Blog 086 : A Bizarre Kind of Tolerance

Pierre Thibault

2017-09-02

These days the mainstream media (La Presse, Radio-Canada and TVA) constantly utilize the word “tolerance.” It is almost always used to indicate opposition to racism, hatred and xenophobia. Sounds like a very good thing, of course. But in the final analysis the mainstream media never used the word except to show their intolerance of these three ideas. Yet no-one seems to see the obvious logical contradiction: using the word “tolerance” to indicate only that which must not be tolerated. So how is it that the word “tolerance” has become so glorified? By definition, complete tolerance implies indifference and total passivity. Every law in our society is an expression of intolerance. And conversely, that intolerance is an expression of our laws—laws which are necessary for our society to function properly. Tolerance without judgement becomes a vice.

Recently, the mainstream media have been actively demonizing the group known as “La Meute” (“The Pack”). They speak of a far-right group which is racist, hateful and xenophobic. Although the group’s name sounds frightening, I have found no information which would lead to such conclusions: no declaration or statement calling for violence, no known action which might appear to be illegal. Nothing. How can such assertions be anything but defamatory? Simply because the name “The Pack” is scary? On the other hand, is it because the group’s manifesto expresses a far-right-wing point of view? If we consult their manifesto on line, we read that the group opposes radical Islam. If so, then the mainstream media should be in agreement because they too oppose radical Islam. And yet, whenever the question of “La Meute” and Islam is brought up in the media, the group is always presented as being against Islam. Somehow the word “radical” used in the manifesto is not mentioned. A similar phenomenon occurs when the group expresses its opposition to illegal immigration, as it declared on the occasion of its march in Quebec City on Sunday August 20th: this time, it is the word “illegal” which disappears. Has it simply been decided to demonize the group no matter what? Or is it because any group which takes a critical position with respect to Islam or immigration must necessarily be attacked and ostracized by the mainstream media?

And yet, if the mainstream media as as opposed to hatred and xenophobia as they say they are, they should oppose the major religions which are champions in this domain. Hatred and fear of the Other are omnipresent in several religions, especially the three Abrahamic monotheisms (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). The media say that they oppose the far-right, but, what could be further to the right than these religions?

But no, the mainstream media are very tolerant of religious intolerance and extremely intolerant towards those who denounce religious intolerance. They operate like a religion. The tolerance which they incessantly promote must never be questioned or debated. Their tolerance is dogmatic and dictatorial.

The mainstream media have become the defenders of the religious far-right disguised as leftists. It is as if hatred and intolerance were in the exclusive purview of religions: only those who claim to speak in the name of god are allowed to express themselves in this domain. And since they are doing so in the name of god, they must be practising tolerance, peace and love. This is a dose of sentimental pornography which reason and critical thought must not be allowed to spoil. Furthermore, if we find calls for hatred and abject behaviour in the so-called sacred texts, then we must be interpreting them erroneously or taking them out of context. We must not interpret them literally. How then should they be interpreted? Only scholars of these sacred texts can do so. At this point, we must recognize that things have degenerated into lunacy.

The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits hateful statements against an identifiable group, but there is an important exception for religion. Line 319(3)b) stipulates that a statement is not prohibited:

if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;

Thus, on a religious subject, hateful speech is permitted. This is the legal guarantee that religions have a monopoly on hate speech. Is it this monopoly that the mainstream media are defending?

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