Hate Crimes Rising
“In this postmodern age we find ourselves enmeshed in civil wars, tribal prejudices that we thought we had outgrown long ago. We can dare to counter the spirit of hate and separation with the romantic view of connectedness”.The Art of Is: improvising a way of life by Stephen Nachmanovitch, pg 203
Hate crimes have been growing in this country, against minorities and other vulnerable groups.
Many factors have been blamed as the growing and heated partisan divide in our country’s politics. It is essential to look at any underlying contributors to hatred and violence. One is the prevalent use of divisive rhetoric in public discourse that leads to conflict rather than peaceful coexistence and inclusiveness.
There are many things basic in our human nature that are critical and important for our survival. While many of these survival traits and characteristics are crucial, they may also be exploited for personal gain by others, to the detriment of vulnerable individuals.
What is the influence of social media, the entertainment industry, marketing, and politics?
Social media has contributed to the problem by the spread of angry partisan political views, propaganda, false narratives, and conspiracy theories. Social media has become a significant influencer to people vulnerable to
- unscrupulous messengers
- fear mongers
- terror groups
- encouragers of violence and hatred
In the seductive public messaging is an enticement to support or join, causes and groups, that spread hatred and division in our populace. At the extreme are individuals that are influenced to carry out hate crimes and violence. The usual targets are the groups that have been scapegoated, as in the cases of recent acts against minorities, immigrant, and religious groups. Online programs and chat groups can quickly become the negative support for vulnerable individuals that have been rejected or disenfranchised by their peers, family, or by their local community. see prior article “Horrific Synagogue Shooting Precursors”
What are the contributors to hate and violence?
Individuals that have mental health issues with a history, for example, of an abusive childhood, traumas, or difficulties with social functioning are more likely to be vulnerable to persuasion and influence. These same individuals are often the target of ongoing discrimination, rejection, bullying, and physical or emotional abuse. Any person that has been socially disadvantaged with mental health or emotional difficulties may have problems with social ineptness, social anxiety, isolation, and fear of participating in social activities with peers. Other challenges can develop as low self-esteem, poor social functioning, and difficulty finding positive support and nurturance. Negative support groups as gangs or antisocial groups can attract followers and participants from the disenfranchised and vulnerable.
Social media can become a place to find support and connection.
As of now, there is minimal control or regulation of the providers of social media networks to combat the operation of programs that disseminate misinformation that inspires hatred and violence. There are many different sources of information that may have undue influence on the minds of the susceptible, especially if the person is living in isolation and looking for support, a boost to self-esteem, or need for acceptance. Some sources might be foreign entities wanting to undermine our democracy, extremist groups, or hate groups. Political activists seeking support, and dominance of the electorate may use misleading marketing tools or false narratives as conspiracy theories, misinformation, and propaganda. Malintended information can become a vehicle to influence susceptible and needy participants and can result in violence and hateful actions. see the prior article “Mass School Shooting – Insanity or Guns?”
Individuals can be attracted to very violent movies or video games.
There is an attraction to a superhero, supervillain, or antihero who can destroy and dominate others. The figure of power and action is admired for committing gross acts of violence to defeat his enemy or rival tribe. The super-person in myth and popular stories uses his unique abilities in uncanny and often destructive ways. The mythical figure, when carrying out these supernormal activities, though at times harmful to others, does so with a conviction that he or she is right and can operate above the society’s norms and laws. When there is a success with the quest, the hero or antihero is often bestowed with praise, honor, and rewards.
The idolized figure in mythical stories or in video games, with his sometimes hostile or destructive actions, disrespect for the typical values and behaviors of the rest of society, become the fantasized model for the vulnerable and the disenfranchised person.
Eventually, the harmful aspects of social media as misinformation and propaganda, or the negative characterizations presented in movies or video games, grow the potential for violence, expression of hatred by the influenced and exposed individual. Acting out by the impacted person may, in part, account for the rise in recent years of hate crimes and violent acts as shootings and murders.
An individual may have an additional vulnerability to outside influence when there are additive factors as depressed moods, the experience of recent traumas, or losses. Some examples would be when somebody has lost their job or a significant relationship after a divorce or has been rejected by a significant other. In these situations, further harm occurs to the individuals already fragile self-esteem.
The movie “Joker” and its antihero and dark theme, is an example of a controversial, but a successful movie at the box office, that has a mythical comic book supervillain character, who could conceivably become a negative role model for anyone extremely vulnerable to the influence of the media or a popular violent movie. The movie and acting, however, is well done in the sense of portraying the downward descent of a person from trauma, abuse, unaddressed mental illness, a decaying, uncaring society, failure of government, and other issues related to this article – see reference for the “Joker” in the bibliography.
Has the business model gone astray?
In the business model, vast fortunes have been built based on attracting consumers by creating a narrative about something fearful or something a person lacks. There is often the subtle promise that some purchases will make one’s life better when a specific service or commodity is bought. Aspects of similar practices have apparently become apart of our political discourse. Political entities have tried to capture large followings by the use of comparable tactics directed at an already susceptible trained consumer population.
The business-like political strategy of creating a false narrative, scapegoating of minorities, or immigrants to generate fear and desire for protection and security from the blamed individual or group needs to be recognized and stopped. This has gone to the extreme of creating conspiracy theories and false narratives that are put out as manipulative propaganda through the mass media and advertising. In public communications, this occurs both on the right and the left of the political spectrum, creating a very divisive partisan divide. The result is antagonism, and the lack of discussion, civility, and healthy debate between people leading to increasing strife and conflict.
People that have a history of mental illness, developmental disorders, poverty, lack of privilege, or identity with any minority group, felt to be unacceptable to narrow-minded or biased people, can become a target of discrimination or “scapegoating”. If someone that has a mental illness acts out violently, for example, then it adds to the stigma of the entire group, and the whole group then can become at increased risk of targeted hatred or violence. The actual issues, in need of address, is the negative propagation and narratives that lead to the promotion of prejudice, hatred, bigotry, and fear – now being seen in the prevalent adverse media and public discourses, especially in the political arena.
Remedial steps needed for a healthy cohesive society.
The changes that need to occur to counter the movement towards increasing anger, fear, hatred, discrimination, and violent actions, are for a change in individual and community thinking, beliefs, and attitudes. Recognition of the driving forces behind the negative current of hatred and violence will come with education, tolerance, and progress to more open-mindedness in our communities and chosen leaders.
The less fortunate or non-privileged may have increasing anger and fear stoked by individuals that want more power, control, or advantage, Critical concerns that are used to foster increased anxiety, by those interested in control and power, could be
- income inequality
- fear of not getting health care when sick
- fewer jobs with an increasing population
- automation leading to job loss
- more immigrants, refugees, and displaced people coming from wars, famine, and environmental catastrophes
Narrow inflexible thinking, self-serving ideas, or beliefs can be limiting and can lead to
The individual can lose the compacity to get along with others, to resolve disputes, to accept differences, or to be able to look past their self-interests for the benefit of others. Survival mentality is more fear-based and reactive and can exist in an individual or a larger population. The group could be a tribe or a cohesive ideological community as a religious or political organization. A tribal mentality is now seen in current polarized political rhetoric and propaganda – similar to the business strategy used to create a brand for building and maintaining a consumer base to buy products.
Studies demonstrate the influences of social media and political rhetoric on hateful and violent behavior.
- The 2019 research work by Muller and Schwartz, “Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime”, show that anti-refugee expression on Facebook “predicts crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities. With higher social media usage.”
- The 2019 research article by Williams, et al. “Hate in the Machine: Anti-Black and Anti-Muslim Social Media Posts as Predictors of Offline Racially and Religiously Aggravated Crime”, demonstrates a link “between online hate speech that targets race and religion, and offline racially and religiously aggravated crimes in London”.
- The 2019 academic study by Petrova, et al., “Political Effects of the Internet and Social Media” discusses the effects of the internet and social media “on voting, street protests, attitudes toward government, political polarization, xenophobia, and politicians’ behavior”.
- The 2019 study by Wahlstrom, et al., “Social Media Mechanisms for Right-Wing Political Violence in the 21st Century: Discursive Opportunities, Group Dynamics, and Co-Ordination” shows how online social media activities contributes to right-wing political and racial violence.
The time is now for awareness of the issues and the taking of active steps for the health and wellbeing of our society.
Thoughts and beliefs can have more restricted and narrow meanings contributing to narrow-mindedness and to the failed resolution of the pressing problems of today. There is always the opportunity to recognize a more diversified field of possibilities, enlightened ideas, and better solutions. Enlightenment occurs when there is an opening to wisdom beyond a state of narrow beliefs.
To stop the further polarization and movement towards conflict, rebellion, and violence, calls for the direct facing of all these issues, by compassionate, informed, committed people for the betterment and wellbeing of ourselves, others, and the larger society. Motivated individuals and organizations will need to stand up to corruption and unethical business practice, especially when they seep into our political system and breed corrupt leaders more interested in personal gain and power.
It is time to allow the peoples’ voices of our diverse population to bring back effective leaders – to be the positive voice and actions of change. A new day will arise with the resurrection of ethical leaders and role models from the growing support of an informed and enlightened citizenry. Let hopefulness, awareness, and action bring positive change and restoration of trust, mutual respect, civility, and honoring of the diversity in our population. Allow positive change to herald a promising and roseate future.
A Closing Note
is a reminder from the late Iren W. Steier, a poet, who immigrated to Israel after the 2nd World War. She was a cousin of Dr. Parks’ mother. The poem was written at the time of the Nazi, German invasion of her home town in Hungary. Iren was one of the few of her village and family that survived the Nazi concentration camps and lived to write about the ordeal and tragedy of what happens when democracy and society evolve into a brutal totalitarian, Fascist government. This poem is shared as Iren would have wished to remind everyone never to forget and always to be watchful for any movement in our society towards hatred, division, and decline in our values, respect, and civility towards each other.
Nineteen Forty-Four – On the Ides of March
Gendarme boots rumble on the streets of Varad
Up, up, Hungarians – they shout – Line up
Stand behind us – to search after Jews…
Their homes devastated, desecrated, orphaned…
The Jew is public prey — taken prisoner by evil
Robbed, deprived, naked pariahs
Miserable orphans, bleeding from a thousand wounds... click here to read more
Thank you for your interest and review of this article. You are welcome to make comments below.
Ron Parks MD