In the first sentence of a paper that would go disturbingly under-read for the next 70 years (at least), Dr. Fulton Sheen shook the world his seemingly prophetic tone concerning tolerance and intolerance.
“America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. It is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.”
Those words were penned in 1931, before the Second World War and the influx of postmodernist thought into Western civilization. Yet, even in the far distance, Dr. Sheen was fully capable of predicting the insistence on a broadminded, non-exclusive social norm that would soon come to fruition, most notably in the United States of the 21st century.
A Plea for Intolerance is a paper filled with continuous philosophical citations, from Voltaire’s anthropomorphism, to the latitudinarian Platonists, to the idealism espoused by Sir Arthur Eddington, constantly showing the prevalence of a “pro-tolerant” attitude towards every school of thought. Yet, it’s thesis rings true today in the face of neo-Marxism and postmodernist theory as it did in the age of Sheen: America is suffering not from intolerance, but from tolerance.
The progressivism that is prevalent in today’s day and age insists that if you assert the wrongness of any given ideological position, you are exercising radical intolerance, and likely possess copious amounts of ignorance, arrogance, or a festering monstrosity concocted from both. Yet, by this standard, how is asserting the wrongness of the position of the man who asserts wrongness of some other position not intrinsically conflictive? If, for example, one were to claim that “All beliefs are true,” and another man claims, “Only my belief is true,” how could I possibly deconstruct his statement without contradicting my own?
But today, people are not taught to think. They are taught to “know.” They are taught to accept. The exercising of one’s cognitive faculties is not expected by the academic or political elite; in fact, much of what is learned in educational settings is built upon the premise that children and young adults will simply accept what is given to them. Thus, to actually begin questioning the foundation of one’s worldview proves to be difficult when the entirety of society is wholly against the questioning of “the way it is.”
So, it is in ignorance that a tolerant man insists, “All beliefs are true,” before destructing the belief system of another. “We are all basically right,” he says, “but you are wrong. You must believe the way I believe, because only what I believe is right.” So goes the condemnation against those who stand wholeheartedly for a particular ideology.
“The man who can make up his mind in an orderly way, as a man might make up his bed, is called a bigot; but a man who cannot make up his mind, any more than he can make up for lost time, is called tolerant and broadminded. A bigoted man is one who refuses to accept a reason for anything; a broadminded man is one who will accept anything for a reason – providing it is not a good reason.”
It is in the name of objectivity, order, and the concept of truth that the intolerant make their beds of belief and lay in them. Yet, it is in the name of progress, compassion, and unity that the tolerant wave their flags of ideological conquest. Both sets of principles are mutually exclusive, according to those of the latter persuasion. Objective truth, according to the deconstructionist, results in the oppression of the one who maintains a position not recognized by reality.
But how can positions not recognized by reality by realized? Disassociation from objectivity in favor of subjectivity is an untenable and unstable foundation to build an entire worldview upon. By this, it is meant that divorcing facts from feelings and preferring the latter to the former will accomplish nothing except self-gratification and indulgence in surreal philosophies, completely divorced from anything provable.
One can see the prevalence of this position in day-to-day life. Statements beginning with, “I feel,” or, “In my opinion,” are extremely common, even in academic papers and political statements. Yet, how valuable can a belief beginning with a proposition rooted solely in experience be? Certainly, opinions cannot settle arguments. Theses require some grounding in reality, not merely a vague gesture regarding how one feels about any given topic.
But, in the name of tolerance, the world marches on, claiming that subjectivity is all there is. Your experience, according to this crypto-latitudinarian framework, is the only valuable component in developing a thesis. But, how valuable is an experience in the face of a reality? I can wish that a thing is, yet if the thing is not, my wish is wholly irrelevant, and if I wish to accurately compose myself, I must alter my wish to be in tune with the reality of the thing’s non-existence.
But this complete disassociation with the Real is embraced warmly by some in the name of tolerance, and any criticism or concern directed towards this clearly self-destructing ideology is dismissed with what is equivalent to name calling among adults. “Racist,” “sexist,” “transphobic,” “Islamophobic,” “misogynistic,” and, “xenophobic,” and “demagogue,” are thrown towards those who insist in opinions supported by reality rather than constructing an artificial reality supported by opinions.
This radical tolerance theory has led to the obstruction of free speech, claiming that statements, whether rooted in reality or not, that contradict other statements do not, in fact, fall under one’s right to free speech. “That,” claims the tolerant man, “is not free speech; it is hate speech.” And hate speech, as defined by radical tolerance, deserves nothing less than death, because it violates the subjective reality of those which a hate statement opposes.
So, this is a plea for intolerance. A dying warning against the current trajectory of socio-political liberal ideologies; a warning revived by Dr. Sheen and perpetuated by the contemporary far-right. We do not need less hate speech, we need more.
Often, those who stand on unmoving values and refuse to compromise on matters of moral and social teaching are labeled “bigoted” or “close-minded.” Whereas those who cannot or choose not to make up their minds on any given topic are often considered to be the exact opposite, i.e., “tolerant” or “open-minded.” The tolerant and open-minded, however, are those who stand for nothing except the concept of tolerance and open-mindedness themselves, and support no actual ideology; so it is that they believe in nothing and place their identity in nothing. In a heartfelt attempt to accept all peoples and identities, those who profess unconditional tolerance have come to stand for nothing, while those who are labeled “intolerant” for remaining steadfast in traditional values possess a substance to which they can answer for.
And so it is with hate speech. There is nothing “tolerant” or “open-minded” about protesting or detesting hate speech, in fact, quite the opposite is manifested in the attempts to silence and censor those who seek to articulate unpopular opinions. If free speech does not allow hate speech, then it is meaningless in the first place. Humanity requires intolerance if it is to grasp onto anything meaningful.
Wrong opinions, that is, opinions based exclusively on feelings and uncaring about facts, must be resisted against, and a synthesis can only be acquired if such subjectivism is questioned and settled. Such a powerful standing for truth predicates intolerance towards lies. In the immortal and venerable words of the blessed doctor, “America is suffering from tolerance.”