In a 1955 story by the remarkable Steve Allen, “The Public Hating” (which you can hear here, starting about 10:45 into the file), a condemned political prisoner is executed by the sheer force of hatred. Alone in the center of a packed sports stadium, with the event televised throughout the nation, Professor Arthur Ketteridge is literally burned to death by the concentrated hatred of millions, all focused on despising this man.
Allen mentions the para-psychological experiments of Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University, well-known in the popular culture of the time, and suggests that the mechanism was some sort of psychokinesis.
But we all know that mass, hysterical hatred can burn its object spiritually if not physically.
I felt a little of it myself a few weeks ago when I was one of about 15 counter-protesters facing at least 300 anti-Israel demonstrators chanting, shrieking, roaring with hatred. While Fresno is much more civilized than London or San Francisco and there was no actual violence, it’s an experience that I won’t forget.
I felt it a few months back when I attended an academic conference of the Fresno State Middle East Studies Program, when Sasan Fayazmanesh displayed a slide of Neturei Karta members with Ahmadinejad and said “You see, he cannot be an anti-Semite. These are Jews. They are his friends” and the audience laughed.
I was once in Melbourne when bush fires were raging 20 or 30 miles north of the city. Even from that distance you could smell the burning. Fine fragments of ash, like slivers of charcoal confetti, covered the pavements. The very air was charred. It has been the same here these past couple of months with the fighting in Gaza. Only the air has been charred not with devastation but with hatred. And I don’t mean the hatred of the warring parties for each other. I mean the hatred of Israel expressed in our streets, on our campuses, in our newspapers, on our radios and televisions, and now in our theatres.
A discriminatory, over-and-above hatred, inexplicable in its hysteria and virulence whatever justification is adduced for it; an unreasoning, deranged and as far as I can see irreversible revulsion that is poisoning everything we are supposed to believe in here – the free exchange of opinions, the clear-headedness of thinkers and teachers, the fine tracery of social interdependence we call community relations, modernity of outlook, tolerance, truth. You can taste the toxins on your tongue.
It’s becoming a familiar taste.
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