Saturday, October 1, 2011

Is Leftist Intolerance of Intolerance, Hypocrisy?

If you can get passed the obfuscation of the title of this essay, the question is essentially this: Leftists (“Liberals”) call for people to be tolerant of diversity, yet when groups (like Fred Phelps’ clan, racists, etc) express their beliefs regarding the inferiority or sinful status of other groups, is it hypocritical for those same Leftists to be intolerant of those other views? Here is an example I read today (10-1-11) on CNN’s comments about an article where Obama is going to give a speech to gay activists (copy/pasted verbatim, no alterations or omissions)

shockerwhoa3: The Bible says love thy neighbor, yet religious folk bash their neighbors beliefs. Priests and fathers say let God be the judge, yet they are judgemental about people's every day lives and their beliefs. Christianity is a bunch of hypocrites.

Osambo2: The bible also mentions ABOMINATION, terd tamper.

Regents85: you know whats funny about that is. Idiots like you preach tolerance and acceptance for gays but whenever somebody doesn't agree with the lifestyle idiots like you call them bigots and hatemongers. Respect others opinions. Don't be a hypocrite.

So is Regents85 (perhaps a graduate of conservative Christian Regent University?) correct in calling shockerwhoa3 hypocritical? In a mathematically logical sense, perhaps yes, but in an ethical and social sense, absolutely not. Mathematical logic implies basic concepts we learned in high school algebra and geometry when we learned proofs: a=b, b=1, therefore a=1. Following that same procedure, shocerwhoa3 does commit a mathematical inconsistency: intolerance=bad, I call your gay-hate= evil, therefore, I’m intolerant=I’m a hypocrite.

However, the social world is more complex than mathematical logic. In fact, most of what we say is “logical” is no more than common sense, or more specifically, what your culture believes we should all know and accept as true. The problem is that this kind of cultural-specific logic/common sense is only logical and common-sensical if you accept all of the assumptions that you personally were raised with, and there are as many different kinds of “common senses” as there are people alive. When enough of us start to agree on what is common sense, we get this synergistic energy and we all start to believe that my own personal beliefs are really true, and that everybody believes it, and if you don’t, you’re wrong.

Here is where I diverge from Regents: while perhaps shocker committed a mathematically-logical fallacy, in terms of ethics, Regents is ignoring the fact that there are profoundly different consequences for each of these types of intolerance. Regents’ and Osambo2’s intolerance leads to stripping of fundamental human rights of large groups of people, just as racists and sexists were content to disenfranchise, if not egregiously oppress, racial minorities and women. Shocker’s intolerance may limit Regents’ freedom to legislate his personal morality, and may violate his religious conscience, but it doesn’t strip him of any fundamental rights. Shocker’s position doesn’t even limit Regents’ freedom of speech (although some countries are going this route, legislating punishment for “hate speech”), but even if it did, we already agree socially that the good of the whole outweighs the exercise of some of our freedoms—take the classic example of the prohibition of falsely yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Similarly, even if the extreme situation were to occur in the U.S., if gay-hate speech is made into an actual crime, the social goods have to be weighed—restricting your right to call other people “terd [sic] tampers” vs. denying housing or job security to an entire class of people simply because they have same-sex attractions. The situation is made even more critical when the abuse of same-sex attracted people is put into historical context—just as Jews were burned in the Nazi ovens, so were gays, blacks, and other non-Aryans. Just as Jews and “witches” were burned on pyres in the middle ages, so were gays. Today in the U.S., FBI tracked hate-crimes against gays are #2, right after race-related hate-crimes (mostly against Blacks). Youth bullying and suicide because of gay-related taunting has been a national epidemic for decades, although it has only recently been in the news. Recall Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd, two high-profile gay hate-crime related murders, which represent just a small part of gay-related hate crimes.

While Regents85 and Osambo2 may or may not affirm the validity of the murder-torture of gay people just because they are gay, the issue of free speech rights brings us back to the reality of the world in which we live: free speech is important, but demonizing entire classes of people based on arbitrary and personal moral ideas, has led humanity to very dark places throughout our species history, and if you think we are getting better, just look at the 1900s…

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