Why Your Silence Is Liberating

February 1st, 2017 | Liberty 5-3000

Things are bad. And they seem to be getting progressively worse. Right-wing speakers are being shouted down and cancelled on university campuses, men’s rights student groups are being denied funding, and anyone who expresses any view that runs contrary to the hard left’s dogmatism runs the risk of being reported to the Human Rights Commission, doxed, or worse- losing their job or professional license due to pressure from activists. Not only is the ‘free marketplace of ideas’ a bygone of the past, but the political right is being silenced and subsequently decimated. But where is all this coming from?

The answer is held in an essay published in 1965 entitled Repressive Tolerance, written by a German-born American academic, named Herbert Marcuse. (You can read it here.) And yes, for those of you familiar with the Institute for Social Research, also known as the Frankfurt School, Marcuse was one of their influential thinkers. In his essay, Marcuse justified not only the use of violence towards the political right or anyone who ‘upheld’ the current system, but also directly called for their silencing through any means available.

Before summarizing the most troubling portions of Marcuse’s essay for you, some university-speak is in order. I want to start out by saying that I highly doubt these twenty-something-year-old feminists, activists or Social Justice Warriors have ever read Marcuse. As a student myself, I’m actually shocked at the amount of fellow students I meet whose entire reason for being is to see to the end of capitalism, yet have never even read Marx or Engels. The problem is, they don’t need to. They only need to be influenced by people who have. Through the process of enculturation we absorb our surrounding culture and take on the norms, values and beliefs of those who teach us, influence us, or otherwise interact with us. The common example given is how it’s possible to be ‘culturally Christian’ by simply residing in a Christian country, without ever having attended church or having read the New Testament. University students have been encultured to uphold the values of their university professors without having to read Marcuse or Marx or anyone else. The key is that they are instructed by those who have, and who are in full agreement with these writers.

Things have changed significantly since the time Marcuse wrote Repressive Tolerance. In his day, he made the claim that the democratic process, the media, the education system, and the criminal justice system were all fully controlled by the right. I don’t think I need to explain to this readership that the exact opposite is true today. The mainstream media’s leftwing bias has been a non-stop topic lately, especially since President Trump made it a focal point of his campaign. Universities, (with the exception of STEM departments and some business schools) have been in the sole custody of the hard left for quite some time, with popular rogue academics like Jordan B. Peterson testifying to just how biased universities have become.  The world Marcuse alleges to have lived in is almost the exact reciprocal of today, with the political left being the sole proprietors of the means of thought production within universities and the mainstream media.

Marcuse’s main argument in Repressive Tolerance was essentially this: there can be no ‘free marketplace of ideas’ when the system itself is controlled by the political right, and when the people have been indoctrinated both in schools and by the media to either ‘parrot’ the beliefs of the established system, or when people have been rendered unable ascertain what is true or false as a result of this indoctrination. Marcuse believed that this indoctrination caused people to hold to the illusion that the “…established society is free, and that any improvement, even a change in the social structure and social values, would come about in the normal course of events…”  Free speech would serve only to help the political right, as everyone had been trained to think within the framework of the right-wing system, making any hope for utopia seem irrational or outside of any feasible possibility. And it was these societal structures (specifically the education system and the media) that were giving an artificial leg-up to the political right giving them undue legitimacy in debates.  Accordingly, Marcuse called for the end of tolerance and free speech, specifically from right wing movements which he named repressive or regressive. The act of deliberately silencing the political right, or impeding any right wing political movements was liberating tolerance in the fight for the freer and better world Marcuse imagined. In his opinion, a belief in completely free speech, or non-partisan tolerance was unacceptable, as it “…actually protects the already established machinery of discrimination.” If free speech from both sides was permitted, it would result in a neutralization of opposites and serve only the political right, whose infrastructure and systems would remain in place, as any force strong enough to overthrow it would be drowned out or placated. The only opportunity for the left to have even close to equal footing in winning the battle of ideas was for the right to be completely silenced.

Explaining perfectly why we’re in the place we are today, Marcuse outlined a game-plan for the left, calling for a “Withdrawal of tolerance from regressive movements before they can become active; intolerance even toward thought, opinion, and word…” This sheds a lot of light onto why right wing groups are denied funding on campuses, why businesses are boycotted when it’s found out that owners support causes counter to left wing interests, and most importantly, why no one on the hard left is capable of having a rational, calm discussion without it ending in you being called a racist, bigoted, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic Nazi before they walk away. Marcuse justified this deliberate silencing of political right by saying that:

"When tolerance mainly serves the protection and preservation of a repressive society, 

when it serves to neutralize opposition and to render men immune against other and better 

forms of life, then tolerance has been perverted."

So Marcuse’s preference for communist utopia, or a ‘better form of life’ as he put it, and his belief the odds were stacked against the left was his justification for your silence. Interestingly enough, Marcuse was around when academics finally had to concede the historical horrors brought about by utopian visions, specifically Soviet communism and Maoism. Holding to an ideology that brought the world more than 100 million deaths apparently was less violent, unjust or oppressive than the society Marcuse lived in. If the left was losing in the battle of ideas, it certainly wasn’t due to the rest of society being indoctrinated, it was exactly the opposite.

And there you have it. The reason we can’t get conservative speakers on campus, the reason people lose their jobs over social media posts, the reason seemingly everyone we encounter on the political left refuses to have a reasonable discussion and would rather call you names or completely ignore you. Liberating tolerance.

I recommend that you read for yourself the frightening things in Marcuse’s essay, like his justification for people taking action outside the law when other avenues had been frustrated and his call for educational institutions to teach only in ‘the opposite direction’. Perhaps the most frightening thing contained in his essay was who he thought should be able to make the determination as to what movements or speech should be deemed repressive. His answer was anyone, provided they were free from indoctrination, mature, and have “learned to think rationally and autonomously,” (i.e. outside of the belief structure of the political right.) This should be frightening to anyone not yearning for a communist utopia, as it means we can have any number of these ‘liberators’ coming at us from all sides.

If we take Marcuse at his word that all the societal structures were controlled by the right in his time, we’d be hard pressed to say the same is true today. Yet the trend of liberating tolerance continues to persist. Perhaps it’s due to the nostalgic yearning for the 1960’s that every professor seems to have, still fancying themselves as being oppressed, downtrodden underdogs, or perhaps more importantly, because of the enormous gains it has brought about for the hard left. If Marcuse could see what influence his essay has had, he’d be very pleased with himself. Unfortunately for him, I’m certain there’s no Wi-Fi in hell.

Now that the majority of our institutions have been infiltrated and are in possession of the political left, perhaps it is time for Conservatives and others on the political right to consider whether or not we should pursue a path of liberating tolerance in our own way (and non-violently). After all, we now have a left-wing Provincial government, a left-wing Federal government, and an entire education system and media against us.