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Philosophy Politics

The Paradox Of Tolerance & Misinterpreting Freedom Of Speech

I’ve been seeing & participating in a lot of conversations recently which often accuse people on the left (often myself) of being intolerant when we call out people whose views we disagree with.

Many of these conversations will eventually boil down to the catchphrase “so much for the tolerant left”. I think it’s necessary to explain people who have that mindset that, as per the cartoon infographic above, tolerance of the intolerant is dangerous & even leads to the “extinction f tolerance”.

Furthermore, as Enrique Dans explains below, freedom of speech does not protect intolerant speech against anything other than prosecution for saying what you want. Private companies like Facebook, Twitter & YouTube are not bound by this. If you have content censored on one of these platforms the you have no legal recourse. The companies do not have to provide you a platform for your intolerant views.

Even in a country where the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, we should remember that this doesn’t mean anybody is obliged to listen to it, provide a platform for it, or be tolerant of intolerance. If, because of what you think or say, other people ignore, insult or exclude you, that’s your problem, not the state’s.


Enrique Dans
, Facebook Grapples With The Paradox Of Tolerance

Recently, impeached president Donald Trump has fallen foul of his misinterpretation of Freedom Of Speech when Twitter have added Fact Check warnings to one Tweet & flagged him for glorifying violence on another. These Trump Tweets broke the platforms community guidelines & were therefore challenged. Trump’s response to this was to declare social media companies instruments of the “far-left” & to threaten them with state intervention. Obviously this would be akin right-wing claims of state intervention in socialist countries. I wonder if his followers have noticed that?

In fact, no private individual is bound by law allow intolerant views to be aired unchallenged. It is our duty, as tolerant people (as paradoxical as it seems) to be intolerant of the intolerant. We must call out, boycott & where possible de-platform all far-right & far-right tolerant views we see.

xkcd Webcomic

My thoughts on this came about as a result of a couple of conversations I have had on Facebook with friends who I respect. We were discussing Krist Novoselic’s recent Tweets in support of Trump. I had posted a link to an article with the comment “Never thought I’d write this sentence but fuck Krist Novoselic”. Part of the conversation included my friend saying that “you cannot fight fascism with a ban on […] someone whose beliefs don’t align with your own.” Obviously I know this & don’t believe that is what I was doing. I was exercising my own freedom of expression to call out intolerance as & where I saw it. I was, per the webcomic above, calling Novoselic an asshole & showing him the door.

There is one other small thing to bear in mind too. Not everyone who shares these intolerant views is doing so out of malice. They are pervasive & often dressed up in reasonable & logical sounding language. This will nearly always crumble to nothing if subjected to even the slightest critical analysis. We need to remember though, that not everyone has been taught the critical analysis skills that many of us take for granted. Day 1 of University level study taught me ways to analyse the veracity of content found online as well as general critical analysis of evidence you’ll be using to back up what you say in your academic writing. This has become second nature to me (even though I sometimes slip up) & I have caught myself taking these taught skills for granted in discussions with people who haven’t being taught it. This can make me come across as a bit of an arsehole & I am trying to be better.

Here’s some good advice for spotting fake news.

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