Counter Hate and Malevolence - Part 1

Heidi Burgess
Guy M. Burgess

September, 2018

You can download this video from Vimeo for offline viewing.


Hate both drives the escalation spiral and is a cause of it.  As conflict escalates, emotions rise, and antipathy between disputants cycles higher and higher.  Although such hate often seems justified, it almost always hurts the person feeling and acting on that emotion more than it helps them.  So finding ways to redirect such emotions and respond to the conflict in more constructive ways is both important and beneficial.  This video discusses how to redirect one's own feelings of hate; the follow-on video discusses how to respond to hate coming from others in effective and non-escalatory ways.

References Resources:

Slide 3: Mark Krikorian. "How labeling my organization a hate group shuts down public debate"  Washington Post.March 17, 2017.

Slide 12:  JU.D. Vance. "When It Comes to Baskets, We’re All Deplorable"  NYTImes Sept 22, 2016.

Slide 14: Essential Partners.

Slide 16: Michelle Goldberg. "How the Left Learned to Hate Like the Right." NYTimes. 4/29/17.\

Slide 17 and 18: Suzanna Danuta Walters. "Why Can't We Hate Men?" Washington Post June 8, 2018


Full Transcript:

Slide 1. Hi, this is Heidi Burgess. In this video, I want to talk about ways of challenging hate and malevolence, which are both causes and consequences of escalation. So challenging hate is a key aspect of de-escalating conflicts.

Slide 2. The first thing is that we need to recognize hate for what it is. It's a huge trap.

Slide 3. It wipes out our ability to build common ground. This is illustrated by the article on the left, "How labeling my organization a hate group shuts down public debate." It justifies your treating the other side with disrespect, and taking extreme actions to oppose them, even denying them the moral protections that you grant your own group. This may seem fine, because they deserve it.

Slide 4. But, most likely, they're going to do the same thing to you. Do you want or deserve that? Well, I say if you answered no, then you shouldn't start it. And, if they started it, you shouldn't continue it.

Slide 5. You need to break the escalation spiral, the hate spiral. Let's look at how this works. Hate is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have hateful thoughts. That leads to hateful actions. Which leads to hateful responses. Which leads to hateful thoughts.

Slide 6. And I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Slide 7. And, just as I said for escalation, the best answer to this is to not fall into the trap in the first place. But if you do, again, don't be the boiling frog, get out fast. But how?

Slide 8. Well, the first thing to do is to warn others about how hate, as well as escalation, is a trap. And don't egg them on. Instead, discourage them. In the escalation post, I talked about a recreational complaint effect. And I attributed that concept to Guy. It turns out I was wrong. It came out of this book called, The Culture of Complaint, which details how we tend to encourage each other, we egg ourselves on, and we complain more and more. And we convince ourselves that the other side is bad. That just jumps further into the trap. Instead, we should model more constructive responses to hate. And try to get others to follow our example.

Slide 9. Another thing that helps is to see that hate is actually just like other socially undesirable behaviors. So, we have to find its cause and eradicate those.

Slide 10. The first cause, as I've already said, is the escalation spiral.

Slide 11. One thing that I teach in my conflict skills class is the utility of changing the way we frame our enemies, or our opponents from sitting on opposite sides of a table, where we're arguing with each other, to sitting on the same side of the table, and working together against a common enemy. Which, in this case, is escalation. So, if you can see that the other side is just as tied up in the escalation trap and the hate trap as you are, reach out to them to try to get them to work with you to de-escalate the conflict, to de-legitimize the hate. This is one way to give a good example, to both sides, of a constructive approach to hate.

Slide 12. Another important thing is to look at yourself. Are you guilty of disrespectful actions? The most important, or most famous disrespectful action of recent years, before Trump, anyway, was when Hillary Clinton accused half of Trump's supporters as being a "basket of deplorables. ... The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic people," who, she said, constituted half of Trump's supporters. Well, of course, there was an immediate backlash to that statement. And here's an article that explains that, in a sense, we're all deplorable, because everybody tends to have either overt or covert biases against some groups. And, certainly, the left has a very overt bias, even hate against Trump's supporters. Is that going to get them to change their ways? No, it's just going to get them to dig them in deeper. Slide 13. Have you considered the possibility that some things that the other side believes are true? Usually they are. Are some of the things that you believe false? Again, usually they are.

Slide 14. We need to be open to looking at the other side, and to looking at the legitimacy of the grievances on the other side. How do we do this? Well, one top way is to actively listen to, or read about the beliefs of the other side, seeking understanding, not dominance, not change.

The Organization Essential Partners, which used to be called the Public Conversations Project, has been working for several decades, bringing together people on both sides of deep political divides. They started by bringing together people who were pro-choice and pro-life, in Boston, right after an abortion doctor was killed in Boston, and they successfully de-escalated the abortion conflict, at least in Boston. They didn't get rid of it. They didn't get anybody to change their mind. But they did get the leaders, who then convinced their followers, to understand that they could make much more progress if they understood the other, respected the other, rather than by hating the other.

I recommend that you go to their website,, and look at the many very useful materials that they have, of how to listen to and learn from the other.

Slide 15. Another thing to do is to try to find opportunities to work together with the other side. Find out where you have common ground, and do projects together. We all have common ground in our desire to de-escalate conflicts. We have common ground in wanting to make our communities a better place to live. There are many areas of commonalities, if we look for them.

Slide 16. Another thing to be aware of is the danger of using existential threats for base mobilization, in a way that further inflames the escalation spiral. The article, "How the Left Learned to Hate Like the Right," points out that the Left had been envious of the right for so long, because they [the Right] were able to mobilize their base and get their voters out more than Democrats could. But, as this article points out, "there are dangers for Democrats in their absolute loathing and hatred of Trump and Trump supporters. Hatred obliterates nuance and fosters conspiracy theories," and further inflames the escalation spiral, which isn't going to change anybody's mind. It's just going to dig us all in deeper.

Slide 17. Another trap to avoid is the one that I call worst case bias. This involves finding the most outrageous individual, or the most outrageous actions of an individual, and blaming the entire group for that behavior. So, this is a picture of Harvey Weinstein, whose sexual exploits really started the #Me Too movement. And the article is entitled "Why Can't We Hate Men?"

Well, when you paint all men as sexual predators, and ignore their good behavior, their collaborative and respectful behavior, their conciliatory actions, and you reject their reasonable grievances, you turn them into enemies. They're not going to work with you. If you hate them, they'll hate you back.

Slide 18. The article ends with the paragraph that says, "So, men, if you really are #WithUs, and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, [as if all men have produced millennia of woe and benefited from them], start with this. Lean out, so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don't run for office, don't be in charge of anything. Step away from power, we got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won't be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you, you have done us wrong."

Is this going to help the conflict between men and women? Is it going to stop sexual abuse? I don't think so, I think it's going to drive the hate and escalation spiral higher.

Photo Credits:

Slide 2-4, 7, 8:  CC0

Slide 6 and 10: Spiral -- . CCO.

Slide 7and 8: Frog in pot: Source:  Attribution:  by J. Ronald Lee.  CC2.0. 

Slide 9: By Harry Rose from South West Rocks, Australia (Asphodelus fistulosus roots1 ST) [CC BY 2.0  (], via Wikimedia Commons

Slide 11: Silhouettes – by Gilbert Bages from the Noun Project. Permission: CC.

Slide 13:  CC0.

Slide 15: Photo by: Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knetchel.