October 12, 2020

This will end badly (and the trope of not tolerating intolerance)

3 min read

Posted 2 years ago
by Téa Smith

First – the chilling rewriting of internet history in this article is concerning. It is absolutely NOT true that the internet of old was anything but free speech/Wild West. Or at least it was until AOL, which provided a sanitised, filtered, “safe” internet, and sent the rest of us a flood of spoiled, loud chewing puritan middle class Americans and they made it utterly intolerable for the rest of us… and we’ve been fighting these fuckwits and their stupid culture wars ever since.

I have a chapter called “America Online” in my book. I am also writing about how that impacted online conversations during 9/11 and stuff. I’ll get there eventually 🙂

Second – I am deeply concerned about the subtext in this article and I will try to write a better essay ASAP. The answer is 100% not to create cult tech bubbles for totalitarian ideologies to radicalise any more than they have been. 

This will be a continuation of the Tumblr v 4Chan wars that have infected all of us. This is going to get so much worse before it gets better. I have been 5 years ahead – always – and the writing is on the wall here that if these are the “solutions” as imagined by American Tech Companies, we are all screwed.

Third – if you are one of those people who say that you shouldn’t ‘tolerate intolerance’, that is absolute bullshit. That twisted logic is also used by cults like Scientology to rationalise violence against enemies and Fair Game. It has no decent philosophical basis unless you are a totalitarian.

The “don’t tolerate intolerance” crap assumes 

  • you have all the information (you don’t) 
  • you have the moral authority to determine which view is the ‘correct’ one (you don’t – moral philosophy is complex) and 
  • that other people don’t disagree for valid reasons that you are not aware of (most often they do) 
  • that disagreement causes ‘harm’ – or your beliefs are somehow a mark of your character rather than your behaviour (yes I know, deontological vs consequentialism but whatevs).

It is astonishing how many people are abandoning friends and family over them simply having different political views. 

That mindset is so dangerous and we are seeing this all play out. You should tolerate *all* ideas – especially of those you love. You should always try to make your own ideas better and be able to argue them. 

If not, you are the very definition of a bigot.

I wrote a whole thread on this over on Twitter if you want to know more.

Tolerate intolerance. Use the Principle of Charity and Principle of Humanity (*actual* Philosophy not pop-philosophy that rationalises cult-thinking).

The answer is 100% not in creating more bubbles. This will end really badly. It’s bad enough as it is.

These people really need to be challenged and disagreed with because they legit already believe that any disagreement is hate speech, and that material reality is a fucking Multiverse.

When this (extremely and opaquely funded) platform talks about ‘bullying’ and ‘fake news’, they mean the ability to disagree, or the ability to say things like “hey, you can’t change biological sex” or “this issue is more complicated” or “race relations in America is different to other countries” or “hey, that’s actually not what that word means”.

Creating platforms that allow cults to double down and become more totalitarian and less tolerant of dissent, means we are all completely screwed.

PS. Cutting off friends and family over political or religious disagreement is the #1 sign you’ve joined a cult. #2 is feeling like you’ve been psychologically harmed because someone challenged your beliefs. Just saying.

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You're too kind :-)

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