Sometimes there is a weed in the garden that you've noticed occasionally, but not pulled, and one day you go out and suddenly find it is a small tree. Something like that has happened in Britain. Personal hatred has been around for a long time, often mercifully, little of it, but over the years some groups in the media have encouraged the growth of public hatred. We talk about people we love to hate and develop a series of media hate victims.
I don't believe this is any accident. Some television presenters manufacture audience hatred for high ratings. Some newspapers believe that having hate victims sells papers and pay those who talk up the hate to write for them. So as those who murdered James Bulger reach the end of their term, and are eventually released they face what is effectively a media campaign of incitement to hate. Others, like Myra Hindley, are never released not least we suspect, because media fanned public hatred bays for blood, not justice.
There's a legitimate debate about the length of custodial sentences, and appropriate punishment for crimes as awful as these. But that's not what the hatred is about. It's more basic. It bursts with self-righteousness. We are invited to throw emotional stones at the sinners and the failures. In this media conspiracy we, the good guys, are against the bad guys who lose a football match, produce unpopular policies, or commit a heinous crime.
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
and knew there is no place of self-righteousness to retreat to, only one of hypocrisy. We knew the words,
"'Justice is Mine. I will repay,' says the Lord"
and recognized that when individuals took upon themselves to retaliate and hit back we would be into vendettas, factional murders, road rage, attacks on judges. Hatred is a weed, and makes the garden a mess. This was, I thought, part of our collective wisdom.
But now we have a hate industry in our midst, turning out the stuff on a regular basis, against politicians, media stars, football managers, convicts, and probably those who criticize cheap media ploys. We are well on the way to becoming a nasty vindictive little nation. The weeds have grown and are seeding.
With God's help we could be magnanimous people, big hearted, trying to love our enemies and praying for those who do us harm. But first we need to reject the invitation to hate. For it will tear out the soul of our country