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The Reactionary Utopian (classic)
September 10, 2010

The Uses of "Hate"
A classic by Joseph Sobran
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ARLINGTON, VA — A reader who says he usually likes my columns took strong exception to the one I wrote criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Texas sodomy law (The Court Can Do No Wrong). He charged me with "bigotry" and added that I sounded like "a bitter homophobe."

Since I hadn't written about homosexuality as such, or even about the merits of the Texas law, I wondered how he got that impression. It's possible to disapprove of sodomy *and* the Texas law *and* the Court's ruling, and I do. But no matter how clearly you try to write, you can't stop people from reading their own notions into your words.

Needless to say, it's very common these days to respond to an argument by addressing not the point the writer is making, but his supposed feelings about the subject. Was it always so, or has the world taken a turn for the worse lately? I can't say, but few would say we live in an age distinguished by logical thinking. If you reject a political claim made in the name of any category of people, you can expect to be accused of hating all the people in that category.

This kind of thinking has gotten especially silly in the area of "gay rights" and "homophobia," terms too blurry to mean much. It's not that I want to plead not guilty to the charges; I merely want to point out how unrealistic the charges are on their face.

Lots of people disapprove of sodomy and find it disgusting. These attitudes are ancient and are implicit in all our slang and jokes about the subject. But how many people who hold them really hate homosexuals without distinction? Very few, really. The ones who do have often had unpleasant personal experiences that explain their hostility; yet I have a friend who, though he was molested as a boy and completely shares my views on the matter, harbors no special animosity toward homosexuals in general.

Despite all the rhetoric of bigotry that assails us these days, it just isn't that easy to hate indiscriminately. In fact such hatred seems unnatural — or, if you prefer, idiosyncratic.

But some people find a strange moral satisfaction in positing a ubiquitous "hate," usually against "minorities" of one sort or another. And of course this "hate" requires the state to take various actions to protect the alleged victims, to make reparations, to reeducate the bigoted public, and finally to "eradicate" the proscribed attitudes. This stipulated "hate" seems to fill a vacuum in the moral universe, much as the rarefied ether was once believed to fill the emptiness of outer space.

So "hate" endows the state with a vast mandate for correction. Citizens must be treated as potential, even presumptive, bigots. "Discrimination" must be anticipated and forbidden. Ambitious laws and programs must be passed and implemented. Old freedoms — of association, property, commercial exchange — become suspect and must be abridged.

And the scope of the state must be expanded to include even the inspection of our motives. It isn't enough to ban overt "discrimination," since we may be "discriminating" furtively; and because we may be lying about our real motives, the state must also enforce outward compliance with "civil rights" laws (by imposing racial quotas and the like). Meanwhile, more and more things are said to be "discriminatory," including marriage.

All this must be most encouraging to the sort of people who think of the state as an instrument for the complete overhauling of society and human relations. What better starting point for such a project than a presumption of guilt against — well, everyone?

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A version of this article appeared in the August 2003 edition of Sobran's: The Real News of the Month.

Copyright © 2010 by Joe Sobran and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

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