In George Orwell’s masterpiece “1984,” perhaps the ultimate horror novel, all citizens of Oceania participated in a daily group ritual in front of their telescreens called the “Two Minutes Hate.” It was designed to feed the mob frenzy by focusing everyone’s rage against one despicable human target, who was blamed for every perceived injustice or slight, real or imagined (no one knew the difference and it didn’t matter). This is what happens to people who are caught in the psychological grip of a mob mentality.
Orwell writes: “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, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, 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. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.”
It’s almost impossible to look at recent instances of outrageous mob behavior on the part of the left without thinking of this scene. The word “Orwellian” seems more appropriate than ever today on a variety of progressive fronts, from the creeping alteration of language –- the very concept of “political correctness” stems from Orwell –- to the takeover by technology giants of the flow of information, to the obliteration and rewriting of history, to the dumbing-down of popular culture, to the watchful eye of ever-present cameras, to the capacity for monitoring every keystroke through technological means more powerful and encompassing than Orwell ever imagined. Even the “Junior Anti-Sex League” has some parallels on college campuses today. But our focus for today will be mob psychology.
In 2018, we all know who the focus of any “Two Minutes Hate” would be: President of the United States Donald J. Trump. And we might even call it the “24 Hours Hate.” I know the man myself, understand what he’s working to accomplish and, while acknowledging he has flaws as do we all, can say I’ve found a lot to admire about him. But the art of propaganda has become so refined that it’s easy to make, oh, about a third of the population seriously associate him with Naziism, bigotry, stupidity, misogyny, collusion with Russia, even global annihilation. (Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush were similarly trashed, but not nearly to this extent.) The “Trump” they hate is a gross caricature, a work of fiction.
The mob has gotten so shockingly out of hand that it’s literally being studied by sociologists and will continue to be for decades to come. This has been called "a riot in slow motion." It’s to the point where a known conservative can’t go out to dinner without being swarmed and abused. The amazing White House press secretary was asked to leave a restaurant and her family and guests were followed to another location by hecklers. She has to have Secret Service protection. Recall that Republican Rep. Steve Scalise was shot and almost died. We've seen marchers with filthy signs and bizarre pink headgear. Other administration officials have been ambushed by unruly crowds that had the blessing and encouragement of such mindless leftists as California Rep. Maxine Waters. It was footage of Ted Cruz at a restaurant being ambushed by frenzied protesters that brought to mind the “Two Minutes Hate.”
The anti-Trump fever started even before Trump was elected. This was the first time that perhaps millions of people hesitated to display yard signs and bumper stickers because of fears of vandalism. Many didn’t tell their friends or even pollsters that they supported Trump. No wonder his victory was such a surprise.
The hatred of Trump is directed to his supporters as well. We’re not just people who disagree on issues –- we’re evil. We’re the deplorables. We’re accused of bigotry and hatred, but that view is a projection of leftists’ bigotry and hatred towards us.
Shelby Steele has written a great opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal called “Why The Left Is Consumed With Hate,” that examines this phenomenon. “For many on the left,” he writes, “a hateful anti-Americanism has become a self-congratulatory lifestyle.” Hate gives some on the left an identify, as an expression of moral superiority or intellect, for example. It also grants permission to shout down or even assault those with whom one disagrees, instead of having to debate the virtues of ideas, which is lot harder, especially considering some of their ideas.
Steele takes us back to the 1960s, a period when liberals expressed compassion and the desire for racial equality. That was a transformative time, creating a new moral imperative to reject racial inequality and segregation, and the left deserves credit for that. (Of course, Martin Luther King led this movement without descending into hate; he would no doubt be appalled today.) But in putting itself in charge of the nation’s moral legitimacy, the left became, in a way, a victim of its own success.
Steele explains that for the left to maintain the enormous political and cultural power it amassed during that time, it had to be fighting some tenacious menace that threatened to destroy the good name America had created for itself. This is why racism and other forms of bigotry can’t ever go away.
I would add that this explains why even after America elected a black President, race relations were arguably worse after his time in office than before. We were mystified and dismayed by this; we knew that even those of us who didn’t support candidate Obama because we disagreed with him on the issues were happy and proud that our country could come so far from its racist past. (In fact, that was really the one thing about Obama’s victory we could all celebrate.) We wanted to see racism in our rear-view mirrors. It would have been wonderful to move forward from that point with racism less and less of a factor until it essentially disappeared. But the left still needed it to fight against. As Steele points out, it justified a huge array of government social programs. Those doling out the money would keep the power.
I think I speak for most white conservatives when I say we just don’t react to people based on their race. We thought that’s what it meant to not be racist. But over the years, “racism” has been redefined to put race front and center, and in such a way to excuse bigotry against white conservatives, especially Christians. Ironically, in order not to be considered racist, it’s necessary to consider race constantly. We have to guard against committing “microaggressions.” We must not offend, even innocently. And as conservatives we must deal with the reality that we are going to be called bigots even when we know we’re not. The left has redefined the terminology (as in Newspeak?) to keep the threat of bigotry alive, but in such a way that the label can’t be put on them.
And the left has to hate us. The greater the perceived threat to their power, the more they will hate. “Hatred is a transformative power,” Steele writes. “It can make the innocuous into the menacing. So it has become a weapon of choice. The left has used hate to transform President Trump into a symbol of the new racism, not a flawed president but a systemic evil. And he must be opposed as one opposes racism, with a scorched-earth absolutism.”
As Orwell points out, hate can be redirected at any desired target. In 2018, this is being done to excuse any strategy, no matter how shockingly unfair or unconstitutional, employed against anyone on the right. Trump-hate can be aimed not only at Trump, but at his wife, his kids, his supporters, his staff, his cabinet, his business associates, and his fellow Republican office holders. Also, as you may have noticed, his Supreme Court nominees.
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