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Steven Spielberg’s new documentary is fascinating

Humans have the capacity to love and be compassionate and sacrifice themselves for the greater good. So where does our capacity to hate come from?

We’re not just talking about one person hating another but hate that creates riots, hate that creates violence, hate that creates racism, hate that creates wars.

A new six-part docuseries from Alex Gibney and Steven Spielberg tries to figure that out from a scientific perspective.

Why We Hate, which is available to stream on Foxtel,is a new docuseries, directed by Sam Pollard and Geeta Gandbhir (Gibney and Spielberg are executive producers), that examines the ways humans reach the capacity to hate each other.

The first episode examines tribalism. What makes fans of one sports team hate the fans of their arch rivals? Why is our political discourse these days seem to be left vs. right with no room for discussion or compromise? Via various interviews, especially with “hate detectives” like cognitive scientist Laurie Santos and neuroscientist Emile Bruneau, the episode explores why individual people identify with certain groups to the point where they become part of a collective.

Foxtel is where documentaries come to life. Stream Foxtel

Prof Santos, for instance, discusses observations she’s made of rhesus monkeys on a small Puerto Rican island, where they form “in” groups and “out” groups despite lack of language.

There is also a discussion of a 1950s experiment where young boys in a camp are split into two groups and put into a competition; the way the behaviour of these otherwise “good” boys devolves and how quickly it does is fascinating to watch.

In the second half of the episode, there is an extensive discussion about victimisation and how even groups that have a tactical advantage over the one they’re fighting can claim to be victims despite that advantage.

Dr Bruneau’s big example of that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the filmmakers go to either side of the wall in Gaza to talk to people who have been affected by the decades-long battle.

Taking a look at hate from an anthropological and behavioural aspect makes Why We Hate a fascinating docuseries.

In other episodes of this six-part series, other “detectives” look at the origins of the human race’s capacity to hate, some of the tools and tactics that are used to foment hate, how genocide and crimes against humanity happen, and finally, how we can resist our worst instincts and live together in more of a hopeful, peaceful way.

This approach takes opinion and viewpoint out of what’s examined, like the extended look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the genocide of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar, which was fuelled by a fake video on Facebook.

Instead of pointing fingers or shaking heads, the experts interviewed dig in on a forensic level and discuss just what it is in our nature that can make things happen.

Why do the Israelis, who have a well-funded army and the power and tactical advantage over the Palestinians, think they’re the victims in this scenario?

Why do fans of Tottenham Hotspur hate fans of Arsenal so much that they get into melees?

How do people on the political right and left spew invective instead of talk about their differences?

It’s great to hear about these conflicts from an objective — albeit bloodless — perspective.

Why We Hate doesn’t try to play on the viewers’ emotions. It takes a look at hate in an objective, scientific way, which makes it even more fascinating.

Why We Hate is now on Foxtel

This article originally appeared on Decider and was reproduced with permission


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