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Byrd: Hate feeds off of good intentions

Klark Byrd

Hate is a nasty, jagged little pill. Wherever it goes, it seems to branch out like a noxious weed threading its roots into healthy soil. And once hate takes up residence, it's much harder to remove than some old weed.

Groups like a particular Kansas church I won't mention by name and those that back the actions of men like Craig Cobb -- North Dakota's infamous white supremacist who is seemingly hell bent on turning a small town into an enclave -- feed off of kind people and their good intentions. They say shocking things just to get a rise out of people, and that rise generally gives way to the notoriety they so crave.

For instance, North Dakotans were blissfully unaware that in Leith lived a man who believes in a master race and who was buying property to provide homes to those who agree with his points of view. When the news broke of who Cobb was and what he believed in and what he was planning on doing, it was so shocking that it put Leith on the map. The unfortunate side effect is that the news also gave Cobb the largest forum for his voice to be heard throughout the state.

Now others have followed him there and he's looking at buying property in other small North Dakotan towns. Meanwhile, Leith has played host to a white supremacist group that came to support Cobb and a protest telling that group to get out.

The church I referenced before says and does some pretty shocking things too. That worked to their benefit this week on social media, especially as a group of kind do-gooders rallied to get users to report the church's account in hopes of having it banned. But the ban didn't happen, and the rally seemingly backfired as the group gained more followers -- more than 1,400, up from 86 on Monday.

For many of the social network's users, the sight of watching a grown woman trample an American flag was harassing and the messages delivered by signs held up in protests at dead soldier's funerals were abusive. Posting harassing and abusive content is against that social network's terms of use, but the posts qualify as neither.

You see, the problem is that the church has only posted a message it believes in -- religiously. The members of the church didn't direct their message at any one user on the social network. It just put the videos up there. And users had a choice as to whether they watched them or blocked the account.

It's pretty similar to the situation in North Dakota with Cobb. Few people want to see him establish a white supremacist hometown within the state, but thus far he has done nothing illegal. We may not like his message, but we also don't have to listen to it if we don't want to.

A lesson I hope that social network's users and North Dakota residents have taken to heart is that fighting hate with hate is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Sure, you're going to get one heck of a show but everybody's going to get burned.

If someone is spreading a message of hate and you don't like it, don't listen. Don't go getting a pitchfork-and-torch mob to fight against it because people will instinctively flock to wherever it is you don't want them to go so they can find out what it is you don't want them to hear. These groups depend on that and it's why I have refused to name the church I mentioned. Cobb's situation is a little different because there's action behind the words. A town is threatened. A situation like that demands to be brought out into the daylight before it's too late.

Why anybody today has to have hate in their heart is beyond me. I'm not saying you got to love everybody. We just need to get along long enough for us all to make it to our graves. Is that too much to ask?

Byrd is the news editor for The Dickinson Press. Email him at or tweet him at klarkbyrd.