Rush Limbaugh made this tried and stupid argument about tolerating intolerance, one you’ve probably heard a thousand times before about how unfair it is that bigots get criticized for intolerance so why aren’t we showing them the tolerance we demand for others?
LIMBAUGH: Folks, I grew up in a family where people’s sexual orientation, preferences, whatever, weren’t even discussed. Why can’t everybody just put your sexual preferences on Facebook and call it a day? What do we need to stop everything and have a national day of celebration, or mourning (depending on your point of view), or recognition or whatever about this? This tolerance, it only goes one way. So Person X of some national stature announces his sexual orientation as gay, and applause!
It’s a great day for America. We’re really taking giant leaps ahead. If anybody says, “You know, I’m not big on that,” it’s, “You bigot! You racist! You extremist. You homophobe.” There is no tolerance at all here. Not only do these people have to publicly announce it, but everybody else has to applaud and accept it.
No you don’t. But if you express your bigotry, you’re going to get criticized for it. And no, this is not “intolerant.” I find it fascinating how this same pattern plays itself out with each form of bigotry as it begins to go out of fashion and society becomes more equal. Think about how absurd this argument sounds in the context of race. If you were to claim now that it was terribly unfair that people in the 50s and 60s were denounced and criticized for being racist and that this was intolerant of their intolerance, that sounds downright stupid. It’s no less stupid now.
And all of this, of course, ignores the power differential. Those who are expressing their anti-gay bigotry are helping to oppress people who have long been denied equality and been treated terribly. No, it simply isn’t the same to “tolerate” that kind of bigotry as it is to express the opposite view.