A Free Society Needs To Intolerate Intolerance
“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
The only way to create a tolerant open-minded society is to paradoxically not tolerate close-mindedness.
There’s a certain paradox that emerges in free societies.
In order to promote individual freedoms, we have to have some rules in place to ensure that no one’s individual freedom endanger’s another individual’s freedom.
You’re free to mow your lawn as you wish, and your neighbor can’t tell you otherwise—but you can’t decide to murder your neighbor and claim you have the freedom to do so.
By killing your neighbor, you would severely be limiting his freedoms.
The easy part is agreeing on extreme examples like the one above.
All throughout history, most societies have prohibited murder, rape, theft, corruption, and other universal acts of evil and/or unfairness.
Only the true primitive anarchists would argue against such bans.
The challenge comes in limiting the liberty of actions that fall in to a gray area.
The easiest and most modern example is freedom of speech, particularly on technology platforms.
Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and the like have relative success defining the fringes of acceptable behavior on their platform. Any clear cut threats, child pornography, terrorist content, etc. is scrubbed no questions asked.
But what about the more questionable content? The tweets that imply violent action, that attack a specific group, that spread lies, etc.
I’m personally of the opinion that we should only police liberties so far as they begin to preach intolerance.
What do I mean by this?
While I agree that misinformation and the sort are a problem (that really shouldn’t be if people thought more rationally, and were well-read in general), and they often carry malicious intent—it’s up to people to use their good senses to self-police that content.
The other hurtful (but not violent) content is definitely not to be policed—people just need to be less sensitive.
Once the lines begin to get re-drawn, there is no telling where they’re going to end. You risk the slippery Orwellian slope that both political extremes would love to capitalize off of.
Imagine a room with ten people who are planning a meeting.
All ten people have different opinions as to how they should conduct the meeting.
One man calls everyone an idiot.
Another woman threatens to kill herself if the meeting doesn’t go her way.
Another man lies about the most effective way to run a meeting.
Another woman mocks the quiet people at the meeting.
Thus far, a terrible meeting for sure, but nobody is exhibiting behavior that should be banned.
Now imagine the first man pulls out a gun and coerces everyone in to following his directions.
That example should make it clearer.
Disagreement, butting heads, and general mischievousness are okay. Forcing everyone to think the way you do is not.
You can’t have a free and open society if there are members of that society that wish to make it close minded and intolerant.
This is the only viable excuse to limit someone’s freedoms—only when someone is attempting to limit other people’s freedoms.
I’ll defend someone’s right to express their opinion to my death (whether or not I agree with it), but I won’t defend them if their opinion is to convert everyone to a certain religion, or kill all rich people.
As I mentioned, this can happen entirely with words, or with actions, and it happens along the entire political spectrum.
Being unable to openly discuss a controversial topic because you’re drowned out by cries of racism or any other label is intolerance.
Having the reality of your sexuality questioned and rejected by religious members is equally intolerant.
Remember, your rights end where other people’s rights begin.
We can all build our own company, or start our own community if we truly wish.
That is the beauty of living in a free country.
Let’s preserve that.