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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Liberalism and Tolerance

"Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. Except in cases of necessity, which are rare, leave your friend to learn unpleasant things from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell them." - Oliver Wendell Holmes


Social networking sites and politics | Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

"Politics can be a sensitive subject and a number of SNS users have decided to block, unfriend, or hide someone because of their politics or posting activities. In all, 18% of social networking site users have taken one of those steps...

Liberals are the most likely to have taken each of these steps to block, unfriend, or hide. In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates"

Tom Lehrer sums up the intolerance of the philosophy of tolerance best: "I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!"

Addendum: Other research shows that liberals are ruder/less nice than conservatives (are they not nice?)

Liberal Intolerance and the Firing of Naomi Schaefer Riley:

"For a stark reminder that "liberal intolerance" is real, look at the brouhaha over Naomi Schaefer Riley's ejection from the Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Brainstorm...

Most left-of-center commentators who have weighed in... have condemned Riley and defended her firing. Their argument is that, while Riley has a right to her opinions and criticism of black studies is not racist, her post was so "lazy," "sloppy" and "ignorant" that such "know-nothing hackery" has no place on the blog of an academic publication. That's because Riley freely admits she did not read the dissertations she lampooned but relied on The Chronicle's summaries (not, as some have mistakenly claimed, the titles alone).

Is this a sloppy approach for a 520-word blogpost? First, let's turn the political tables. Suppose a left-wing academic blogger had poked fun at stupid Ph.D. dissertations from conservative Christian colleges arguing that homosexuality can be cured or that teaching evolution undermines students' morals—and based her post on a magazine's summary of the thesis topics. Would those tut-tutting at Riley's laziness demand actual perusal of such works?

Second, let's look at The Chronicle's general standards of quality in blogging—standards that Alterman suggests were lowered for Riley in order to appease the right by hiring a conservative.

There is Laurie Essig, a Middlebury College sociologist whose posts—mostly unrelated to academia—tend to be fact-free, muddled rants on the "white privilege" underlying the campaign against child-murdering Ugandan warlord Kony, the heterosexual oppressiveness of the happy endings of "Harry Potter," or the merits  of an attempted pie assault on Rupert Murdoch. One Essig post decries the "hysteria," "racism," and "class warfare" of concerns about unwed motherhood, making the unsupported claim that children of single parents fare no worse than their two-parent peers when they have similar resources. Another asserts that Americans "hate black women" but love Oprah Winfrey because she supports the values of "white supremacy" (by emphasizing individual choices) and "fulfills white longings for Mammy."

There is also Dave Barash, a University of Washington biologist and psychologist, who a month ago made a post titled "Major League Baseball Takes on the First Amendment." In it, Barash deplored the suspension of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillén after he professed love for Fidel Castro, and his subsequent apology. So much for intellectual rigor: one need not be a constitutional scholar to know that a private company's decision to sanction an employee for offensive public speech is not a First Amendment issue. Shockingly, Barash's dedication to free speech does not seem to extend to Naomi Schaefer Riley.

Finally, what about the factual diligence displayed by some of Riley's media critics? Alterman—who writes that "conservative journalists specialize in attacks that ignore traditional standards of fairness and professional competence"—repeatedly makes the inaccurate claim that Riley slammed the thesis projects because she "didn't like their titles." He also throws in an aside about her earlier authorship of a Wall Street Journal column which "sought to blame women who dressed provocatively for 'moronic behavior' that allegedly invited rape." Alterman's source, however, is not Riley's column—which never mentioned provocative dress—but a left-wing website's angry recap . (Riley's actual point was that it's not smart to get so plastered at a college party that you can't refuse, or even remember, unwanted sex.) Surely, relying on a hostile summary to attack an op-ed column—which can be found and read in a few minutes—is sloppier than relying on a sympathetic summary to attack a dissertation."
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