July 12th, 2010
10:10 AM ET

I hate stupid hate

David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/TECH/web/07/11/protecting.personal.data/t1larg.computer.security.thinkstock.jpg caption="Hate mail, especially constant, rude, and often disturbing hate mail doesn't bring people to their side. It certainly doesn't inspire someone with an audience, like me, to want to plead their case." width=300 height=169]

Most days now I often begin or end my day getting hate mail. Oh, I've gotten hate mail and even death threats over the years. That's part of the territory when you put yourself out there in front of the public. But this hate is different. This hate comes in the forms of new insults, unreasoning rage, and illogical and often self-contradictory diatribes. It comes almost every day.

And it's stupid.

This isn't hate mail from the usual suspects. It's not hate mail from tea partiers or anti-abortion groups or loony liberals or fans of Apple gadgets (well, ok, I get a lot of hate from them, too).

No, this is hate mail from peace lovers.

It started about a month ago when I wrote an article for a tech column on how a well-known hacker had turned in an Army soldier who had allegedly given away secrets. The soldier had been arrested and federal agencies were investigating. He'd been entrusted with top-secret information and he leaked that information, an act which is against the law.

I called the hacker a patriot and the soldier a traitor.

Subsequently, another online publication did a very detailed analysis about how there might be more to the story than would seem apparent. The author claimed the hacker might not be fully on the side of right and the soldier might not have been as at fault as he seemed.

As is my practice, I try to look at issues from all sides, so I wrote another article, basically saying there might be more to the story than was originally apparent. Basically, I suggested keeping an open mind.

But that wasn't good enough for the peace lovers. Before I go on, here's the thing: I think the Iraq war was highly inadvisable and I'm deeply concerned that our presence in Afghanistan has gone on longer than any other war. I don't like these wars and I want to see America out of them.

Apparently, the peace mongers don't care. It doesn't matter to them that I'm against these wars.

They just want to hate.

I've found these emails having a curious effect. Normally, I listen and carefully consider all feedback from readers. If they have valid suggestions, I often spotlight them in future articles.

But I'm finding that I'm starting to hate the peace lovers. At the request of my wife, I've set up special "hate mail" folders in my various email accounts. Just in case we need to turn them over to the authorities.

Just in case the peace lovers are violent.

The thing is, it's stupid. Hate mail, especially constant, rude, and often disturbing hate mail doesn't bring people to their side. It certainly doesn't inspire someone with an audience, like me, to want to plead their case.

That's the thing with hate. It sometimes brings people together, but it also pushes away advocacy. It tarnishes and even destroys just what it's trying to make happen.

Instead of bringing injustices to light, hate simply multiplies the injustice.

I, of course, am not the only target of unreasoning hate. Members of both political parties have received their fair share and President Obama, of course, has received a particularly unfair share. There's no doubt he hasn't performed quite as he promised, but the name calling is just plain stupid.

In fact, the names are stupid. Here's an example. I get regular messages about how the President is a communist. Seriously. But when a head of government gives billions of dollars to corporations like AIG - and not the people - that's not in any way, shape, or form communism. Yet that name persists.

Another reader wrote me (and this is a direct quote): "Get rid of this administration of Socialists, Marxists, Muslims and Democrats... Your next book should be 'How did the Planet of Apes Invade America?'"

If that's not stupid hate, I don't know what is.

I find this level of unthinking hate deeply disturbing for a few reasons. First, of course, it's unreasoning. But second, much of the wording and patterning of the hate speech is traceable to highly visible personalities who should know better. Media, both mainstream and high-profile bloggers are inciting Americans to hate. They're egging on their viewers, listeners, and readers.

Sure, it makes for good business and good traffic. Most media gets paid based on how many visitors, viewers, listeners, or readers they have. But America is more than fodder for traffic-baiting. America is a great nation in need of transformation.

Hate is not the solution. Hate is a root cause of the problem. Hate sucks. We're better than that. We're smarter, more resourceful, more capable, more creative, and more powerful.

Martin Luther King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Hate won't solve our problems or change our world. We need to build, solve, and think. We need to be Americans.

Together. In the light.

Follow David on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz.

Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the ZATZ magazines. He is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts and a top expert on saving and creating jobs. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.

Filed under: David Gewirtz • Opinion
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Peter Zuidema

    Having worked in the ICT, related to the web since 1993, I have also first-hand experienced the increasing amount of hate mail, the agression, online. And sometimes it can be fun to read through a blog posting response list during a coffee break that results in a war between readers, but actually it is something quite troublesome.

    The thing that worries me is that that hatred, that aggression is somehow already in this person, and with the false idea of being anonymous, some people do not seem to have any problems showing this hate and agression to a total stranger, writing only his or her personal or professional opinion.

    I guess the anti-social contact that a reader can have with a writer, where there is no discussion going on in person but through a emotionless thing like a computer, adds to this behavior. But still, although we all praise the 'freedom' of the internet (or do we?), I think some kind of etiquette should absolutely be required.

    August 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  2. Locksley

    Well said! There should be a libel law with teeth in this country. There should also be a low making it impossible for hatemongers in the media to profit from their hate speech. Hate speech is not freedom of speech. It is freedom to kill, by words, or to incite illegal behavior.

    July 12, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  3. katyuska

    well I don't understand extremist from either side
    they are irrationals and in my opinion mentally disturbed, but do not take slightly some can be dangerous, specially when in groups

    July 12, 2010 at 10:24 am |

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