Antagonisms to Liberty are Relentless

There is a very real problem today with people treating islam, which is an ideology, as if it were analogous to gender, race, or sexual orientation, which are either imposed social constructs or modes of being that do not affect anybody really. Many on the left and right have failed to grasp the fundamental distinction between these things. They are prone to category error (see Analogy at the Level of the Logic of Oppression and Casual Conflation of Categories). Indeed, islam and fascism are analogous to sexism, racism, and heterosexism, not their potential and real victims. All these are ideologies with oppressive potential. The error takes an oppressive ideology and treats it as if it were the person that ideology oppresses. It may very well be that a person ensnared in fascist relations is oppressed (is that not why we oppose fascism?), but the solution is not celebrating his oppression by taking a day out of the year and dress in a brown shirt, or to march down the street condemning fascophobic bigots, but rather to help emancipate that person from that hateful ideology in which he is ensnared. We seek the latter out of humanist love. It would be to abandon the man to pretend as if his oppressive belief were something to be defended and protected from criticism and ridicule.

Tragically, this confusion is more a problem on the left than the right these days. And that makes it more of a problem for all of us, since it is the left that is promoting islam—the worst and most widespread hateful ideology in the present epoch—and working to derail with civility and speech codes and other suppressive tactics those defending democracy, freedom, and secularism from totalitarian creep. This is why multiculturalism is such a stupid and dangerous practice: it fractures society. There is no rational reason to celebrate islam if one condemns fascism. Both ideologies are authoritarian, backwards, divisive, exclusive, hateful, heterosexist, irrational, oppressive, patriarchal, and totalitarian. Islam demands submission to divine command and a prophet (a man who, if he actually lived, hallucinated conversations with an angel who told him which musical instruments were okay to play), both incontrovertible and revealed. Fascism demands submission to the führer and his cult of personality (which claims to do god’s earthly work), both incontrovertible and revealed. They are the same class of idiocy. 

To be sure, we are, as people who believe in free thought and expression, precisely because we are not authoritarian, obliged to tolerate both of these dreadful belief systems. But let’s understand what we mean by toleration. To tolerate belief means that we do not discriminate against those who believe such things merely on the fact of their believing. You own your mind and your opinions. I want you to be free. We defend the right of persons to be muslim or fascist or racist or sexist or whatever as long as these things remain within the confines of their thoughts and expressions, the latter conveyed only in appropriate places at appropriate times. Tolerating opinion does not mean tolerating actions and behaviors when these create impositions for others around them.

Tolerating belief does not in any fashion require me or you to enable ritual acts when they interfere with legitimate secular pursuits or violate the rights of persons. A man does not get to pray to god or chant racist slogans in my child’s public school. There are other spaces for this man to do those things in (in mosques, on Facebook, at Confederate monuments). And I am not going to beg him to go there and do them. I am going to demand that he be removed if he will not cease his behavior. We have no obligation to create any special spaces for these beliefs to ritually manifest; we have only to defend those spaces in which he is free to utter his opinions however stupid and hateful. Tolerating islam and fascism do not obligate me or you to appreciate, enable, or facilitate hateful expressions. We have no obligation to welcome people who believe these things. Why should we be happy to see a fascist walk into a room, to hold up a poster telling him that we appreciate his presence, and cheer his arrival at the airport? What’s wrong with people who do this? They don’t understand. So we educate. We have no obligation to make our secular spaces dedicated to rational pursuits comfortable for those who profess backwards and irrational beliefs. Indeed, as rational and moral persons, we should strive to marginalize such beliefs for the sake of democracy, freedom, and justice – and to help emancipate people from these beliefs. We do not allow parents to mutilate the genitalia of their children in order to mark them as members of tribes they did not – cannot choose or refuse to join.

I oppose islam and fascism because I support the rights of children, free thinkers, homosexuals, and women. These folks are more useful to humanity than the irrational ideologies that program monsters. I oppose the chaining of the mind and the rending of the body. The islamization and fascistization of society must be resisted through intolerance of their ritual practices and the marginalization of such irrational beliefs through relentless criticism and ridicule. Those who push islam and fascism into spaces that have been walled off to division and hatred – the true safe spaces in a democratic society that must be progressively expanded to include more and more people in them – undermine the basis of free and open societies, that is secularism. Yes, people have the right to argue against these arrangements. But they do not have the right to be free from criticism, demand others tolerate their actions and behaviors, or overthrow these arrangements without resistance. They do not have the right to demand that I accommodate them in their ideological role. Any law or policy that supposes they do is bad law and policy.

The struggle for democracy and freedom is eternal. This is because the enemies of liberty are relentless. To see leftists join the barbarian in this struggle is disheartening and, frankly, terrifying. This is why so many rural and working class Americans reject progressive politics. They recognize the threat they represent to their way of life. Leftists alienate potential comrades by embracing bad ideas. The left should be about human rights, individual liberty, and working class politics. These are the politics that will win the day for the good of humanity.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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