Tolerence for a Paradox

by Justin Robbins

A short time ago, I was unhappily compelled to rise in defense of snow-colored flake Richard Spencer after he was caught on camera slamming his face into the elbow of an anti-Nazi demonstrator. If social media shares and comments are any indicators, my take on the incident was not very popular; the reaction, a mere fraction of the faction who’ve been enjoying one of the new “punch a Nazi” apps.

Restless for another target, demonstrators recently converged on the University of California Berkeley to protest a speech (they hadn’t heard) by Breitbart editor, liberal antagonist, and pouty boy band extra, Milo Yiannoupolis. On a campus with a proud history of supporting free speech, the demonstrators wreaked sufficient havoc to cause over $100,000 damage and have Milo’s presentation cancelled for fear of violence. Politically, the incident was seen on the left, and on the right, as vindication of their respective perspectives. In reality, only the right has claim to the moral victory.

The takeaway from that “protest” was a $100,000 bill to UC Berkeley, and probably a million or more clicks for Milo. The real kicker is that every national media outlet, for the very first time, had to learn how to spell and pronounce Yiannoupolis. Think about that.

This essay takes its title in response to a truly worthy antecedent argument by Julia Serano, “Free Speech and the Paradox of Tolerance.” In it, she defends violent protests, and advances the ideas of philosopher Karl Popper, and includes an excerpt from his 1945 work, The Open Society and Its Enemies; highlighting this concept, “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

A parallel irony was offered by an anonymous American officer, and quoted by newsman Peter Arnett, in his report of the 1968 U.S. Air Force bombing of the Vietnamese village of Bên Tre, “We had to destroy the town to save it.” You can almost smell the futility.

I get that as a straight, white, cisgender, natural-born American male, I rest in the lap of privilege. That it may seem patronizing to say I truly empathize with Serano, and with her rationale in defense of violent opposition to certain speech and, perhaps, speakers. So, it is not without some sincere regret that I submit to you this contention; she is wrong.

Take a hard, honest look at the state of our union. Whatever solace might be drawn from a functionally useless popular win of 3,000,000 votes, should be shattered by the fact 62,000,000 people voted for different ideas. That point cannot be stressed enough. We don’t vote for people, we vote for ideas. You can focus all the indignation you’d like on the so-called president, but he was just a vessel. It is a folly of reasoning to attack the body, yet leave whole the ideas which support its weight.

So it is with all vessels. Today’s Spencers and Yiannoupoli are nothing original; neither is anything they have to say. The only power they have is in whatever reaction they are able to evoke. Consequently, time spent punching Nazis and burning campus venues is time wasted.

To have that more clearly stated, read Popper’s next sentence in Serano’s excerpt: “In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would be most unwise.”

It is on that foundation I continue to stand as what Serano feels a need to call a “free speech absolutist”; no offense taken. I would ask her to consider this: Who do you trust to decide for you what is safe to hear? Once you’ve declared someone…anyone…the arbiter of “proper speech” what refuge have you when they decide your speech is not?


6 Comments on "Tolerence for a Paradox"

  1. Justin Robbins and many other people seem to take the view that this “incident” was typical of all protest we are now seeing. Will the fear mongers now win? Is there still a Commie under every bed? From Charlie McCarthy’s cousin from Wisconsin roasting a victim over a slow fire, to LBJ boiling Leland olds in anti commie oil, we see the erosion of our rights being justified by some vague threat. The effort to arrange words to suit the desired end of stomping dissent into the dirt from whence it came, is an old and tired method of distracting from the paid political pricks who steal the nations pride and plunder the Treasury. Many times we have seen the application of fear like frosting spread on a cake of paranoia just to divert attention from the real criminals who seem to twist the facts to suit their needs. Why were none of the little criminals caught and tortured to reveal their true identity? We can only speculate, but consider if they were just some more actors hired to make a political point? Were those goons just some more Breitbart employees who were sent to stir up discontent? Like those adoring employees at the newly crowned Supreme Smartypants’ announcement of his upcoming election, were those in this isolated incident just some more bad actors, working for a non union Bob Mercer? Millions have peacefully protested this orange monsters distraction from the efforts of Congress to promote the profits of the wealthy, why did they not all freak out and run amok? Oh, and one more thing, when you mention 62 million voters, never forget to mention the more than 100 million who saw no candidate worth voting for, and stayed home.

    • I agree, Dan, it is very likely that violent pillagers disguised as luberal zealots are paid confederates of Bannon and company. After all, every accusation Trump hurled in tweets or ranted at his hate rallies are proved to be a reflection of his own actions,desires, and policies. When he tweeted the elections were rigged we find evidence of Russian interference, but in favor of Trump not his opponents. Trump accused the millions of concerned Americans who showed up to protest of being paid by shadowy liberal benefactors. There is truth in every word that comes out of Trump’s filthy mouth, but those words are confessions of his own deeds, not of those accused. Trump cant help himself from demanding credit for the diabolical deeds of his team of enemies of democracy.

  2. I think this is the term you’re looking for.

    • Thank you Snowulf. Ageny Provocateur. I believe APs were also responsible for the arson of a Republican campaign office in North Carolina last summer as well.

  3. “Black Bloc” we had darn well better figure out what it is and what role it is playing in the demonstrations.
    Right now, (a bad idea, but one which might in the long run save the protests) anyone showing up to a protest all dressed in black, including face covering will be arrested as soon as a SINGLE person dressed in black creates any form of vandalism. Since they are all dressed the same, the claim can be made that the police do not know who the exact culprit, all those dressed alike are being arrested so that they can sort out the actual individual based on video taken at the scene. In this way, all the members of the “Blacl Bloc” can be identified and their funding and political beliefs can be ascertained.

  4. I agree that it is highly suspicious that these black masked people led to not one single arrest. Their tactics appeared to be commando like to me.
    Of course, I don’t support those tactics, BUT it seems elementary to 1st find out who the hell these people were!
    It’s also amazing But I have not seen this Pointed out By the media – Nor do they point out, As usual, that the majority demonstrated in peace.
    God do I miss the days before infotainment… When there was a Fairness Doctrine…When media newsrooms lost money BECAUSE they understood that they were the 3rd rail of our democracy, And Antitrust laws really were enforced!

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