Ban Intolerance!

Those were the exact words on a sticker on my sister’s college binder. There were other stickers of a similar political orientation on her binder. When I saw this one, I thought about it, then asked my sister, “Isn’t that a bit oxymoronic?” (In retrospect, I should have used “paradoxical” or “contradictory.”)

One of my biggest pet peeves is tolerant people who are really not tolerant. If one looks closely, this can be seen a lot.

Conservatives, fascists, and other people of the right can be excluded from this discussion - they never claim to be tolerant or accepting. Their very stance denotes intolerance in a sense: conservatives want to preserve what they have (or thought they had) and are intolerant of change; fascists want to change things to fit a certain program and are, as such, intolerant to suggestions, issues, or obstacles that bar the implementation of their program.

Usually, it is liberals who are considered to be (and who consider themselves to be) tolerant. But I don’t see a lot of tolerance from them.

There is a difference between agreement, disagreement, and tolerance. Perhaps I have my definitions mixed up, but I see tolerance akin to this popular quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I have noticed that when someone comes forward and says something that does not agree with what liberals have tended to agree upon (such comments are usually homophobic, xenophobic, pro-life, racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultracapitalist, and so on), a huge uproar arises. Furthermore, liberals seem (just like conservatives) to be supremely devoted to implementing and imposing their beliefs and opinions on everyone else. “Imposing” - not very tolerant is it?

Such liberals, as activist as they may be, seem also to desire to shut down the opposition. Not so tolerant, is this? Sure, they may be wrong, but doesn’t tolerance basically mean that we accept the fact that everyone has the right to be wrong and leave it at that?

I have seen the vitriol being slung by both Parties in the US. Fine, one isn’t tolerant: that can be ruled out. But the Other - it claims to be tolerant and open and welcoming: if so, why this hatred? why this animosity? why this violent emotion against the opponent? I discuss with people, I read the newspaper, I browse the new books in the bookstore, I listen to the radio - it seems the Other is foaming in the mouth with rabid hatred for the opponent(s). Why? Is this what tolerance is? Has the ability to converse, discuss, debate, and disagree civilly disappeared? What was civility suddenly replaced with intolerance and rude caricature?

I claim - and I may be wrong - that one cannot claim the title of “tolerance” whilst being so fundamentally opposed to any organization or entity or being. There’s a certain rationality and level-headedness about tolerance, a certain equilibrium - one leans not far in either direction, and not because one is centrist but because one realizes that there are many opinions and perspectives and each has its own merits. One cannot be “tolerant” and devoted to one platform at the same time.

Two examples that to me have unmasked the true intolerance that hides beneath the camp of those who claim to be tolerant.

While at university, Matthew Hale, leader of a racist, misogynistic, and homophobic Church, wanted to speak on campus. Now, this is the same campus that has had people from the right (Pat Robertson) and the left (Louis Farrakhan) speak. But Hale, of course, was denied. Who denied him were more or less the student body, as tolerant and liberal as they claim to be. The response was almost universal: a loud resounding no. They did not want him even near the campus. They wanted him gone, banished into nothingness. Why? Why not let this man vent off his steam and speak what he wants to say? Are his words really so dangerous and poisonous? Are his thoughts really such a threat that rationality and common cannot prevail? Why this hatred and intolerance? Has not this man the same freedom to speak as a gay-rights advocate, a pro-lifer, a pro-choicer? His message may not be popular, but why such a vehemently negative reaction?

Dr. Laura has been an unpopular figure amongst liberals. At one point, after certain homophobic remarks, people - people who would claim to be tolerant - began trying to get her off the air. They wanted to shut her down. To some degree, they were successful: faced with the people’s outrage, a number of sponsors backed down from sponsoring her. Now, I do not agree with what she said, but I see that as no reason to bring her down. Does this mean that if, turning the tables, a gay activist makes some gay-affirming comments, homophobes would be justified in trying to shut him/her down? If not, what’s the difference?

These double standards, this hypocrisy - it gets me so sick to the stomach.

Imagine another setting. A group of people who have suffered persecution for millennia: homosexuals. Suddenly in their midst come forth Log Cabin Republicans - homosexuals who are Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans, to begin with, are not very well or widely received by the Party they believe in, but this is of no surprise. But to others who share another commonality - sexual orientation - they are seen as demons, as traitors, as people who have sold their souls to the Devil. Have the rest forgotten so easily the hurt persecution and intolerance can heap upon one’s psyche? When did people begin making exceptions as to what they will tolerate and what they will not? The very people who may see nothing wrong in various questionable sexual acts shudder at the mention of and instinctively and vehemently reject conservatives in their midst. So much for tolerance - tolerance is fundamentally about that which one does not agree with.

I am not tolerant, and I will never claim to be: I know myself well enough to know what I believe and how strongly so; I also believe I am right (or at least justified in my beliefs, opinions, and stance). Those who disagree with me have the right to be wrong. They also have the right to express their beliefs and opinions, regardless how bizarre or disagreeable they may be. They also have the right to be treated with respect. My mother taught me not to call anyone names, not to make fun of anyone, and to treat everyone with respect. I agree with her. I believe this is what civility is about. But when “tolerant” people begin foaming at the mouth, as it were, in intolerance to something they oppose, my faith in humanity drops down a few more notches.

Disclaimer: I just want to vent. Writing this will accomplish nothing else, really. Practically, this is not likely to change anyone’s mind, unless one is looking for something to change his/her mind. But this is an issue dear to me. I rewrote this posting about seven times: it’s difficult to put the right words together. It would be nice to hear from others who have noticed the same about the above; it would be highly instructive to hear from those who disagree. I’m not here to debate, though.

And I guess you don’t read the irony in a phrase such as ‘ban intolerance’?

Such a prolific OP and so little substance.

This, I agree with

This I don’t agree with. I don’t think is a particularly prevelant pattern among liberals. And in fact, of your two examples, only one even begins to address it.

Saying “we do not want you to speak at our college” is nowhere NEAR the same as “we do not believe you should be allowed to speak at all”. As for boycotting Dr Laura, well, I’m basically liberal, and think she’s an evil harridan, and I don’t support that boycott.

Also, if Repubilcans are intolerant (which some of them certainly are, and some of them certainly aren’t), they don’t get a free pass just because they’re upfront about it. However much some liberals might want to, say, boycott Dr. Laura, that’s not an official or sanctioned position, and it’s still nowhere near the level of intolerance one finds actually in the Republican platform, namely, their stance on gay marriage.
Overall, please stop painting all liberals with such a broad brush. (Note, by the way, that I am merely responding to your position with disagreement, not attempting to silence you.)

Gah, you’re stupid. He read the irony in his very first paragraph. Why don’t you go crash a thread where someone is suffering and ridicule them.

Oh, but they do.

No, he didn’t. He recognized the inherent contradiction, but he missed the IRONY – which, remember, is a form of HUMOR. He missed the INTENT, which is the critical difference between irony and mere contradiction.

He also missed the key difference between the intolerance that liberals oppose and the intolerance that he thinks he’s unmasked. Liberals (and we are using that word very loosely today, aren’t we?) oppose intolerance when it’s directed at who people are: when gays, blacks, women, poor, homeless, etc. are driven away for being those things. Tolerance of what people say and what they do is an entirely different matter – sure, it’s the nadir of reasoned discourse to shout down an opponent, but if the opponent is unreasonable and hateful, well – why not?

I stand corrected. It is I who is the stupid one. My apologies.

As a radical (so-called ‘liberal,’ perhaps) leftie feminist etc, who would probably strongly agree with the spirit of most of those stickers on your sister’s college binder, I would like to say that I really hate the idea of ‘tolerance’ as well.

It is an insult to suggest that the way to address homosexuals (or black people, or whoever) is by ‘tolerating’ them. The issues are much more complex than that.

I tolerate bugs that get into my house because I can’t be bothered installing window screens; I tolerate my husband’s annoying habit of not hanging up his wet towels because I love him and don’t want to nag.

Somebody else’s life, experience, existence etc, is not something to be ‘tolerated.’

Furthermore, it is an insult to suggest that I ‘tolerate’ violence against [homosexuals/black people/etc]. It is unacceptable, and I refuse to be called a ‘hypocrate’ because I will not validate the opinions and experiences of hateful and ignorant people, while at the same time I work to validate the opinions and experiences of others.

No, I have no space for ‘tolerance’ in my life. It’s something like a watered-down version of ‘acceptance’ that is perhaps more palatable to the general public.

Call me intolerant, I guess.

WeRSauron, you might enjoy this book, in which Nat Hentoff persuasively makes an similiar to your OP: the “left” engages in censorship as often has or more often then the “right.”

Of course, this depends on the definition of ‘censorship’. By the strict definition of the term, it ain’t censorship unless the government’s the censoring party. By that definition, it’s a moot debate.

Using a more relaxed definition, in which any entity that uses its gatekeeping role to restrict debate can be said to ‘censor’, whether it’s a college administration telling the college paper what they can print, or a TV network that refuses one side’s political ads, or tilts its commentators towards one end of the political spectrum, I’d have to say Hentoff’s argument is now extremely outdated.

“Tolerance” is political shorthand for “tolerance for people who are different”, not tolerance for everything everywhere. Just like “discrimination” is political shorthand for “racial/national/religious/sex discrimination”, not discrimination for everything including a preference for one cereal over another. And “chemicals” means “industrially manufactured chemicals, usually from a petroleum origin”. I think the people use these terms are expecting their opponents to be intelligent enough get that. A mean, what moron would actually think a person would promote tolerance for everything, discrimination against nothing, and aversion to all of matter?

But isn’t it considered, that by actively being allowed to have an event (speaker/rally/whatever), that you’re passively approving of it? I mean, I thought that has been the meaning behind the opposition of such people as Hale and Dr. Laura. Was that not speaking up! = condoning. And by showing how they refused to let prejudice and hatred spread unchecked, they wanted the world and everyone in it to know that those kinds of attitudes aren’t just wrong, but no longer acceptable. (Kinda like how it’s supposed to be when we get to an eventual “Star Trek” type society.) At least, that’s what I thought and therefore didn’t view it so much as intolerance as…

"**When they came for the gypsies, I did not speak, for I am not a gypsy.

When they came for the Jews, I did not speak, because I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak, for I am not a Catholic.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak.**"

  • On the Wall at the Holocaust Museum in Washington

Speaking up for and out against injustices and all. Although, IMHO, I sometimes think it’s better to give certain folks enough rope to either hang themselves or make appear to the fools that they are (for some reason, good ol’ Fred Phelps comes to mind here).

I’m a big fat liberal. I think that some groups, including racial minorities and homosexuals, have been treated very badly in the past and are still often treated badly in the present. I think we as a society should try to encourage each other to live and let live. If it can do so fairly and non-intrusively, I think the government should encourage this attitude when possible. I guess you can say that I’m in favor of “tolerance”, although really I just think people shouldn’t be dicks to people who were born a certain way.

This doesn’t mean I think I’m frickin’ Jesus. I can still think other people’s opinions are stupid, I can think groups of people are stupid, and I have just as much right to express this as anyone else. Tolerance doesn’t and shouldn’t mean the stifling of opinions. It means the promotion of opinions that some of other people’s opinions (e.g. gays are inherently evil) are stupid.

It’s the age old message board paradox. You have the right to give your opinion, and fifty other people have the right to tell you how stupid it is. In doing so, they’re not suppressing your opinion.

Right, which is why it’s totally valid to write essays and editorials about how Dr. Laura’s (to return to that example) opinions are wrong. And it’s equally valid to do your damndest to get competitors on the air who do a similar thing (lifestyle/relationship advice) without that which is found intolerable (the anti-gay stance, etc.). But it is crossing a line, IMO, and in many people’s opinion, to attempt to silence Dr. Laura by pressuring her sponsors to pull out of her show – and that’s exactly what happened to her television show. The sponsors were pressured, the ad rates went into the toilet, the affiliates ghettoized the show into unwatchable time slots (3:30 a.m. for a conservative issues program?) and then Paramount had no choice but to cancel the show given its poor revenue and small audience. The same thing happened with the Rush Limbaugh TV program years back.

Similarly, the line is crossed by all of the NYC protestors who are chanting “Fox News Shut Up” every time they run across a Fox News camera crew or vehicle.

Kerry/Edwards did the same with the Swift Boat ads. It wasn’t enough to simply present facts to counter the charges within, it was demanded that the ads be summarily pulled off the air. There was also a very strong and heavy-handed intimation that booksellers should not sell O’Neill’s book Unfit For Command.

You no longer get to call yourself “tolerant” when your goal is to silence your opponents. There is nothing quite so intolerant and hateful than stifling the free trafficking of ideas. If your positions cannot stand on their merits in the stream of opposition, or if you’re too lazy to take on those who disagree with you in a substantive form, then maybe you need to be the one who sits down and shuts up.

Be that as it may, Sisyphus’ Stone is still a jerk.

Totally OT, but here’s as good a place as ever to post it.

When ever I see Sisyphus’ Stone, I read it as Syphilis Stone and think, “Ewww yuck!”

I’m a liberal, and I make no claims about being tolerant. Tolerance is for pussies.

I probably share many of your beliefs, but I’ve gotta disagree (just a bit) here. “Tolerance,” I think, is about all we’ve got a right to demand from those with whom we disagree. We may insist, as a society, that we collectively tolerate homosexuals [insert any other historically mistreated group here], but that’s all we can do. We cannot really expect others, and society as a whole, actually embrace those they once hated or feared. We have every right to demand “tolerance,” meaning that at least bigots, homophobes, etc. restrict themselves to having their miserable thoughts and beliefs without translating them into action. But that’s about all we’re gonna get, and it seems pretty obvious that demanding more will only reinforce the aforesaid miserable thoughts and beliefs.

You know, that’s probably an improvement. :slight_smile:

So, who is Intolerance, and why does everyone want to ban him (or her)?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist