I strongly believe in a diverse, tolerant, and liberal society. I believe in not just tolerance when it comes to different races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations; I believe more strongly in the tolerance of ideas, especially those I strongly disagree with.
Unfortunately, the tolerant, liberal society I love and value so much is under attack, often by many of the same people who view themselves as “tolerant”. The latest case in point is the firing of Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla. Eich’s crime in the eyes of the tolerance police is the fact that he made a $1,000 contribution in support of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. Proposition 8 sought to deny state recognition of same-sex marriage in the State of California. It passed, but was overturned by the US Surpreme Court in 2013.
Now I disagree with Eich on Proposition 8 and I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn it. I support same-sex marriage, however, I have nothing but contempt for those who went after Eich’s job. One of the most important things about a liberal, diverse, and tolerant society is the fact that people who have differing ideas, even those ideas that a majority of us would disagree with, could work and live together in peace. Such a diverse society and tolerant values allow us to be able engage in civil political discussions about anything without the threat to someone’s livlihood or the threat of a boycott designed to put a company out of business.
These tactics of trying to have a man fired or boycotting a business because you disagree with their owner’s or executive’s political beliefs is a sign of immaturity and frankly are the tactics of thugs and bullies. Boycotts are free speech and I support the right to free speech, however just because you have the right or are legally able to do something does not mean you should do that act. Cheating on your spouse or partner is legal in most jurisdictions, however, it is probably not a good idea to do it. Not only are you betraying that other person’s trust, but you are a scoundrel. You can legally boycott anything, however, if you’re doing it based on the political beliefs of the owners and executives, you are an immature bully who cannot handle an opposing point of view.
What boycotts and the lynch mob mentality in politics does is make even the slightest disagreements personal and it makes people afraid to express their viewpoints. In order to have a healthy, tolerant, and liberal society; people must have the assurance that they can express whatever political viewpoints they believe without having their livlihoods threatened. Using the tactics of bullies, even in the name of “tolerance”, is not very tolerant at all and it leads to self-censorship, which is just as dangerous to the American body politic as state censorship.
Private power and civil society can be just as coercive as the state and that is one of the reasons I am not an anarchist. I believe that the excesses of private power and even civil society must be kept in check by the state.
As a society, we benefit from being able to freely express our points of view; whether it be free from state coercion or the coercion of private parties. Whenever we allow ourselves to get into a lather over what a man’s political beliefs, especially to the point where we target his livlihood, we diminish this freedom. If we believe in tolerance, we must believe in tolerance for all political ideas, especially those which are unpopular. Anything less is an assualt on the liberal society and invites us on the road to totalitarianism.