One of the most haunting scenes in George Orwell's 1984 is the "Two-Minute Hate." On a regular basis, members of the ruling Party (but not the Inner Party) are gathered in a room and shown images of a contrived enemy state and its supposed leader, Emmanuel Goldstein. The Party loyalists scream profanities and hurl objects at the screen, and one particularly angry member runs forward and flails her arms wildly at the images.
The point of the scene is that the Party members are being manipulated into being blind to the political reality in their country. It's the very people presenting them with the images and encouraging their hate who are the tyrants and the oppressors. Combined with the equally powerful emotion of fear (which I will address in my next post), this hate prevents the people in Orwell's fictional society from rising up and achieving their freedom.
Of course, the United States in 2012 is not the same thing as 1984. But we do see a good bit of hate being encouraged by those who hold both the political and economic power in our society. And that hate does serve to blind us in many ways from the oppressive reality of the current political and economic system. The hatred that is stoked prevents the people from achieveing something more just and democratic.
The easy parallel to draw to 1984 is FoxNews, only it's not just two-minutes. It's 24 non-stop hours. I know people who watch FoxNews for a large portion of each day, and who watch in anger and bitterness.
Barack Obama plays the part of Emmanuel Goldstein, and the Democratic Party is the superstate that is responsible for all the evil in society. Every day presents a new reason to hate the president and his party, and to blame them for problems that are both real and contrived.
In the process, the FoxNews loyalists are never challenged to see the negative side of their own party and the politicians they support. In fact, the "24-hour hate" network enages them in a process of projection where they see in the hated Democrats their own worst traits. For example, I have heard several ultra conservative friends of mine describe Obama as the most divisive president of all time - which is utterly false and even laughable, but which they believe because FoxNews told them so.
FoxNews viewers are certainly never encouraged to look behind the curtain of where the real power in our country lies, and to ask questions about how the political system as a whole is being manipulated to enrich a small minority of the population.
The question for the rest of us, then, is who are we being encouraged to hate? For those who don't watch FoxNews, do we have our own forums that are the equivalent of the "Two-Minute Hate"? And how do we free ourselves from this manipulation?