The Real Tolerance We Need Right Now

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Real Tolerance We Need Right Now

I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll disagree with Josh Barro, senior editor at Business Insider, but the other day he offered some very good advice to the Left that, sadly, their adherents are unlikely to follow.

In a series of tweets, Barro observed, “Tell people to eat less meat because of the planet and they’ll find you annoying. Tell them to have fewer kids, they’ll find you very annoying.”

This was likely inspired by Jill Filipovic’s Tweet declaring, “Having children is one of the worst things you can do for the planet. Have one less and conserve resources.”

Barro continues, “It’s not good to spend a lot of time telling people what they think of as their non-political behaviors are Actually Problematic And Bad.”

I don’t know whether this is a more dominant thread of thought in the modern progressive’s mind than it was a decade or two ago, or whether we just see more of this theme in progressive media outlets. One reason this type of “your seemingly mundane, apolitical choice is terrible and must be denounced” article is increasingly common is because it is cheap and easy.

You don’t need much specialized knowledge, a lot of research, travel, or anything like that to write a piece like that. Just take something that a lot of people do – particularly people who aren’t like you – and denounce it in logically-shaky-at-best, furious, hyperbolic terms. Let’s say, “Your Decision to Eat Bacon Is Worse Than Apartheid.” This will undoubtedly turn heads, and some people will click on the headline just out of curiosity, wondering why something they always thought was good is actually so bad for the world. Bacon fans will denounce the piece, and in the process, drive more traffic. People will write blog posts and make counter-arguments, prompting even more readers and web-surfers to check out what launched the latest brouhaha. In the web traffic numbers, an incredulous or angry click looks the same as an approving click.

Barro continues, “Especially when this amounts to telling people that what’s wrong with them is they’re not more like you.”

Bingo. “I’m a childless adult, telling all of you people out there to stop having children.” “I’m a vegan, telling you that you have to stop eating meat.” “I’m an urbanite who doesn’t own a car, telling you that your automobile is destroying the planet and gas taxes should be higher to support the costs of mass transit.”

The not-so-subtle subtext is, “why aren’t you more like me?” And the simple answer from most people is… “because I don’t want to be more like you.” It’s rare that those lifestyle choices have never been considered by the target audience; they just don’t find them appealing or workable for their lives. In some cases, there’s a remarkable obliviousness about the reality of life for their target audiences – i.e., “why aren’t you buying organic?”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that progressives are exhibiting all of the traits that they accused the Christian conservatives of embodying: smug judgmental attitudes, harsh denunciation of those who make different choices, lack of respect for others who see things differently, and refusal to recognize individual autonomy, an eagerness to enforce a stifling code of behavior, and a conditional-at-best view toward liberty.

As Jonah observes this morning, “Filipovic is precisely one of those writers you’d expect to go ballistic if some conservative Christian opined about the reproductive choices women should make. But if it’s in the name of the environment? Let’s wag those fingers, everybody!”

I used to think that the most important value for living in a Constitutional Republic like ours was a bit of faith in people to eventually make the right choices for themselves. But I’m starting to wonder if an even more important value is an acceptance of people making what we perceive to be the wrong choices for themselves.

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