We, as a society, are in a massive cultural shift due to the turn of the millennium and the dawn of the Information Age. What the far-right describes as “Victimhood” and “Over-Sensitivity” are the same age-old excuses for forcing social acceptance of harassment on minorities and women. Although this reactionary response is expected, it does not negate that the far-right and other reactionary groups will oppose the march of progress and the enfranchisement of groups that they themselves have historically oppressed.
The far-right and others like them are advocating for what will, and has always, resulted in the ‘Paradox of Tolerance.” It is the simple and historically proven fact that unlimited tolerance will lead to total intolerance. The philosopher Karl Popper said, “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” Thus, the ‘Paradox of Tolerance’ states that, as a society, we cannot ever have total tolerance because the intolerant will usurp the right to free speech and abuse it until they can institutionalize intolerance into society.
“Safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” were designed with the purpose to undermine the hateful nature of the intolerant; In essence, to insulate a free society and the free speech that we love so dear from becoming a dialogue of hate and oppression towards any group of people. Free speech was intended for healthy discussion and debate to further our society as an academia, not as a platform for people like Richard Spencer to hijack and advocate for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” The one thing that a free society and we as an academic community must understand is that in order to keep the atmosphere of open academic progress we must not tolerate one thing: the intolerant. Unfortunately, if there is anything that history has taught us, it is that we must always be on guard. There will always be the intolerant or someone like them just waiting for a situation in which to thrive. That is the burden that a free society must carry if it wishes to remain free.
Connor Cheadle is a junior political science student and a liberal arts senator for the Associated Students of Colorado State University.