Differences of opinion

When is a difference of opinion merely a difference of opinion, and when is it a matter for exclusion of the person who holds that opinion from polite society?

I came across a couple of things the other day that explained really well why no-platforming of actual Nazis is a good idea.

One is that it actually works: starving them of the oxygen of publicity makes it impossible for them to attract adherents. The example given was that of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s in the UK. When newspapers stopped reporting on them, their support faded away.

Another persuasive argument is that Nazis don’t care about tolerance and free speech, and will, if given power, certainly prevent you from exercising your right to free speech (Popper’s paradox of tolerance). This means that, in order to maintain a tolerant society, we cannot tolerate intolerance.

The most persuasive explanation is this. If you invite your friends round for dinner, an acceptable difference of opinion is that one drinks wine and another drinks beer, and someone else doesn’t drink at all; or one eats meat and another is a vegetarian. What is absolutely unacceptable and deserving of exclusion from the dinner table is a preference for eating human flesh.

Dinner table (public domain image)Certain behaviour is not welcome at my table

So the analogy is that the difference between (say) Christians and Pagans is like the difference between wine-drinkers and beer-drinkers, or between vegetarians and meat-eaters, but Nazis are like eaters of human flesh, beyond the pale, so they do not get invited to the table.

(The original version of this analogy was that they are proposing to eat excrement, which is not even edible, and would pollute all the other food on the table, and is universally agreed to be inedible.)

And I’d suggest that thinking it’s OK to separate children from their parents with no possible means of reuniting them puts Trump’s regime firmly in the Nazi camp. Obviously not everyone who voted for him is a Nazi, but I do think that he is.

There are some views that I do not share that I do not consider to be grounds for exclusion from polite society. I’m not going to list them, but there are some things that are generally regarded as subjects for legitimate debate. I think it’s regrettable if you take the view that abortion should be illegal, because it’s been demonstrated with abundant evidence that the best way to prevent abortion is widespread consent education and availability of contraception. But I understand why someone might take the view that it should be illegal, strongly though I disagree. We share the goal of there being less abortions; we disagree about the method of achieving it.

My criterion for exclusion from polite society is any group of people who want to eradicate an entire group of people, severely limit their opportunities, or drastically reduce their quality of life. They are de facto Nazis.

Anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to deny healthcare, bathroom access, gender services, etc to transgender people, is not welcome at my table, nor would I share a platform with them.

Anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to discriminate against disabled people, LGBTQ2SIA people, Black people, Jewish people, Indigenous people, Muslim people, Latinx people, or People of Colour, is not welcome at my table, nor would I share a platform with them.

Anyone who thinks it’s acceptable that Indigenous people have been treated as third-class citizens by both Canada and the USA, or that residential schools were a good idea, or that sterilization of Indigenous women was a good idea, is not welcome at my table, nor would I share a platform with them.

Why? Because they are seeking to erase the very existence of a whole group of people. That’s completely unacceptable, whether it is wearing the label Nazism, TERFism, fascism, alt-right, or any other -ism.

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6 thoughts on “Differences of opinion

  1. Thank you for explaining this more eloquently than I ever could. I’ve seen some calls recently from folks I respect in the Pagan community for “debate” and “dialogue” but how can you debare someone who literally wants people to disappear? There are some topics that can be discussed but people’s lives are not a cozy subject for academic debate over a glass of wine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you.

      Richard Holloway, in his book “Godless Morality”, says that most debates about ethics are about conflict between two different good things (e.g. debates about how many weeks into a pregnancy abortion should be available are about the health of the mother versus the health of the child, and weighing up the ethics of the situation ends up being when you consider a foetus to be a child, and how that weighs in the scales against the wellbeing of the mother).

      A debate about whether trans people should get access to appropriate health care, or whether Indigenous kids in Canada should get access to dentistry, is a debate between bad (no access) and good (access). And it’s a debate about their very existence.

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