How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Hate groups are pernicious and unpleasant collections of people who get together with the basic goal of enacting their hatred of a person, a group or an organization of some form.
The first stage of the formation of hate groups is where they find one another through contacts, adverts, the internet and so on. From this, they initially connect as a loose association where they typically begin by making increasing statements of hate.
They know that their hate is socially unacceptable and so need to be careful when revealing themselves to others. They hence will often conceal their true identities as best as possible until they believe they can trust each other. This is typically done by progressive turn-taking in escalation of hate statements, revealing attitudes first and histories somewhat later.
As the group gels, group norms and other group processes are formed. This includes the ritual telling of stories about how bad the hate objects are and what terrible things they have done that deserve the hate.
Secrets are formed to further distance the group from out-group people, to protect them from interlopers and to increase the sense of unity. Rituals include harsh induction processes where the joiner is made to suffer or commit crimes that harden their commitment to the group.
Designs, logos and catchphrases are generated to symbolize the group and its purpose. These may be taken from the past and are often deliberately intended to invoke fear in both targets and opposers. Hence the burning crosses of the Ku Klux Klan and the swastikas and skulls of Hell's Angels.
The build-up to action starts with repeated talk within the group about the badness of the target and the need for something to be done. Those in authority are dismissed as ineffective or on the wrong side. Other bystanders are spoken of as unworthy or weak.
This process serves to escalate tension within the group, building them up to engage with the world and the target, who by now is a clear enemy, a scourge that must be purged.
There may follow talk and communication with people outside the group. This may be done on street corners, in bars and other social groups. They may join in other protests, tagging onto marches and other activities, shouting their hate message to the world.
In some ways, this is about testing the message. Their ideal situation is to attack the target without being attacked themselves. They typically will use a modified form of the message designed to appeal to a wider audience, for example where a target groups are accused of usury or taking jobs from natives.
The action eventually gets around to more focused talk as they interact directly with the target. Racial slurs, nazi salutes, sexual suggestions and display of banners, messages and symbols all may be used.
The purpose is to hurt and upset the target, possibly provoking them into retaliation that would legitimize the haters 'defending' themselves in physical assault. Lack of reaction or flight is taken as proof of the weakness of the target and encourages the haters to escalate further.
Attacks often start in a minor way. The targets are shoved or pushed. Windows are broken. Cars are scratched. Unpleasant things are posted through letterboxes.
This is typically a weapon-free period as the attackers avoid and test the authorities' resolve in responding to their attacks. To protect themselves, the haters act in gangs or groups where they clearly outnumber their targets.
As they become further emboldened, the attacks escalate and become more often and more open. The excitement and adrenaline rush of attack serve only to encourage them more.
The attacks continue to grow, becoming more physical and more aggressive. Threats turn to action. People are punched and kicked. Major damage is done to property.
A characteristic of this stage is that weapons start to appear. Knives and guns are brandished and may be used. Acid or fuel may be used. Injury is more likely that death as the haters build up to their grand finale. People end up with disfiguring cuts and broken bones, often requiring hospitalized.
The final attack seeks to destroy the target, permanently. This may be done using any kind of method including guns, knives, poison, explosion, fire and so on.
The sense of power and fulfilment of their mission builds steadily up to this conclusive stage and may be preceded with ritualized entrancement of the people involved. Emotion rises to a peak for the killing and there is a huge sense of power and omnipotence in the act.
After the final attack, there is a brief period of joy, but then as the emotional high fades, there may be questioning of what happens next. If there are more targets to attack the cycle may well continue.
If they are caught by the police, then the publicity may be enjoyed and the interest of the press used to trumpet their triumph. Imprisoned members become martyrs to the cause.
The group may also quietly fade and disband, perhaps meeting occasionally to relive past adventures. Individual members may also wake to the shame of what they did and try to put it all behind them or compensate in some way.
The underlying motive of people in hate groups may be self-loathing or a displacement of anger at parents or others in their past. Through their actions they get a sense of control, power and omnipotence. Their sense of identity is boosted through ritual and reinforcement from one another.
Hate groups are not always anarchists or those who live on the edges of society, and their actions may not lead to physical harm or death, although destruction in one form or another is the usual goal.
It happens in schools when a group of bullies pick on a lone pupil. It happens at work when individuals become victims of workplace bullies or vindictive managers. It happens between neighbors where ethnic and other tensions arise.
In such situations, while there may not be any physical attack, the verbal and social harm can be big enough to drive individuals to leave or even suicide. It may also lead to them taking open or subtle revenge.