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What is 'hate'?

Wednesday, April 3, 2024
4 mins

First things first...

by Les Bertrand

The Hate Crime and Public Order Act (Scotland) doesn't provide a specific legal definition of 'hate' itself.

Here's how the Act approaches hate crimes, according to Google 'Bard':

Focuses on prejudice: The Act identifies hate crime as a criminal act motivated by prejudice against a person or group based on characteristics like race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc.

Victim's perception matters: The crime can be understood as motivated by hate if the victim or another person perceives it that way, even if the perpetrator doesn't explicitly express hatred.

There are separate provisions regarding 'stirring up hatred' which focus on the intended or likely effect of the perpetrator's actions on others,  rather than the perpetrator's own internal feelings of hatred.  In these cases, 'hatred' is defined in the context of racial hatred,  referencing prejudice against groups based on race, nationality, or ethnic origin.

The Act focuses on the concept of prejudice as the motivating factor in hate crimes. However, depending on how 'hate' is used when discussing the Act, it could be implied as a couple of different noun types:

Mass Noun: If referring to hate in a general sense, like 'the spread of hate,' it could be functioning as a mass noun. Mass nouns refer to substances or concepts that aren't countable in the same way we count individual objects.

Concrete Noun: In some less common situations, 'hate' might be used as a concrete noun to represent a specific feeling of intense dislike. This is less frequent because 'hatred' is a more established noun for that concept.

Now hang on a wee minute, Bard. We've never heard of a 'mass noun'. We assumed that 'hate' is an abstract noun. So let's check that one...

Abstract Nouns:  These represent ideas, qualities, or states that aren't physical objects. They can be singular or plural depending on the context. Examples include: freedom, love, beauty, sadness, and democracy.

Aha! So there's an overlap?

Many abstract nouns are also mass nouns. For instance, concepts like 'love' or 'happiness' are intangible and not easily counted.

However, not all mass nouns are abstract. For example, 'sand' is a mass noun because individual grains are difficult to count, but it's a physical substance.

Okay, let's just stop there.

What is 'hate'? What is hatred? Are they the same thing?

Apparently not...Bard again...

There is a subtle difference between 'hate' and 'hatred':

Intensity:  'Hatred' generally conveys a stronger and more enduring feeling of intense dislike compared to 'hate.' It suggests a deep-seated animosity that has been festering for some time.

Formality: 'Hatred' leans slightly more towards formal writing or speech.  'Hate' is perfectly acceptable in most situations.

Here are some examples to illustrate the difference:

  • Stronger feeling: "I could feel a growing hatred for the villain who had wronged me." (Hatred suggests a more intense and long-lasting feeling)
  • Informal setting: "I really hate Mondays." (Hate works well in casual conversation)
  • Formal setting: "The ongoing hatred between the rival families has caused much bloodshed." (Hatred is more fitting for the formality of the situation)

In essence, both words express dislike, but "hatred" emphasizes the intensity and potentially the duration of that feeling.

It's all a bit complicated isn't it?

We had intended to delve into history for some solid examples, definitions of 'hate' from thinkers of the past. But that can wait. For now, it's enough to point out that any law which is based on terms which have not been defined precisely is not one worth taking seriously.

And finding out just how embarrassingly sloppy the whole thing is shouldn't be too difficult - all that has to happen is that a journalist (remember them?) or a leader of an opposition party in Holyrood asks Humza Yousaf what his definition of the word 'hate' is. Let's just say that we don't believe he would have a 'snappy' answer.

Philosophers have been wrestling with these fundamental questions for thousands of years. The idea that citizens in any nation can be criminalised for expressing an emotion which the architects of the relevant law can't (or won't) define is an absurdity.

(Absurdity is a state or condition of being unreasonable, meaningless, or so unsound as to be irrational. "Absurd" is the adjective used to describe absurdity, e.g., "Tyler and the boys laughed at the absurd situation."[1] It derives from the Latin absurdum meaning "out of tune".[2] The Latin surdus means "deaf", implying stupidity.[1] Absurdity is contrasted with being realistic or reasonable[3] In general usage, absurdity may be synonymous with nonsense, meaninglessness, fancifulness, foolishness, bizarreness, wildness. In specialized usage, absurdity is related to extremes in bad reasoning or pointlessness in reasoning; ridiculousness is related to extremes of incongruous juxtaposition, laughter, and ridicule; and nonsense is related to a lack of meaningfulness. Absurdism is a concept in philosophy related to the notion of absurdity.)

Absurdity - Wikipedia

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