Thugs and Intolerance

Most of the friends I made in graduate school would probably be placed on the liberal wing of the American political spectrum. They’re awesome people and I like them a lot.

But I often struck by how intolerant and hate-filled many liberals are. Certainly, more so than conservatives that I meet, or see on the news.

For instance, take this thug, Mona Eltahwy. After seeing speech she disliked, Mona’s response was to vandalize it. When someone attempted to place her own body between Mona’s spray-paint and the speech Mona despised, Mona sprayed her too.

And now on CNN, there is a puff piece support Mona, talking about how she “brought attention” to an important issue, blah blah blah.

So why are so many liberals hate-filled and intolerant, when explicit rejection of hate and intolerance is generally seen as a “liberal” virtue?

My assumption is that people generally self-select friends, co-workers, and opinion leaders who they are already politically agree with. So political intellectual diversity is rare in almost everyone’s life. But the high-visibility media clearly shares more of the world-view, perspective, and priorities of “liberals” than “conservatives.” This means that it’s rare for liberals to hear any serious voice with a fundamentally different perspective (outside the existing liberal political coalition). It’s very common for conservatives to do so.

Therefore, when a thug like Mona Eltahwy encounters speech she disagrees with, of course she reacts violently. And her friends in the media likewise are very sympathetic: who wouldn’t censor speech they dislike?

11 thoughts on “Thugs and Intolerance”

  1. interesting post, Dan. i disagree mildly with your hypothesis, but not with the idea that liberals can be hate-filled and violent.

    1. true over and over again: liberals are open to all points of view except those points of view which are not open to all points of view. (not that that makes them intrinsically worse than conservatives. it’s just sort of an annoying blind spot.)

    2. i think normal liberals and conservatives are, generally, equally hate-filled and violent. it’s just, as you note, a little more jarring since liberals are supposed to be against hate and violence.

    3. i think there is a mild liberal bias in the media, but not enough to account for this phenomenon by itself. and there’s a lot of conservative media available now that conservatives can and do go to for validation/propaganda.

    4. so, all in all, if found your post interesting and started to think out loud in this comment, but don’t have a ton to say 🙂

    (NB: this post needs quite a bit of proofreading 🙂

  2. I’m with Sean. The claim that many liberals and conservatives are intolerant of dissenting views: true. The claim that liberals are worse, however, is probably a consequence of spotlighting on your part — mixed with some sense that liberals are particularly vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy.

    Question: is she a “liberal” or a “lefty”?

  3. Thanks everyone for the thoughts and time you spent commenting.

    Sean, I like your comment, I’ll respond more in depth later.

    D.Nexon, my shock is more with the CNN anchor who was fawning over the thug, rather than the thug herself. The thug is a leftist loon. What was shocking was the degree to which the liberal talking head clearly saw nothing wrong with violence against those with unpopular opinion.

  4. Isn’t a liberal or conservative just someone who lost his/her last argument, so who wouldn’t be full of at least some hate? But if they are hateful doesn’t it come from their left or right orientation, not from the fact that they may want to generate diversity or enforce conformity, if that is actually what you mean by liberal or conservative?

  5. I don’t think vandalizing a poster is *necessarily* anti-free speech.

    Likewise, I don’t think being offended by a bigoted poster is necessarily “hate-filled and intolerant.”

    Based just on this video, I see a woman who was (rightfully) upset by a poster that was intended to offend. She let her passions get the better of her, and she took out a spray paint can instead of doing the right thing and making her own poster. But I’m not willing to conflate that into deciding the woman is pro-censorship or that ‘liberals’ in general are.

  6. Hey Adam,

    Certain interpretations of quantum mechanics hold that, whenever a set of behaviors is possible, all behaviors are made, each in a different, but equally ‘real,’ universe. I like the idea, because it implies that, in at least one universe, you wrote a comment worth reading. 😉

    If you think that “free speech” rights protects State communication, you’re understanding of ethnics, law, and basic common sense is severely warped.

    Hence the article you link to does not contribute to the conversation.

    Similarly, your mischaracterization of my remarks (“..being offended…”) is absurd. I doubt you can actually think that I’m that stupid, so the alternative is that you’re purposefully mischaracterizing me.

    Your last paragraph is both contradicted by the thug herself (who has spoken about the planning that went into her attack on her victim) and irrelevant (in its insinuation that I said that liberals “in general” are pro-censorship).


    I’m not familiar with Haidt’s writing specifically, but the genetic and physiological correlates of political orientation are well known [1], and it does seem that conservatives tend toward possessing two political senses (disgust and fear) that are markedly retarded among liberals.

    We are a species with a great level of biodiversity. We’re not all the same, the more similar are environments, the more our genetics explains our variation.

    Sean & D. Nexon,

    The commanding heights of the media are undoubtedly closer to the liberal perspective than a conservative one (though whether or not this is “bias,” or evidence that conservatism is outside of the mainstream, is another issue). Because the valleys of the media are often filled with obvious agitprop, it’s easy to simply discount that speech as meaningless. Thus, an intelligent liberal is far more likely to deal with only liberal ideas than is a intelligent conservative.

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