When immediately confronted with the question “Is hate ethical?” I would argue that no, it is not.I would think that nothing as ugly or destructive as hate could ever be ethical. Hate is the common thread of violence and terrorism; hate is what allows people to dehumanize their fellow brothers and sisters so they are free to guiltlessly harm them. I can find no ethical compass in that brand of hate. Yet, like almost every emotion in the human psyche, hate has cousins, relatives that resemble its purest form but do not hurt as much. While hate can incite violence, it also can be used as a tool, something to justify, fuel, or inspire positive action. As a member of a global society where hate is already so present, it is not in our culture’s common good to justify the existence of even more hate, even if it is for a good cause. Sometimes, however, hate is the only way to create a change. Its mere existence then, doesn’t make hate unethical; however how a person or group acts in response to hate can make hate unethical.
Niccolo Machiavelli knew all too well the sacrifices that needed to be made in order to reach a goal. His radical statement, “The ends justify the means,” published initially in 1532, still rings true to our culture today. Though Machiavelli wrote The Prince on political theories in sixteenth century Italy, its themes transcend its publication date and its field of politics. The core idea of The Prince is simply to do everything you can to reach your goal, especially if that goal benefits a large group of people, like, in Machiavelli’s scenarios, a country in need of a ruthless leader to guide them towards success. In this sense, feeling hatred would be ethical, because it would be a tool used to achieve an end. A politician may hate corruption if it motivates him to enact policies to end dirty money; however, if the same politician hates corruption and is motivated to harm the nefarious, then his hate is unethical. To use the Hitler cliché – many people hated Hitler (who himself created an empire built on hate) and the world’s response, motivated by hatred, lead us to stamp out his ugly regime.
In times of war, hate can be ethically justified by the utilitarian framework of ethical reasoning. According to utilitarians, the ethically right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over harms for all stakeholders. Even if the benefits “are produced by lies, manipulation , or coercion,” as long as the results show that more were helped than harmed, the action is ethical (Markulla). Surely if utilitarians can justify lies and coercion in the name of “greatest good,” they can justify hatred.
The problem with utilitarian thinking is that personal rights and needs can be overlooked in the name of producing the greatest good for a large number of people. Acts of war are certainly justified at times, but we know that many innocent people may lose lives or homes, and this seems unfair. John Stewart Mills said this doesn’t matter, that a utilitarian looks upon an ethical dilemma as a “disinterested spectator.” In this case, if war fueled by hatred brings the best outcome for the most people, we simply can’t consider the feelings of everyone.
A Voice for Men is a man’s rights organization with a political agenda to reclaim the rights some men feel they have lost in recent years. Like most advocacy groups, their platform does not only exist to further their voice, but to drown out the voices of the opposition. Their end goal is somewhat unclear, though a good guess would be the discrediting of the feminist movement. The methods they use, however, are fueled by blatant hatred, sexism and racism. Where do we draw the line between their end game goal (what they consider the “greatest good” for men), and the harm they cause to get to that end? Their online attacks on women have been extremely harmful emotionally and financially. Can their hatred by justified in the same way as war?
To answer this question, A Voice for Men’s attack on Anita Sarkeesian can be used to exemplify the ethical outcomes of one group’s hate-filled attack on a woman. In 2012 Sarkeesian began a KickStarter to fund an online video channel that examined feminist tropes in video games. While her supporters raised over $150,000 for the project, her opponents, largely supported by A Voice for Men, began a systematic campaign to harass her online, hacking her webpages and posting pornographic images of her, distributing her personal information, threatening rape and death, and