Psychology of Hate and Hate Groups

With the recent protests in Charlottesville taking over the news cycle, many people are stuck, unable to understand the mindset of those alt-right activists that chose to take part in the protests.

What causes this kind of hate?  What makes people want to join these hate groups?

The root of hate can often be traced back to fear.

Dr. A.J. Marsden is an assistant professor of psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida.

She said, "Basically, fear of the unknown, fear of what might happen and fear of anything that's different than you or falls outside your definition of what's supposed to be normal. ... We establish ourselves as a tribe, and we say this is the group for which I have a love for, for which I identify with."

She said an example of this is Islamophobia.  

"There's a lot of hatred in the United States toward Muslims," she said. "One of the reasons is they don't understand the religion. ... There's a lot that they don't know, and that scares them, because there is a small part of Muslims who are violent, and that is what is driving the hate."

Hate also often evolves from the projection of internal insecurities on other people.

Dr. Marsden said, "We've found that, especially when it comes to homosexuality, people act very homophobic and aggressive because, deep down inside, they're afraid that they might have a little bit of that, too — so they're projecting their hate onto other people."

Combine these base causes with the Internet and implicit permission and validation from people like President Trump, and these people feel emboldened to speak up and join hate groups.

Peter Simi is an associate professor of sociology at Chapman University in Irvine, California, who studies far-right hate groups.

He said President Trump's decision to blame both sides for the violence at Charlottesville may have "a serious emboldening effect."

He said, "He's now really gone farther than anything else he's done in terms of reaching out to these folks.  It's at least an implicit sanction of these rallies. ... They were already planning more, but they've basically gotten the seal of approval from the highest office of the land, and I have to imagine it feels pretty good for these folks."

Read the full story at NBC News

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