Agitated online protesters are now scoring remarkable victories. They’re tearing at a monument they believe symbolizes the proliferation of hate. It’s not a physical edifice. It is Facebook, the social media giant. That’s their target. They singled it out due to its policy of allowing rhetoric that many believe promotes hate on its platform.
This protest movement goes by the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. Its tactic is to implore responsible companies to boycott Facebook as an advertising venue. The group has scored big successes. Major advertisers are pulling back their Facebook ads.
But Facebook has no monopoly on hate for profit.
There’s more hate out there. The media stream is replete with stories that seem aimed at promoting one variety of hate or another.
Now that the #StopHateForProfit approach has proved its effectiveness against Facebook, should the concept stop there? Hate is hate wherever it is found. Hate is hate no matter what its target. And hate is hate irrespective of its form of expression.
The initial #StopHateForProfit actions are in opposition to hate speech. One organization active in the movement defines its actions as “a campaign to make bigotry and sexism less profitable.”
A thoroughgoing analysis will show, however, that speech alone is not the underlying problem. In 1862 the African Methodist Episcopal Church reportedly published the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” That makes the point. Surely we must look beneath the words. They’re just the visible artifacts of a larger problem.
The ultimate target must be to stop the disrespecting of people and disregarding the conditions they need to pursue a good life.
Often that disrespect can be much more insidious than mere speech. Disrespecting the environment for profit, for example, can be seen as a form of ultimate hate. Its impact can be felt universally. But yet there are large companies that are engaged in this kind of disrespect. However they are not being targeted.
An organization called Sleeping Financial Giants has articulated this issue well. It produced a report that reveals “links between the financial sector and climate change.” It came to that finding by “examining how financial actors [are influencing] global systemic risks related to climate.” The report adds that there is “a moral imperative for global economic actors to conduct business and investment so as to not undermine the capacity of future generations to inhabit Earth.”
Embedded in the Sleeping Financial Giants’ report is the concept of a “tipping point” in social discourse. It is a point past which there is no return. One characteristic of this is that a single event alone can push things past the tipping point.
In 2020 we have reached a tipping point in race relations. The police murder of George Floyd clearly pushed us to it. While there is still much to be done about race, it seems unlikely that things will ever regress to the earlier conditions. What happened represents a change that has been socially valuable. A tipping point in climate change, on the other hand, could herald the advent of global disaster. It is that kind of transition we must guard against.
Another hate issue surrounds the threat of nuclear catastrophe. It presents itself as perhaps the most consequential tipping point ever. This isn’t an issue that is as obvious as racial tensions. It is not a problem like rising temperatures and melting glacial ice that you can actually see. It is more like the problem of radon gas in homes. You can’t see it or smell it. But it is still there and is a danger to human life.
The hate bating here involves the US-Russia relationship. The United States and Russia both maintain stockpiles of nuclear weapons with enormous destructive potential. Some say if unleashed they could lead to the destruction of human civilization as we know it. In the words of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s song, appropriately titled “The Point of No Return,” it could be “the final threshold.”
If for no other reason than the destructive capabilities of the two countries a greater modicum of mutual respect is essential. The risk in play is too great to do otherwise.
Stanford emeritus professor Dr. Martin Hellman, an expert on the nuclear threat, has actually calculated the risk. His findings show that a person 38 years of age, the average age in America, will face a 50:50 chance of experiencing a nuclear catastrophe within one’s lifetime. Those aren’t very favorable odds. This threat hangs over our heads largely unrecognized by population segments.
In spite of that ultimate threat, there are those who persist in driving the United States and Russia toward the brink. They invoke hate rhetoric in a very dangerous way.
As a result, despite the fall of the Iron Curtain decades ago, the hate bating has led to establishing a “Nato Curtain” that is up against Russia’s border. Both sides have fortified it to varying extents. Tensions are high. Even just a slight nudge, a misunderstanding perhaps, could push things beyond the tipping point to a point of no return. That does not seem to be a sane and safe place for us to be. Yet there are those who continually promote tensions between the United States and Russia.
One such guilty party is the New York Times. Its publication of allegedly hate baiting stories about Russia has recently set into motion a new project of the Center for Citizen Initiatives based in California. Its research is showing that the Times‘ pages are replete with unfounded allegations.
A recent example cited by CCI is a Times headline claiming “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill US Troops, Intelligence Says.” The Times later explained, “A New York Times investigation has revealed evidence of a secret Russian operation to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.”
CCI questions the reliability of the story, citing the use of anonymous sources to explain a situation far more convoluted than the Times‘ headline suggests. That story is but one of a litany of biased reportage about Russia appearing in the Times.
Later, the New York Times actually justified CCI’s suspicions: The Times somewhat walked back its allegation about secret Russian bounties. Now it reports that it cannot be said with certainty “that Russia specifically offered bounties in return for killings of Western soldiers.” In the meantime, the Times first story, with its rank bigotry toward Russia, stirred a US political uproar that could only escalate tensions. Colin Powell called the media’s reaction to the Times‘ story “hysterical“.
The Times has a clear record of including untruths in its stories about Russia. This has had a cumulative effect on readers. It has gotten to the point where the truth about Russia sounds counterintuitive to Americans. They are in disbelief when confronted with the truth.
Sharon Tennison, CCI president, vouches for that with something she heard from the VP of a large American corporation. He had traveled to Russia on a CCI fact finding mission. He remarked, “You know, I went to Russia to just see with my own eyes, what that country is all about today. Later, when my friends asked what I’d experienced, I told them the truth — and they couldn’t believe me, they thought I’d become a Putin or Russia lover!”
Tennison observes, “What a predicament! Educated, successful Americans can’t believe a friend who is telling them the truth. This is how over-dosed on propaganda we’ve been — not just recently but for decades.”
It seems that CCI is saying the Times is playing with fire by publishing hate-inspiring stories about Russia. It is pushing the US and Russia far too close to the tipping point of a nuclear catastrophe. However, no one is asking Times‘ advertisers to pull out. The New York Times is engaging in hate for profit. But the #StopHateForProfit movement as presently constituted neglects to include this paramount issue as a concern.