Forging the hammer of tolerance in the furnace of liberty

March 28, 2016 § 57 Comments

Suppose we have four groups of moderately pluralistic ‘live and let live’ painters.

Group A thinks that it is really important to paint doors red. Otherwise they are content with beige or gray for fences, walls, and driveways.  They don’t feel particularly strongly about it: in fact they don’t really give it much thought at all. Doors are the important thing. But other than doors people should be free to paint as they please. Even when people are wrong or show bad taste it is important to have restraint and demonstrate good manners. Those fundamentalists who keep screaming that all driveways should be painted yellow really ought to be a bit more tolerant: they should adopt a more ‘live and let live’ attitude like Group A.

Group B thinks that it is really important to paint driveways yellow. Otherwise they are content with beige or gray for fences, walls, and doors.

Group C thinks that it is really important to paint fences white. Otherwise they are content with beige or gray for driveways, walls, and doors.

Group D thinks that it is really important to paint walls blue. Otherwise they are content with beige or gray for fences, doors, and driveways.

They all vote on what color to paint doors, fences, walls, and driveways. Oddly, the society in which they live is all beige and gray. A few of the folks who felt especially strongly about other colors are in prison, or are at least unemployable and ostracized. They don’t really grasp what happened, because they really are sincerely live-and-let-live kinds of folk: they just start to draw some lines when it comes to important things like yellow driveways.  And where did all of these social justice warriors come from, anyway?

And that is why just one drop of liberalism in your political philosophy is like just one drop of sewage in your wine.

§ 57 Responses to Forging the hammer of tolerance in the furnace of liberty

  • donalgraeme says:

    It is amazing how so few people really get this, even after it is explained to them. The good news, such as it is, is that it seems like younger people have an easier time with it. Or at least, some of the young men I hang around with.

  • […] of books, and the Louis Sachar (“Holes”) novel “Small Steps”?), titled “Forging the hammer of tolerance in the furnace of liberty”. The post is short; I encourage all of you to read […]

  • Zippy says:

    That’s good stuff Malcolm. People rail against PC, and more generally against the Overton window. But the problem is not the existence of PC/taboo or the Overton window in the abstract.

    The problem isn’t abstractly that societies have orthodoxies and shun taboos. That is inevitable, and positively good. A society without such things is inconceivable, and a society which thinks it does not have them or should not have them still does have them — just sociopathically.

    The problem is not orthodoxies and taboos in the abstract. The problem is the actual substantive content of our modern orthodoxies and taboos.

  • I do want to note: I don’t think people who claim they are against censorship, either de jure or de facto, are lying. It’s just like what you’re saying here – They genuinely don’t understand the problem with yellow.

    The SJW’s are the special subset of liberal that wants to make sure everything is gray. It’s the logical conclusion, of course: If other colors are going to make people mad, why are we allowing paint at all?

    And thus we reach the era of safe spaces and microaggressions.

  • Aethelfrith says:

    I honestly don’t get why SJW as a term is used at all when “liberal” is a less obfuscating descriptor (at the very least, I don’t have to go to Urban Dictionary for the latter).

    Before the Social Justice Warrior hate-in became a thing, I declared that the reasons liberals act the way they do is because “they are liars, and children of their father, the Devil.”

  • Aethelfrith,

    Because pretty much EVERYBODY is a liberal. But not everybody is a social justice warrior.

  • Zippy says:

    The problem with the “SJW’s lie” formulation is that SJW’s are really just sincere leftists, and leftists are just the latest iteration of liberal. Sure, lots of people tell lies, and even more are themselves deceived and have beliefs which rest on falsehood.

    But the problem is not that various kinds of liberals are not sincere – and quite transparent – in their beliefs.

    The problem is the content of their sincere beliefs.

  • That’s not really the point of the “SJW’s Always Lie” formulation. It can be expanded into “SJW’s Always Lie to get what they want“. Not that they’re lying about their beliefs, but that they’re lying to put their beliefs into practice.

  • Zippy says:

    Nevertheless, the idea that leftists are all liars and uniquely so is a core element of right liberal mythology. It should be resisted.

  • Zippy says:

    Lying as a tactic to get what you want is hardly something that distinguishes leftists from the rest of humanity.

  • I guess what I’m disputing here is that there isn’t a specific problem with SJW’s, and that the formulations don’t apply to them in ways they don’t apply to other liberals. Lydia Mcgrew, John C. Wright, Donald Trump, and Hilaire Belloc were also all liberals, but applying “SJW’s Always Lie” to them is a mistake.

  • Zippy says:


    There is no form of liberalism which does not suffer from what I will call a selective relationship with the truth. And the focus on sincerity of particular persons is just a subtle way of changing the subject and begging the question all at once.

    All liberalism is based in a lie; and the sincerity and tactics of particular individuals is as varied here as it is in all human activities.

  • And the focus on sincerity of particular persons is just a subtle way of changing the subject and begging the question all at once.

    But the point here – here being what folks like Vox mean when they say “SJW’s Always Lie” (I only mention Vox because he literally wrote the book on the subject) – ISN’T about liberalism generally, but really is based on the sincerity of particular persons.

    All liberalism is based in a lie; and the sincerity and tactics of particular individuals is as varied here as it is in all human activities.

    Exactly. “SJW’s Always Lie” is focused on the individuals who happen to be SJW’s, not *all* liberals.

  • This seems to me like not making a distinction between communists and Nazis because both happen to be liberals.

  • Zippy says:

    If SJW’s are by definition particular individual leftists who lie as a tactic, then “SJW’s always lie” is just another one of those weaponized nihilism tautologies that modern people use to short circuit actual thought and avoid introspection.

    If it is supposed to mean that the leftism that SJW’s support is unique among forms of liberalism inasmuch as it (unlike other liberalisms) has a selective relationship with the truth, it is false.

  • […] hammer of tolerance in the furnace of […]

  • Aethelfrith says:

    Vox is as much of a social justice warrior as the ones he opposes, and by his definition too–he frequently lies, doubles down and projects. The only difference is that his conception of what is right (“social justice”) differs from that of his enemies.

    Just like how libertarians and Marxists, despite how diametrically opposed to each other they are, are fundamentally liberal.

  • Craig N. says:

    Zippy: Surely it doesn’t have to mean either. The claim is that 1. SJWs are identifiable in terms of their beliefs, which are a lot more specific than liberalism (even as most people use it, much less as you do) and 2. SJWs as a group use lying (deliberate lying, since their response to the truth is to double-down on the lie) consistently / more than other groups.

    By comparison: some political groups use street protests more than others. If there’s a bunch of different liberal groups, it may still be important to know which ones will picket your home.

  • Zippy says:

    Craig N:
    Today’s SJW’s are just treating homophobes the same way that yesterday’s SJW’s treated monarchists. The idea that the former are somehow bigger “liars” than the latter is just self deception.

  • Zippy,

    But who said that? We’re talking about here and now, a specific group of people, useful to identify in specific circumstances.

  • If I start talking to a guy in the comments section of the AV Club, say, and learn that they get mightily offended whenever somebody uses “he” instead of “he or she”, regularly drops words like mansplaining into the middle of a conversation, and believes that all science fiction up until Ursula K. LeGuin or something was a white male boys, I know I’m most likely dealing with an SJW, and probably not a Nazi.

  • Zippy says:

    I am not sure why folks are reacting as if I had said “there are no such thing as SJW’s”.

    What I actually said was ‘The problem with the “SJW’s lie” formulation is that SJW’s are really just sincere leftists, and leftists are just the latest iteration of liberal.’

  • Okay then, here’s what I’m not getting, honestly: When it comes to how that statement is used, in the titular book or elsewhere, why does that observation really make a difference? Yes, SJW’s are leftists.

  • Zippy says:

    I already explained why it matters. The formulation makes it sound like SJW’s have a uniquely problematic relationship with the truth. They don’t. This is typical right-liberal self deception.

  • Craig N. says:

    Zippy, do you really think that all liberals are equally likely to use dishonest tactics? That seems improbable.

  • Zippy says:

    Craig N:
    Have you stopped beating your wife?

    I am quite certain that dishonesty among human beings is both pervasive and varies widely from person to person.

    And I think the self-deceived are vastly more dangerous than the insincere.

  • Craig N. says:

    I don’t think I deserved that.

    I said (well, interpreted someone else as saying) that SJWs are more likely than other liberals to lie, and that it was sometimes important to know preferred tactics of different groups.

    You disdained any fine distinctions between different groups, with sufficient terseness that it sure looked like you were simply denying that any such difference even existed. Now it looks like you intended something more complicated.

  • Craig N. says:

    I *was* participating in topic drift, granted.

  • Dystopia Max says:

    “The problem with the “SJW’s lie” formulation is that SJW’s are really just sincere leftists, and leftists are just the latest iteration of liberal.”

    No. This is a dumb, divisive post, and you’re dumb and divisive for making it. When people flirted with liberalism in the past, a Saul Alinsky or a Chairman Mao could get big cash returns on APPLYING THE HAMMER OF TOLERANCE TO THE SOCIAL STRUCTURES OF OPPRESSORS.

    They also wrote practical-if-devilish books to their followers explaining exactly what they were doing, their thought processes for doing so, and presumably dropped this liberal lifehack in their own lives after their cash, prizes, and accolades were won, and they got back to protecting their own nest. The liberal leaders of yesterday would never have attempted to do the same thing over and over again till his opponents grew wise to him and got crushed, that was for the low-ranking rube dealers who got high on their own supply, started believing their own BS, etc.

    SJWs, by contrast, are the Millenials and Gen-Xers who absorbed the Boomer liberal philosophy/excuses from the beginning of their lives via cultural osmosis, compulsory education, and helicopter parenting. They know nothing else. They’re absolutely, pathetically transparent compared to their forebears, even to their natural sympathizers. Their ability to rationalize their liberal philosophy for any higher social purposes is pathetically weak compared to anyone during, say, the actual Progressive movement.

    And…they’re mostly getting crushed by any passing male with testosterone, anonymity, and a sense of humor, many of whom are occasionally liberal but have a proper moral horror or bitter experience with the utter unfruitfulness and deceit of the SJW as they understand it. An SJW is a real thing and phenomenon in the present age, independently experienced by real people in real life and on the Internet. The more who understand it, the easier it is to marshal public revulsion to defeat them, and eventually to de-lib the institutions they previously infested.

    Scott Alexander is a sincere leftist, occasionally laughable but agonizingly consistent to the point where even he can occasionally bring up leftist critiques of things that feel wrong to him. John Scalzi is a SJW, and his capacity for reflective thinking or self-awareness is nearly nil. Possibly this is because Scott has actual, human patients that he feels and acts actually responsible to and John has only his own paycheck and fame for comfort. To call them the same due to sharing a mere ‘liberal philosophy’ is near-slanderous and will be felt that way by anyone who has experienced the difference.

    Thus I reiterate, using the proper political verbiage for our democratic structure: The post was unhelpful, problematic, ahistorical regarding the experiences of those of us who have dealt with them, presumptuously dismissive of personnel, strategy, and tactics that have a proven record of granting succor to our friends and destruction to our enemies, and rather illustrates the limits of philosophy in outlining an even halfway predictive model of human behavior in anything but the grossest generalized aggregate. (Is the movement toward gross general aggregates of humanity a consequence of being governed by these philosophers, or at least people desperate to arrange the statistical outcomes to match the management philosophy closely enough to keep their jobs? Signs point to maybe! Did any sincere leftists like James Burnham foresee this, or were his ideas tainted at the source?)

    Liberalism always carried risk factors for its own degeneration, and if I wanted to explore the most virulent and pernicious strains, there’s always Moldbug, whose particular expressions and metaphors appear to be rising in your usage in roughly inverse proportion to how often you credit him. Half his links may be dead, but at least they weren’t all to other things he wrote!

  • Anymouse says:

    I have questions on how well the track record has been…

    But regardless, I see Zippy’s point: we need an embrace of real authority, and not merely various attempts to pretend that our concerns are not real threats to a liberal order. They are. I think this post was a good one.

  • Anymouse says:

    Just as an aside: It is ironic seeing someone from MPC criticizing Zippy for being excessively hardcore.

  • Zippy says:

    Even more ironically, Dystopia Max proves my point: if SJW’s are as he describes then they are inconsequential and harmless compared to other liberals.

  • Zippy,

    Yes, but the fact is that people aren’t standing up to them and they’re dominating a great many fields right now. It’s no excuse that a simple “No, I won’t apologize” is often enough to defuse the situation.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    And this is why it pays to put group A in charge of doors, because they know what they are talking about.

    “The problem is not orthodoxies and taboos in the abstract. The problem is the actual substantive content of our modern orthodoxies and taboos.”

    Social Matter said something similar recently about political correctness. The problem is not the tool, but the purpose it is being wielded for. Even if Liberals stop using their underhanded tactics tomorrow, their ideology would still be WRONG.

  • Zippy says:

    Quite right Mark Citadel.

    “SJW’s lie” is basically a useless tautology.

    It is like declaring a “war on terrorism” while studiously ignoring the fact that the terrorists are Islamic, Islamic, Islamic, Islamic, and, once in a while, liberal (e.g. Timothy McVeigh).

    The nice thing about declaring war on tactics (terrorism, “lying”, etc) is that we can absorb all of the political outrage caused by liberalism without actually calling liberalism itself into question.

  • […] of authentic liberalism.  Most liberals are just like everyone else, and want to exist in “live and let live” peace and freedom alongside conservatives and vibrant minorities.  As long as everybody […]

  • Aethelfrith says:

    I think nominalism is at the heart of everyone’s problems with the term Social Justice Warrior.

    The SJW is anti-realist in terms of “social” and “justice.”

  • […] the hellish agony of his insatiable desire and will.  We define any man who is committed – at all – to liberalism as a liberal.  The purest form of liberal, then, is an anarchotyrannical […]

  • […] their political views are, at least in a sense, more consistent with freedom and equal rights as uncompromising principles than other political views. That is precisely why libertarians (left and right) are so crazy and […]

  • […] individuals and communities have different traditions and preferences, and are thus attached to different baskets of unprincipled exceptions.  Different individuals and communities face different real-life […]

  • […] – elites who at the same time were constantly accusing them of bigotry.  The most tolerant, live and let live race of people on the planet finally got sick of being branded as the officially hated group, […]

  • […] wishes correspond to their real options.  When folks subjectively don’t like the results it feels constraining.  But it is a fundamental mistake to see empowerment of the good as “freedom.” […]

  • […] a good thing. The basic idea is that government should mind its own business and allow subjects to live and let live: should do as little as possible to ensure that the rights of free and equal individuals are […]

  • […] lie is that while politics must at times (out of unhappy necessity in an otherwise live-and-let-live context) discriminate based on what people do, it must never discriminate based on what people are.  So […]

  • […] because asserting the unintelligible is always unintelligible despite what may seem to be a superficial plausibility.  It may sound plausible that twas brillig in the slithy toves.  But the fact that a […]

  • […] considered purely in itself, as an abstracted idea to which nobody is committed even as a kind of default, doesn’t cause mass murder.  What causes mass murder is the […]

  • […] Politics is authoritative resolution of controvertible cases when human beings interact. To avoid politics is to avoid other human beings. This is why ‘freedom of association’ becomes so important to some kinds of liberals: once again the impulse is to just make other people and their problems go away, so the free and equal superman can live his life in peace. […]

  • […]  There is generally no need to even talk about liberalism per se: liberalism is assumed to be the default commitment of all fully human individuals.  Only despicably evil subhumans with debilitating psychological […]

  • […] finger on the scale is all it takes to make the house win on average, with a time horizon that encompasses more than […]

  • […] shrieking harpies of tolerance once again demonstrate that women and feminists aren’t thin-skinned at all (really!) in the […]

  • […] reduces the good in politics to will – to whatever any given group of liberals happen to unreflectively want and expect – liberalism necessarily produces opposing factions. Different groups of […]

  • […] while impermissible speech should be suppressed and punished.  It means we should take a live and let live approach to regulating […]

  • […] while impermissible chemistry should be suppressed and punished.  It means we should take a live and let live approach to regulating […]

  • […] that pouring acid over the moral social fabric for centuries would make it dissolve? Who could have predicted that treating human authority and hierarchy as if it were what is wrong with the world would lead […]

  • […] be able to pat ourselves on the back and feel like we are taking a nice pastoral, conservative, live-and-let-live approach, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Forging the hammer of tolerance in the furnace of liberty at Zippy Catholic.