Tolerance to intolerant?

The recent purge of Facebook and Twitter, which massively wiped out Donald Trump and his supporters’ user accounts, has rightly attracted attention. Unjustifiably, however, the erasure did not receive the critical scrutiny it deserves due to the far-reaching consequences. So much so since the deletion was followed by user transitions on the competing Gab and Parler platforms, and those transitions were the reaction of Amazon, which stopped Parler hosting on its servers and Apple excluded it from the App Store.

The coordinated action of major technology players 

To be precise, we need to keep in mind that Twitter and Facebook have been eliminating unsolicited accounts for the past two years. The phenomenon I will be writing about therefore has a long beard. By that, I mean that the critique of the phenomenon is not based on the fact that the U.S. president’s account was abolished at that time, but on the phenomenon no matter who it specifically affects. Of course, the phenomenon, which can be called censorship, is so much more difficult at the moment, as it was the first time that major technology players have acted in a coordinated manner. So to speak, it was a cartel agreement, which in itself raises too many questions about the functioning of civil society. 

Methodological note: I’m writing this post as a philosopher by education, a business consultant by profession, an evolutionary biologist by intelligence and a memetic by passion. Should it not be written by a legal expert?

Quite the opposite. Namely, the topic opens up fundamental questions of freedom and responsibility, questions to which the community must answer codifying this agreement with the law. Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Lenin’s Soviet Russia, or today’s China, all of these systems were based on law. If existing law allows for extrajudicial killings, these killings are legally justified. We cannot find the answer to whether something is right or wrong in law, but in the prevailing set of values, the prevailing mythology in which a certain community lives and makes sense of it daily. 

Obviously, we have come to the point where I have to find out for myself, as I can only speak on my own behalf, I no longer live in mythology or value system, as realised by discussed censorship. 

The catch 22 is that censorship makes it impossible to identify those who agree with me because they are censored. 

Am I exaggerating? After all, there are other media, traditional, among which there is always one through which those who think differently can communicate. True in principle, but not in practice. After all, the censorship has been carried out by the traditional media for a long time that causes dissidents to look for channels that were not censored; until yesterday. The blockade is now seemingly complete. Apparently, because the word in history has still found its way past censorship. Well, always until the moment when dissenters were also physically eliminated.

Just a former shrine?

But an even greater embarrassment than this Kafkaesque, that dissenters cannot actually get out of the maze of censorship is the one that binds itself to the place where this censorship took place. We are talking about the USA. We are talking about a country that established the country as a servant of the community of free individuals with its independence from colonial England and France. We are talking about the legacy of the “Founding Fathers”, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and especially Madison and later Lincoln, who put the right to freedom of speech first. 

Freedom of speech was sacred in America until yesterday, instilled even deeper than the property right. Freedom of speech was a fundamental value that America has often tried unsuccessfully to export worldwide along with democracy. Freedom of speech has been at the heart of the last decade of the evolving conflict with China. These technology giants enthroned the censorship of speech yesterday who accepted compromises in trade with China yesterday because they could not agree to the Chinese state’s censorship. These giants did not understand yesterday that they had killed Donald Trump, much like the Chinese party killed Jack Ma in October 2020. The cognitive dissonance they have created with this is colossal and tragic. It is tragic because they are not even aware that they are repeating Nazi and communist procedures. It is tragic because, unlike the Chinese party, they are not even aware of what they are doing.

These are the circumstances of my central theme. Of course, politically correct individuals would describe the circumstances in the same way. Namely, I described the circumstances through the prism of freedom of speech as a fundamental, axiomatic value, which must not give in to the pressure of any other value. I am aware that I am quite lonely in this autistic insistence on free speech’s axiomatic nature. In Slovenia as in many other countries, the part of society that could not accept the pressure until yesterday’s fully open digital media is much louder.

Who is threatened by the establishment of direct channels of communication?

The loud majority, which performed under the so-called liberal flag of freedom of speech, feared freedom of speech when it happened uncontrollably. Suddenly, with direct communication channels, what they had in their mouths really happened. The freedom of the so-called public media is imaginary, because every editor of a traditional media, every writer of a traditional media is a kind of censor. It separates the important from the unimportant. It is decided whether to show Trump positively or negatively or release him altogether, abolish him, and kill him as a human being. The traditional media do not call this censorship, but editorial policy, but de facto it is institutionalised censorship, which even represents the foundation of these media’s pride.

All over the world, as well as in Slovenia, the realisation of the so-called liberals that their liberalism is only a mask of censorship was realised through the creation of a sense of fear of open digital media, or of individuals who used these media to say what they had previously said. Censored media could not. Fear is embodied in the concept of intolerance or hate speech. But just creating fear was not enough. This was followed by actions felt by many social media users. Deleting some content, suspending the account, all in the name of preventing hate speech. Who and in whose name carries out this censorship, only a few of us wondered, for these phenomena’ sporadic nature.

How wrong! Is the murder of one any less perverted than the murder of ten? Is one life worth less than ten? Is one word worth less than ten?

Before moving on to the central argument of the so-called liberals, I must also explain why freedom of speech is a fundamental axiom of human action. The answer is straightforward: because the word is the only difference between man and animal. Man is currently the only known being that is realised not only as a biological being through biological reproduction but through evolution increasingly also as a memetic being. The meme legacy of a man with the development of culture became even more important than the genetic one. Tombstones, books, music, myths, stories … live longer than a physical being and often much longer than his biological descendants. Man is a memetic being. Censorship of his memes, the abolition of his meme account on some social medium, is murder. In fact, it is a more perverted murder than the murder of the body. To consent to such murders is simply inhumane.

Should the intolerant be prevented from speaking?

Let’s at last focus on that argument that seems to justify so-called liberals in carrying out censorship. Hate speech and intolerance. These are two sides of the same coin. I will touch on both through the issue of tolerance.

As has been said, the so-called liberals resort to the argument of tolerance. They say that we (again: who represents »we«?) must prevent the intolerant’s speech, as such speech and such individuals can be harmful. The assumption is that hate speech, intolerant speech triggers violence and should therefore be eliminated. And as said in the first part of the post, such eliminations is happening today.

I characterise modern liberals as “so-called” because in such an unambiguous or one-way definition of »the enemy« they forget the fact that the paradox of tolerance has been known, described and made meaningful for almost 2,500 years. At least Plato had already explicated it, but many after him as well. In the twentieth century, the issues were widely discussed by Karl Popper and John Rawls. All of the above are in their own way also philosophers of law (as mentioned: philosophers of law have no connection to legal experts).

Therefore, the paradox of tolerance is clear: the moment someone who swears by tolerance behaves intolerantly towards the intolerant, he can no longer swear by tolerance. To avoid the described paradox, they invent cases where the tolerant can intervene in intolerant acts but is still tolerant. By doing so, of course, they replace one embarrassment with another, an even greater one: they agree to the principle that ends justify means. This second paradox is the basis of all totalitarian delusions and crimes. In the name of equality (as an end), kill all kulaks. In the name of tolerance, kill all the intolerant. As the ancients used to say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But precisely because tolerance is a fundamentally unsolvable paradox, any search for a one-way answer is doomed in advance. The paradox of tolerance is not solvable through a definition but through the process of finding a definition. However, such a process in the realm of the human always takes place in the memetic field, in the field of words. A solution that disables one side from participating in the process is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. Constant thinking, constant exchange, is the only way to maintain balance on the paradox of tolerance’s slippery terrain. It is in the name of the principles that so-called liberals have in their mouths (but not in their actions), in the name of tolerance, that we should loosen the shackles of censorship. So, of course, they are not liberals but so-called liberals.

Does censorship prevent violence?

The next dirty turn that modern censors of thought and humanity carry out is to justify censorship by preventing violence. There is no doubt that the fundamental function of the state is to prevent violence. We can only realise both the right to private property and the right to freedom of speech in peace. The shift is dirty because so-called liberals are imperceptibly changing the realm of violence; they imperceptibly impose the assumption that the opposite opinion is similar to violence, as much as my fist triggers the violence against your face.

The field of physis is clearly separated from the field of the word; genes are not memes. The word can hurt, but it cannot directly lead to physical violence. When (if) physical violence occurs, it must be legally and socially sanctioned. And so it is. However, the moment we begin to associate the word with physical violence, we come to a situation where the words of Gandhi or Mother Teresa can also be understood as a call to violence. In such a world, every word is violence. In such a world, then, every thought becomes violence. In such a world, George Orwell is a premature amateur.

Censorship of speech in the name of preventing physical violence is subject to another, a legally obvious mistake. The intent cannot be criminalised. Just as good intentions often lead to hell, bad intentions often trigger positive consequences. All a man can face is the consequences. These can or must be subject to legal judgment, words never, regardless of the form and purpose of what is said.

Paradoxes of tolerance

Let me end my brief discussion of tolerance with the last paradox of tolerance, which is even the most often overlooked, but which sheds additional light on the nasty nature of censorship that we are currently experiencing. Nowadays, it is impossible to find an individual that would not beg for more tolerance in our society. It goes without saying that the greatest possible tolerance is a precondition for freedom and democracy. But does such a quest make sense?

Tolerance is an obvious category in engineering and science. In science, it is defined by sigma. The scientific discovery is confirmed when it reaches sigma 6, the lowest possible tolerance for a mistake and highest certainty about the result being correct. The fundamental goal of engineering is to achieve solutions with as little tolerance as possible from the model or design.

Is it possible and meaningful to transfer the desire for the smallest possible tolerance of science and engineering to society? Yes. Namely, social and personal tolerance comes in play only when there is no other alternative. When someone annoys us over the edge, we turn on the tolerance to physically attack him. When we do not understand each other, be it an individual or a social group, we turn on tolerance to avoid physical conflict. 

It is clear from these examples that our goal, quite intuitively, is not to enlarge the field of tolerance, but to narrow down that field as possible. The goal is not to increase tolerance so far that we should trigger it right at every relationship. Maximum tolerance would require inhuman efforts to maintain it all the time. Therefore, in contrast to politically correct contemporary social science, our evolutionarily nurtured goal is to reduce tolerance, because by reducing tolerance, we reduce energy consumption: less tolerance, more sustainability.

At this point, we come to yet another confirmation that the paradox of tolerance is not solvable through a definition but through a process of finding a solution. Namely, we can reduce tolerance only in the memetic field of harmonisation of values. The more the values ​​are aligned, the less effort is needed to overcome the mismatch. However, coordination can only take place through words through completely free speech. The coordination that forcibly excludes this or that individual cannot be successful.

This second part explained why I started this post very emotionally and a priori against any speech restriction. For that reason, I also used some harsh words. Namely, you show the greatest respect for your interlocutor if you are brutally clear and open. Transparent. 

Respect for every interlocutor is instilled in my genes, as it is a continuation of an ancient tradition that is the foundation of our civilisation. Complete freedom of speech is a precondition for such respect. Therefore, freedom of speech will be the last thing I will surrender to political correctness and censorship dictates. 

Andrej Drapal