Intolerance of opinion and the threat it poses to society
It is no secret that intolerance of opinion is one of the things I loathe the most—when people do not merely disagree, be it ever so drastically, but when the one party presumes to consider the other party morally defect, evil, worthy of being shot, whatnot based on the difference in opinion.
(Not to be confused with considering someone worthy of being shot, be it literally or metaphorically, because of the methods used and actions taken. No-one should be shot for being a Nazi. Those who invade Poland and gas Jews, those are a very different matter—even if they happen to belong to another ideology.)
I will not expound in detail on this topic in general here (again), except in as far as noting that it almost invariably does harm (cf. medieval inquisitions, Nazi or Communist censorship, or, although less violently, the Politically Correct of today); that “Fascist is as Fascist does” (where I use the word “Fascist” in the incorrect but dominating everyday sense); and that no matter how convinced we are that we are the ones in the right, other opinions must be tolerated and only fought with facts, arguments, and reasoning—because there always, absolutely always remains a possibility that we are wrong. (After all, religious and ideological fanatics are almost by definition utterly convinced that they are right—even when they are obviously wrong in the eyes of others.)
Instead, I will point to the immense danger that we are currently exposed to through the intolerance of politically correct fanatics and populists through their attempts to use opinions as a criterion to ban people from work, political office, and similar.
In just a few weeks time, I have read news stories about e.g.:
A young employee in Germany being fired for having made racists posts on Facebook, with no regard whatsoever to his actual performance at work, and even though his statements were irrelevant to his employer. (For instance and to the best of my knowledge, he did not insult his employer or leak secret information.) In effect, those having certain opinions will not be able to utter them for fear of losing their jobs.
Hulk Hogan being thrown out of a hall of fame for professional wrestling for having expressed racist opinions—despite almost certainly being the most famous professional wrestler of all times. Notably, his fame and his importance in the (mis-) development of wrestling in the past thirty or so years is utterly unaffected by this, except in as far as he might become even more well-known because of it.
If they had at least thrown him out for ruining the action performance art of wrestling and turning it into half-an-hour of muscle mountains screaming at each other, then I might have had some sympathies.
Today, Donald Trump suddenly moved from a prime presidential candidate to a persona non grata over allegedly sexist statements.
I have seen many other examples over the years, including:
The inexcusable firing of Larry Summers for making non-conclusive statements that are, by and large, supported by both science and common sense.
A number of athletes being banned from competition, including the Olympics, or being forced to make (fake?) apologies for allegedly racist statements that by and large were either harmless, in the heat of the moment, or merely racial. (And even if some of them were racist, seeing that I am unlikely to be aware of the details of every case, they still had nothing to do with athletic performance. Note that the criticism raised has, to my knowledge, always been the irrelevant “racist”—not “lacking in sportsmanship”, which in some extreme cases may have been a legitimate reason to act.) A very young triple jumper, e.g., was banned from the Olympics for making a single joke that could realistically only be criticized for not being very funny…
One or several U.S. colleges tried to instigate a policy where students of education would not merely be prevented from teaching unless they were sufficiently politically correct—bad enough, seeing that this would propagate the politically correct brain-wash from generation to generation. No: They would actually be prevented from receiving their degrees! This irrespective of actual academic accomplishment.
The (with very few exceptions) utterly unscientific, prejudiced, and whole-sale condemnation of “The Bell-Curve” as racist, including the absurd idea that Wikipedia should not even provide an article on the book! (Basically, due to it being so evil that it would be best to bury it in silence, as if it were the Necronomicon or some similar work of darkest magic.)
German Leftist extremists calling for a ban of all parties they do not like—much like Hitler in 1932… Again: Fascist is as Fascist does.
A German IT company requiring that their employees, their contractors, and the employees of their contractors (!) have no connections with the Scientology movement. As I answered them upon hearing this requirement for a possible collaboration: Scientology might be a religion for idiots, but if you want exclude them in this unethical manner, well, then I will in return exclude you.
Unless we want to end up in a world were freedom of opinion has no more value than in North-Korea, it is high time that we take a stand and refuse to accept such intolerance and de facto censorship. A far more enlightened and worthy attitude is found in the words attributed to Voltaire:
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
Freedom of speech and freedom of thought by their very nature must not be “say whatever you like—as long as you agree with me”.
(A similar principle appears in many other cases. For instance, “innocent until proved guilty” becomes hollow and hypocritical when taken as “innocent until proved guilty—unless the accusation is of crime A or B, because these particular crimes are so horrible”. Indeed, the entire concept could be seen as invalidated, because possibly the single greatest advantage is removed: Protection against deliberately false accusations, be it from a dictatorial regime, modern day witch-hunters, or feuding neighbours.)