“PC Culture” isn’t Killing Higher Ed (But Your Crappy Op-Eds Might Be)


In the first semester of my freshman year, twenty-five years ago (!), I took an intro to public communications class where one of the assignments was to deliver an effective persuasive speech on a current and controversial topic. Someone had gotten me a gift subscription to Insight magazine when I went to college; more conservative and less highbrow than US News and World Report, it was a poor source for research, but it had two virtues Freshman Me appreciated–it was free, and it was readily available(in my dorm room as opposed to all the way across campus in the library). That week’s issue was a SPECIAL REPORT on “P.C. Run Amok.” Boom. Speech topic.  I would declaim–nay, hold forth like modern-day Demosthenes–on the “scourge of political correctness” currently prevalent on college campuses. I don’t remember much about my “research,” other than quoting Donald Kagan a lot (YALE. SMART GUY), and I’m quite sure my speech was that special type of bombastic, sanctimonious, faux-outraged crap that only a clueless white boy could muster up. Like a lot of things (read: most of them) from my freshman year, I’d like to pretend that this never happened. Yet it did. And I’ll own it, if only as a benchmark to assess how much higher education has done for me since.

I tell that story here because it illustrates just how long this apocalyptic narrative of political-correctness-as-existential-threat-to-higher-education has persisted. The narrative was well-established by the early 90s, clearly. Indeed, since Buckley’s God and Man at Yale the chattering classes of the American Right had honed their saga of us-against-the-liberal-thought-police to a keen edge (upon which Freshman Me promptly impaled himself). When you step back and look at it, though, this whole siege mentality is rendered quite absurd: rich, white (mostly) males at rich (mostly) white elite institutions see themselves as victims, their sacred ideals mortally threatened. And who’s made them victims? Why, people who are “professional victims,” of course! These women and these minorities and these non-traditional students have the temerity to seek ideas and curricula that include them and their experiences, too! HOW DARE THE HOI POLLOI ASK FOR THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE IN ABUNDANCE

I can’t even with this shit.

And that brings us to the latest entry in the Outrage Olympics, Aggrieved White Guy Division. Writing in the USA Today, the processed cheese food of American journalism, Glenn Reynolds tells us exactly “How PC Culture is Killing Higher Education.” In a slightly unhinged screed article that quotes no one but white guys Of A Certain Age, Reynolds warns college presidents that they risk the very fate of their institutions if they tolerate the sort of foolishness being practiced by Kids These Days™ at Emory University. You’ve probably heard about the Trump-slogan-chalking and the student backlash against it at Emory, and divorced from its context, yes, it looks a bit silly. But everything has a context, and Emory’s case is no different. Yet why waste time and precious column space with things like perspective and nuance when it’s so much easier to go for the kill-shot and laugh at a bunch of rich kids who get their underwear in a bunch because they don’t want to hear arguments they don’t like. Waaahhh. Go home to mommy and daddy you little commie punks. Reynolds sees this as silly entitlement (and if there’s one thing an older white male who holds an endowed chair at a research university would know, it’s entitlement). He warns administrators that we have enough problems without having our reputations sullied by children acting foolishly. Tell them to suck it up, Reynolds chides us; college isn’t for coddling. Get these pansies a backbone before they graduate, for cryin’ out loud! Since we’re working in the idiom of all this manly-man posturing, I have one thing to tell Reynolds and his ilk:

Shut. The Fuck. Up.

The most immediate problem of sloppy hit-pieces like Reynolds’s is their sheer laziness. Find an episode of controversy on a campus (if it’s a negative reaction to right-wing stuff, all the better), deploy the students-as-coddled-whiny-special-little-snowflakes trope, watch the clicks roll in and the derision flow. Cash check, repeat. And, in the process, continue to encourage the worst stereotypes held by those who would eviscerate the funding of higher education and make more grist for the neoliberal mill. Reynolds poses as a friend to higher education, but his piece–and the PC-scare genre as a whole–is a mockery of what academia stands for. In his belittling of the Emory students’ perspective, Reynolds closes the door on any conversation. In his blithe dismissal of their perspective as “silly,” Reynolds effectively declares those students shouldn’t even be there. It should give one serious pause that none of these anti-“political correctness” hype pieces are written by people from underprivileged or underrepresented groups, and that the incidence of these pieces has increased in direct variation to the diversification of the academy. It should also trouble us that they tend to issue from bastions of academic elitism. Reynolds is just the latest example of someone who probably interacts with fewer students in a whole year than many of us see in one lecture section of the survey course. If there’s anyone who’s emblematic of the detached-and-cloistered-in-the-ivory-tower stereotype in this equation, it isn’t the students. The real issue, one senses, for these avatars of “rigor” and “not coddling” students is that their voices aren’t the only ones in the forum anymore. When you’re accustomed to privilege, even equality feels like oppression. 

I’d like to offer a different portrait of “today’s student,” based upon actual experiences and interaction as opposed to ginned-up outrage over imaginary threats to white-guy prerogatives. Rather than lacking in “grit” (the new buzzword which has already reached the point of diminishing returns), today’s students tend to be amazingly resilient. Find me another generation of students that has had to deal with abysmal funding for higher ed and student aid, having to work more hours than preceding cohorts to finance their education, a stagnant economy and jobless “recovery”–and their elders telling them at every turn how they don’t measure up. The coddled-student crowd points to the unprecedented levels of stress and mental health problems faced by this generation of students as proof of their inadequacy. I’m more focused on how amazing it is that, despite the manifold difficulties they encounter, students facing these issues persevere in the first place, many of them eventually thriving, persisting, and graduating. There’s your grit. I have personally taught students who have succeeded in my courses despite being diagnosed with cancer, going through separation from abusive partners, being primary caregivers to younger siblings while a parent is in prison, suffering injuries in a car accident, entering therapy for mental health matters, taking night classes until 10 PM and then working third shift at the refinery, working two (or more) jobs, not having a car and biking over 10 miles to campus, being temporarily homeless, kicking a heroin addiction, finding racist graffiti on their car, losing their visa, losing a parent, losing a sibling, losing a spouse, losing a baby, and losing their financial aid. For every student who may have acted entitled, or come off as coddled, I have had literally thousands who have overcome significant obstacles to achieve their educational goals.

Where the Reynolds crowd sees professional victims ready to be offended at the drop of a hat, I see students who deal with a daily onslaught of racist microagressions, the cumulative effect of which I can’t even comprehend. I see students who’ve sacrificed time, money, leisure, and sleep to do right by their academic goals. I see students who’ve had to deal with the slimy advances of a predatory professor (whose colleagues almost always turn a blind eye). I see students who’ve been told time and time again that they don’t deserve to be here, that they’re the products of a dumbed-down system, that something other than merit got them in, that they’ll never match up to their predecessors, that they don’t know the meaning of work, that they can’t write, appreciate literature, do math, or care enough about their education. So excuse them if they get mad when pro-Trump graffiti shows up on their buildings, or if their university offers a prestigious speaking slot to a toxic pseudoscientific charlatan. They’re over this shit. And I’m right there with them.

The last thing higher education needs is one more old white guy bleating about “political correctness run amok,” when it’s just a slightly more genteel phrase for “people not like me getting all uppity.” If you’re upset about other people winning in the marketplace of ideas, maybe it’s because your ideas suck. If you think today’s students are coddled, and don’t have “grit,” you either don’t teach or aren’t paying attention. To see students calling out power inequalities and inequitable behaviors is not some sort of failure, but a triumph of critical thinking and intellectual agency. If you think students calling institutions, their administrations, or other authorities out on bad thinking, institutional inequities, or general bullshit is “silly,” or “killing higher education,” maybe you’re the delicate little flower who can’t abide an intellectual challenge.

There are many threats that we face in academia. PC-spouting coddled students is not one of them. We need to ignore these weaselly attempts from retrograde malcontents to divert attention from the real issues we face. It’s time to get real and get to work.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPrint this page

57 thoughts on ““PC Culture” isn’t Killing Higher Ed (But Your Crappy Op-Eds Might Be)”

  1. “time to get real and get to work”? What does that mean? I’m not disagreeing with you, but I think it’s easy to point out what’s wrong without having any idea of what’s right, or how to make things right, when that’s what we really need…

    What more is your op-blog doing for higher ed than those op-eds?

    1. That’s a valid question. This entry already got past a reasonable word count, but I have addressed in several places what I see as ways forward:




      I agree that we need to be looking at solutions; I would argue in this case, though, calling out counterproductive bullshit and mischaracterization of the problems we face is in itself a step towards getting “right.”

    2. “it’s easy to point out what’s wrong without proposing solutions, etc.”: I’ve heard this kind of criticism a few times already but it’s the first time I realize that it’s doing exactly what it presents as some sort of cop-out. If you think it’s right, why bother complaining?

      1. Fact is, the solutions are everybody’s job. I get damn tired of the “you’re just pointing out problems” line. (Reminds me of all the “negativity-shaming” of those who protested incompetence and injustice in the 90s. Sure worked, didn’t it? Bullying victims and analysts into silence definitely solved all of our problems back then, and now we live in heaven.)

        The guy who tells you the house is on fire is not responsible for developing the technology, techniques, and institutions to fight it. The guy who gets beaten up by the cops is not responsible for correcting the training, supervision, and hiring practices that led to it.

        We do that. All of us.

        1. You know, just because the house is on fire does not mean that there is a systemic failure of the fire department.

          Just because a cop is too aggressive does not mean that there is a systemic problem with police brutality.

          likewise, One instance of an injustice does not equate to a systemic injustice. You really need to have enough data to come up with the systemic problem. IF and only IF you can show the causal link between the two, then it is everyone’s problem.

          Otherwise, it is not the obligation of everyone to crusade for the individual(s) who was unfairly treated. It is between the aggrieved parties.

    3. As KG mentions,”those op-eds” tend to be written by privileged people in academia/journalism. And “privileged” here means the usual suspects–white, upper middle class, cis/hetero people. So the first thing we could do is already implied in the criticism: stop allowing those voices to be the prominent or only voices in the debate. It’s a familiar tactic (and one used frequently by The Atlantic in these “coddling” debates): claim authority on experience and set the terms of the debate. It’s a win-win for older, wealthy white people because we get to rationalize our privilege as earned while simultaneously punching down to ensure that privilege remains intact.

      Another thing we can do is mentioned: get to know some college students. It’s the main artery of prejudice: never knowing a person from a group you claim to hate.

      Solidarity with others is key so that our voices are also heard, those of us who see a far more complicated picture in the PC debate.

  2. I’m regretting not taking an on campus class with you when I had the opportunity. You are right on the mark with all of this.

  3. That’s some nice hypocritical rhetoric you’ve got there. Let’s examine it shall we?

    You dishonestly imply that only old, white, conservatives complain about pc culture. That’s an overgeneralization, & you know it. “It should give one serious pause that none of these anti-‘political correctness’ hype pieces are written by people from underprivileged or underrepresented groups” That’s clear evidence that you have no idea what you’re talking about, & don’t even care enough to google it.
    You have the gall to say to criticize “Reynolds” for shutting down conversation, using the EXACT SAME ad hominem reasoning that you are complaining about!

    The bottom line is that there is no such thing as the right to be unoffended, but there is definitely such a thing as the right to be an asshole.

    1. Yet it’s easy to say “you haven’t googled it” and haven’t provided any evidence to counter the argument. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but if you’re going to make a claim – find an article that supports your argument.

      1. Sweetie, I don’t need an article to prove that not all anti-pc advocates are conservative old-white-males.
        off the very top of my head, there’s RadaghastTheBrown on twitter as a singular example contrary to all of that… & there goes the entirety of kevin’s “argument,” right down the drain.
        The fact of the matter is that if Kevin cared, he would have tried to make sure what he was saying was true. He did not, & so he must not.

        1. Wow. If only I’d seen the one piece of anecdotal evidence on your Twitter feed before I started writing. Could’ve saved so much time. Thanks for weighing in.

          1. Just for fun I twitter searched RadaghastTheBrown and literally doesn’t even exist. Is, however, the name of a wizard from LOTR, so…anyway, great post Kevin

          2. Ok, that’s my bad… Her @ thingy is @ZombieNieth & I got confused.
            On the other hand, my point was that yours is a non-argument, just as much as those you argue against.
            I don’t even necessarily disagree with the sentiment that you’re trying to convey… just the quintessentially ironic way you went about it.

          3. If you assert that all of a group is one way, then finding one counterexample disproves that all of one group is that way. logic 101.

          4. In the interest of rational discussion, I will also supply the counterexamples of Maajid Nawaz & Ayaan Hirsi Ali, two people who rail against PC censorship. And, in fact, that censorship is the only problem I have. I agree with the goals of SJ, I simply disagree with the methods of some activists, which strike me as illiberal and regressive.

            You can’t claim victory in the market of ideas if you’re monopolizing through censorship. If anything, I think that will harm the cause of the left in the long term due to backlash even amongst people who would otherwise support progressive ideas. You can already see it starting through Trump & the alt-right nationalists. I have confidence that if these hateful speakers were met on even ground, progressive ideas would win more soundly anyway, so censorship in the name of social justice strikes me as the left snatching defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.

        2. I enjoy this comment.

          “You need to support your claims, but I don’t!
          You not doing what I think is necessary to support your claims means you’re wrong and don’t care! I am right, though, despite not doing anything to support my claims or any presenting any ‘evidence’ from ‘basic research’

          And one person of colour does not make a groundswell of support in minority communities, even if that person were real. There are even black members of the KKK. A simple Google search will show that!

          1. & there were also jews that worked with the nazis, what’s your point? Kevin’s premise is that anti-pc arguments are invalid because they ONLY come from old-white-men, & I proved that premise to be factually incorrect… You don’t get to move the goalposts, just because the evidence doesn’t fit your narrative: that’s intellectually dishonest, & frankly, you’re better than that. (unless you wanted to have a separate conversation, in which case, ignore what I just said, & let’s do that instead;)

            As nice as it was of you, to blow your godwin’s law so quickly, I think you’ll find that I provided EXACTLY enough evidence to support my claim… that being the singular individual that disproved the aforementioned premise of kevin’s article…
            I say that Kevin ‘doesn’t care’ because that’s the nicest thing I can assume from what I have seen of him. Alternatively, I could conclude that it was incompetence, or malicious intent, that led him to write what he did, but I feel I should give people the benefit of the doubt… After all, I used to be right where he is, because I didn’t really care, & it had never affected me personally, so I just did what seemed like the right thing to do…

            All of that having been said, none of the people in this comment section have (to my knowledge) blocked me, or told me to kill myself, so I think it’s safe to say that you guys aren’t the kind of PC that anyone is arguing against. When people whine about a “PC thought police,” it’s not because they HAVEN’T encountered exactly that.
            I try to be a decent person, & I’m all for the IDEA of PC: not being an asshole… but when it becomes a rule, there arises the questions of who decides what is offensive, who decides who has privilege… & whoever this person is, how do we know they won’t abuse their power?
            Just some food for thought, m8. Cheers.

        3. Sweetie, by even using that condescending tone you show that you are part of the problem. Babycakes. Lovie-pie. Doodlie-scrotums.

          1. Ok, I see how you think I was being condescending… but I’m actually just a weirdo who calls people ‘sweetie’ & ‘honey’ & ‘BB’ in everyday conversation. I called him sweetie, because I couldn’t think of a pun on his name, so I defaulted. So, yeah. I don’t blame you for assuming my intent. Could’ve happened to anyone.

            If you actually disagree with me, then we can talk about that too, y’know 😉

    2. I find it interesting that you criticized a perceived implication without offering an example that does not fit the pattern.

      I also note that you did not substantiate the accusation of the use of an ad hominem, so it remains mere name-calling. That is something that you technically can not do because logical fallacies can only be used against the argument of an individual so your use of ad hominem was itself fallacious.

      I’m sure if you looked hard enough you can fin an example from a minority, in fact I hope you do so because that would be interesting. I’ve heard of a couple and that the arguments were pretty bad, but I’m not going to do your work for you.

      1. Except I DID give an example that broke the pattern. I did EXACTLY THAT, but since you asked, I’ll repeat myself: @ZombieNieth on twitter.

        I also did substantiate my accusation of ad hominem, & even quoted him doing it. When he says that any arguments against PC culture can be ignored because ONLY old-white-men are making them, THAT’S AD HOMINEM.

        Sorry if I wasn’t obnoxious enough in this one, bloody power cut out just as I’d finished & I didn’t want to write it all out again.
        (\ brohoof m8.

      2. How long did you spend with your nose in the dictionary for that one?

        Jokes aside, Ad hominem is a character attack, which definition includes name-calling and other attempts to besmirch or slander the character of someone. The effort is appreciated though.

      1. Not *only* old white men.
        Also calling what I said classic just means that you’ve had a while to get a f**king clue, & you still haven’t!
        (seriously though, if you disagree then say why, don’t just hand-wave everything I’ve said)

  4. Back in the early 90s, I fell hook, line, and sinker for the Right’s scare stories about how Radical professors with the help of militant left-wing students were using intimidation, speech codes, and trumped-up charges of racism and sexism to silence truth-telling conservatives and brainwash America into a freedom-hating, atheist, Marxist dictatorship. Of course, when I went to college, the only instance when I ran afoul of what we would deem the “PC Thought Police” was when the opinion editor of the right-wing student newspaper (i.e. The UWM Times)I wrote for dropped the n-bomb in an article about the O.J. Simpson verdict. At the time, I was very uncomfortable with the article and thought the editor went to far, but when the African American Student Union and other groups started demonstrating in the commons, I foolishly decided to stick to our First Amendment guns and definitely cry “FREE SPPECH” at the ravening liberal hordes out to “censor” us.

    Two decades later, I realize that like the situation at The Times, that the “politically correct” have a legitimate grievance while its “victims” deserved whatever consequences they got for being loud-mouth, racist, asses.

    1. Care to explain the legitimate grievances of the politically correct?

      Also, isn’t it victim-shaming to speak ill of the victims? I mean, the victim should always be believed, right? Apparently even when you’re for political correctness, you can still run afoul with the PC thought police.

      1. I don’t know anyone who’s for political correctness. I know plenty of people who are for justice and not being a jerk.

        1. Pot. Kettle. Color check? I like the implicit statement that I’m a jerk who doesn’t care about justice. If you have a point that is not anecdotal, then we’ll chat, but get the character attack out of here. Ad hominem is the last refuge of those who can’t make a real point.

  5. Kevin, I agree that there’s a kind of one-size-fits-all boilerplate for these conservative anti-PC screeds, and that one can dig out the original recipe from 25 years ago, but I think you might be overlooking the fact that there are now a number of people on the liberal/left side of the political spectrum who are also quite concerned, which was not really the case five or ten years ago This development is imo, at least in part, emerging from situations where it looks very like administrators collaborating with student activists to target faculty).

  6. Seems to me that your criticisms kind of miss the point Kevin was making….the urge to dismiss this generation of students denies the multitude of challenges that they face, that we and our predecessors did not face….maybe we faced others, but, to outright ignore the fact that this is not a “coddled” group of people, even if you don’t like the way they deliver their message is a mistake, and will contribute to the inability to connect and communicate…

    1. Kelly, I’m not entirely sure whose criticisms the ‘your’ is referring to, but it’s very true that many students are anything but coddled (they fight a colder economic climate by far than we did — I’m almost 60) but there have also been cases (e.g. Emory and the Trump graffiti) involving students who are at elite colleges and universities where, in particular in the U.S., a large chunk of resources is spent on ‘student life,’ a concept largely unknown in the UK, Germany, Japan etc. So it’s probably useful to distinguish between different student demographics. In any case, I reiterate my point that specific incidents — I can list them if anyone wants — reveal a rather ominous convergence of forces against faculty. I don’t argue conspiracy, which would be absurd, but rather the sense that the individual professor is becoming an unprotected target on some campuses.

    2. I’m curious as to what makes this generation coddled? Like what, in your opinion is the criteria for someone to be considered coddled.

      This generation that is currently in universities does not have any living members that were alive during the Holocaust, maybe a grandparent from korea or vietnam and don’t remember 9/11 because they were too young. They also don’t face the same instability as in the 30’s, or in the 80’s during the transitioning economy.

      There are jobs out there for the current generation, just not for those with an arts degree. In north america, tradespeople can earn almost 100K$/year, without running their own business, because there aren’t nearly enough tradespeople. Just because they made the choice to get a BA in basket weaving doesn’t mean they can’t find work, it means that the type of work they want is not available. That’s a huge difference.

        1. I don’t care to intrude on the personal choices made by others. Simply making an observation and a tentative hypothesis on why things are the way they are.

  7. Bravo, brava, bravissimi. I will be the first to state that yes, I am /entirely/ privileged – certainly, I have had a mildly difficult time finding a job in the past, but my exertions, and my life, have been in no way comparable to those students with whom you’ve worked, who absolutely apply themselves in a world which seems to want to slam them down against the pavement at every opportunity.

    One point which I think bears reiteration is the fact that… surprise! Students want to /learn./ If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be spending their money, they would not be suffering through those debts, they would not be working multiple jobs just for the chance to maybe make a few dollars later on in their lives. They want to better themselves and the world around them, and everyone who decries them for then taking the time – of which there is VERY little! – to /participate in the political process/ needs to give themselves a slap in the face, not least when these are then the commentators who will turn around and grump about Ivy League Intellectuals stranded in their ivory towers.

    1. “The hoi polloi” is also a commonly accepted idiom in the English language, grammatical correctness or not. Don’t be pedantic.

  8. I’m in my thirties and back four round two of higher education for a career change. From my perspective, you are absolutely correct. The kids that I have met and worked with are definitely tougher than myself and my peers when we were 19 (about the same level of procrastination and class-skipping, but they’ll grow out of that). Even their push for tolerance is an expression of courage when so much of the world still demands they fall in line and hate the right people. But of course, you can probably find “Kids today are spoilt, weak, and morally bankrupt” painted on a cave wall, somewhere.

    1. I like how you said that the students of the current generation are more tolerant. I think a little MLK jr. is in order here.

      “I have a dream that … [I] will be
      judged by the color of [my] skin, not by the content of [my] character.”

      Would MLK approve of things like the BLM demand to create black-only dorms in Mizzou?

      Would MLK approve of safe-spaces only for people of colour or visible minorities?

      I don’t think he would. The tolerance that many of these people espouse is truly regressive. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      PS: can you spot the two errors in the quote?

        1. You’re not going to even comment on the blatant mis-quote. Tsk tsk, those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

  9. This is an invaluable piece. It takes people like you writing passionately to counteract these sorts of Reagan-era non-arguments we still see floating around today. I am SO immensely grateful for this, and forwarding to everyone I know!

    1. mind control terrifies me. dogmatic thought terrifies me. self-righteousness terrifies me. social leveling terrifies me.

  10. Maybe it’s unfair to jump to conclusions re: the students’ “grit” in other aspects of their lives based on how they acted here. But the fact remains that in this particular instance, they really DID act like a bunch of “coddled whiny special little snowflakes” & thus reinforced the stereotype all on their own. They could have held a “We Stand Against Trump and for the People He Marginalizes” rally; instead, they held a “We Demand that the Administration Validate Our Emotional Response to the Bad Scary Words” rally, and incurred the scorn of the ENTIRE NATION — as opposed to just old white dinosaurs from “bastions of academic elitism” — in the process. And that’s a shame.

  11. I find it bizarre that it matters what the orientation, gender or ethnicity of a person matters in the least. If they have good idea or a good point, who gives a flying flip-flop who is saying it?

    Seriously, it’s not like I am going to read an essay from a writer, then google the writer, see they are black (as an example) and go “OH! they MUST be a horrible writer with terrible ideas!”.

    Get Real.

  12. I see all the typical little sealiony Redditors have crawled out of their holes for this one.

  13. The only thing this manufactured controversy tells me is that Karl Popper needs to be taught more, the idea that intolerance is always a bad thing whether you’re racist or anti-racist is laughably naive and literally useless, if you want a tolerant world you must at times be intolerant against hate and indignity, that’s just how it is.

    “I see students who deal with a daily onslaught of racist microagressions, the cumulative effect of which I can’t even comprehend” Conservative reactionaries like pretend that microagressions aren’t a thing that is worth paying attention to (because racism in general is not worth attention hahahah), just look at all the sneering, contemptuous scare quotes they throw over all these new fangled word, they are too disingenuous to even imagine ‘words that describe bigotry’ as useful or important or legitimate.

    Reactionaries literally sneer at the idea of minorities learning and using words to describe the bigotry that traps and oppresses them on a daily basis. This simple fact is proof all those whiny manchildre are just propaganda tools that serve the status quo.

    1. “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,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *