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One argument I tend to get into with other people quite often lately is the idea that everyone's opinions are of equal value and/or value-free. The constant refrain is that everyone has the right to their own opinions, and that it's intolerant of me to say that people who hold bigoted and intolerant opinions are bad people. I should just be nice and let them hold their opinions, even if their opinions bother me, because everyone's entitled to their own opinions.

Well, let's investigate that, shall we? More beyond the jump.

What this argument boils down to is the idea that you can't separate people from their opinions, and nobody is really an inherently evil person, so it's wrong for me to say that the opinions which I don't agree with are evil, because then I'm saying that the people holding those opinions are evil, too. This can be especially distressing to the person I'm talking to when it's their mother, or their brother, or their father or sister or boss or pastor or best friend, who's the holder of the opinions I don't like.

My response to the person defending the right to hold opinions follows below. (Please note; I was pretty pissed off when I wrote it.)

Following the logic of "everyone's entitled to hold their own opinions," my opinion that all people are created equal and deserve the same rights has the same value as a Klansman's opinion that black people somehow don't deserve the same rights as white people, or a fundamentalist Christian's opinion that gays somehow don't deserve the same rights as straight people - because everyone has the right to their own opinions. And then, when I say that I won't tolerate the opinion that people are not all inherently deserving of the same rights, I get accused of being intolerant because a tolerant person would accept that people have the right to their own opinions.

I'm here to say this right now: Opinions that allow prejudice to continue unchecked are intolerable. Opinions that support laws which support that kind of prejudice are intolerable. Opinions that create drives to make gay relationships a second-class status, that create drives to keep blacks second-class citizens, that nullify equal rights for women, are intolerable. Therefore, I won't tolerate them, I won't accept them, and I will point out that they're worthless and evil every chance I get.

If someone holds opinions that support bigotry, prejudice, or inequality, that's fine, but in the marketplace of ideas, their opinions are not worth one red cent and should not be given any credence. Bluntly put, not all opinions are created equal. Neither are all opinions value-free (as opposed to valueless; value-free means that there's no judgment of right/wrong/good/evil attached, and sorry, but some opinions are simply evil). Small-minded opinions, intolerant opinions, prejudiced opinions - I am saying here and now that these opinions are not equal to opinions that support equality and fairness. The value of these bigoted opinions is zero, and the opinions are evil. The people who hold these opinions are free to hold them, that's true - but the opinions are still evil, and it colors my view of the people who hold them in negative ways. And I will not tolerate those opinions - especially not in a country where equality is supposed to be the norm and prejudice is supposed to be a thing of the past.

So no, I won't tolerate opinions that demonstrate or promote intolerance. And I won't tolerate your mother's, your sister's, your brother's, your father's, your boss's, or your pastor's, or your best friend's opinions that demonstrate or promote intolerance either. I don't care if they've always believed it, and I don't care if it's part of their religion, and I don't care if they "don't know any better" or if they're "too old to change." All of those are just excuses, a papering-over of the reality that holding those opinions makes them bigots and thus part of the problem.

Neither will I lend credence or legitimacy to small-mindedness and bigotry by saying "Well, but everyone's entitled to their own opinions." That's a cop-out. That's failing to recognize that when people hold opinions, they tend to ACT on those opinions. And when people hold small-minded, prejudiced, racist, homophobic, sexist opinions, and then act on them, we get things like the Jim Crow laws, and Proposition 8, and Amendment 2, and the defeat of the ERA.

And if you don't think that makes the people who hold those opinions evil people, if you still think that "everyone has the right to hold their own opinions" justifies that kind of behavior, if you think that the pain and harm that's being perpetrated on the people that they don't like is somehow justified because everyone has the right to hold their own opinions, if you can't see the link between HOLDING bigoted opinions and ACTING on them...

Well, I won't tolerate that, either. I'll argue with you every chance I get, because this shit has got to stop.

And if that bothers you, at least that's a step in the right direction.

Originally posted to Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:19 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The one disagreement.... (6+ / 0-)

    ....would be on people who 'don't know any better.'  They're not a lost cause.  They can learn.

  •  Well said (7+ / 0-)

    You may have been angry when you wrote, but you did it well.

    I happen to agree with you.  My family doesn't even get a break from me when it comes to that stuff.  

    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength ~Eric Hoffer~

    by FrugalGranny on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:26:27 PM PST

  •  I agreed with the "value" judgements (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, enhydra lutris

    but the "evil" stuff is just plain spookery.

    Like an opinion is some kind of a wisp of dark smoke lurking in a bottle waiting to be rubbed out so it can release the Kracken or some crap.

    "Evil" is one of the stupidest, and laziest words in the English language.

  •   (2+ / 0-)

    "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

    by James Allen on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:32:39 PM PST

  •  Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, as long (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    celdd, Killer of Sacred Cows

    as he/she doesn't insist on proclaiming that opinion where I can hear it, try to claim those opinions as facts, or try to force society to follow those opinions in any way.

    Opinions that are held as closely cherished personal things are relatively harmless.  Opinions that try to harm the basic rights and well-being of others are evil.   period

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. ~Voltaire from La Feminista

    by maybeeso in michigan on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:47:22 PM PST

  •  People are entitled to their opinions but (5+ / 0-)

    we just have as much an entitlement to tell them they're wrong and to set them right. That's how this world works.

    I believe that it is wrong to support discrimination based on creed, sex, race, and religion. I believe it is wrong to support corporations at the expense of the middle-class. I believe it is wrong to do away with regulations that help protect us all just because a corporation wants to make a penny more. I believe it is wrong to damage the environment.

    I believe it is right to be a progressive, to support the progressive agenda, and to stand up for the middle class, the lower-income, and for everyone else in this country. I believe in a right to health care, civil rights, freedom of the press, sanctity of property rights, and so on.

    When we face opinions that conflict massively with ours, we can simply ignore that person or realize that we can educate them with our own opinions. Those are both paths we can choose in confronting intolerace.

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:54:26 PM PST

    •  Oh, I don't dispute any of that. (5+ / 0-)

      But what I'm running into is people who want to defend, not their own opinions, but the people they love who hold those bigoted opinions - in other words, people who want to run interference between those people and the people who want to educate them (like me). That's what's driving me nuts, here, and that's who I'm talking to - not the person who holds the bigoted opinion, but the person who seems to think that it's somehow defensible and okay.

      Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 12:56:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You sound like a fundamentalist (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, sandbox, Radical def

    People ARE entitled to their opinions, and no, that doesn't mean everyone is right, but it does mean that we do not make the world a better place to live when we pronounce other people evil. What you will or won't tolerate is your business, but I favor toleration of people and gentle persuasion of beliefs I think are wrong. If it seems hopeless then I ask people to steer clear of certain subjects when they are with me.

    People hold beliefs for all sorts of reasons, and it doesn't make them bad people. Usually they're just wrong. Sometimes they're ignorant. Sometimes their life experiences have led them to different places from me. I've known people who expressed racist and sexist beliefs that were very good people - honest, kind, generous and respectful in their dealings with everyone. I try to counter their ideas in ways that might get through to them. I don't see how it will help them, me or anyone else for me to take the position that they are evil.

    I feel fortunate that so many people accept me with all many flaws. I don't think judgmental or moralistic people have ever had a beneficial effect on my character; it may satisfy an emotional need in themselves to have a bright line between good and bad, but it rarely leads to anything constructive. Non-judgmental people have, by example, made me a better person.

    And I couldn't disagree more with your statement about playing Devil's advocate. It isn't a defense of anything, but a means of exploring and sharpening ideas. There's nothing we believe that should be sheltered from critical examination.

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

    by denise b on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 01:04:12 PM PST

    •  Interesting. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      musing85, Corwin Weber, princss6

      People hold beliefs for all sorts of reasons, and it doesn't make them bad people. Usually they're just wrong. Sometimes they're ignorant. Sometimes their life experiences have led them to different places from me. I've known people who expressed racist and sexist beliefs that were very good people - honest, kind, generous and respectful in their dealings with everyone. I try to counter their ideas in ways that might get through to them. I don't see how it will help them, me or anyone else for me to take the position that they are evil.

      So you don't see that evil is a spectrum (not an on-off switch), and that in the area of their lives where they are not just expressing but acting on their (evil!) racist and sexist beliefs, they are evil? Interesting.

      Sure, they're free to hold those opinions. If all they ever do is hold them, I'll leave them alone - if not necessarily liking or approving of them. But the fact is, they NEVER just hold them. Holding an opinion leads to acting on that opinion - and the moment that you cross that line from thought to action, you become whatever the opinion makes you. People who act on their racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. beliefs are evil, and they cause evil, but absent those opinions, the evil would not exist. I don't see any way around that.

      Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 01:30:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We all have thoughts (0+ / 0-)

        that we never act on.

        The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

        by denise b on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 04:42:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When those thoughts (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          become a normal, standard part of our identities, as they almost always do for bigots, we almost always act upon them - mainly because we are so closely identified by and with them that we feel justified in doing so. Don't try to use that dodge. It's just a dodge. It's yet another excuse, and it doesn't fly.

          Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

          by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 04:43:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  "Dodge"? (0+ / 0-)

            I don't know what you mean. I thought I was communicating my ideas.

            I'm not the Thought Police. I leave what goes on in other people's heads to them - not that I'm capable of understanding them anyway. The only mind I understand is my own, and that to a pretty limited degree.

            If people act on their bigotry, then I'll condemn their actions. I try not to judge people, who are all a mixture of contradictory impulses and act well or badly at different times. I don't see that it accomplishes anything, except to make me a judgmental person. In my experience, judgmental people do not influence others, they just raise their hackles.

            The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

            by denise b on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 05:49:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sometimes being judgmental is necessary (0+ / 0-)

              to wake up the bigots to the reality of what they are thinking, believing, and quite often doing. Or, at minimum, to wake them up to the true public perception of what it is that they are doing - to take away the excuse that it's okay for them to think, believe, and do what they are doing. It's called exerting social sanction, and it works. How many openly racist people do you know, these days, as opposed to how many your parents or their parents knew? Far fewer, because it's no longer socially acceptable to be openly racist anymore. That's what needs to happen in response to every other bigoted belief and opinion out there, and I refuse to be silent in the face of bigotry.

              Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

              by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 06:08:49 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Just opinions. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      Yeah.

      There was someone on Daily Kos last night using this guy's opinions (without even knowing he was doing it, perhaps!) as the basis of his own.

  •  In a nutshell... (2+ / 0-)

    I don't care if they've always believed it, and I don't care if it's part of their religion, and I don't care if they "don't know any better" or if they're "too old to change." All of those are just excuses, a papering-over of the reality that holding those opinions makes them bigots and thus part of the problem.

    Brilliant.  Exactly!

    the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

    by princss6 on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 01:11:54 PM PST

  •  As Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it (6+ / 0-)

    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

    You're quite right. This whole thing comes down to failure to distinguish between opinion and fact. Or to mistake (or to intentionally substitute) an opinion for a fact.

    GLAAD currently has a campaign going on against CNN, which is all over the web today, it seems, calling for CNN to stop using known hate group representatives when the subject of LGBT rights is up for discussion.

  •  Everyone's entitled to their opinions... (5+ / 0-)

    ...but they're not entitled to have those opinions valued or even taken seriously.  Many opinions mark the bearer as stupid or  hateful or both.  To me the problem is that people want to express their opinions without any of the consequences that legitimately attend to the expression of stupid or hateful ones.  

    "George Washington said I was beautiful"--Sarah Palin on Barbara Bush, as imagined by Mark Sumner

    by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 01:32:33 PM PST

    •  And this really demonstrates the issue (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      musing85, princss6

      that a lot of people believe that they and their opinions are the same thing, and that an attack on their opinion is somehow an attack on their personal worth. Opinions, as said above, can be changed - and sometimes should be. And if a person has such a deep attachment to an opinion that he can't distinguish between "me" and "my opinion," we get this kind of reaction to a challenge to their opinion.

      Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 01:38:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  To quote a current pop singer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows
    "You've got opinions, we're all entitled to 'em, but I never asked..." and of course she goes on to ask, "Who made you king of anything?"
  •  You are entitled to your opinion, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    but if you choose to share, or act upon, an opinion that is stupid and evil, I am entitled to tell you that your opinion is stupid and evil. If you do not want me to explain that your opinion is stupid and evil, please do not share your stupid and evil opinions. Thank you.

    "We live now in hard times, not end times." Jon Stewart

    by tb92 on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 02:11:24 PM PST

  •  Problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    denise b

    The people you consider evil consider you to be evil. Their definition of what constitutes evil is diametric to yours. So who "wins" the opinion war? Whose definition of evil takes precedence? I have my own very firm opinions about that, but I'm hesitate to label those who disagree with me "evil." The word carries so very much emotional and historical baggage, and is so imprecise, that it's rather like a Molotov cocktail -- noise and flame that makes a statement, but not much else.

    As much as I rely on them, harsh judgments are not the best tools of education or persuasion.

    •  'hesitate' s/b 'hesitant' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      My keyboard is evil.

    •  Evil is that which creates real harm. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      musing85, Corwin Weber, princss6

      Not imaginary "spiritual" harm - you can't prove that there's a god, or a soul - but actual, measurable harm. Harm like denial of rights and the benefits that come with them. Harm like lynchings, and shootings, and gay-bashings, and rape. Harm like the justification of poverty when 2/3 of all poor people are people of color. That's what evil is.

      For example, the last time I checked, my contention that fundamentalist Christianity is an evil path did not cause any real, measurable harm to fundamentalist Christians (offense is not harm). Their contention that I, as a gay man, am evil did cause quite a few gay-bashings - real harm.

      There's no stalemate here. There's just hand-waving and justifications for their bigotry.

      Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 02:25:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't have time to reply, but (0+ / 0-)

        there are shades of gray that you don't discuss, perhaps because you don't perceive them.

        Another time.

        •  When it comes to harm, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Corwin Weber, princss6

          there can be no discussion of shades of grey.

          Calling it "Playing Devil's Advocate" still doesn't excuse defense of evil beliefs, opinions, and actions.

          by Killer of Sacred Cows on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 03:14:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  He can't afford to recognize the shades of grey.. (2+ / 0-)

          they could be deadly for him.  Hypervigilance surrounding homophobia isn't paranoia.  It is a survival mechanism.  You can't cure half of the cancer cells.  You have to irradiate all.  Not that I'm calling for the extermination of people, but I am calling for the extermination of "opinions" that have life or death consequences for some people.  Sure, if I'm not one of those people, I may be able to easily rationalize away the "grey areas."  

          the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

          by princss6 on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 03:41:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The usual wingnut retort is that (4+ / 0-)

    my "intolerance" of their "intolerance" convicts me of hypocrisy. They think that this is superb rhetoric and brilliant logic.

    In the narrowest grammatical sense, they're correct. We could just stop using the word "intolerance" and say "prejudice" or "bigotry". But they'll claim that we're just mincing words.

    In political debate, it's better to speak of "discrimination". Although the Tea Puppets like to think of themselves as an oppressed minority, the only discrimination they suffer is not being invited to parties.

    Freedom of conscience is a cornerstone principle of our democracy. If your parents poisoned your mind against people who are "different" I cannot compel you to associate with them. However, the law can prevent you from denying them equal opportunity and equal justice. Your inherited prejudice is your problem.

    We can all aspire to practicing "unconditional love", but that in no way means the same thing as "unconditional tolerance". Love has to be tough sometimes.

    As mentioned elsewhere, it's good to distinguish between tolerance for what people are, and what people do.

    When my children reached the age where teasing became a problem, I didn't think it was possible to stop it entirely. So I laid down one simple rule: You may never tease someone about something they cannot change.

    Skin color, stuttering, foreign accents, red hair, freckles, height & weight, eyeglasses and embarrassing siblings were all off limits. It if a kid at school wore shabby shoes, that was off limits. It their mother dressed them in ugly shoes, that was off limits. If they spent their own money on some ugly shoes, well...maybe. If they wore a tee-shirt with a picture of The Spice Girls on it... it was open season - but the Spice Girls fan has the right to criticize YOUR taste in music, too.

    I had to harass the children on this issue for a while, and who knows what they said on the school playground. But eventually, the rule eliminated 98% of teasing at home and took the fun out of the other 2%.

    I believe it also taught my kids a fundamental lesson about the nature of tolerance and intolerance.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 03:08:09 PM PST

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