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Let me stipulate this up front: I don't hate anyone. There are people I dislike. There are people I scorn. There are people I believe have lost the right to ever have a national platform again. But "hate" is a word I reserve for concepts, not people. I hate willful ignorance and bigotry (which I find go hand in hand); I hate liars, endless wars, poverty, the exploitation of those perceived as being different or weak, your typical bleeding heart liberal stuff.
But people are different. It is the simplistic mind that thinks that people can be neatly categorized into all bad or all good. Dick Cheney and I are far more sympatico on gay rights than arguably President Obama and I are. Even Adolf Hitler had a girlfriend who adored him and was willing to die with him. Clearly, there are aspects of lovableness in even the most repellant of human figures.
So maybe because I am able to acknowledge humanity in the most inhumane, I don't really understand the big "aha" moment that former The Daily Show producer Mike Rubens had:
What I’m hoping the lesson is: People are complex and can hold different views and still be moral actors — essentially the message that Jon Stewart talked about during his Rally for Sanity.
Maybe you already grasp that concept, because you have good friends or loving relatives with beliefs that are wildly divergent from your own. But I tend to think my experience is more typical: I lived in a little bubble surrounded by people who think more or less like me. And when I considered people with opposing viewpoints I would turn into a fabulist, concocting an entire narrative of who they were and what they were like — and what they were like was yucko. Because I was not really interacting with them. I just thought I was, because, hey, look, there they are on the TV, or there’s that guy’s post in the comments section. But that stuff doesn’t count. Meeting people counts. Talking counts.
So yes, I love to loathe people, but my “Daily Show” experience complicated all that and sort of spoiled my fun. When I’m exposed to views that I dislike, I try to remind myself of the human being behind those views and to cut that person some slack. I hope that they would do the same. I think we should all fight hard for what we believe in, but I’d like to put in a request for some general slack cutting – especially as we move deeper into what is sure to be a very heated campaign season.
I see a fairly big and erroneous assumption in Rubens' realization. What I (and I suspect, Rubens) define as "moral actors" do not necessarily match up with how Paul Ryan defines it. And moreover, one can be the cuddliest, most lovable person in personal interactions, but if one advocates or implements actions that hurt people, what measure matters the most? I have met the same deathly earnest liberals that Howard Kurtz want Rubens to bring up for the sake of equivalence, but their lack of humor or personal jerkiness is mitigated in my mind because they're advocating for things that are for the common good. If anyone should have some slack cut, it's them.
This is the banality of evil that Hannah Arendt warned about. And (sadly, ensuring that no one from this site ever gets on Reliable Sources) that includes Howard Kurtz. His entire media career is based on not looking at the consequences of actions, but of the messaging. He clutches his metaphorical pearls over news anchors getting upset over getting talking points but never considers that the interviewee was not answering the questions posed to him. He becomes indignant at Al Sharpton covering the Trayvon Martin shooting because he flew down to Florida to support Trayvon's parents and call for an investigation, but says nothing at the Fox News influence and coordination of tea party events. Each and every column he did for the Washington Post and does for the Daily Beast glosses over the very real and very evil ramifications and consequences of these actions in exchange for more self-important navel-gazing of oh-so-clever journalists who don't even bother to place their reporting in context or fact check their subjects.
It's all well and good that Howie doesn't hate Mike Rubens. I'm sure Rubens will be comforted by that. But I hate what Kurtz does every day, because it's hurting the country.