Have you ever met Gwyneth Paltrow? Kristen Stewart maybe? How about Angelina Jolie? No? Me neither, but apparently we hate them, just hate them. Yup, not dislike, or are maybe just indifferent to them, we hate them.
As I stood in the queue for the supermarket checkout many months back, this was what caught my eye. The rack of newspapers were full of competing images of the terrible events which occurred in Boston during the marathon, but my eye kept being drawn back to this small headline above: The Top Twenty Most Hated Celebrities. I felt pretty strange about it – I care infinitely more about what happened to the people who took part in the marathon and how the recovery will happen, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this other, incredibly unimportant list.
Hate is becoming dangerously endemic to our society; we are gradually becoming immersed in a culture which gives us permission to hate, and in fact, our media is increasingly giving us reasons to accept that our hatred is justified and warranted. If you ask anyone who knows me, I am something of an anomaly these days, as I had to Google most of the people on the list just to see who they were. I don’t watch TV and only get to the movies now and again – but most of all, I believe my own life has tremendous value, so I honestly can’t find it within me to devote time to reading about the lives of others. So, in the name of research, I fell down the google rabbit-hole and went on a virtual quest to find out why these people were hated so much.
What did I find? Well, first of all, the internet is more of a rabbit-warren than a rabbit-hole, complete with open areas for discussion, and dark corners for viciousness. I was honestly unprepared for some of the posts I found on message boards related to the topic of most hated celebrities. It left me bruised and bemused – as well as a personal distaste for the acronym “OMG!!!” Turns out there are people in the world who genuinely hate these famous people, for often very nebulous reasons, or so it seemed to me. But this outpouring of untrammelled hate turned my thoughts again towards Boston. And London. And New York. And Oklahoma. And many, many more before that.
I did most of my growing up in the U.K. during the height of the terrorist activities happening in that country, surrounding the issue of Northern Ireland and the vicious clashes between Catholics and Protestants. During that time, I would say around five days out of seven, the nightly news would lead with a story about what everyone euphemistically referred to as ‘the Troubles’, which seems to me now to be woefully inadequate to describe the culture of terror that many people lived under, but I can also see was a way to get through the days at the time.
Terrorism is also born out of hatred; a hatred for ideology, or political beliefs, or religious doctrine. The worst thing about it is its blindness. The scores of people who were injured and the few who were killed have been overshadowed in our media by one name: Martin Richard, the 8 year old boy whose life was ripped from him by the explosion. What possible reason, either imagined or real, could someone have for hating a child of eight years? There is of course no answer to this question – it is abhorrent that the question can even be asked, that we should live in a world where we wonder about the answer.
As I said before, I don’t watch much TV, but for comfort-viewing , you can’t beat re-runs of the West Wing. There is an episode of that show which aired shortly after the attack on the twin towers, an episode which is anomalous and fits nowhere in the show’s timeline; a one-act play, if you will. In this episode, which focuses on terrorism as its theme, one of the characters is asked the question, “What surprises you most about terrorism?” The answer is indelibly marked in my mind. “It has a 100% failure rate. Not only do terrorists consistently fail to change the issue they are fighting against, they actually only ever serve to strengthen it.”
I’m a sucker for good writing, but the idea that hatred has a 100% failure rate, and that strength can be gained in the midst of the worst kind of attack is truly an inspiring thought. The people who perpetrate terrorist attacks weren’t born wanting to hurt people, they weren’t born hating. They learned it somewhere along the line. Surely we can teach a different lesson, one that celebrates diversity and embraces strength and the power of love. The walls of hatred can and must come down.
– Impact Society