Limbaugh: We Must Tolerate Intolerance

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.

26 comments on this post.
  1. scienceavenger:

    Folks, I grew up in a family where people’s sexual orientation, preferences, whatever, weren’t even discussed.

    Bullshit. Does he really expect us to believe that his preferences for prom dates or latest grilfriends were never discussed? He sounds like the clueless dolt in every office who’s cubicle is adorned top to bottom with pictures of his wife and children while wondering aloud why “homosexuals have to shove their lifestyle in everyone’s faces”.

  2. Taz:

    Think about how absurd this argument sounds in the context of race.

    I have nothing against gay men. I just don’t want my sister to marry one.

  3. lofgren:

    I don’t understand why black people are always shoving their skin color down my throat.

  4. Zugswang:

    By that brilliant logic, if you’re going on a diet, you have to stop eating entirely. Don’t just stop eating the food that’s bad for you, or eat a healthy amount; if you’re eating anything at all, you’re just a big, fat hypocrite.

  5. John Pieret:

    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.

    So why do we have to applaud and accept other people saying “You know, I’m not big on that” (as if that was all that is being said about the “sinners” out to destroy civilization)? By Rush’s own “logic,” he is displaying no tolerance for those who are not big on people who say they are not big on homosexuality.

  6. richardelguru:

    Taz
    Well you’re lucky there, because…

  7. comfychair:

    Shouldn’t be surprising that the folks who believe ‘freedom is slavery’ to be a true statement, in all its possible meanings simultaneously, aren’t able to put together a coherent argument.

    I mean, pro-war draft dodgers and pro-family-values adulterers and anti-immigration children of immigrants shouldn’t be taken seriously, no matter the subject. But I guess that makes me ‘intolerant’…

  8. gshelley:

    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.

    Which, as Ed is no doubt aware, was one of the things people who were in favour of the miscegnation laws said at the time, that it was not right to call them bigots.

  9. composer99:

    Karl Popper famously suggested that the only thing an open, tolerant society ought not tolerate was intolerance.

    Whether that ought to be the case or not is beyond me.

    But that’s overthinking. Limbaugh is just bloviating in his usual stupid, faux-victim way.

  10. CaitieCat:

    Yeah, my mother describes her UK-born-Canadian anti-immigrationism as not hypocritical at all, because “we’re expatriates, not immigrants!”. Which I think is basically code for “the good kind”. It’s revolting.

    * UK-born-Canadian is myself, my sister, and my mother, all born in various bits of the UK, and immigrated (we all became citizens at different times) to Canada. And my mother forwards me every Tory anti-immigrant screed she gets. :/

  11. pacal:

    What Rush is not so covertly demanding is that when someone voices a hateful bigoted remark that no one call it a hateful bigoted remark. Rush basically wants people to censor themselves. He seems to not have a clue that tolerance in this case means that the hateful bigot can voice his hate but I have the right to tell him and others that he is voicing hate. Tolerance doesn’t mean a sort milk toast response to hate.

    I am of course not surprised that Rush is all upset over people calling bigots, bigots. The bigotry itself is not worth getting upset over according to people like Rush. Well Rush whatever.

  12. kevinbeck:

    Limbaugh has always been a buffoon, but he’s become a livid joke. What I truly can’t understand is how anyone can regard him as a serious intellectual, a pundit with compelling ideas. I can only imagine that such people are rabid right-wingers who will cheer anyone on who criticized the Left — truly low-wattage types who are unusually parochial-minded (yeah, that’s a euphemism for “dumb as all fuck”).

  13. democommie:

    “Limbaugh: We Must Tolerate Intolerance”

    I wish that WAS a direct quote. It would be so nice to say:

    “Gosh, Rushbo, thanks. I’ve been constrained by the conventions of a polite society*, from calling you a fuckbagdouchenozzle lying sack-of-shit Oxyjonesin’ serial lying coward. It’s great to know that you’d prefer honesty or politesse.

    * WAY not intended to be a factual statement.

  14. angrymudcrab:

    Translation: Why can’t these queers shut up and get back in the closet? Limbaugh doesn’t want people’s sexuality to be a non-issue, he wants LGBT* to stop reminding people we exist. In a perfect world it wouldn’t matter if someone is gay or trans but it does. He doesn’t want to live in a world where being LGBT* is a non-issue, he want to go back to when being found out as gay or trans could end your career, put you in jail, or worse. Not because you hurt someone or did a bad job, but because you have the gall to express your gender differently or love someone the same gender as you. Note he doesn’t want straight people to shut up about their sexuality. He doesn’t think we should stop listening to straight love songs and doesn’t seem to have a problem advertising erectile dysfunction medication on his show.

  15. dugglebogey:

    “You know, I’m not big on that” is a very accurate representation of the treatment of homosexuals and homosexuality.

    Very very extremely accurate.

    Definitely not “God Hates Fags” and “I hope you burn in hell” and “We don’t want to let you around children” and “Your destroying the country.”

    Definitely not that.

  16. democommie:

    “Bullshit. Does he really expect us to believe that his preferences for prom dates or latest grilfriends were never discussed?”

    I’m thinking that prior to gettin’ rich and teh HAWT, Rushbo wasn’t gettin’ anything that self-inflicted handjobs.

  17. democommie:

    “but self-inflicted handjobs”.

    We regret the error.

  18. Dr X:

    To advocate tolerance is to oppose intolerance, a point so obvious that only a moral idiot could get confused about it. Which brings to mind that smug twit Jonah Goldberg, who actually made this stupid argument a few years ago. It was clear that he thought himself extremely clever for presenting this dumbshittery as if it was something that would leave liberals utterly befuddled. I wonder if he occasionally screams checkmate when he’s playing checkers.

  19. Ben P:

    To advocate tolerance is to oppose intolerance, a point so obvious that only a moral idiot could get confused about it.

    I don’t know, I kind of like the smug twit argument above.

    If the problem is that CHristians get upset when liberals are “intolerant” of their beliefs, can you really mount a logical counterargument to saying that Christians likewise should be “tolerant” of liberals calling them bigots?

  20. Nomad:

    The whole thing seems like a childish word game employed by someone trying to avoid the issues. It leads to infinite regress, and I would think that the solution is to track back to see who was intolerant first. I mean, is it that difficult? We as a society support freedom, but we lock up people who violate other people’s freedoms. Is that hypocritical, or do we already understand that the basic values we support can be effectively revoked for an individual that has already violated them for others?

    I feel roughly the same way about an intolerant bigot crying for tolerance as I would one of the people responsible for imprisoning those three girls for ten years crying out for their right to freedom as they’re being lead to jail. That’s not how it works, and even the bigots trying to play this game understand this. Until it comes to them, then they want special rights.

  21. Quantum Mechanic:

    Ah-HA!!! If Rush is advocating tolerance of intolerance, then our intolerance of both his intolerance and his tolerance of intolerance is something which he supports! Checkmate, vague and over-broad terminology!

  22. bad Jim:

    To a considerable extent, we’re intolerant of ignorance, which is why we have compulsory schooling. We’re aggressively intolerant of dishonesty. It’s reasonable to treat intolerance in a similar fashion.

    Moreover, tolerance may be over-rated as an ideal. The U.S. offers, not religious tolerance, but universal liberty of conscience. It’s not a Christian nation putting up with the presence of various heathens but one where one’s mind is one’s castle.

    What is the intolerance of which the bigots complain? Mainly ridicule and criticism; even they have been forced to concede that their prejudices are no longer acceptable as policy.

  23. matty1:

    I don’t even think tolerance means what he implies. It is not the same thing as endorsement it is about putting up with something, arguably especially something you dislike. If I said I tolerate the neighbours playing loud music late at night it would mean I don’t complain, not that I actively want them to turn the volume up.

    In this sense the antigays are being tolerated, no one is banning their inanity or throwing them in jail for it or even demanding they be silent. At most people are arguing back.

    It is also worth mentioning the distinction between individuals and societies in this regard. If someone dislikes me I cannot without trying to control their thoughts insist they stop doing so but I can demand that they put up with (tolerate) my existence. The law on the other hand has different and higher standards. Legal tolerance implies that one option is favoured by the government while others are merely not banned and as bad Jim makes clear this is not good enough for a free nation, which should defend rights for all.

  24. tfkreference:

    Great point, matty1, the purpose of argument is not to silence, but to persuade. When a position is backed by reason, its proponents can prevail without needing to silence the opposition (or threaten them).

    I’m reminded of a recent comment by Ricky Gervais on Colbert or Stewart: “People say, ‘everyone has the right to believe what they want, so shut up about your atheism.’”

  25. Joshua:

    Limbaugh needs to take his own advice, extrapolate it one further step and just tolerate our intolerance of his intolerance.

  26. freemage:

    A little while back, John Kass–a columnist for the Chicago Tribune–pulled a similar stunt, asking plaintively in one of his pieces, “Is it possible to be a traditional Christian or Muslim or Orthodox Jew — and hold to one’s faith on what constitutes marriage — and not be considered a bigot?”

    The thought that occurred to me when I read that was, “You tell me—can you?” Because the definition of ‘bigot’ is pretty set, so what I need to know is, what does your ‘traditional’ faith say, and how does it compare to that definition. Whether or not you’re a bigot isn’t for me to decide, it’s for me to discern. The decision is all yours.

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