Monday, August 23, 2010


Some right-wing responsibility-free bloggers want to use liberals' reputation for tolerance against them. Unfortunately, some of those bloggers don't know what tolerance is.

I found myself the target of one of the aforementioned bloggers, the intellectual lightweight Lori Ziganto, who tweeted, "Creepily obsessed blogger has now taken to calling me 'That moron Lori Ziganto'. Ah, the tolerant Left."

If I understand her correctly, Ziganto is claiming that I, as a liberal, claim to be tolerant, but my criticisms of her posts show that I am not. (One of Ziganto's latest projects is to convince her readers that liberals are actually intolerant.)

But Ziganto is playing another semantic game, as I shall demonstrate.

Let's begin by getting a handle on that word, "tolerant."  What does it mean?

"Tolerant" is defined as "inclined to tolerate; especially: marked by forbearance or endurance." 

"Tolerate" is defined as "to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction: to put up with."  

Now, let us apply the definition: is it intolerant to express disagreement or criticize the views or arguments of others? No. I tolerate her blog, since I have done nothing to prohibit her from posting to it and maintaining it. When I refer to her as "that moron Lori Ziganto," I do nothing to prohibit or hinder her from sullying the internets with bullshit, i.e., the lies and fallacies with which her posts teem. In addition, I am sure that neither Ziganto nor any other responsibility-free blogger would tolerate being condemned as intolerant for strenuously disagreeing with someone.

Insofar as I contradict Ziganto, it may be said that I am intolerant. But I say that such intolerance is essential to and unavoidable in a free society in which a marketplace of ideas flourishes. Ziganto thrives on being intolerant in this sense, and it would be inconsistent of her to deny me the right to exercise similar intolerance.

Therefore, as should now be clear, the mere fact that I criticize the posts of various responsibility-free bloggers does not show that I am intolerant, or at least it does not show that I am objectionably so. In fact, all we can conclude from this is that Ziganto either doesn't  know what tolerance is, or is pretending not to know so that she can score cheap points by calling meany pants bloggers who disagree with her "intolerant." (It's not as if her readers will bother to look the word up anyway, or even know how to use a dictionary.)

Unfortunately for Ziganto, once we understand what tolerance is all about, the undeniable conclusion is that Ziganto herself is as reprehensibly intolerant as can be, as are all the xenophobic bigoted idiots who are opposed to the Muslim community center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

I have discussed this issue before, here and here. But it bears repeating. All of the arguments against the proposal fail. The latest Republican effort to convert the issue into votes for November is the claim that the proposal is insensitive. (Since when were Republicans concerned with being sensitive?) But that argument is an abject failure as well, as William Saletan demonstrates.

Sarah Palin expressed opposition to the Muslim community center, and Ziganto dutifully followed suit in a post packed with lies and hysteria that would make any McCarthyite proud.

Those on the right have tried to finesse this issue: they say that of course those who wish to build the center have a right to, but that they should not. But as Saletan points out,
Once we recognize the sensitivity argument for what it is—an appeal to feelings we can't morally justify—there's no good reason why the Islamic center shouldn't be built at its planned site, in the neighborhood where its imam already preaches and its members work and congregate. Asking them to reorder their lives to accommodate our instinctive reaction is wrong. We can transcend that reaction, and we should.
Opposition to the project is nothing more nor less than religious intolerance, pure and simple.

According to Ziganto, 
The alleged purpose of the mosque was to spread ‘healing’. The actual result? Not so much. So, you’d think  that the plans would have been scrapped once that was crystal clear. But, nope. Of course not. Because it’s always sensitivity for me, but not for thee, to those on the Left. 
Ziganto assumes, of course, that the only appropriate way to deal with the fact that the feelings of some bigot have been hurt is to scrap the plans. Obviously, there is another way: those bigots whose feelings have been hurt should be told that our freedom of religion is more important than their feelings and that they need to suck it up and deal. The appropriate reply to Sarah Palin's opportunistic tweet is this:
Peace-seeking Americans, pls understand, opposition to Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing
We have no obligation to respect morally unjustified feelings. And it should be clear by now that it is actually people like Ziganto who want sensitivity for themselves and not for others: according to her, we must kowtow to xenophobic bigots and tell the Muslims to piss off, no freedom to worship for you! In fact, if anyone's feelings deserve respect, it is those of Muslims who have been hurt by this shocking display of intolerance. Liberals aren't using a double standard here at all: the feelings of Muslims actually deserve respect; those of the xenophobic bigoted idiots do not. I say, as a liberal, that we must tolerate all religions in the interest of freedom of religion, and not just the religions that get Ziganto's seal of approval.

To my mind, the argument opponents of the project find most convincing is the following:
  1. Muslims want to build a community center near Ground Zero. 
  2. But Muslims attacked us on 9/11. 
  3. Therefore, they ought not to be allowed to build it. 
This argument obviously depends on the fallacious identification of the 9/11 hijackers and Al Qaeda with the people who want to build the community center. Ziganto implicitly makes that identification by including a photograph of the Twin Towers on 9/11 at the beginning of her post. Like Christianity, Islam is a heterogeneous faith, and to make the aforementioned identification shows a reckless disregard for the facts.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson