Monday, July 02, 2007

Zero tolerance for intolerance

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

—Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton University Press 1971).

Chris Hedges, the reporter-theologian, opens the first chapter of his latest book, American Fascists (Simon and Schuster, Inc. 2006), with this quotation. Please read it carefully, a couple of times, boys and girls. Then print it out and tape it to the cover of your day planner. Spotty says there is no better description extant of the struggle between liberals and the Christian conservatives today.

Make no mistake, there is a cadre of Christian dominionists, in whom the Republican party is currently in thrall, who want to realize their vision of the United States as a Christian nation. One whose ultimate source of law is natural law (God's law)—as understood and interpreted by the dominionists, of course—and not positive law, that is law made by the people, as embodied in the Constitution and the acts of the Congress and the legislatures. In this, the dominionists are no different than the Islamic radicals, and here in the U.S., Spot says that Christian dominionists are the more dangerous. There is a much greater risk of the United States falling into a Christian theocracy than an Islamic one; either would be disastrous, of course.

Writing in a somewhat different context, a Supreme Court justice once wrote, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." By that, the justice meant that we needn't guarantee the freedoms of an open society to those who would kill it. Karl Popper says essentially the same thing.

Spot couldn't find a Katherine Kersten column today, but he'll use her as an example anyway. How many times has Katie written about her intolerance of gays, Muslims, racial minorities, public schools, the poor, liberals, even liberal dogs? If you want some idea, boys and girls, just put "Katherine Kersten" in a Technorati search and read some of the blog posts by Spot and many others about Katie's columns the past couple of years.

But do you know, boys and girls, who Katie wants us to tolerate? Michele Bachmann. (This post goes back to a time when Spotty was still using the old English spelling of his name.)

In her Monday column, Kersten pays homage to the clown princess of Minnesota politics, Michele Bachmann. The premise of the piece is that we should all just be tolerant of one of the most intolerant pols in the state. Spottie was too stunned to respond for several hours.

When Michele and her crew really get a hold on the reigns of power—which to a very considerable extent they have already done—how much tolerance do you think they're going to show the rest of us? Lotsa luck boys and girls, lotsa luck. Spot says give no quarter to these people, for you will receive none from them.

Today's musing were prompted by Charlie's recent post at Across the Great Divide regretting his formerly tolerant views of the nomination of John Roberts to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court. You see, Charlie, that the problem with relying on the "better angels" of conservatives is that they're not angels, they're flying monkeys.

Update: When you're done with Spot's post, but sure to read Jihad! from Jesus' General.

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