True Tolerance

Crush videos feature small animals … being slowly crushed or impaled by a woman wearing stiletto heels. … The Supreme Court decided … the law prohibiting such videos was too broad. As written, for example, the law could be construed to prohibit a deer-hunting video, which, though some might find cruel, relates to a legal activity. …

Obviously, no one ever intended that the free-speech provision of the Constitution protect the rights of deviants to torture animals and then to market videos for the sexual satisfaction of people who, by their tastes, are a probable threat to society. …

[Representatives] introduced a … [new bill] to narrowly focus the [overturned law]. … Although it specifically exempts hunting videos, animal rights advocates worry that it leaves a loophole. Hypothetically, a crush video could be built around a legitimate hunting scene and thus be protected from prosecution. …

The challenge to Congress is…: There is no argument ever to justify torturing animals and no defense — ever — for selling videos created to profit from that torture. Figure it out. Fix it.. (more)

This seems to argue that it should be illegal to distribute a video of a legal activity, e.g., hunting, because this might result in “sexual satisfaction of people who, by their tastes, are a probable threat to society.”  So the claim is either that it is bad to satisfy such tastes, even if no one else is affected, or that satisfying such tastes will intensify their “threat to society.” Perhaps such a threat intensification exists, but I’d need more concrete evidence of it before prohibiting otherwise harmless activities on that basis.

“Tolerance” is a feel-good buzzword in our society, but I fear people have forgotten what it means.  Many folks are proud of their “tolerance” for gays, working women, Tibetan monks in cute orange outfits, or blacks sitting at the front of the bus.  But what they really mean is that they consider such things to be completely appropriate parts of their society, and are not bothered by them in the slightest.  That, however, isn’t “tolerance.”

“Tolerance” is where you tolerate things that actually bother you.  Things that make you go “ick”, or that conflict with strong intuitions on proper behavior.  Once upon a time, the idea of gay sex made most folks quite uncomfortable, and yet many of those folks still advocated tolerance for gay sex.  Their argument was not that gay sex isn’t icky, but that a broad society should be reluctant to ban apparently victimless activities merely because many find them icky.

Someday soon, technology will allow an explosion of possible creatures and behaviors, many of which will seem icky to many others.  No doubt it will be appropriate for some communities to ban some of them, but we face a very real danger of insufficient tolerance threatening our peace and prosperity. The alternative to living peacefully with those we dislike, may be to instead die with them.

Please, in preparation, let us learn to practice tolerance with the smaller variations we face today.  Unless we see a clearer harm from letting some folks watch vids of cruel but legal hunting, let us tolerate it. Same for polygamy, polyandry, or digitally-created kid porn. You don’t have to like them, or approve them, to tolerate them.

Added: Alex suggests “social change is not much driven by changes in tolerance.”

Added 5p: Note that the people who are actually the most tolerant are marginalized folks with strong opinions, like fundamentalist Islamists in the US, or politically-right profs in academia. By necessity, most such folks frequently tolerate bothersome behaviors by others.

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