How To Overcome Hate, According To A Liberal Who Worked For Fox News

The country is incredibly divided, but Kohn has a written guide on how to come together.

Sally Kohn has experienced the political divides of this country firsthand. For more than a year, Kohn appeared as a progressive political commentator on Fox News, a notoriously right-leaning channel. Since then, she's been the target of public criticism, hateful internet trolls, and even slurs about being a gay woman, despite the fact she was trying to build bridges across political lines.

After years of facing the vitriol, and even seeing it in herself, Kohn decided to write a book about how Americans can overcome it. 

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"I think there are more people on all sides who are fed up with the tenor of this moment and who see that if we continue on this road, they don't see this as a constructive path," Kohn told A Plus. "I am optimistic that there are more and more people who want to see us disagree but disagree without being disagreeable."

Sally Kohn

In Kohn's new book, The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity, she dissects the hatred that has taken over the public discourse around politics. Kohn explores her own biases, reaches out to internet trolls who leave her nasty messages, dives into the scientific and cultural roots of hate, and runs through a gauntlet of interviews with extremists from all corners of the world. 

But her decision to write the book came from her own hatred, which she felt brewing after the 2016 election.

"I truly couldn't fathom that anywhere near a majority of my fellow Americans had voted for Donald Trump, and as much as I tried to pretend to be magnanimous and uniting, I hated them for it," she wrote in the introduction to her book. "Suddenly, all the partisan nastiness I'd tried to suppress or even solve as a talking head came rushing back to me with even more vengeance. Instead of being a prominent critic of incivility, I felt like I was auditioning to be the poster child for partisan hate."

Sally Kohn

During her interview with A Plus and throughout her book, Kohn concedes that recognizing her own biases have helped her identify them in today's political world. When she started her job at Fox News in 2012, she said she expected her new colleagues to hate her. 

"I thought they were total hateful monsters in every sense imaginable," she said. "I realized that they weren't. As people, they were — in a lot of ways — nice. And we had a lot in common could relate on certain topics and issues... And I realized at the same time that I hated them, that I walked in with all these preconceived notions and stereotypes."

While researching her book, Kohn said she was desperate to discover that we weren't hardwired to hate. Unfortunately, the opposite turned out to be true. Through conversations with leading scientists, she learned that the predisposition of humans is to prefer people that looked like us and be suspicious of the other. But she also learned that which groups of people we dehumanize and demean is something that is not baked in. Instead, it's something that's taught and reinforced by history and culture.

"It's something that we learn, which means it's something that we can un-learn," Kohn said. 

In one of her chapters, Kohn reaches out to Twitter trolls who have sent her hateful messages like "stick to munching the rug" and "GO JUMP OFF A BRIDGE." She approaches them, as she puts it in her book, with compassion, hoping to understand why they feel the need to message her those things.

Before she connected with her trolls, though, she once again found herself coming in with preconceived notions. She believed they were all perpetually hateful people who constantly spewed this kind of vile, and that she was just another victim. And she was wrong.

"They're just not," she said. "They're complicated, multi-faceted people who say nice things and mean things like all of us… It was comforting."

The experience reminded her of an old expression: It's hard to hate up close. Those words have taken on a new meaning for her, and her advice to people trying to overcome the current political climate is to remember that people are not just made up of their political viewpoints or ideologies. 

"We are all many things," Kohn said. "The truth is, when we get to know each other, we start to realize how much we have in common and not just how we are different or divided."

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