Nov 18th 2015

Intolerance Masked As Tolerance Is Still Intolerance

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

Racism exists in this country; denying that reality, a disease of conservativism, is just the latest reincarnation of a problem that never seems to die. But right wing extremism is not our society's only ideological woe. Sadly, liberalism has developed its own disease of decay, a growing cancer that threatens to undermine the very foundation of liberal thought.

In ostensibly promoting tolerance, the essential core of liberalism, left wing extremists have taken on an ill-advised and misguided campaign to enforce an extreme version of political correctness, a form of intolerance that is ironically self-destructively anti-liberal. Before those left of center suffer the analogous fate of conservatives who lost their initiative to the Tea Party, traditional liberals must stop this madness.

Before delving into specifics, we need to explore some baseline observations. Let us be clear: There is no constitutional right not to be offended. But we need to go even further: I actually have a constitutional right to express opinions that offend you. I have the inalienable right to hold an opinion you find heinous, and have the constitutional right to verbalize those ideas.

I derive these rights from our country's founding documents. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression, specifically by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak openly. Here is the actual wording:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Yet an increasing number of students on university campuses have decided that their personal and easily-bruised sensitivities trump the Constitution and my individual freedom. These anti-liberal liberals unknowingly take the radical position of dictators, tyrants and monarchs that the way to control thought is to suppress any speech that is deemed by someone, or anyone, to be distasteful. Nothing could be more distant from true liberalism, which celebrates and warmly embraces broad tolerance of disparate worldviews.

A fundamental assumption of liberalism is that the rigid control over personal liberties, opinions or speech is the unhappy realm of conservatism, something to be fought at all costs. American liberalism is centered on the very idea of social justice, free speech, freedom of religion, celebration of diversity, and an individual's fundamental right to free expression, without fear of reprisal or being ostracized.

One can hardly imagine anything more anti-liberal than thought police. Those on the left who seek to suppress speech cannot be called liberal at all; indeed, what we get with extreme liberalism is fascism, defined most significantly by its nature of "suppressing opposition and criticism."

But how can radical left and right become one and the same? How can this be? Consider circumnavigating the globe at the equator; the two points furthest apart converge at journey's beginning and end. So too with politics. In walking the path of political extremism, we find that opposing ideologies tend to converge toward the common ground of totalitarianism. Political correctness is ground zero.

Campuses Gone Wild

One of the most egregious examples of intolerance is the growing trend in academics to disinvite speakers who hold views inconsistent with campus sentiment. Students make the terrible mistake of thinking that by inviting a speaker a university endorses the speaker's views. Nothing could be further from the truth; invitations to controversial speakers are an opportunity for debate and discussion, not endorsements. Nevertheless, the headlong rush toward ideological purity seems to be winning the day. A comprehensive study from last year shows that the number of such incidents has risen dramatically in the past 15 years. Here is the disturbing conclusion from that research:

"A faculty that is hostile to the mere presence of oppositional, inconvenient, or unpopular speakers and beliefs will likely be less adept at teaching students the values of critical thinking, open-mindedness, and free intellectual inquiry that universities are supposed to embody. Students who refuse to hear opposing viewpoints will be less likely to learn critical thinking skills and less able to defend their own beliefs once off-campus. Moreover, disinvitation efforts may be fueled by a campus climate that encourages disregard for free speech rights, as suggested by the correlation between successful disinvitations and restrictive speech codes."

Not surprisingly, the most disinvited guests are right wing conservatives. Leading the pack are former president George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Ann Coulter. But established liberals are in the cross-hairs too, an inevitable consequence of the slippery slope of censorship. There is no end point other than totalitarianism.

Students at UC Berkeley voted to disinvite Bill Maher. The petition to do so justified this action by claiming that, "Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for. In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment."

Once the principle is established that censoring speakers who hold offending views is acceptable, there is no barrier to pushing such suppression into the realm of real oppression. Promoting tolerance by becoming intolerant is ultimately unsustainable. We can see an analogy in what happened during the Civil War. The Confederacy held that states had a right to secede from the Union. But the very idea of withdrawing from the Union led to the potential disintegration of the coalition of states founded on the idea of secession. By war's end, two southern states threatened to secede from the confederacy. The right to secede could only lead to the balkanization of separate states because secession is inherently self-destructive. Suppressing speech is equally untenable, leading inexorably to an intolerance indistinguishable from the hate it is meant to eradicate.

I despise George Bush and Condi Rice; I have nothing but disdain for Ann Coulter. But trying to muzzle right wing nut-bags is not a solution. The opposite is true; censorship only gives them strength. Instead, we must give them enough oratorical rope to hang themselves. Let them spew their hate and bigotry. Let them expose their war crimes in public forums. Let them degrade themselves with their xenophobia and racism. Let them embarrass themselves in trying to rewrite history. Let these monsters speak, and let the whole world see them for what they are. Free speech is the oxygen feeding the fire that will destroy the ugly ideology of the right. Let them speak, and then conquer them with logic, reason and fact.

History is on our side; liberalism is the ideology that has advanced the human condition. Without liberals the concepts of human rights and civil liberties would be nothing but pipe dreams rather than broadly accepted global principles. Without liberals we would still be a colony of a distant king.

As is still the case in much of the world, in the United States we would have unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and young children laboring in horrible circumstances. Blacks and women could not vote, mixed-race marriages would be illegal, gays would be second-class citizens, women would have no control over their own reproductive destiny. The air we breathe and water we drink would be polluted.

The history of human progress is the history of liberalism. Suppressing speech is an act of desperation that does nothing but undermine the righteousness of liberal thought. Open debate can only strengthen our position; we have nothing to fear from the corrupt ideology of right wing extremism. Let everybody have their say; we only gain by doing so.

Return to Liberalism

Fighting intolerance with intolerance is self-defeating. Denying opponents a chance to express opinions openly will backfire. In suppressing offensive speech, we become what we abhor. Let us take back liberalism and renew our commitment to the full flowering of freedom of expression, including speech we do not like.

Let us save liberalism and stop this accelerating trend of silencing those with whom we disagree. Let us return to the proposition that the way to combat hateful speech is not with suppression, but with more speech, having the confidence that truth and justice can at least sometimes prevail if given a chance to flourish in the open.




Dr. Jeff Schweitzer
 is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development. He is the author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011), and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States.Dr. Schweitzer's work is based on his desire to introduce a stronger set of ethics into American efforts to improve the human condition worldwide. He has been instrumental in designing programs that demonstrate how third world development and protecting our resources are compatible goals. His vision is to inspire a framework that ensures that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment.Formerly, Dr. Schweitzer served as an Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Clinton. Prior to that, Dr. Schweitzer served as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department's Agency for International Development. In that role, he founded the multi-agency International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program, a U.S. Government that promoted conservation through rational economic use of natural resources.Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the field of marine biology. He earned his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He expanded his research at the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. While at U.C. Irvine he was awarded the Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Dr. Schweitzer is a pilot and he founded and edited the Malibu Mirage, an aviation magazine dedicated to pilots flying these single-engine airplanes. He and his wife Sally are avid SCUBA divers and they travel widely to see new wildlife, never far from their roots as marine scientists..To learn more about Dr Schweitzer, visit his website at http://www.JeffSchweitzer.com
.

To follow Jeff Schweizer on Twitter, please click here.

For Jeff Schweitzer web site, please click here.

Below link to Amazon for Jeff Schweitzer's latest book.


TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!




 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Sep 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "We now know the potentially appalling long-term effects of suffering cruelty from others, including damage to both physical and mental health. The benefits of being compassionate towards oneself, rather than treating oneself cruelly, are also increasingly recognised..... And the idea that we must suffer to grow is questionable. Positive life events, such as falling in love, having children and achieving cherished goals can lead to growth..... Teaching through cruelty invites abuses of power and selfish sadism. Yet Buddhism offers an alternative - wrathful compassion. Here, we act from love to confront others to protect them from their greed, hatred and fear. Life can be cruel, truth can be cruel, but we can choose not to be."
Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
EXTRACTS: "The Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto – the largest iron ore mining company in the world – demolished two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.......The Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia is home to thousands of Aboriginal pictographs, and perhaps the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous art represents the longest uninterrupted tradition of art in the world – going back over 50,000 years......Aboriginal people represent the oldest continuous culture in the world...."
Sep 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.....Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking...........In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN...conducted an online survey......The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation."
Sep 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Just as you can upgrade your old computer’s operating system, culture can evolve even if intelligence doesn’t. Humans in ancient times lacked smartphones and spaceflight, but we know from studying philosophers such as Buddha and Aristotle that they were just as clever. Our brains didn’t change, our culture did."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Bryant, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison for trying to steal hedge clippers from a Louisiana carport storage room in 1997. He has already served twenty-three years for this petty crime, and on 31 July the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request to review his life sentence. The denial followed a lower appeals court’s 2019 decision that concluded “his life sentence is final.” The only judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court to dissent (or even issue an opinion) was Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. She wrote a stinging rebuke, observing that Bryant’s “life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.” "
Aug 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that as high as 40 percent of prisoners should not be in prison—”behind bars with no compelling public safety reason.” There are literally thousands of young prisoners, Black and white, who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for non-violent offences. It is unfathomable that we as a society are spending billions of dollars every year to sustain such pointless cruelty, to inflict needless pain on individuals, fathers and mothers, who pose no threat at all to the public."
Jul 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "From a Kantian standpoint discrimination based on race – or religion, or gender – is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong, first of all, because it is dehumanizing, a denial of human dignity. When I racially discriminate, I am denying the person’s intrinsic self-worth, I am, in fact, denying their very right to exist, whether I know it or not. The moral law demands that I treat every individual as a free person equal to everyone else. If the moral law grants each of us a kind of infinite worth, it does not grant someone greater worth than anyone else."
Jul 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support."
Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."