The definition of a "hate" group has been in constant flux, no, expansion, for so long now that it's easy to forget that it was stable for generations. I always thought that the standard use of it for Nazis and other organized racists was unimaginative, and risked underestimating how dangerous they actually were, but at least everyone knew what it meant. American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell used it to describe his group's product as least as far back as the early 1960s, when he founded Hatenanny Records. In a 1991 college newspaper column titled "Bad Words to be Purged from the Language," I wrote,
"Hate speech, groups etc. As angry as they make us, Doug H. [prominent campus racial slurster] and friends are still expressing opinions, not hate. They probably have feelings of superiority, entitlement, self-pity, fear, envy, and contempt, but I doubt that many racists are possessed by hate or anything else unknown to the rest of us. The ones I know espouse sociological theories that were dominant until the 1940s, and think their own experiences empirically support them. They don't even dislike minorities, as long as they stay in their familiar and inferior "place."
With more space or forethought, I would have added that they often aren't expressing anything, they're just looking for words that will hurt, humiliate and enrage whoever they're using them against, or they're just trying to fit in with others, or show them that they can think of something powerful to say, and so on.
But this was still a "sidelines" kind of comment -- it wasn't about anything that was threatening me, or people I respectfully disagreed with, or any core values. It was just at that stage where you sense something "off" about someone's word choice, something that bespeaks some unknown, idiosyncratic, quirk in how they process the world, that might suddenly turn vicious under pressure if you had to trust or rely on them.
But now, Lord, ain't we got fun! At some point in the gay marriage movement, which itself had been outside the Overton Window of acceptable opinion until the early 90s, someone decided to label its opponents as "hate" advocates. Never mind that those opponents included Senators Clinton and Obama, at least officially. And now that the monopoly on "hate" victim status is broken open, everybody wants a piece of it.
In 2012, Randall Parker broke this ongoing process down in "On Labeling Opponents Of Multiculturalism As Hateful", citing and building on Jonathan Haidt's study showing why "The right gets the left better than the left gets the right":
That the Obama Administration would label a video that lampoons a religion as hate demonstrates why I so distrust Barack Obama. The primary use of the term "hate" is to label someone as outside of civilized discourse and deserving of pariah status. But lets get to root causes. Why use the term "hate" for this purpose? The role of hate looms so large in the elite liberal mind in large part because liberals lack the ability to understand non-liberal minds. The left has elevated their own psychological blindness and misunderstanding into a campaign of marginalization where they label their opponents as hate groups. This blindness of liberal minds to half the moral considerations used by conservative minds creates a condition very much like the Dunning-Kruger Effect where someone lacks the ability to detect the extent of their own misunderstanding, ignorance, and incompetence. ... This is the part that scares me. Will multi-culturalism and the desire to placate ethnicities at home and abroad cause an even larger reduction in freedom of speech than it already has? Speech codes in workplaces are already left-liberal. I'm expecting them to become more strictly enforced and for that enforcement to extend beyond the workplace.
The reason for this, as revealed in Haidt's study and vividly described by John Faithful Hamer:
Jonathan Haidt has found that when you give conservatives a questionnaire and ask them to answer it like a liberal, they’re able to do so with ease. When you ask them to answer like a libertarian, they’re able to do that too. Libertarians aren’t nearly as adept as conservatives, but they’re still fairly good at imagining how a conservative or a liberal might answer the questionnaire. Alas, the real outliers are the liberals.
In numerous studies, with respectable sample sizes, Haidt has demonstrated that liberals simply don’t have a clue. When you ask them to answer the questionnaire like a conservative, they answer it like a fascist. When you ask them to answer it like a libertarian, they answer it like a sociopath. The liberal conception of what makes the average conservative or libertarian tick is, Haidt concludes, way off.
Are liberals less imaginative than conservatives and libertarians? I highly doubt it. The virtues and vices are, it seems, to be found everywhere to varying degrees. Why, then, do liberals do so terribly on this “ideological Turing test”? And why do conservatives do so well? Haidt maintains that conservatives do well because they base their moral thinking on all six of the moral foundations (Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity, Liberty, Care & Fairness). Liberals do poorly because they base their moral thinking on only two of them (Care & Fairness).
Haidt’s explanation is fascinating. But it’s got way too many moving parts and a fatal flaw: namely, it implicitly presumes that liberals are somehow spectacularly deficient in imagination. I find it hard to believe that any sizable group of human beings could be spectacularly deficient in any virtue (or vice). That’s why I’ve come up with a simpler explanation for Haidt’s robust findings: liberals suck at this test because shutting down certain parts of your imagination has become central to what it means to be liberal.
Liberals haven’t just demonized their political opponents, they’ve demonized the very act of trying to think like their political opponents. Trying to sympathize with, say, a Trump supporter, has come to constitute a kind of thought-crime for many liberals (and almost all progressives). So it’s not that liberals have less imagination than conservatives or libertarians; it’s that they’ve set up mental firewalls that actively prevent them from even going there. Just as Odysseus’s men stopped up their ears with wax so they wouldn’t be tempted by the seductive song of the Sirens, many liberals have, it seems, set up taboo boundaries which more or less ensure that they’ll never have to empathize with a conservative or a libertarian. This is decidedly unwise, as it often leads to group polarization.
Just as the violent suppression of the labor movement pushed a lot of good people into the communist camp in the twentieth century, I fear that the outrageous attacks on nonconformists like Jordan Peterson may radicalize a lot of middle-of-the-road moderates in the twenty-first century. As Malcolm Gladwell makes clear in David and Goliath (2014), when you crack down on terrorism by demonizing an entire community, you invariably end up strengthening support for the terrorists; and when you crack down on the civil rights movement in a draconian fashion, you invariably end up strengthening support for the civil rights movement. What’s happening on the left at the moment is striking similar. Demonize everyone who seems to disagree with you and you’ll invariably end up strengthening support for those who actually disagree with you.
Telling people off on Twitter and preaching to the choir on Facebook can be fun. But it’s a dangerous kind of fun. Because you get intellectually lazy. Because you start speaking in a specialized jargon that no one outside of your safe space can understand. Because you develop a contempt for everyone outside of your élite group of cool kids that frequently leads you to dehumanize those who disagree with you. Live in your little bubble long enough, and you’ll become downright delusional, like the emperor in that Hans Christian Andersen tale.