In the days following 9/11, the news has been filled with images of angry riots, supposedly over depictions of the Prophet Mohammad shown in a mysterious film on YouTube. News reports this morning indicate this anger has spread from Egypt to Libya and now Yemen and Iran.
The storm of stories churning around these riots include:
- Who made the film?
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of religion
- Were Romney’s comments out of line?
- Should Obama have returned to the campaign trail?
But as I go into overload listening to the swarm of opinions, the one question that lingers in my mind is:
Why does hate go viral?
Maybe it’s a naive question, to wonder what it is in human nature that attracts us to hate, causes us to want to spread it. I see signs all over the Internet. Rarely do I see love spread so virulently.
Here is an example. Someone on Twitter posted this photo:
I love this photo. It is a reminder that the rioters were extremists and did not represent all of Islam. However, following is a snippet of the conversation that occurred over the photo:
READER #1: Nice attempt but he spelled Prophet wrong!
TWEETER: I know! A little “authentic” touch lol
READER #2: Nice that you used “Profit” as in $$$$ which just dried up…Good luck with whomever takes over your country next.
TWEETER: What the hell are you talking about?
I’ve seen this photo in several places on the Internet this morning, and this isn’t the only instance of someone making a comment on the spelling. Who cares if “Prophet” is spelled wrong? I wouldn’t know the first letter of the word for “Prophet” in ANY foreign language, yet we criticize that this man spelled “Prophet” wrong?
But even worse was the comment by READER #2.
Clearly, when I look at the distance between where the riots have occurred, I know that the anger, the hatred, must have spread via the Internet.
What is it about human nature that attracts us to anger or hate, and why do we feel such a need to spread it?
In this excerpt from THE RED KIMONO, Nobu is in the hall of his high school. He and his class have just listened to a broadcast of President Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough. When the last bell rang, Nobu rushed down the crowded hall toward doors to the outside. The passage was a gauntlet of words that punched like fists.
“Hey, Nobu! Japs aren’t the only ones who can carry out an unprovoked and dastardly attack. Better watch out!”
Another snickered and said, “Yeah. Watch out, all right. The President has declared war. That means open season on Japs.”
The taunts were suffocating. He had to get out – had to get away from the bumping and pushing.
“Hey,” someone else yelled from the crowded hall. “Isn’t your brother at Pearl Harbor?”
Nobu turned to find the voice. Dozens were gawking, but he couldn’t tell who had spoken.
“Just think,” the same voice called again. “One day Taro Kimura is our star player on the ball team, the next day he’s a Jap attacking Pearl Harbor. Maybe you should think twice about wearing your traitor brother’s letterman jacket.”
Someone grabbed him. The last straw. He turned around, fist clenched, ready to belt the jerk who called Taro a traitor.
“Hey, hey. It’s just me,” said Kazu, holding up his hands in defense. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”