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Beyond the tyranny of tolerance

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Peace Love and Understanding

Tyranny is the antithesis of tolerance.

Where tolerance appears to be tyranny is where no tolerance exists at all.

There are many people out there who expect others to tolerate them without themselves being willing to tolerate those they find distasteful.

And this is a recipe for failure in terms of actually building a tolerant society. If you want to live in a tolerant society the way to have that is to actually be tolerant yourself.


Recently, I was declined a part of my order in a hipster New York coffee shop by the members of the LGBTQ because I am Indian man with a wedding ring.
I asked for a croissant along with my coffee. I got the coffee, not the croissant. Although I could see the bread in front of me, I was told, "Well, it's not ready yet."
A. Indian man with wedding ring = Religious, Conservative, tyrannical, bride-burning, intolerant, Hindu nationalist, and a potential sex offender/rapist. and
B. India man with a wedding ring = NOT American, i.e., weird/foreigner, talking all our jobs, has money, must be selfish.
Eventually, I walked over to a street cart and got my coffee and croissant for $2 sold by an immigrant man.
So now I know how it feels.


A journalist at "The Economist" wrote, "Quotas force companies and universities to look at identities over qualifications."
Nowadays, the principal type of racism is racism against Americans of Asian or European ancestry. This type of racism is institutionalized as affirmative action. It is systematic, preferential treatment for Africans and Hispanics.
There is more information about this issue.

WT Economist

I don't get the motivation of the Gay Marriage cake buyers. Why were they so desperate to give their money to someone that didn't like them? They should have started a competing bakery instead.

Peace Love and Understanding

This isn't about "making a case" to people who do not support tolerance, diversity, and equality for why those things are a good idea. So long as those people think they have a superior status or property to lose from tolerance, diversity, and equality they just aren't going to support them. Thus why you have Donald Trump.

This isn't a rational debate or a matter of misunderstanding. It is purely a power struggle between factions for control of America's culture and institutions.

Where gains can be had are mostly in understanding why working class whites feel that diversity is a threat to their positions of relative advantage over others. Why is it so important to them to be better than those other groups and to have some special privileges relative to them to cement their superior status?

It is a necessary component of feeling better than another regarding certain things to also feel worse than others regarding other things. The humiliation of the white working class has a lot to do with this. They feel humiliated and less than over their perception of their relative economic irrelevance compared to, say, the wealthy liberal elite in our cities. They feel that they are being relegated to the back burner of history, and are responding to this perception with reactionary impulses to the changes developing in our society. They put all of their faith and loyalty into giving a free pass to Donald Trump to do anything he wants to do to further their defense of the way things were before.

How do you solve this? Make them feel loved and worthy in spite of those changes through the actions you take.

@Peace, Love and Understanding,
"How do you solve this? Make them feel loved and worthy in spite of those changes through the actions you take."
You really are an idealist. That's fine. I respect that, 100%. In a Little League sort of way, I am that too. Over the years, I tamed the word "ideal" to "dream".
For some spiritually uplifting news, Macron, current President of France, is trying exactly that tact in his recent state visit to the US with the first hand, direct recipient of the love in the person of Trump. You ain't never seen such "body politics" between heads of states in the form of lingering handshakes, kisses (both cheeks) and shoulder patting, ever, I could say, in the history of state visits between two nations. Our beloved President Trump, to reciprocate the love, went so far as, in front of all reporters' cameras clicking away, to extend his arm to brush off some dandruff on Macron's immaculate suit jacket. Meantime, in the speech before a full Congress, Macron urged US to honor the Iran deal on nuclear weapons, chiding, tongue in cheek of course, it ain't no good foreign policy to renege on a deal affirmed, among other things, by big handshakes.
Have you ever tried embrace a porcupine in fright? Or love a heroin addict to health? They are both pretty challenging stuff. :)

Really? I don't see myself as an idealist at all. Certainly I used to be.....Now I am better categorized as an extremely jaded, bitter, and cynical idealist.

There is a certain naivety the label "idealist" carries that I don't think fits me at all.

The truth is I really don't have a lot of faith in very many people to actually do what I suggested above. I was merely pointing it out as the most likely avenue for success compared to the other options.

The truth is very few people seem to be capable of empathy or unselfish behavior, and the primary person hurt by that is themselves. But also others.

My point was not that this is likely to happen, only that if tolerance and diversity are the society you want to live in you have to actually live according to the principles of tolerance and diversity in your own life and your own actions.

Which includes displaying tolerance for the people who elected Donald Trump. Maybe even love for them.

And I don't think a jaded, bitter, and cynical person can really be called an idealist....

Anyone who believes in right and wrong behavior is an idealist, technically. Ideally, we should do more right and less wrong. That doesn't mean that people are going to act the way they know they ought to in reality. At least not until they get burned by their own dumb-ass wrongness enough times to get through their pointless stubbornness.

Max the Pen

Say 50 years ago, there was less tolerance to cultural differences within the West. It was largely homogeneous groups doing economically well. At that time, Democrats and Conservatives (Republicans) even voted in similar lines in the interest of citizens. No longer. Perhaps the banner of “Liberalism“ has gone too far(?) By having minorities pulling ever further and further to the left, the extreme right has now had a violent reaction, causing them to pull harder to the right. A huge chasm now separates us from our own best interests. Today, it seems you can often find that no one is more intolerant, than those that keep on going on about tolerance. Perhaps liberals need to think a little more conservatively and vice-versa, as respectful dialog and compromise are paramount.

Tom Meadowcroft

Where those with liberal social views are in the minority, they campaign for and demand the right to speak freely.
As soon as they find themselves in the majority, as is the case on most college campuses, they switch to practicing majoritarianism and shout down any opposing speech. This is rather like various 20th century communist political movements who were in favor of democracy and elections, but only until they gained power. Mr. Ortega's actions in Nicaragua today is a handy reminder of that past, although he's given up on Communism, these days.
Diversity is a thing to be prized, according to some, but only diversity in skin color, religion, or ethnicity. Diversity in political views quickly leads to ostracism from superficially 'diverse' groups. Diversity in income is a sin. Diversity in lifestyles is only good within a certain subset. Diversity in diet is good in theory, but there's a big set of foods you have to avoid or you're evil. The tyranny of tolerance stems from labeling behavior 'tolerant' which is really no more than taking sides.


First things first: Thank you Economist for finally admitting that the pendulum of opinions have gone way to the left and that moderation or even balance between different views have been all but extinct.
That said, the tyranny thing is just the unintended consequence resulting from the same openness and tolerance provided by the same societies that allowed it and encouraged it. There wouldn’t be a cake crisis if the same people who made the laws of equality and rights haven’t provided those laws. There wouldn’t be minority kids or illegal immigrants protesting speakers they don’t like, if they haven’t been encouraged and accepted to those schools who were founded by the same type of people they hate…etc
I knew the backlash would happen the same day Obama won in 2008; I knew then that all conservative views (ie. Immigration, street crime, etc), no matter how sensible or moderate, were going to be smashed, boxed in as bigotry, silenced and censored. This, btw, is the reason why conservatives and moderates found themselves having to use other forms of communication beyond the established routs of MSM, colleges speeches, art and entertainment, etc.

I could think of many examples, but here are two recent ones:
1) A tenure professor from Fresno CA just said a bunch of ugly things about Barbara Bush. Fair enough, she is free to say what she wants and shouldn’t be punished for exercising her freedom of speech. Yet this is a muslim woman descendant of some Iraqi (or Iranian) immigrants. The question is then: if US hasn’t been such a tolerant, open and welcoming, would that woman exist at all? Would she have that level of freedom at all? And most importantly, if she has been a conservative, or even a real racist/pronazi type person, would she be allowed to rant the same way but using racist slurs instead?
2) Sweden (the model of tolerant society) is dueling with an increase of crime mostly from Muslim immigrants and a backslash emerging. What the press does? They blame SWEDEN for not “better integrating” their immigrants. No wonder Swedish people are reacting.
I’m a die-hard fan of speech freedom as long as it is applied across the board and not selectively.


May I be the first reader to congratulate you, TE, on a very fine article indeed. You asked the necessary questions and attempt to answer them without resorting to manipulative hyperbole. Great job! As well some articles in the latest Printed Edition that are first class, for the same reason. Thank you, authors of the article. Thank you, Ms Zanny Beddoes.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

Specifically, I thought the perspective you stated - quoted below in its entirety - is exemplary for balance and fairness -
"But as the openness and tolerance of societies is under threat around the world, we believe it is right to question the excesses of some social movements. Forced adherence to liberal values can have dangerously illiberal consequences. Silencing men’s voices in the #MeToo debate can lead to miscarriages of justice and alienate the very people whose behaviour needs to change. And a disproportionate focus on identity and groups can obfuscate other issues, such as individual freedom." [Italics mine for special appreciation].
Note on "Me too" movement (mentioned in article) - this reader is of the opinion that the movement has indeed at this point gone amuck. In addition to the observation that a sizable number of claims seem dubious (if you don't want to get pushed to a bed by a guy, don't go in his bedroom, don't get drunk in his company, and don't bite on the bait of a free lunch, Beverly Hilton or Dorchester or Paris Four Seasons. It is that simple! Didn't your mother tell you "there is no free lunch"? If you did all those things - bite the free meal bait, get drunk, and walk into his bedroom, you are at least 50% responsible for what happened to you) . Not to mention there are are men, hetero- or hom0sexual, who can scream "Me Too!". Being sexually violated and exploited is not the exclusive domain of females).
On identity politics. The distinction, IMHO, is not that between a religion and an ideology. For many people, in particular people drugged on an ideology - aka an ideologue - the ideology is a religion. Likewise vice versa, for people drugged on a religion (manifest as obsession about saving other people's souls, a matter that is none of their business), the religion is the ideology. The correct distinction is fact-less categorical thinking v. fact-based analytical thinking. Fact-less categorical thinking, when manifest as a modality of mental processing that is rigid, persistent, fixed, in-temperable, unalterable, is diagnostic of the prodromal phase in Axis I (DSM-IV & IV-R) disorders, or schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic (DSM-V) disorders.


If you must lie in order to defend your policy position then your policy position is probably wrong.
The Economist lied.
The above article states: "IN 2012 a same-sex couple sued a bakery in Colorado for discrimination after the owner, a Christian man who believed that gay marriage is “sacrilegious”, refused to bake them a wedding cake"
This is a lie. The man did offered to bake a cake for the same-sex couple. What the man refused to do was apply artwork to the top of the cake that the same-sex couple had requested.


"Identity politics (that is, political interests based on belonging to a... religion rather than an ideology) "
Then we have mister Bannon, who follows religiously the ideology of white supreme-ism.
Thanks TE for the statement quoted above, as a perfect example of the fallacy of a distinction without a difference.


Tolerance can no longer be imposed and discussion can no longer be limited. One who limits uncomfortable topics only marginalizes himself. People simply move to another medium of discussion and make a nasty surprise at the voting booth or on the streets.
In the 20 century, one could control media and newspapers. Now people discuss their views on social media. If the government and lobbyists move to control Facebook too, the discussion will shift to other technologies.
TE learned it hard way. A 175 year old newspaper, making a discussion on great topics. How many nicknames joined? A dozen? I think TE will never re-gain the interest of audience like in 2015, when tens of readers shouted abuse at the TE one-sided treatment of migration. People no longer care what they write in TE or talk on TV.


TE prefers to discuss broad and vague concept. Maybe instead TE editors would answer, how they plan to fix themselves? During the migrant crisis of 2015-2016, The Economist together with virtually all West Eurropean magazines presented only positive aspect of migration. Currently we now that all negative aspects of migration came to be, including terrorist attacks in previously safe West European cities. How TE plans to apologize? What changes TE makes to be sure that the press again picks its role of delivering objective information? It is not a comfortable question, but a necessary one.


As one person's "moral action" is another person's "moral abomination" it is apparent that any notion of recourse to "morality" must be discounted as we try to determine suitable regulations by means of which to govern our societies.

Rather than appealing to some highly subjective notion like "morality" we can instead substitute a more tangible measuring-stick: potential cause for harm.

In the case of the burquini, there was no potential cause for harm. Provided that a citizen's face is visible and the garment unlikely to mask a suicide vest, people should be permitted to wear what they want on the beach. It's not so long ago that our Victorian ancestors were disporting themselves in all manner of uncomfortable voluminous attire sur la plage.

With regards to the wedding cake, what is the difference between refusing to serve a homosexual couple and a Jewish couple or an African-American couple? Prejudice on the basis of gender, race, or orientation is clearly antithetical to any civilized nation. The fact that such prejudice is rooted in primitive tribal mythology (in this case a descendant of the Yahweh cult) is irrelevant. Prejudice is prejudice regardless of its source. In fact religionists are always fighting rear-guard actions against social progress and this is inevitable. If you believe the "rules for living" are contained within ancient tribal myths, reality is always going to confound your beliefs. This is why religionists have always opposed all progress, such as the use of anesthetics ("god meant us to suffer"), votes for women ("god placed woman subservient to man"), equal-opportunity laws, etc. etc. etc.

Any reasonable society aiming for adequate social outcomes must look at all citizens impartially. Thus discrimination against women is clearly in contravention of such a rule. We do not need positive discrimination; what we need is the application of unbiased rules for all citizens regardless of race, color, belief, sexual orientation, or any other attribute.

PamSkeen in reply to CA-Oxonian

Rather than noticing that TE lied, you simply "gobbled up" their incorrect story-line and ran with it. Your entire post is a response to a TE article that is based upon a lie.
You stated: "what is the difference between refusing to serve a homosexual couple and a Jewish couple or an African-American couple"
A better response would be: "should African-Americans be forced to put KKK artwork on cakes or should Jews be forced to put Nazi symbols on cakes"

Noijmiw in reply to PamSkeen

PamSkeen, you're dishonest and petty. The way you "found a lie" I could find lies in about every piece of literature longer than a single sentence ever written in history. And you know it. This article makes you uncomfortable because you can't find any truly objective remarks (it is indeed very well written), while it doesn't support your alt-right worldview. So you decided to be petty and whine about non-issues. That's not only a logical fallacy, it's also quite pathetic from an adult (I would understand a 7 yo reacting like this). I suggest you start whining about the font and the colour scheme in the article too, it would be just as valid criticism as what you tried to convey anyway. To finish with you: if you really need someone to explain to you why KKK and nazi ideology aren't comparable to LGBT demands for equality, then maybe you really are only 7 yo.

Noijmiw in reply to CA-Oxonian

Hello CA-Oxonian, thanks for your comment. As always very interesting. Overall I agree with the argument you defend here, so I won't make a comment about that.
However, I'm interested in discussing your views on the subjectivity/objectivity of morality. For the last year I had quite some fun with moral philosophy in a scientific and rational context, and while I do indeed come to the conclusion that intrinsically no moral system is superior to another one (I'm nihilistic about the universe), non-intrinsically some moral systems can be thought of as superior to others in a human and evolutive context.
Through natural selection we evolved the instinctive need for self-preservation and perpetuation of the species. More generally, we can say that if a species does not have these instinctive behaviour guidelines, it wouldn't be around to ask themselves philosophical questions. These instinctive guidelines are what I like to call our "instinctive morality", which is much more "objective" than the general concept of morality. With this instinctive morality we can thus find moral rules that are valid for the entire human species (note: this moral system wouldn't be valid for non-evolutive species, like AI, raising a further very interesting debate). And when you really think this instinctive morality out, one of the very few instinctive moral rules you always find back is: "try to minimize the overall "harm" to people, as averaged over the entire human population".
I decided to react on your post because this instinctive moral rule on which I keep falling back is very similar to your concept of using the "potential for harm" as a measuring stick. Let me know if you're interested in discussing this further.

JJW_NL in reply to CA-Oxonian

Agreed with Oxonian that the potential cause for harm is the key. Individuals are free to live and express themselves until they cause harm to others.

Then the important question becomes to define what constitutes harm. If defined too broadly, liberalism degrades into totalitarianism. Some religious/ethnic/identity-based/etc groups try to limit the freedom of others by arguing that their group's interests are harmed, e.g. by women wearing short dresses near a mosque or a gay couple holding hands near a church. But groups don't have rights, only individuals do. And no individual has the right to not see people hold hands or wear clothing of their own choice (within reason, full facial covering is unreasonable since it makes any normal communication impossible).

However in one sense I would make the definition of harm quite broad rather than narrow, and that is for assuring equal opportunity in terms of education and basic necessities. If individuals want to organise society in such a way that others lose opportunities at the start of their lives (e.g. making higher education unaffordable or inaccessible except through personal networks), then those individuals cause (great!) harm to others and should be denied their right to make such choices.


Those who are for closed societies who would have their countries live by their restrictive moral (some might say immoral) and religious based rules would have you believe that this debate is all about tolerance and that openess and freedoms have gone too far in accepting behaviours and lifestyles that are abhorrent. Those who support greater openess and freedoms for anyone regardless of who they are would have you belieave that this debate is all about equality, that unless all are free no one is truly free. Their focus therefore is on the most oppressed and repressed in society to endeavour to equalize and to make ammends. True equality threatens those either hold dear the advantages their lifestyles have conveyed or who hold dear some moral or religious belief that places negative judgement on lifestyles that differ from those that they profess to lead. Personally I come out in favour for arguing for equality as the means to achieve respect for all. Arguing for tolerance is a losing game as you can’t change how someone else thinks or believes unless they want to change. Equality means repect for the intolerant. Aye, there’s the rub!

guest-aaniosnn in reply to Duckdodger

I am for a society which imposes adherence to the law, importance of hard work, and goes down with force on any attempts to create closed migrant districts with alternative rules or no-go areas of towns like Molenbeek in Brussels. If you call it a closed society with a restrictive moral and religiously based rule, I don't care.

Duckdodger in reply to guest-aaniosnn

Well that's a complete misinterpretation of my comment. Nothing in my commentary impugns the rule of law or the importance of hard work. Equality implies successful acceptance and integration into society for everyone such that citizens do not need to be either tolerant of or intolerant of " closed migrant districts with alternative rules or no-go areas". Molenbeek may well be a horror for Belgium but there are many non-immigrant suburbs in American and Britain that are horrific to police. If a country marginalizes any group, be they immigrant or non, there will be blowback and you should care about that because, sorry bub, but they're there and they aren't going anywhere ... so best to deal with them with equality from Day 1 so if they turn out bad you can't wrap yourself around some religious prejudiced or racially bigoted posture to generalize or rationalize your intolerance.

Noijmiw in reply to guest-aaniosnn

I live in Brussels and I was a couple of km away from the maelbeek metro station when the bomb went off. I know Molenbeek quite well. So for something like the 1000th time, THERE ARE NO NO-GO AREAS OVER HERE!
Stop spreading propaganda lies! And if you reaaaally believe in your own bullsh*t (read: if you're really completely brainwashed by propaganda), I invite you to come to Brussels for a citytrip and I volunteer as a guide to show you around Molenbeek. Seriously, give me your email address, I'll contact you and I volunteer to show you around.
I find it really sad that you don't even feel the moral obligation to objectively check what you profess. Ideology over rationality, the source of almost all violence and polarization in the world...


"On the other side of the argument "
There is no other side of the argument. There is the delusion and there is the response. The delusion is white guilt and the response is freedom of conscience. The Economist backs the first and nothing about it is open, liberal or progressive.