“He’s a hater!,” she contemptuously and scornfully accused someone with whom she disagreed. The accusation “hater” is as popular in social media these days as it is ridiculous. By making the accusation (whether true or false) the accuser reveals that she (usually for some unexplained reason) believes that hating is bad. As we shall see, it can be either good or bad. More important, the person who makes such an accusation is almost certainly as guilty of the alleged evil (hating) as the accused allegedly is.
Of course an accuser might attempt to redeem herself by claiming that her heart harbors no hatred. She does not hate, she merely dislikes the accused. Absent clairvoyance, however, there would be no way for the accuser to finely gauge whether the accused’s heart has gone beyond the same benign “dislike” which supposedly redeems her heart. On the other hand, if she blithely assumes the worst about others, such uninformed projection of evil on others (demonization) surely reveals evil in her own heart.
Whether or not one considers herself to be religious, the teaching “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is a good one. If someone is making a calm and reasoned argument for a claim with which one disagrees, the civil thing to do is to presume the person is well intended but insufficiently informed or mistaken—unless one knows (firsthand and for sure) the claim was made with malevolent intent. Unless one has spent a reasonable amount of time hearing out the accused’s positions, declaring “He’s a hater!” reveals both incivility and a lack of intellectual curiosity.
More important, if the accusation is made after the accused has been heard out, then a more instructive, constructive, compelling, and useful thing to do is to explain what is wrong about what he said. If one can prove the other guy’s assertion is wrong, the other guy loses, and you and society win whether he is actually evil or not.
“He’s a hater” is also vacuous on several grounds. First and foremost, it does nothing to refute what the accused said. Ad hominem attacks do not lay a glove on his argument. It also violates a basic rule of logic, i.e., it’s illogical. Alarm bells for ignorance or stupidity go off in the heads of critical thinkers when they hear such nonsense. If for political advantage you enjoy making dumb people more confused with ad hominems, have at it. Just know that it is not becoming. Worse, attacking the sinner instead of the sin may (as is often the case for Trump) stir up sympathy for the victim of the illogical attack—as it diminishes the credibility of the accuser.
Perhaps even more important, hating hateful things is a good thing. If everyone in society loves, adores, favors, approves, is nonplused by, disapproves, disfavors, holds in contempt and hates the same things, then society is apt to be more harmonious, unified, hopeful, and cheerful. Members of society cannot get their thinking in alignment with what their society considers to be good and evil (do their part to facilitate a harmonious, unified, hopeful, and cheerful society) if they are not aware of what the society considers to be good and bad. Getting on board with what the people of a society love/like and dislike/hate is made possible only by that information being routinely part of public discourse. So, if a person expresses hate for something society considers to be hateful, that expression of hate is not only not a bad thing, it is actually a good thing—is improves the society.
Societies, of course, constantly debate and evolve with respect to what is considered good and bad. That process can be a good thing. For example, prior to 1700 the vast majority of societies deemed slavery to be not a bad thing or a good thing. Back then it was considered to be natural (much like it is pointless to consider lions catching and eating antelope as either good or bad.) Thankfully Anglo Saxon societies evolved to an adverse view of slavery, and had the land and sea power to impose over time their views on much of the world. Once the new idea caught on, many more societies evolved to the view that slavery was a bad idea. It is because of such battles of ideas (usually coupled with the success that comes from adopting good ideas) that better ideas tend to replace worse ideas over time. (Sadly it is not a foolproof process.[i] Many blind alleys have been explored. Some, like socialism, repeatedly.) Over the long haul the discord from the battle of ideas has resulted in far better ideas taking root, and a more prosperous world than would otherwise have been the case. In the process of rejecting bad ideas, the good ideas become both more refined and stronger through the validation of having won the debate.
Why do people make the “hater” accusation? As best I can tell, it is used in two ways: 1) When directed at the alleged hater, it is an attempt to stop the debate, or 2) When declared in the public square it is used to convey the idea that the “hater” and his ideas should be shunned because he is evil (despite the illogic of the premise that nothing an evil person might say could possibly be true). The first usage is rarely more than an attempt to get the speaker to shut up (that is much easier than devising a coherent refutation). The second reason is an attempt to get others not to pay any attention to him (because they are afraid he might convince listeners of something antithetical to the accuser’s beliefs). Or, they are just too consumed with their hatred of the guy to form a cogent argument. Both techniques are illogical rhetorical devices used to shut down debate. This is especially true when one realizes that they need to stop the debate in order not to lose it. These techniques throw sand into the gears that allow societies to grind out and adopt better ideas.
I can think of no good reasons to ever say, “He’s a hater!” unless the speaker has the clairvoyance to actually see into the heart of an evil person. It is good to call out evil and evil doers. If someone has that kind of clairvoyance, however, she ought also to have the intelligence to make a coherent case for her claim. As I said, that would do a lot more good than simply calling out evil people.
Ironically, if the person who declares, “He’s a hater!” does not hate hateful things, she is doing evil whether or not she has evil in her heart.
[i] See the 20th century history of Russia, Germany, Italy, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, and Greece—all of whom could not stop their slide into socialism/communism. Notice also the rebounds of those countries that made progress retreating from socialism, e.g., China, Germany, Sweden, and Russia.