Institutionalizing Intolerance: Bullies Win, Freedom Suffers When We Can't Agree to Disagree
Whitehead, John W.http://dissidentvoice.org/2018/08/institutionalizing-intolerance-bullies-win-freedom-suffers-when-we-cant-agree-to-disagree
Date Written: 2018-08-12
Publisher: Dissident Voice
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22892
As America has become ever more polarized, and those polarized factions have become more militant and less inclined to listen to -- or even allow for the existence of -- other viewpoints, we are fast becoming a nation of people who just can't get along. Here's the thing: if Americans don't learn how to get along--at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other's right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different--then we're going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals). In such an environment, when we can't agree to disagree, the bullies (on both sides) win and freedom suffers.
In Charlottesville, Va., in the wake of a violent clash between the alt-right and alt-left over whether Confederate statues should remain standing in a community park, City Council meetings were routinely "punctuated with screaming matches, confrontations, calls to order, and even arrests," making it all but impossible for attendees and councilors alike to speak their minds.
In Maryland, a 90-year-old World War I Peace Cross memorial that pays tribute to the valor, courage and sacrifice of 49 members of the Prince George community who died in battle is under fire because a group of humanists believes the memorial, which evokes the rows of wooden Latin Crosses that mark the graves of WW I servicemen who fell on battlefields far away, is offensive.
On Twitter, President Trump has repeatedly called for the NFL to penalize players who take a knee in protest of police brutality during the national anthem, which clearly flies in the face of the First Amendment's assurance of the right to free speech and protest (especially in light of the president’s decision to insert himself--an agent of the government -- into a private workplace dispute).
On Facebook, Alex Jones, the majordomo of conspiracy theorists who spawned an empire built on alternative news, has been banned for posting content that violates the social media site's "Community Standards," which prohibit posts that can be construed as bullying or hateful.
Jones is not alone in being censured for content that might be construed as false or offensive.
Facebook also flagged a Canadian museum for posting abstract nude paintings by Pablo Picasso.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, once a group known for taking on the most controversial cases, is contemplating stepping back from its full-throated defense of free (at times, hateful) speech.
"What are the defenders of free speech to do?" asks commentator William Ruger in Time magazine.
"The sad fact is that this fundamental freedom is on its heels across America," concludes Ruger. "Politicians of both parties want to use the power of government to silence their foes. Some in the university community seek to drive it from their campuses. And an entire generation of Americans is being taught that free speech should be curtailed as soon as it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. On the current trajectory, our nation's dynamic marketplace of ideas will soon be replaced by either disengaged intellectual silos or even a stagnant ideological conformity. Few things would be so disastrous for our nation and the well-being of our citizenry."
You see, tolerance cuts both ways.