions of irrational hatred. This is what our age of rambling academic Marxism and raging democratic tribalism have wrought. Having forsaken the rational assumptions that (a) there is an ahistorical truth and (b) all meaningful thought and discussion are essentially aimed at identifying that truth, mankind in its nihilistic emotionalism is left with a trivialized remnant of the old romantic excesses of “passionate commitment,” namely a boundless, if somewhat performative, hypersensitivity before all disagreement, as though all opinions were personal judgments, and all personal judgments matters of infinite offense. Hence, it is no longer natural or appropriate to respond to counterarguments or logical criticism with, “Why can’t you understand my point?” Instead, we have traded that old-fashioned quest for understanding and rational persuasion for the childishness of hurt feelings and foot-stomping condemnation: “Why do you hate me?” “Stop hating me!”
This anti-logical reductionism knows no party or faction, but is a universal, equal opportunity fallacy. For years, as I repeatedly tried to warn my American “conservative” readers about the dire threat to their principles and their republic represented by the vainglorious fraud Donald Trump, I was summarily accused by countless Trump defenders, including some I had once thought intelligent, sympathetic, and even friendly, of “hating Trump.” “Why do you hate Trump so much?” they demanded of me. “Get over your Trump hatred,” they urged, as a means of dismissing my tens of thousands of words of logic and evidence against their historically cataclysmic error in political judgment. And what was that most ubiquitous smear employed by the Trump cult, the nonsensical made-up neurosis “Trump derangement syndrome,” but a rephrased accusation of irrational hatred? “You’re so deranged by your Trump hatred that you cannot think clearly anymore.” Seventy million people were prepared to tell us, for five years, that our rejection of Trump’s words and intentions was based on — indeed could only be based on — some sort of envy- or ideology-driven hatred of the man.
J. K. Rowling, the most popular and widely read female writer of all time, dares to comment, from her Christian perspective, that male and female are intractable biological facts, not malleable matters of mere “self-identification,” and suddenly she is roundly condemned by millions of people for her hatred of transgender individuals, and finds herself abandoned publicly by all the piddling no-talent “actors” who owe their entire careers and every shilling in their enormous bank accounts to her and her alone, all on account of her supposed hatefulness toward people with whose progressive talking points about gender she simply happens to disagree — as, incidentally, did the whole civilized world from the beginning of recorded history, including all the most important progressive thinkers and leaders, until about ten years ago.
I happen upon an online article about little-known medieval women whose lives are preserved for us in The Divine Comedy, and who are finally “getting their due.” The very subject of the article, given its recent vintage, suggests a Marxist-feminist angle, so to satisfy my curiosity I begin reading. Sure enough, after introducing one of the women Dante mentions, and generally observing the good fortune of the poet’s having included several notable women in his account of the afterlife, the author casually qualifies her appreciation with this off-hand remark: “At the same time, Dante’s treatment of women isn’t free from misogyny.” This comment is followed by a list of names of current female scholars who have, apparently, detailed the evidence of the poet’s misogyny.
Misogyny. Hatred of women. That’s just a simple, unquestioned judgment that one can make today without batting an eye about arguably the greatest artist in Italian history, one of civilization’s most important poets. Why? Because Dante is a man who lived before the feminist era, so of course he may easily be presumed to have been a misogynist. Didn’t all men prior to 1985 hate women? “But what about Beatrice,” you ask, “the woman who inspired Dante’s vision of paradise and the divine light? Surely he didn’t hate her!” On the contrary, the new truth would have it, he hated her most of all, as is evidenced by his treatment of her as a divine entity. What an insult. How dare he reduce a woman to a mere emblem of the Beautiful and the Good — the mere ideal of his life — without a thought for her independent career goals and voting rights! He clearly hated her.
So ubiquitous is this rhetoric of hatred, as used to ascribe an all-purpose motive to anyone who disagrees with us about absolutely anything of moral or political relevance, that it has had the (somewhat intended) effect of obscuring the possibility of any other motives for dissent, such as honest intellectual disagreement, or sincere lack of knowledge (whether the dissenter’s lack or our own). But no movement of the understanding, no gradual persuasion toward truth, is possible between two sides who begin with the assumption that, “Those who disagree with us could only do so because they hate us.” Furthermore, the convenient reduction of all disagreement with us to a purely (and sinfully) emotional motivation, precisely by implicitly denying the possibility of any more humane motives, may gradually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, once a civilization accepts the suggestion that the truth about complex moral and political questions is so straightforward that dissent could only betoken an irrational emotional attack from the dissenter, it is inevitable that rational self-doubt and the careful reassessment of one’s own logic must cease to be valued as intellectual virtues at all. Thus, each side, entrenched in a blind certainty that has forgotten its own original arguments (if any), feels increasingly convinced that the other side must be, almost by definition, nothing but a band of wrathful brutes. And where there is such wanton hatred, one naturally infers, can violence and oppression be far behind? The reciprocity of hatred — with the real trajectory of violence and oppression — is self-accelerating, given the starting point.
And the illogic of this motivational reductionism (“All disagreement implies hatred”) knows no bounds. The feminist example cited above — the matter-of-fact ascription of misogyny as a motive of the most inspired love poem of all time — is a clear enough example of the limitlessness of the sea of human stupidity, once one’s raft pushes off on such an errant route. The fact that this example seems so unexceptional, not only to the author herself but to us in reading it, is a result of its consistency with so much of today’s neo-Marxist intellectual superstructure. What else is “systemic oppression,” after all, but the catch-all formula of historical distortion based on the universally asserted premise that all past men of any note or influence hated women, hated visible minorities, hated the workers, hated this, that, and the other thing, without qualification? When the most spiritual expression of a man’s love for a woman that has ever been written can be cited in a respectable mainstream forum as evidence of hatred for women without immediately revealing itself as parody, what cannot be ascribed to this same motive?
It seems that, much like love itself, the self-vindicating charms of the reductio ad odium are able to sweep other, more sensible considerations from the mind of man. If to disagree with me is to hate me, then I am not only rendered impervious to all challenges, which are by definition illegitimate, but actually reinforced in my certainties by the very fact of being disagreed with. Whether it be the weight of human history or the immediate inconvenience of a non-compliant neighbor, I may dismiss the challenge with all the brusqueness of unchecked indignation. For “they,” I may insist without a glimmer of doubt, are merely blinded by hatred and therefore unable to see the obvious.