The Discovery Channel on Sunday evening debuts a six-part series, Why We Hate, that looks at the scientific and evolutionary links to hate by looking at some of the most recent examples of racial and religious violence and discrimination.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav, on a recent visit to Washington, D.C. to screen the first part at Atlantic Live, said that the project was originally conceived with executive producer Steven Spielberg five years ago. But he said that at the time, they did not envision the resurgence of hate, whether it be in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, or in European countries as they grapple with immigration.
“We were going to be looking retrospectively, and try to understand better,” Zaslav said. “But we never imagined that as you look around the world now, the rise of hate — hate for immigrants, for Jews, for Mexicans, for African-Americans, for Hispanics, hate for ‘the other.’ It is not just here in the U.S. It is rising everywhere in the world. It is a prescient moment, and when we are at our best, we create content that can inform, and maybe inspire.”
The first episode of Why We Hate looks at some of the scientific and anthropological origins of hate, putting them in context with some of the most recent examples of mass shootings. It features disturbing video of some of the assailants messages before their rampages, like a video that Elliot Rodger posted on the day that he went on a rampage in Isla Vista, Calif. Another clip is of a moment when Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, is confronted by his brother while Cruz is in custody.
But the episode also shows how others break free of the cycle of hate, like Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of Fred Phelps. He founded the Westboro Baptist Church, which routinely staged anti-gay protests at military funerals and turned out to demonstrate at other public events against a host of other religions. She talks about having grown up in a bubble-like environment and then having to re-learn what she was taught.
“I realized that those beliefs, and my reactions, had become instinctive,” Phelps-Roper told Deadline. “And so if I was ever going to change, it needed to be a very deliberate questioning of what do I believe, why do I believe, where do these things come from, and if I don’t believe those things anymore, I need new experiences to teach me.”
Zaslav, who is on the board of Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, said that the project got started when he asked the director if there was a project they could do together, noting Discovery’s worldwide distribution reach.