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On tolerating intolerance

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Do you tolerate intolerance? The question begins to take more and more relevance as one sees how intolerance is gaining ground in many places and even in day to day thinking. Intolerance imposes terrible deviations in a lifestyle that has been forged, slowly and at great cost, over a couple of centuries. Tolerance has been fundamental in the eradication of Racism and Sexism (at least in what the printed law says; in practice, the struggle continues every day), and it has been the great springboard that has led to freedom of speech and press. The fight against Homophobia is all about Tolerance and respecting different lifestyles.
The question posed here sprung to mind when reading threads such as the one that reports that Ann Coulter was to file a complaint when she was denied her CIVIL RIGHTS to give a speech in Canada. The slight detail that Mrs. Coulter is actually an intolerant Christian seems to escape her grasp (just witness her statement ďI defy any of my coreligionist to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of (famous Atheist Richard) Dawkins burning in hell) and therefore, nothing was done to her that she herself would not do to others. Many other threads abound in our forum, documenting a growing sense of intolerance, from the many ďseparatistĒ (for lack of a better word to group them) movements flowering in the USA to our extensive Lets Talk Religion thread. As a community, we have documented many cases of intolerance, and Coulterís incident is just one of many.
The interesting thing, of course, is that Intolerance (Coulterís) was met with Intolerance (the Canadian Legal system). And there lies the paradox. Canada, universally recognized as a tolerant, progressive country, decided that Coulterís right to speech (and her audienceís right to hear) was not suitable. Because of course, Coulterís message is one of intolerance. If people like Coulter or Randall Terry (Operation Rescue), Gary Potter (Catholics for Christian Political Action) or Pat Robertson were to gain power, one can easily foresee a brutal shift towards intolerance. There is no need to mention Afghani Taliban or Saudi Mullahs as examples from other countries and cultures. The idea is simple: if one allows intolerance not only to have a voice but to have a presence in the ballot, what happens when intolerance gains a foothold? By definition, Intolerance would not tolerate the dissenting voice of Tolerance and would simply crush it, a sort of Third Reich Revisited. This initial thought gives a certain clarity towards the answer seeked.
Detour for a while from the actual practical matter. What about the philosophy behind it? If Tolerance tolerates Intolerance, there seems to be no contradiction. If Intolerance does not tolerate Tolerance, there seems to be no contradiction either. The contradiction arises when both systems are joined together. If Tolerance tolerates Intolerance, what does Tolerance do with an Intolerant decision? Switch the terms and the question is exactly the same. What does Tolerance do when, for example, an Intolerant Club denies entry to members based on their sex? There is a clear difference between such a guideline for entry as opposed to one based on, lets say, one for a club that groups people that own Blue VW Beetles. In theory, anybody can buy a VW Beetle and get to work on it with a few cans of spray paint. Changing your sex is another subject. Augusta Nationalís policy of admission is a policy of Intolerance and discrimination, yet it is allowed to remain. One can think of Kurt GŲdelís theorem of Incompleteness. Roughly, in every formal system of axioms there are some statements that cannot be proven either right nor wrong. In our discussion, attempting to make a thoroughly logical system of Tolerance accepting Intolerance will lead to decisions that are intolerable and therefore not in harmony with the overall grand scheme. If we do so, we must accept that the system is not totally logical and will lead to at least one theoretical internal contradiction. But if we are going to have a system that by definition can not be perfect in its management of Intolerance, then lets have the imperfection AT THE BEGINNING. No acceptance of Intolerance. We are going to hit eventually a contradiction, might as well hit it from the start.
Intolerance MUST be dealt with Intolerance. It is an incredibly slippery slope argument, because of course one personís Liberation Speech is another personís Terrorist Agenda, one personís Term of Endearment is somebody elseís Derogatory Remark. In that case, let the courts decide. It is not as terrible as it sounds, because maybe in the discussion better and more refined definitions of Intolerance will surface, clearing up doubts on what truly is Intolerance and what is Constructive (although stinging) Criticism.

So I am preaching Intolerance towards Intolerance. Not violently, of course. That would be victory for Intolerance, but letís practice our (hedged) Intolerance with intellectual forcefulness. It is well known in mathematics that two negatives multiplied by each other turn out a positive, which would be the case of Not Tolerating Intolerance. An interesting experiment then can be done: should my opinion here at our Forum be tolerated? An Intoleration of an opinion that states that Intolerance should not be tolerated? Thatís three negatives multiplied by each other, yielding a negative. Tolerating the opinion leaves a positive, but of course, by now I am grasping for straws. Our Forum opens a microcosm of the idea, since we are truly tolerant. Just look at some of the opinions voiced here and you see that our operating motto is ďDonít be rude or offensiveĒ. But there have been members banned, although most of the times it is temporary. So to make it understandable, TAT would simply be following the same principle I am stating: Not Tolerating an Intolerant opinion. By now the arguments are coiled too tight to keep on keeping on.
Perhaps, after all, I should be banned. If only for a little while.

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Updated 08-11-2020 at 08:00 AM by ponchi101



  1. dave g's Avatar
    I am going to disagree, but focus on the narrow issue of the Canadian Government not allowing Anne Coulter to enter Canada to give a speech. The problem with being Intolerant of Intolerance is that Intolerance, like Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder (your slippery slope). I am less concerned about individuals not tolerating Intolerance, I am concern about how Not Tolerating Intolerance gets enforced. That is, allowing a government to decide what ideas can be tolerated and what ideas can not be tolerated. This is especially a problem in democracies. Granting the government new powers can have unexpected consequences.

    Here is an example from recent American history. Until recently, it took 60 percent of the US Senators voting in favor to elect someone to the Supreme Court. However, Harry Reid created the 'nuclear option' by allowing a simple majority to vote to change the rule from 60 percent to a simple majority. When the republicans took control of the Senate, they used this precedent to elect Brett Cavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While I am quite sure that Harry Reid's intent was not to get Brett Cavanaugh elected to the Supreme Court, getting Brett Cavanaugh elected to the Supreme Court is one of the consequences of Harry Reid's action.

    In a democracy, you need to remember that any power you give yourself, you also give to your opponents should they win an election. From this point of view, the Canadian governments action is a bad precedent.
  2. ponchi101's Avatar
    I can't "like" your post because there are no buttons here. Bu I really like it.
    I was not aware of the NUCLEAR OPTION event. As you say, terrible indeed. Plus the precedent was then set.