Why hate spreads and what we can do about it
7 May 2021
Why are the politics of hate and the ideologies of the far right on the rise globally?
In his new book, Hate in Precarious Times, Mobilizing Anxiety from the Alt-Right to Brexit, Neal Curtis looks at why ordinary people have come to identify with these ideas and what can be done to change the conditions that breed them.
An associate professor in Media and Communication at the University of Auckland, Dr Curtis says the book came out of “a growing desire to respond to what was happening in the world”.
“In 2015 I wrote a blogpost called ‘The Fascist Turn’ as Trump was riding high and looked like becoming the president, the National Front was on the rise in the UK, Alternative for Germany was the third largest political party in the country, and it was all looking very worrying.”
He started putting the pieces together to identify five distinct types of what he refers to as ‘precarity’ or insecurity in areas like economics, climate and class that together, were creating a perfect storm for hateful views to spread.
“I saw drivers like the domination of politics by the wealthy corporate class, low-wage economies, the vast movement of refugees from countries like Syria being used to whip up anti-migrant sentiment in Europe, and the scapegoating of these ‘foreigners’ as a technique of distraction; it’s always easy to blame the most vulnerable people for what are conditions outside of their control and actually created by the most powerful.”
And then there was the role of some commercial media outlets in amplifying ‘fake news’ and no longer offering a reliable source of truth.
“All of this was combining with the domination of the right wing press in the UK, echoing the rhetoric of the far right, framing opposing views as ‘woke’, a rise in far-right social media accounts, and the appearance of talking heads like Katie Hopkins in the UK, whose hatemongering views were suddenly getting so much air time.”
He says another factor has been the strengthening of rights’ movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and LGBTQI, and the idea that for some to rise, others must fall.
“Trumpism, for example, can be seen as a direct backlash against the loss of white, male privilege.”
Against this ideology of isolation, segregation and division, we need to articulate all the ways we are socially linked, connected and mutually dependent.
The book also examines ‘slow hate’, a term developed from Princeton Professor Rob Nixon’s idea of ‘slow violence’, often invisible, accumulative activities that degrade the natural environment. Dr Curtis argues that ‘slow hate’ does the same for the social environment.
“It involves minor violations of people and their culture that all add up; spiteful, discriminatory, denigrating or mean-spirited speech, for example, can be deeply problematic in its most extreme and explicit forms.”
So, what can be done? The book talks about activating what Faculty of Arts colleague Avril Bell calls “relational imaginary”.
“Against this ideology of isolation, segregation and division, we need to articulate all the ways we are socially linked, connected and mutually dependent. Ultimately, it is this positive and progressive politics that calls to us,” he says.
Julianne Evans | Media adviser
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