tolerating the trolls

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The infamous Milo "dangerous faggot" Yiannopoulos "has made a name for himself by becoming a professional internet troll:"

He would have you believe that the danger lies in his message, that he is somehow speaking truth on a topic other people wouldn't dare touch. However, if you look closely enough you see that he isn't actually saying anything worthwhile; he's admitted that himself. He's simply spouting the most inflammatory and controversial diatribes he can concoct. And as we all know, there's nothing dangerous in that for the speaker. It might even lead to a presidential nomination.

Milo is not a dangerous faggot; Milo is a lazy writer who lacks the capacity to receive or reflect human compassion.

Bringing the focus back to his slogan, the piece observes that "There is nothing dangerous about hiding behind self-created controversies for the sake of expanding your particular brand of hate:"

There are plenty of dangerous faggots in the world; I would hope I am considered to be one of them. To be a person who seeks the truth in a culture that has become fact-averse. To be a person who welcomes discourse and leans in to difficult conversations with the hope of learning and of bringing people together. To be a person who is unafraid to say "black lives matter" and "trans is beautiful" in a society that clearly does not always agree. To be a person so in love with their country they will stop at no lengths to help it fulfill its promise, when their country has not always loved them back in the same way. Being a dangerous faggot does not mean saying things that put others in danger; it means loving others enough to put yourself in danger for them.

When considering culture in this manner, the question of can liberal values be absolute? comes to the fore:

Is liberalism an idea fit only for the contemporary West, proper to this particular historical, social and geographical context? Or is liberalism right for everyone, for all peoples and ages and cultures? That is to say, should liberal values be seen as relative or absolute?

In fact, the answer is neither. It is possible to steer between localist relativism on the one hand and ahistorical absolutism on the other. [...] What separates the liberal West from the brutality of its past is several hundred years of change, premised on the rejection of tradition and a refusal to be swayed by the argument that 'this is how we do things'. Liberal values cannot be defended by looking backward and inward, since they arise from a perspective whose gaze is towards the future and the greater party of humankind.

Even those who defend diversity in values and practices often appeal to a relativism of their own. Liberals should be tolerant even of those who are illiberal and intolerant, because those are 'their' values, grounded in 'their' culture and history. This leads to a worrying moral permissiveness, both at home and abroad.

Marcuse's repressive tolerance is relevant here, as are other caveats:

If liberalism cannot be local and relativistic, it equally should not slide into an uncompromising absolutism and universalism. Insisting that the current manifestation of liberalism in the contemporary West is the timeless, universal, absolute guide to moral life is as fraught and historically blinkered as the appeal to 'our values'.

"Values are right and good only," the piece continues, "to the extent that they allow people to live acceptable lives together. This is the pragmatic middle way:"

In attempting to draw the pragmatist middle line between relativism and absolutism, Western liberal democracies will have a new message for their immigrant populations. Newcomers should accept liberal values, not simply because they happen to be the law of the land, nor because they are timeless ultimate truths, but because they have been found to work by those who have tried them, because the lives they allow are good lives for the livers, because they have permitted the cultures that abide by them to achieve unprecedented safety, health, dignity and wellbeing.

But liberals should also be open to the possibility that listening to these new voices will change the way they see things. Westerners might learn something valuable, just as their cultures did when they started to listen to those once excluded, such as Jews, women, blacks and the poor.

(Not to mention the LGBT community, etc...) It's all the more important that those once-marginalized voices include more than empty provocateurs such as Milo Y.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 14, 2016 8:01 AM.

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