The Paradox of Tolerance: should intolerance be tolerated?

Defense of hate speech is no different than hate speech. It establishes it as an acceptable opinion. Hate speech is an act of violence, as it by definition is the call for violent action to be taken; stating that certain groups of people are lesser than you goes against all humans being equal which is the fundamental human right of all people.

Suppression of hate speech is not comparable to suppression of free speech. It is a preemptive protection against the spread of hatred and bigotry. To say the government will misuse its power to suppress hate speech is a blatant slippery slope fallacy argument with no basis; indeed, it always seems that the only people concerned about free speech when it comes to hate speech is those who wish to partake in it.


This is the biggest area where the alt right/right wing trolls will fight and try to muddy the waters. They claim the left is hypocritical because, after having heard their intolerant bigoted bullshit, the left doesn’t listen to them anymore. On private forums owned by companies or private individuals that are not beholden to providing a platform for everyone to say anything, this involves muting or banning and comment moderation, which they’ll say is censorship and violations of free speech.

You can’t negotiate with a scorpion that will sting you while you’re both trying to cross the river, so pretending having a discussion with them to find a middle ground is possible becomes absurd. This doesn’t mean anything illegal should be done to them, but it also means that any obligation to provide common courtesy expired when they decided decorum was an unnecessary obstacle to “winning.”


Oh, yes, if only those black people, gays, and women would have shut their pie holes and stopped demanding equal rights, everything would be great right now. /s

Like it or not, class is not the only social issue that we need to tackle. Hiding one’s head in the sand or pretending like people will be given rights without actually doing the hard work gets us no where.


Do you really think that the categorization of particular groups of people started with them? Like African Americans decided to embrace blackness and THAT’S where the trouble for them began as opposed to the introduction of racial laws after Bacon’s Rebellion in the 17th century? Really?




I’ve seen some users get upset over the availability of the client-side Muting script for Discourse because it denies people the “benefit” of hearing their “insightfully novel”, “unpopular” or “contrarian” speech. Not co-incidentally, I would bet that their monickers appear most often on the lists of people who use the script for reasons that have less to do with their views than with the spirit in which they’re offered.


It’s how I’ve managed to keep reletive functionality around more outspoken anti-lgbt family members. God gave you the right to say and think what you want. The moment you want to do something like… oh… run people over with a car or shoot up a night club? That’s when it’s clearly gone into ‘unacceptable’ territory.

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Those are the exact same things. The backlash is the adoption of identity-based strategies by those who see it as a threat when used against the institutions they previously took for granted such as white privilege. The white nationalists and alt-right and allies have been talking about using the left’s supposed strategies against them, whether or not they’re actually the left’s strategies. They talk about Rules for Radicals like it’s a bible for the left and quote it a lot. They think the left has achieved new, but still inadequate levels of equality through these “sneaky tricks,” so they attempt to emulate them. That is all backlash against the slow tide of change. Gay marriage isn’t up for debate anymore. Women can serve in combat roles. Transgender service is safe for the moment. There are a thousand other little steps that must be taken and they will continue to react against them every step of the way, but it’s still all just reactionary backlash and really cargo cult levels of misunderstanding how to achieve change.


But what does it actually, in practice, mean to defend or accept speech? There is no distinction made here between the event of speech, and the content of speech. If somebody says something that we find objectionable, than we “accept” that they in fact said it, but disagree with the content of what they said. Just like defending that a person speaks in no way implies defense of the position conveyed in the content of their speech. Refusing to help a person to communicate their opinion is fine, but the only way to actively stop them from communicating it basically to kill them. And I very much doubt that most of those who wring their hands and say that “it shouldn’t be allowed” (itself an authoritarian position) are personally willing to do that.

It’s become a popular false equivalence. Hate is a condition, like an emotion. And as such it does not have an action or agenda in itself. Not unlike the legal construct of the “anger management” racket. I agree that it is almost entirely beneficial for people to learn emotional self-regulation of this sort. But it’s still a false equivalence. You don’t need to punch a person in the nose because you felt angry, you might have done it just because you decided to. You are getting punished for a violent act, not an emotion. What people refer to as “hate speech” is not an emotion, it is an ideology, and it would be far more constructive to use a vocabulary which recognizes it as such.

Likewise, one could argue that stating what value and rights a person has depends upon what species they happen to be is still just as bigoted as saying that it is dependent upon race or sex. If speciesism is fundamental to your society, then we’re all fucked. As vast and horrible as the violence humans perpetrate upon other humans based on superficial differences such as genitals and skin color, the pain, death, and destruction are less than 1/1000 of that directed against others for the crime of not being human. Like it or not, that attitude is still a form of violent tribalism. The only way out is not to make our social ingroup larger as to encompass more people - it is to cease socializing in terms of ingroup/outgroup at all.

And what about us marginals who refuse your protection?

What you propose is an authoritarian position to begin with, which is in itself objectionable to some people.

And there is the “no true Scotsman”. Doesn’t that basically mean that you think you have a sufficient critical mass of support, that you can safely throw the rest of us under the bus as acceptable collateral damage? Saying that essentially “no good person would disagree” does not come across as very rhetorically honest.


Modern identity politics is a vast step beyond the “people banding together to promote their shared interests,” It’s micro-compartmentalization and upfront confrontational behavior to an extent that undermines shared humanity. Even some of the people responsible for that school of thought like Kimberle Crenshaw realized they’d overstepped decades ago.

I don’t see the identity-based strategies as having been overall helpful in accomplishing the laudable progress by the left in the last decades. Had interest groups spent less energy playing intersectional games to discredit and alienate their own would-be allies, either through their own behavior or with the help of staggeringly effective identity wedge strategies from the Carl Roves and Lynton Crosbys of the world, they likely would have been overall more effective.

Circle jerking and purity tests isn’t hard work of activism, it just feels good.

Ed: I’m not going to post the same reply twice, but this also addresses CarlMud’s most recent.


Citation, please


Mapping the Margins is a whole treatise on trying to balance the power of shared identity with the risks of dilution and marginalization.
It is a little weird because it’s all interpreted through the intersectionality looking-glass, but it’s from before that whole subfield became criticism-proof.


Yep, that’s totally the reason. Okay.


Thanks for the article, but where in it does Crenshaw say that she’d earlier “overstepped”? Seems to me that she’s instead saying this article builds on an earlier one, and that it too promotes a form of “identity politics.”

You’ve been railing here against some sort of “modern identity politics,” and pissing off a lot of BBSers in the process. I think that might be happening because you’ve been so abstract in this thread.

If you know and applaud people who fight on the LGBT front, those people are also practicing “identity politics,” so you obviously don’t mind that kind. What other form of identity politics is it that you’re against, and how is it actually practiced?

In your view, who currently (as opposed to 1991, when Crenshaw’s piece was published) are these nefarious, “circle-jerking” proponents of identity that you so despise? What forms does this type of identity politics that you’re blasting away against actually take?

What do you think is wrong with taking an intersectional approach?



What do you think is wrong with taking an intersectional approach?

first because it answers most of the other questions.
In itself, nothing, it’s a useful model that good things have been accomplished with.
One problem is that when in use it tends to be treated as the model, to the exclusion of any other concerns or practical realities, in much the same way that Marxism is a great lens that you can’t use all the time.
The bigger problem, IMO, is the slow drift as it has seeped from theory to popular activism from the original “don’t shit on people with shared interests by imagining they are exactly like you in all ways” formulation, which I am entirely behind, to the almost-opposite oppression-olympics exaggerated focus on differences as arbiters of legitimacy, which is good for no one. The weaponization by people who realize they can use oppression-olympics/the most intolerant win style tactics to get their way in shared spaces, while steamrolling other interests is especially alarming.
And finally the already-mentioned criticism-proof problem (Another quillette link because they have been on a roll publishing pieces in this area lately. Take this one with a grain of salt because the author has what must be simultaneously regarded as first-hand experience and an axe to grind). That middle concern is the place where I’m drawing a distinction that I clearly didn’t adequately communicate.

The overstepping was the acknowledgement that ideas she had promoted lead to structures for community and activism built in ways that could not accommodate internal or external conflict, especially of motivation. Internal in the idea that the feminist structures were all built to serve very specific identities (‘white feminists’, ‘black feminists’ - though I’m always frustrated that she treats the same behaviors by black feminist groups as reaction rather than repetition) without the flexibility to coordinate with, much less include others. Externally in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill situation (which has been a rather relevant case study again recently), where it becomes clear that if you build a worldview out of charged oppressions and elevated subjective experience, there is no way of negotiating competing constraints. Most analyses I’ve read treats that piece, as you say, as building on an earlier one to clarify that her earlier (foundational) writings on intersectionality were hoping to address these problems, not to exacerbate them.

I think I did come in too strong, I usually talk in this area with folks with more shared context, stuck my head in, and had a ‘someone on the internet is wrong’ reaction. I’m coming from a place of frustrated-idealism, not hostility.

The thing I find most alarming is the modern social-media-enabled development of politics by “Here is my list of demographic features, it’s all you need to know about me because I’ve internalized the demographics-as-destiny mindset I claim to fight, if you don’t adequately cowtow to each and every one of them you’re a monster with whom I can’t coexist, much less cooperate on our shared interests.”

I’m intentionally picking the very most exaggerated case, but the whole evergreen state situation is a truly absurd display of identity politics run amok. The three-point basis of that article is a good way of distinguishing solidarity and insanity.


Uh yeah, a conservative axe, just like other writers at what’s been identified as a “a hub for reactionary thought.” In fact, with so many links now to quillette in your comments, I’m starting to wonder if your whole point here is to shill for it.

And how would you define that idealism in terms of the political spectrum? (I myself, for instance, usually identify as left of liberal.) You’re coming across more and more as a conservative who wishes disenfranchised people would just stop pushing already for equality.

There you go, nutpicking again. You should look that term up sometime. You focus on the supposed problem of left-oriented activists “taking control” over universities, ignoring completely the ongoing conservative takeover of universities.

Dude, people fighting for equality on the basis of their oppressed identities just isn’t the big bad problem that you and your fellow conservative keyboard warriors want everyone else to think it is. And good luck trying to convince anyone here that the real problem is uppity people who don’t identify as straight middle class white guys.


That is not necessarily the case. Like so many other ways of life, LGBT functions as a social movement, and in no way requires any kind of personal identity, despite the popularity of framing it that way. That’s the distinction between what we do, versus who we are. The former is a process/function-based perspective, while the latter is an identity-based perspective.

Consider, for instance, with regards to civil rights in fighting against bigotry. Generally, bigots don’t hate a group based upon what it actually is to be black, or gay - because they don’t know. They hate the group based upon what it represents in their own reasoning/ideology. Likewise, how such things as ethnicity and orientation benefit me are how they function, not that I get to call myself by some label.

As for intersectionality, I think that is almost always A Good Thing, except that most don’t take it far enough.


This strikes me as the sort of problem that people have thought about before.

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This is the kind of statement that I think inadvertently supports racist ideologies. I can just turn this statement around. You imply that I am trying to make everyone else see things my way, but you are just as much trying to make me see things your way by telling me what society is and is not.

Also, the implication of this statement nonsense. Obviously society is about people agreeing on values. Society is not going to accept all values as equal or interchangeable. We’re pretty sure about murder, and we have been for a long time.

If you are suggesting I should stop presenting my own point of view because that’s trying to get other people to “capitulate” then that’s you hoping to silence me, not me trying to silence you.


Not shilling (and seeing as this account is years older than that site, it would be some serious commitment), I’ve just enjoyed a couple of their related pieces recently, in part because they are acting as a platform for disclosed-bias experts to publish editorials, like Medium with an editor and some disclosure. I agree it’s definitely not a place to read uncritically.

I’m somewhere over near left-libertarian. I can’t get on-board with the Chomsky-style Anarcho Syndicalism type ideas because I don’t think they provide an adequate bulwark against ambitious sociopaths building themselves unaccountable concentrations of power.

I’m saying that preempting shared humanity is not a good way to push for equality.
The modern ‘social’ web means we are now not only coming into contact with people with different values than our own, but we’re being exposed to the specifics of those differences, and the more identity-rooted we get the more we project those differences upfront. In meatspace, or in the older pre-social, small, separate identity internet, you could interact with someone for years and not know their opinions on X, and if you did learn you deeply disagreed about X, your shared humanity and identity are already asserted. If you’re on facebook and lead with your bullet-point demographic identity, there is no opportunity to develop commonality, because everyone is doing their best to other themselves.

Recall the ‘college town’ note, I’m well aware of the Right’s efforts to shit on the whole education system. That Salon article is picking the collapse of public funding out from several similar-scale contributing factors like administrative bloat and (more interestingly) changes to student loan rules which extremely laudably dramatically expanded access to college… and came with severe detrimental side-effects, including massive opportunities for exploitation and grifting by established interests while trying to do something good.

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