How To Criticize Without Showing Hate
On my Facebook feed the other day I spotted a post from a friend complaining about the current state of American politics. It was filled with the usual canards about how angry and abusive everyone is and how it would be better if people were more respectful of each other’s differences.
You know, I am sure, the kind of post I mean. It is the post that gets loaded with likes because it says virtually nothing—substituting piety for policy, sentimentalism for argument, and do-gooder neutrality for political conviction. It is the sort of post that you will see much more of as the summer unfolds, and it is the sort of post that I find so utterly revolting that it takes all the restraint I can muster not to eviscerate the writer for wasting my time with their cowardice and stupidity.
When it comes down to it, the people I find most insufferable and untakeable are not those who disagree with me or who take a position on grounds different from mine, but those who refuse to take a stand at all. The “can’t we all get along” crowd is always the weakest link in any organization and in society as a whole. They are people without guts, nerve, courage, or purpose.
Anyone who speaks in vague generalities about the need for harmony and universal love and friendship clearly has no understanding of the human condition. Hearing such talk applied to politics is especially nauseating because politics is by definition division—according to values and interest groups.
People who believe in a unifying political leader hold on to an illusion as absurd as the tooth fairy. Perhaps the most decent and congenial man to ever occupy the White House, Abraham Lincoln, lost half the country by the mere act of getting elected. If a man as genuinely good and gracious as the 16th president could not unify the nation, no one can.
As a thinking and self-sufficient man, you have both a right and an obligation to criticize. I entitled this article How To Criticize Without Showing Hate because the latter is, in many instances, the driving emotion of what is essentially an intellectual operation.
In politics, as in life, you will come across certain ideas and people that instinctively cause you to hate. There is little you can do about this. Feeling is spontaneous and cannot be willed away or suppressed out of existence. But you need not spew out the raw bile that fills your soul whenever you hear the object of your hatred speak or the ideas you loath spoken. Channel that angry energy into your intelligence and set about the task of analysis, examination, and exposition. These are the properties of criticism, and they offer you the opportunity to show the falsity, contradiction, absurdity, and rank bullshit of ideas, people, and situations.
There is an art to criticizing without showing hatred. Humor and satire— letting the wind out of certain bags—are often the most effective means of executing a good critical performance. Mockery and ridicule, if done in ways that show real wit and intelligence, have always been powerful levers by which to move and direct the public’s attention. You can do the same thing in a smaller way on your blog or social media page. You can take a stand, have your say, level your criticism, and put the faux neutralists to shame.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.