Repressive tolerance

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Ivan Šokić. (Photo: Demokracija)

By: Ivan Šokić

The Epiphany passed in a politically tense atmosphere this year. However, many were more surprised by the hypocrisy of the left than the incursion of supporters of US President Donald Trump, among whom members of Antifa and BLM infiltrated. In Slovenia, in the USA, around the world.

The whole left wing, which a few months ago loudly supported racial unrest in America, the escalation of violence and calls for killings at anti-government protests in Slovenia, turned the table overnight. Leftists fell over each other in their rush to condemn the incursion into the Capitol, then called for censorship, silence, persecution and excommunication from the society of all those associated with US President Donald Trump.

This brings us to the notion of repressive tolerance, which was elaborated in an eponymous essay in a book “A Critique of Pure Tolerance” published in 1965 by the representative of the Frankfurt School, the philosopher Herbert Marcuse. I definitely recommend reading the essay, but for our needs, a summary by Alexander Macris, who ironically has already succumbed to censorship, will suffice. Macris summed up Marcuse’s idea as follows:

“Only the truth can be tolerated. Leftism is objectively real, and what is not leftism is not real. Therefore, only leftism can be tolerated. Anyone who disagrees with this has been indoctrinated. If the majority disagrees, it means that the majority is indoctrinated. Since majority is indoctrinated, leftists must break indoctrination in order for the indoctrinated to grasp the truth of leftism. To break indoctrination, leftists must promote leftist ideas and suppress rightist ones. The advancement of left wing thought is possible by changing ‘grounded universes of meaning’ and by actively presenting ‘information leaning in the opposite direction’, such as political correctness and propaganda. The suppression of right wing thought is achieved by taking freedom of speech, press and assembly of all those who disagree with left wingers on issues of race, gender, religion…, e.g. with a complete removal from the platform. If it is necessary to remove these rights, leftists must operate at a stage where their actions cease to be nonviolent and escalate into revolutionary violence. Leftists who need revolutionary violence must not be condemned by any leftists.”

This is a simplification, but the point is captured. There is no mercy for dissenters. No mercy for the right. No mercy for the middle ones. How far right it does not even matter if you are right from them you are already too right. The same fate awaits everyone. The solution, as Marcuse wrote, “would require seemingly undemocratic means.” It is this characteristic tolerance of leftists towards dissenters.

For Marcuse, the entire post-fascist period represents one clear and constant danger. “Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right to free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and it has become the normal state of affairs.”[1]

In other words, the state of danger has become new normalcy, and as such the right must be attacked at every turn. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently used the same argument as Marcuse in his explanation of why the US president needed to be silenced. There are no coincidences, just patterns.

And both Marcuse and all his spiritual successors are sacredly convinced that they are doing this for our good in order to secure freedom of thought.

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience,” wrote C. S. Lewis in his “God in the Dock: Essays on Theology”.

Repressive tolerance is just a politically correct term for the tyranny of one-mindedness that the left is mercilessly willing to carry out over anyone who resigns. In the post-fascism period anyone who disagrees with a leftist is a fascist due to the lack of black-shirted people who would parade like geese with bundles on their shoulders. And so s/he needs to be prosecuted. For his/her own good.

[1] Marcuse, Herbert (1968). Repressive tolerance. A critique of pure tolerance.

Ivan Šokić is a philosophy student, editor-in-chief of the science fiction web portal and a publicist at Nova24TV. He is an expert in international relations.

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