Post-Platform Reflection: James Croft’s “How Should We Respond to Hate?”

Clearly this topic is very difficult. For one thing, it seems that techniques that might work to defuse a hateful person (such as ignoring them, or letting them talk themselves out) might also be the techniques that unfortunately allow hate and misinformation to infect more people. So in James’s Platform I appreciated his dual suggestions that on an individual level we should treat even hate-spewing people with compassion and basic respect and try to understand them, while on a broader level society needs to set boundaries and limits to hateful, violence-encouraging speech.

This may be a weird or even inappropriate analogy, but because my partner and I are looking into fostering a dog soon, I can’t help but connect James’s call to be vigilant, unified, firm, and compassionate in the face of hate to the dog-training videos we’ve been watching lately. But perhaps that’s just because techniques to help any social animal change will have some similarities—such as, letting the subject know that we are aware and care about what they’re doing, that there is widespread agreement that what they’re doing is wrong, that we are determined to not allow wrong actions to continue, and that the boundaries we are setting and enforcing are based in care for all and in reason. (I’m not sure dogs understand all that on a rational level, but then I’m not sure people always do either.)

Setting boundaries with care for all, versus responding to hate with hate, reminds me of the idea articulated by the character Rose in the newest Star Wars movie—that the resistance will win the war not by fighting what they hate, but saving what they love. That can be a fine line sometimes, as defending what and who we love sometimes requires fighting threatening forces. But I think when we keep the focus on the positive values of care and love and equity, rather than becoming swept up in winning, showing that we’re right, or beating our enemies, we do make better choices, retain more of our own ethical integrity, and bring more people to our side eventually, hopefully even many of those we are currently fighting against.