EDITORIAL

There's no room for the intolerant in our society

Posted

It’s now been more than a week since violence erupted at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, involving members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. Yet, unlike many controversies that seem to come and go almost literally in the span of 15 minutes since January, this one isn’t going away.

And rightfully so.

President Trump, in a series of inconsistent statements, finally settled on the position that counter-protesters to these extremist groups were somehow equivalent to the very hate groups they were challenging.

The violence has re-ignited a debate that should’ve been resolved long ago — Are you truly tolerant if you fail to tolerate the intolerant?

While it is a rarity to find a valid point of view from a social media meme, there is one circulating over the last several days that actually fits perfectly into the debate.

It’s known as the “paradox of tolerance,” an idea first pushed by philosopher Karl Popper in his 1945 book “The Open Society and its Enemies, Vol. 1.” While we could explain “paradox of tolerance,” we’ll instead let the late Popper himself do it:

“Less well-known is the ‘paradox of tolerance’: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance, even to those who are intolerant — if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

What Popper is saying is that there’s no such thing as being tolerant to those who are intolerant, because the two ideas are such polar opposites, they simply cannot exist together. One would have to dominate the other, and for those on the side of tolerance, it’s a losing battle.

There’s a huge difference between tolerating someone’s beliefs that are different than ours and actually tolerating someone who is not extending the same courtesy. 

It’s like this idea that white men are somehow the victims of discrimination because of the understanding they are somehow a minority, when — even if that were true — they have an extraordinary advantage over any other group.

Think about the “warriors” behind the so-called “War on Christmas.” Because various retailers and such recognize not everyone celebrates Christmas (and is trying to simply be inclusive of all beliefs, or lack thereof), it’s somehow an affront to Christian values to not say “Merry Christmas.”

As if Christianity — practiced by 3 out of every 4 Americans, according to Pew Research Center — was somehow a minority religion. 

The reason why the American form of government has been successful for 241 years isn’t because of how our laws protect the majority. It’s actually because of how they protect the minority.

It takes little effort for majorities to take control, since democracy is a numbers game. Supporting the majority, then, is easy. What’s hard is making sure minority groups have a voice, that their rights aren’t diminished in the shadow of the majority. 

That’s why when someone describes laws protecting minorities as “special rights,” they are simply wrong. By giving someone who isn’t part of the white male majority the same opportunity at a job as someone in the white male majority, for example, there’s no cost to the majority, because the playing field is, in theory, open and even.

Or if it’s OK for a man and a woman to get married, then why not a man and a man? Or a woman and a woman? If marriage is about love between consenting adults, why can’t that love be shared by partners of their own choosing?

Those aren’t special rights — those are equal rights. It’s not giving these groups more than everyone else, it’s giving them as much as everyone else.

When that’s forgotten, even by well-meaning people who likely don’t have an intolerant bone in their body otherwise, it unwittingly fuels these very extremist groups like those who descended upon Charlottesville earlier this month — armed with Tiki torches, mace, weapons and a vocabulary of hate.

If nothing else, never be guilted into believing white supremacists and their ilk have a right to their views. Because as Popper warned, tolerating intolerance will destroy tolerance.

Comments

15 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
CelticWoman

Obama never opened his mouth about BLM and their calls to kill cops. He never said a word when cops were shot and killed. All of a sudden Confederate statues are an issue and when one group decides to protest the removal, they're called every name under the book. When another group counter protests, they're in the right.

Everything that happened in Charlottesville went wrong. Blaming this on Trump is moronic - he said both sides were wrong. What else does everyone want from the man? Denouncing groups like the KKK, etc. isn't going to change or fix anything. Those folks have a right to their beliefs even if the majority of people disagree with them.

This country is very quickly turning freedom of speech, thought and idea into something of the past. Everyone is offended at everything and nothing at the same time. If you agree w/Trump, you're a racist. If you didn't like Obama, you're a racist. If you're against a homeless shelter, you're a racist. We are turning into a county of pansies where no one can think for themselves anymore and where we must all agree or face the dire consequences of being labeled.

I'm seeing more intolerance by the so called tolerant liberals than any other group.

Friday, August 25
Huh?

pansies?

Friday, August 25
TruthTeller

Wow, a completely Nazi-esque editorial written by a Pultizer Prize winning paper?

This thesis is ridiculous. Of course there is room in our society for intolerant views. It's called freedom of speech and freedom of expression and freedom of thought. These neo-Nazi fools have been with us for decades, and the equally insane left wing terrorists have been with us since the 60's. Both suck but both have the right to exist. The key is to ignore them and let them go on their merry way. They have no influence over anyone who does not want to be influenced. And if someone likes what they say who cares?

No neo-Nazi has ever given me an unjustified ticket, raped me for exorbitant taxes and fees and tolls, confused me with red tape and worsened my life because of beaurocratic incompetence. But government has. Perhaps our energies are best served exposing the real enemy and not some imagined one being ginned up by the dishonest and agenda driven media.

Saturday, August 26
Democrap 4 Life

My democrap party has me thinking more now then ever before and now I have my golden years to reflect what happened in the last 8 years

I used to think I was just a regular guy, but . . . I was born white, which now, whether I like it or not, makes me a racist.

I am a fiscal and moral conservative, which by today's standards, makes me a fascist.

I am heterosexual, which according to gay folks, now makes me a homophobic.

I am non-union, which makes me a traitor to the working class and an ally of big business.

I am a Jewish, which now labels me as an infidel.

I believe in the 2nd Amendment, which now makes me a member of the vast gun lobby.

I am 70, which makes me a useless old man.

I think and I reason, therefore I doubt much that the main stream media tells me, which must make me a reactionary.

I am proud of my heritage and our inclusive American culture, which makes me a xenophobe.

I value my safety and that of my family and I appreciate the police and the legal system, which makes me a right-wing extremist.

I believe in hard work, fair play, and fair compensation according to each individual's merits, which today makes me an anti-socialist.

I believe in the defense and protection of the homeland for and by all citizens, which now makes me a militant.

Recently, a sick old woman called me and my friends a “basket of deplorables”.

Please help me come to terms with the new me . . because I'm just not sure who I am anymore!

I would like to thank all my friends for sticking with me through these abrupt, new found changes in my life and my thinking!

I just can't imagine or understand what's happened to me so quickly!

Funny . . . it's all just taken place over the last 7 or 8 years! As if all this crap wasn't enough to deal with. I'm now afraid to go into either restroom!

In God We Trust.

Thursday, August 31
DMcShane

I'm still trying to understand why the Press included a jab at Christians. It must be my fault because I am a straight white man.

Friday, September 1
DMcShane

And I would add isn't the white washing of Christmas itself a sign of intolerance? Are 'minority' interests exempt from being tolerant of others even when those views (like Christmas as a celebration of Christ) do not impact them negatively?

Friday, September 1
TruthTeller

That's easy DmMcShane. Because there is an organized witch hunt in the media and academia against straight white men. You can see it when there is no calling out of BLM, a racist and intolerant hate group. You can see it when there is no calling out of Antifa, a violent, racist and intolerant hate group. You can see it in all sorts of attacks on western culture and values. It's a terrible time in America to be a regular everyday normal person with no perversions or hangups like so many in the radical (and now mainstream) left. Your (our) kind are not wanted anymore in this new America, and by god you're going to be constantly reminded of it whether you like it or not!

Friday, September 1
Michael Hinman

Please note that publication of copyrighted material in the comments will be removed. As will cross-postings of the same comments over more than one story (that constitutes spamming).

Thanks!

Monday, September 4
Jennifer Scarlott

The above person, who calls himself "TruthTeller" says the following:

"...there is an organized witch hunt in the media and academia against straight white men... It's a terrible time in America to be a regular everyday normal person with no perversions or hangups like so many in the radical (and now mainstream) left."

"TruthTeller" has a right to say this, under the First Amendment, and everyone should defend that right. But readers of this paper, who are neighbors of this person, have an obligation to listen, and to consider the implications of the above statement, for themselves, for their loved ones, for their next-door neighbors, and their neighbors in other parts of the borough, city, country, world...

Today, Donald Trump ordered the end of DACA. Young people brought to this country by their parents have been warned that they will be deported. Why? Quite simply because they are not white. In 1924, Senator Ellison Durant Smith took the Senate floor to explain why he supported the 1924 "Immigration Act" which sought to make the United States as "white" as it had been in 1890: "... the time has arrived when we should shut the door... thank God we have in America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the pure, unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock. It is for the preservation of that splendid stock that has characterized us that I would make this not an asylum for the oppressed of all countries but a country to assimilate and perfect that splendid type of manhood that has made America the foremost nation in her progress and in her power."

I have no interest in engaging with anyone like "TruthTeller" in the comment threads of The Press. What I think these comment areas allow for is something more hopeful -- for us to engage in at least a little bit of a community dialogue about ideas... and about our past, present, and future.

For "TruthTeller", "straight, white men" are the North Star... they are the "regular, everyday, normal people without hangups or perversions..." And they are being unfairly persecuted, and feeling increasingly aggrieved. This attitude, while it may be uncommon in our immediate community, is present. It would appear to be deepening and strengthening. In what ways should we marshal against it, and in support of the "deviant" among us... those who are not white, not male, not straight, likely not Christian?

Wednesday, September 6
CelticWoman

Jennifer Scarlott and her usual hatred of white people. If those under DACA were mostly white, would you feel sorry for them too? I don't understand how a white woman can her own kind so much.

Friday, September 15
Jennifer Scarlott

In response to the comment just above, "my own kind," that is, white people of European descent, have, as a matter of historical, material fact, in the United States, subjugated, oppressed, exploited, harmed, ethnically cleansed, and eradicated black people, Native American people, other people of color, and non-Christians. Those white people who have not actively participated in these activities, and even those who deplore them, nonetheless have benefitted and continue to benefit from the structures of white supremacy that exist very powerfully in this country historically and in the present day. These structures enforce injustice, enforce inequality, enforce racial barriers... because white people continue to knowingly or without thought, benefit from and enforce them.

So... it is not a question of having a "hatred of white people," or "hating my own kind," so much as a desire to engage in active work to figure out how repair can be done, how reparations can be made, over time, that acknowledges the particular agency of white people in structures from which they benefit, so that, over time, the breach between white people and others might begin to heal, and reconciliation and true siblinghood between races might become possible.

Wednesday, September 20
Michael Hinman

Another comment has been removed, and I will not keep repeating this to the same people — do NOT make personal attacks. That includes accusations of people using other names on here.

As I mentioned before, I am not going to keep repeating myself, and I should not have to. Debate topics and have some good discussions — but keep it civil, and keep it to the topic, not each other.

Thursday, September 21
TruthTeller

Fair enough Michael, but a little fairness is in order here. Why not remove Scarlott's screeds too? There is plenty there that could be considered as personal, and she certainly has no problem labelling whole swaths of the public as "deplorable." Why not censor her?

Also her alter ego John Nimby's personal posts should also be removed.

Thursday, September 21
Jennifer Scarlott

My comments are not screeds. I have never referred to anyone as deplorable nor do I level personal attacks. And I do not use the pseudonym "John Nimby," though you, "TruthTeller," delight in pretending that you believe I do.

I believe, in theory anyway, that the Press's comments threads could provide a platform for valid, constructive community dialogue. Any online platform has its limitations, but it presents opportunities as well. I wish more thoughtful people would take the opportunity, online and off, to stand up for essential principles.

Thursday, September 21
TruthTeller

Well, I would very much disagree. I've seen you use the word deplorable to describe people and their ideas many times here.

And you say you want people to use this platform to agree with you, but again, here in the real world the vast majority of people who comment here disagree with you and express their opinions vociferously. I know you;d love to censor every one of us, but we in fact are the vast majority of Americans and we have roundly rejected your pie-in-the-sky rants and raves and simply wish for the Riverdale Press to not give you the platform they do. You may not like this, and this may make you feel triggered, but it is reality. Take a look at the elctoral map Nimby. YOu will see a sea of red with a few blue enclaves in the urban centers. The people are not buying what you, and your Soros-backed compatriots are selling.

Thursday, September 21