Liberating Intolerance

Remember Political Correctness?  It was so 90s, so silly, and based in developing “sensitive” terms that didn’t accept culturally-based “norms” as moral points of reference.  Everyone made fun of such silly terms as “vertically challenged,” and “differently abled,” and the whole thing faded away, right?

Wrong.  Just like disco didn’t go away in the 70s, but evolved into “House” or “Dance” music, Political Correctness never went away.  All of the underlying assumptions of PC have been alive and well the whole time.  They were based in the concept of “Liberating Intolerance” by Herbert Marcuse.  Marcuse held the Orwellian position that the only way to achieve the goal of Tolerance was to display intolerance of the existing ideas and institutions that stood in the way of that goal.  It begins with assuming a point of view to be correct, and then in showing intolerance toward all those who disagree.  This is the “correct” part of PC. 

Today, it can be found in the backlash of the passage of Prop. 8 in California.  Identifiable subgroups of those who worked to pass the proposition have been targetted for hostility, vandalism, misrepresentation, and poorly focused economic repercussions.  Strangely, this includes members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have seen church buildings and temples vandalized, but also Blacks who overwhelmingly supported the proposition.  At maximum, Mormons constituted 2.4% of the vote about Prop. 8, and not a dime coming from the Church itself spent on the campaign.  And not all Mormons, Catholics, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or Muslims supported Prop. 8, and not all gay people opposed it — these are not monolithic groups that all agree about much of anything — but the backlash against them hasn’t taken this into account.  There has been no allegation that anything done in support of Prop. 8 was illegal or done improperly — the anger is because these people dared to make use of the legal process to advocate for their position in opposition to the “correct” point of view.  And now they are being punished for their “incorrect” activities, even when that punishment itself is illegal. 

Now, I am well aware that the self-appointed punishers of this “incorrect” behavior are an overly vocal minority of the people who disapprove of Prop. 8.  However, they still add up to a significant number of people, and they’re ramping up steam by exploiting the general ignorance and prejudice against these religious and racial minorities in a fashion that I find disturbing.  It is quite possible to disagree on these issues civiling yet strongly, and these people are instead choosing divisive and punitive tactics to intimidate those who might dare to stand in their way. 

Has the time come yet when we’ve been outraged enough that people have the gall to disagree with us?  Have we called enough names yet?  Have we vandalized enough property yet?  Is it yet time to take a few deep breaths and make peace with the idea that reasonable people can disagree with us, and that there’s an odd chance that we might be wrong about something that’s worthy of consideration?  That it’s as important to treat people we disagree with well as it is to be right about what we believe in? 

The problem with PC isn’t the silly word games — it’s the arrogant assumption that there is only one side of a debate that has merit, and that the other side of the debate is to be shouted down and never, ever listened to or treated with respect.  This is not the way to a civil society — it’s the way to anger and violence.  I choose civility.  How about you?

7 thoughts on “Liberating Intolerance

  1. The issue of those who were in favor of Prop 8 isn’t about them being on the wrong side, nor is it about PC, it’s about rights. People do not get to vote on people’s rights…if we did, then there’s a good chance that there would be places in America where Jim Crow would be alive and well.

    The majority should not vote on people’s rights. From here, we have the option to discuss our opinions on gay marriage and if it is a right. While I’m not a lawyer, I submit to you that because marriage, at this point in time, is a government contract, that it must be applied to ALL citizens equally. Allowing some people access to obtaining a valid marriage license and denying access to others based on their sexual orientation is a violation of our 14th Amendment…as much of an insult and attack on justice as the denial of the same right to mixed race couples.

    The issue isn’t a disagreement, it’s that people are being oppressed, and the Mormon church both contributed money and encouraged their flock to contribute money to ensure that oppression remains. Am I saying that temples being defaced is good? NO. I am saying that the Mormon church did, and has, used its pulpit to push political ideology and in this election that ideology was hate.

  2. You’re giving a reason to vote against Prop 8, which is quite aside the point of what I’m talking about. I’m not a California voter, nor is it before the election, so this message isn’t going anywhere.

    And then you’re giving a legal argument about why Prop 8 should be overturned. I’m not appellate judge, so this message isn’t going anywhere either.

    And then comes the nonsense, showing you haven’t gotten any factual information about what Prop 8 does or what the position of the Church is, nor what it actually did. Google is your friend, and I encourage you talk to your friend to educate yourself about what you’re talking about. You might someday talk to somebody who didn’t already agree with you and wasn’t as ignorant about what you’re talking about as you are, so it might come in handy. There isn’t a word in anything published by the Church having to do with Prop 8 that even tolerates hate toward gay and lesbian people, let alone that advocates hate toward anybody.

    The hate on display is pretty much one-sided, and it’s not coming from the Church.

    Glad we agree that defacing temples isn’t okay. It would be nice if we agreed that calling gay black people the N word also isn’t okay.

  3. I don’t think the gay people using racial slurs or attacking the Mormon church are in the right. I wish people could behave with the most proper and tidy etiquette when dealing with issues they have problems with, however I find it hard to completely dismiss people who feel like their rights are being taken from them simply because of who they want to marry.

    As for you claim that, “There isn’t a word in anything published by the church having to do with Prop 8 that even tolerates hate toward gay and lesbian people, let alone that advocates hate toward anybody.” I would submit this quote from a letter sent out by the LDS, “We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.” (

    First of all, the teachings of the church should stay in the church. I find it disgusting that people constantly try to enforce their faith on me. In fact, that is part of the reason I left the Catholic Church. I believe that people should live their lives as they see fit and be open and welcoming to people of other faiths and beliefs, with the exception of people attempting to place a harm on others, such as attempting to refuse people rights based on sexual orientation or, just to throw in a non-LDS example, the complicit attitude the Pope took towards the actions of Nazi Germany.

    The hate simply is not one sided. Luckily, at least the LDS did something to earn the hatred of people they want legally oppressed. There are several websites which list the LDS church as giving money to the Yes on 8 Campaign, and one in particular that shows the tens of millions of dollars given to the Yes on 8 Campaign by adherents, who were, I assume, swayed by the directive of their church fathers, shown in the letter referenced above. All gay people did was exist and they were given the hate of the mormon church, the catholic church and many other faiths.

    I want religious figures to not endorse candidates, policies, or any other ballot action from the pulpit if only because I feel that has us on the same course to become a fundamentalist state…and I don’t like the taliban or the Kingdom of Saud.

  4. Okay, you include the quote, which shows no tolerance for any act of hatred toward anybody, and you excluded the part that specifically says that there should be no unkindness shown to gay and lesbian people (google, again, is your friend, and it has more than one source). All you have shown is what was known — the Church encouraged its members to support Prop 8. Woo.

    The Church isn’t even asking you to live its standards. It has every right to ask its members to do things — something, in this case, which is left at the realm of a request with no consequences for not doing what was asked, and no consequences for actively opposing Prop 8, which many Mormons did.

    I am getting the message, quite clearly, that you are framing this as a matter not only of disagreement, but of taking someone’s rights away, and you feel much more justified for angry and hateful actions based on that question of rights. To save us both time, I’m going to leave that that I disagree with that frame.

    I’m also going to suggest that the idea that the Mormon Church is going to change its behavior based on demonstrations by groups of angry people shows a deep ignorance of Mormon history that is embarrassing. A people who have been subject to mob violence at places like Haun’s Mill, Carthage Jail and faced an Extermination Order in Missouri and the U.S. Army in the Utah Wars simply don’t buckle to outside threats. Take that to the bank.

    Religious figures retain their right to speak out on whatever issues they wish, just like everybody else does. Would your desire to deprive religious leaders of their rights to speak their minds justify me being hateful toward you? There is no slippery slope between Church leaders speaking out on moral issues and the creation of a totalitarian theocracy. Let’s step back from the hysteria, and stop trying to make enemies unnecessarily.

    However, it seems we have agreement about my basic point, which is that it’s not okay to exploit bigotry toward religious and racial minorities to punish them for supporting Prop 8. I don’t get the impression you see any particular danger in this movement, or that you would mind giving these people a pass because you think they’re partially justified, but I appreciate the nominal pro forma agreement.

    I’m not sure there’s more left to be said here.

  5. “the Church encouraged its members to support Prop 8. Woo.”

    No, not “woo”, they are attempting to ensure that gay people remain second class citizens and that is much more of an act of bigotry than hold signs or defacing a building. Buildings can be repaired, feelings heal over time but Prop 8 shows an attempt to relegate gay and lesbian into a class beneath those of straight people.

    There is a slippery slope for legislating morality and theocracy, I’m not saying it’s happening, but this shows a step towards that idea.

    I suggest anyone violating the law should be punished accordingly. This includes gay people attacking or defacing Mormon church property.

    I never believe I said it was okay for Mormon church property or adherents to be damaged or mistreated. I may have said that the harm of being called names is much less than the harm of being denied rights, but the two aren’t the same thing.

    Hate can be different and more passive than spray paint and racial slurs. Denying people basic rights is a form of hate. Tolerating institutions to discriminate on a meaningless difference is hate. The Mormon church has for, a majority of its time at the very least allowed hate to flourish in the area under its influence, be it the discrimination against blacks up until the late 1970’s, or the constant and continued discrimination against gays.

    Listen, all you have to say is that you don’t want gay people getting married, you don’t think they should have that right protected…all this back and forth is getting silly, especially when you say things like ensuring gays can not live a life like anyone else is anything but hate.

  6. Actually, I wasn’t particularly interested in getting into this portion of the topic in the first place. You’ve only briefly discussed any portion of my posted topic, and, while I appreciate that you’re more strongly disagreeing with the vandalism and racial slurs I spoke about, you’ve still not addressed the notion of liberating intolerance that I see manifest in those actions.

    I find your definition of “hate” to be unreasonable and dilute beyond the point of usefulness.

    I’m not aware of any evidence that those defacing property were themselves gay. I don’t think that would be relevant, personally. The problem to me is that whoever it was felt entitled to punish the Church for taking the “wrong” stand on the question. Vigilante or mob justice is a bigger concern to me than this question is in any direction.

    So, if you want to talk about the points I actually brought up at the start of this, rather than explaining why you agree with the position of the people I’m talking about while disagreeing with their tactics, I think there’ll be a reason to continue the discussion. If not, I’ll see you around.

  7. Okay, so first of all, all people should have equal protection and feel a degree of safety in their homes and persons. Attacks, intimidation, vandalism or whatever else came from this as a “backlash” against people who are perceived to have donated money or time or encouraged people to do so was, and remains, wrong.

    However, while it does not excuse it, we must, as a society, come to understand that a wrong was also done to a group who, albeit through a legitimate legal process, was denied a right. Just as laws have been used down through time and around the world to disenfranchise a minority population, it continues in our day in age, the most recent site being California, Florida and Nevada.

    I do NOT believe that it is possible to disagree on the point of people’s rights being denied civilly. I believe that people in favor of Prop 8 and other similar bills are in favor of taking rights away from people and are not too far off from people who would deny rights along racial lines, gender lines, or any other inherent condition that may be used as an arbitrary system for sorting people out into A’s and B’s.

    My issue with your original post is that you paint this as if it’s the same as as simple disagreement over budget policy or a school levy. This is an issue of human rights, and it isn’t about PC.

    Your characterizations of Marcuse’s work is somewhat over simplified. He claims that in order for true tolerance to work, we must adopt a discriminatory form of intolerance, where we do not permit repressive intolerance. So it would be an intolerance of someone’s right to say “nigger” in a racially discriminatory way because of the perceived harm it does to society at a whole.

    It really doesn’t have an arbitrary “wrong” or “right” position, but elects to be intolerant of words and phrases used to be intolerant. Racial slurs, words that objectify women, or rob them of a degree of respect and / or perceived power, such as “babe”, “darling”, and so on.

    You’re attempting to apply of societal theory to the actions of a group that you freely admit is a minority. (“I am well aware that the self-appointed punishers of this “incorrect” behavior are an overly vocal minority“)

    Your critique of PC is correct, in my opinion, in the idea that the PC we’re forced to learn in corporate retreats or in sensitivity training is not productive, but merely serves to divide the country further down, and takes the things we say that could be considered intolerant are sequestered to back rooms and offices, we look over each shoulder before we tell that joke…however, your clumsy attempt to seemingly apply your own world view to Marcuse’s writings misses out on the idea that it wasn’t about hurt feelings. I’m sure Marcuse would be fine with calling short people “short” and fat people “fat”, what he advocated was a change in language that was designed to be intolerant and robbed people of an equal footing. An interesting side note is that if we were to follow his ideas, we would apply a very authoritarian flavor to our democracy.

    There is a very quick and cursory critique of your main, original points. I’m sure you will forgive a lack of scholarly citation of my points, seeing as you make numerous factual claims in the original post with no clear citations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *