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

Aug 8th 2019
Consider the following facts as you wend your way to the Guggenheim Museum and its uppermost gallery, where you will presently find The Death of Michael Stewart (1983), Basquiat’s gut-punching tribute to a slain artist, and the centerpiece for an exhibition that could hardly be more timely.
Jul 22nd 2019
It’s worth remembering, then, that we are not designed to be consistently happy. Instead, we are designed to survive and reproduce. These are difficult tasks, so we are meant to struggle and strive, seek gratification and safety, fight off threats and avoid pain. The model of competing emotions offered by coexisting pleasure and pain fits our reality much better than the unachievable bliss that the happiness industry is trying to sell us. In fact, pretending that any degree of pain is abnormal or pathological will only foster feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Postulating that there is no such thing as happiness may appear to be a purely negative message, but the silver lining, the consolation, is the knowledge that dissatisfaction is not a personal failure. If you are unhappy at times, this is not a shortcoming that demands urgent repair, as the happiness gurus would have it. Far from it. This fluctuation is, in fact, what makes you human.
Jul 10th 2019

 

The eight-mile ‘river of flowers’ that grows alongside a motorway nea
Jul 5th 2019
"........since World War II, 97% of unimproved grassland habitats have vanished from the UK. This has contributed to the loss of pollinating insects – and the distribution of one third of species has shrunk since 1980."
Jun 25th 2019
"For many of us, eating a meal containing meat is a normal part of daily life. But if we dig deeper, some sobering issues emerge. Every year, 66 billion terrestrial animals are slaughtered for food. Predictions are that meat consumption will rise, with increasing demand for meat from China and other Asian countries as their standards of living increase. The impact of grazing animals on the environment is devastating. They produce 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and livestock farming is a major contributor to species extinctions."
Jun 22nd 2019
"Throughout history, people who have gained positions of power tend to be precisely the kind of people who should not be entrusted with it. A desire for power often correlates with negative personality traits: selfishness, greed and a lack of empathy. And the people who have the strongest desire for power tend to be the most ruthless and lacking in compassion."
Jun 21st 2019
"In this era of Trump, it should perhaps come as no surprise to find supposed experts lacking in historical perspective. Yet it is still disappointing to find this deficit in the New York Times, which prides itself on clinging to a pursuit of the truth. So it is a bit sad to read the plaintive cry of Allison Schrager’s op-ed of May 17, lamenting that the domination of art markets by the super-rich will somehow force smaller galleries to go out of business, and imperil the careers of young artists."
Jun 17th 2019
Extract: "ust as an earlier generation resisted the limiting post-War era "white middle class" definition of being American by giving birth to an awakening of cultural pluralism and ethnic pride, it falls to our generation to fight for an expanded view of the idea of being American that rejects the narrow view projected by Trump and white nationalists. The idea of America isn't theirs. It's bigger than they are and unless our national cohesion is to unravel, this challenge must be met by projecting an inclusive vision of America that celebrates our inclusive national identity in an increasingly globalized world."
May 28th 2019
Whatever other attributes Homo sapiens may have – and much is made of our opposable thumbs, upright walking and big brains – our capacity to impact the environment far and wide is perhaps unprecedented in all of life’s history. If nothing else, we humans can make an almighty mess.
Apr 29th 2019
A century ago, unspeakable horrors took place on every continent that were known only to the victims and the perpetrators. Not so today. As a result of advances in communications – from the telegraph and radio to satellite television and the internet – the pain and loss of global tragedies are brought home to us in real time.   Because of this expanding consciousness, the post-World War II era has witnessed the rise of visionary leaders and the birth of countless organizations dedicated to alleviating suffering and elevating the causes of peace, human rights, and tolerance among peoples. Individually and collectively, they have championed the rights of peoples in far-flung corners of the world, some of which had been previously unknown to those who became their advocates. These same leaders and groups have also fought for civil rights and for economic, social, political, and environmental justice in their own countries. 
Apr 23rd 2019

 

“Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; and I’m down in the whole world’s books. I am so rich… and yet I owe for the flesh in the tongue I brag with” (Moby Dick, chapter cviii). 

Apr 20th 2019
Economists speak in numbers only, clinging to statistical data and quantitative models. We do so in the hope of looking objective. But this is counter-productive – “data” cannot tell us everything. Other social sciences such as sociology and anthropology use a broader range of methods, and consequently have a broader perspective on society. If we take our societal role of adviser on economic matters seriously, we will need to open up and adopt the insights that these other disciplines bring us about how the economy works.Politics and economics are inextricably intertwined, as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx knew all too well. Somehow this has been forgotten. This does not mean economists need to get political or choose sides. But it does mean that we ignore politics at our own peril – by blindsiding ourselves or dismissing it as “external stuff”, we hamper our understanding of the very system we study.
Apr 16th 2019
Although it is not likely that many visitors who pass by the Giacometti sculptures on their way to Las Meninas will ponder it, the contrast between these works underscores the single greatest transformation in the history of western art, from a regime in which artists tailored their works to the aims of individual patrons, to one in which artists choose their techniques and motifs according to their own concerns, and only then present the products to an anonymous competitive market
Apr 4th 2019
On March eleventh, the world lost someone who was very special, who made a mark and touched people with his voice, as a singer, a humorist and writer..........I had the great good fortune to know him and spend time with him, playing music, talking with him – he was a man of immense culture, fluent in Hebrew, German, English, and Romanian. He loved New York City and Vienna and we would often swap apartments so that he could stay in New York while I lived at his place in Vienna.
Apr 1st 2019
The ongoing controversy over admissions to American universities has overlooked the one of the most telling aspects of the scandal—that it took place with the connivance and active participation of administrative bureaucracies able to act with impunity in the pursuit of their interests. Neither the professoriate, often the target of opprobrium from the left and the right, nor the student body, also the target of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, bore any of the responsibility.  Current debates over “what ails” U.S. colleges and universities consistently ignore the single most important dynamic of all institutions—their structure of power. I suggest that the way in which power is allocated within American universities is strikingly similar to that of Soviet-type regimes. Presidents, chancellors, provosts, deans, and their bureaucratic apparatuses preside over vast real-estate and financial holdings, engage in the economic equivalent of central planning, have inordinate influence over personnel, and are structured hierarchically, thereby forming an enormously powerful “new class” like that described by the renowned Yugoslav dissident, Milovan Djilas, in the mid-1950s. 
Mar 22nd 2019
When you think of religion, you probably think of a god who rewards the good and punishes the wicked. But the idea of morally concerned gods is by no means universal. Social scientists have long known that small-scale traditional societies – the kind missionaries used to dismiss as “pagan” – envisaged a spirit world that cared little about the morality of human behaviour. Their concern was less about whether humans behaved nicely towards one another and more about whether they carried out their obligations to the spirits and displayed suitable deference to them. Nevertheless, the world religions we know today, and their myriad variants, either demand belief in all-seeing punitive deities or at least postulate some kind of broader mechanism – such as karma – for rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked. In recent years, researchers have debated how and why these moralising religions came into being.
Mar 19th 2019
European food and ingredients have become staple food choices for the British. The use of ingredients such as garlic, peppers, avocados, Parmesan cheese and all those other European ingredients that are now taken for granted are relatively new and were still rare in the 1990s. When I was growing up in rural Devon in the 1970s, olive oil was only really readily available in chemists as a cure for earache – now it is found in most food cupboards. And wine drinking has permeated through all social classes.
Mar 12th 2019
The Guggenheim’s strange and wonderful exhibition of Hilma af Klint’s groundbreaking, yet largely unknown body of abstract art is an important event – one that challenges us to not only rethink the early history of twentieth century abstract art, but to recognize her vision of art and reality as unique, authentic, and deliciously puzzling. 
Feb 25th 2019
Looking at the world today, it's clear that the consequences of this imperial legacy are still with us. If anything has changed it is that we are now beyond just viewing the former "natives" as far-away oddities. They are now living within our borders, having come to find the opportunities they were denied at home. So when I hear the reactions in the West to the influx of South Asians going to the UK, or North Africans going to France, or Central Americans migrating to the US, I can only say "Guys, these are the fruits of your conquest – your chickens coming home to roost."
Feb 25th 2019
Extracts: "The new novel Sérotonine by Michel Houellebecq, the bad boy of French literature, is a saga of depression and death told with such irony and wit that readers seem to love it despite the unsettling themes. Maybe it’s just me but I found myself laughing out loud.......True to form, the French don’t agree on Houellebecq – or anything else, for that matter. The impact of his new novel has divided the readers into opposite love-hate camps with hardly any middle ground. Houellebecq cannot leave you indifferent, notes a literary friend of mine"........Picture: Michel Houellebecq, by the reviewer Michael Johnson.