Can hatred be an ideology?

The Ideology of HatredIn her book The Ideology of Hatred: The Psychic Power of Discourse, Niza Yanay argues that conflicts formerly identified as struggles for national autonomy or self-determination are now being viewed as products of hatred. We heard a lot of that after 9/11: “Why do they hate us?”

Perhaps the answers would have seemed too embarrassing if the media had asked questions such as, “Why do they want control of their own oil, of their own territory?”

Yanay argues that hatred is not the opposite of love but rather is intricately intertwined with it. Think about it. On a personal level, how often do husbands, wives, lovers, and children say “I hate you” to the people they love and need most?

Yanay categorizes hate into two types:

  • Hatred by the oppressed toward an oppressor
  • Hatred by the oppressor toward the oppressed.

The first, she points out, can be easily understood. The second type, however, requires the development of an ideology to support it—an  ideology that portrays you and your particular group as moral, good, and just, and any “Other” as hateful and dangerous.

While political-military leaders and the media may reinforce such an ideology–for example, referring to an “Axis of Evil” or “Muslim terrorism”—people have an unconscious desire to connect with the “enemy.” For example, sometimes Israelis refer to Palestinians and Arabs refer to Jews as “our cousins.”

Yanay offers a way out of the sort of hatred promoted in the Middle East and elsewhere: form friendships, even in the face of conflicts, just as we do in our personal lives. Most of us have good friends who occasionally frustrate us, anger us, refuse to see that we are right and they are wrong. In general, though, we value those personal friendships enough to work things through.

Nations can do that too.

Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Majed Ashy

An earlier version of this two-part review was recently published in the American
Psychological Association journal, PsycCRITIQUES, August 2013.


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4 Responses to Can hatred be an ideology?

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    I heard on the news this morning that the US is threatening to withdraw its annual billion dollar donation to Egypt’s military forces. HUH? Did I hear that correctly? How many other foreign countries are being gifted with such largesse? Who benefits? Have the Egyptian people been benefitting from all that money? Have the American taxpayers benefitted in any way? Or is it just the military industrial complex–here and abroad–that benefits?

    • Dahlia Wasfi says:

      Just the military-industrial-complex here and abroad.
      The 1.6 billion dollars a year to the Egyptian military dates back to the 1979 Camp David Accords, a treaty signed by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. Though they both signed the same agreement, Egypt got 1.6 billion/year in military aid, and Israel got more than 3 billion/year in military aid. This treaty broke the Arab boycott of Israel and was seen by many as traitorous. This is why Sadat was assassinated soon after. His second in command came to power, Hosni Mubarak, and the suffering of the Egyptian people through today is what followed.
      The Egyptian military uses most of the US military aid to buy tanks (and other items) from–you guessed it–the United States of America.

  2. Dahlia Wasfi says:

    Forming friendships is a positive step to take, and I think the hopeful outcome of truth and reconciliation commissions. But nothing’s going to change as long as Israel has its boot on the neck of Palestinians. I can’t see forming friendships as a working solution to the Warsaw Ghetto, for example. The illegal occupation of Palestine–and the crimes against humanity which define it–must end. In the US, we can help to reach that goal by ending US military aid to Israel (and Egypt, too). More information at

    • Gold Dust Twin says:

      Yes, taking away the brutal boxing gloves we have furnished both contestants is the sanest step to take. We should probably do the same thing with our sons all around the world–teach them how to get along rather than urging them to fight back or make the first punch or be sure to always be toughest guy on the block.

  3. Jeremy Wernick says:

    I think considering the way that news/media outlets portray terrorism and violent behavior certainly calls into question what sort of ideology towards those behaviors is being promoted. Yanay is correct in stating that there is certainly a general inclination to sympathize with and understand the oppressed. However, is the American public really given the tools to even want to consider how the oppressor might feel? And is it right to alienate either group in our understanding for violence or hatred? I think understanding violence requires understanding both roles equally. In general though, Americans are desensitized to hatred and that in and of itself promotes further violence. Reports show that approximately 60% of programs shown on television contain violence and almost 70% of those programs are directed towards children. From an early age American children are taught how to identify with perpetrators of violence. The violent behaviors are glorified and typically portrayed as happening without punishments or consequences (Hines & Malley-Morrison, 2013). When violence and terrorism has a widespread, negative impact on the US population, it is no wonder that news outlets feed into the shock and awe Americans feel when there are actual consequences for violent behavior. I think that the way Americans cope with violence is entirely dependent upon how violence is portrayed on television. Research has proven the relationship between childhood exposure to violence and later aggression (Hines & Malley-Morrison, 2013). However, the media continues to sensationalize violent behavior and makes it easy for the confusion between hatred and idealization to become ingrained in our culture and exploited by the media.

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