No – you do not need to tolerate intolerance


You’ve all heard it before, the classic comeback to when you refute someone for saying something unacceptable: “If you’re so tolerant then you have to tolerate my intolerance”, usually served with a side of smug-face and the absolute conclusion they’ve bested you at your own game.


Except they haven’t. Tolerance in no way requires one to be tolerant of the intolerant. (And no, that’s not something I just made up.)


Be it post-election anti-Trump ralliesBrexit frenzy or the heated discussion after the Manchester attack, you can be damn sure these folk come out from the woodwork. As soon as people of sound moral and ethical character protest acts of bigotry, hate or inequality, there are cries of “the tolerant left” (usually sprinkled with fun little buzzwords like “libtard” or “loony left” or “remoaner”, take your pick) being intolerant of anyone who doesn’t share their views.


Oh boohoo. When we refute and condemn words or ideologies which cause harm to others, we’re in no way in conflict with the concept of tolerance. I’ll elaborate:


Tolerance, in part, is “the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments. The practice of tolerance doesn’t mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions.” If in doubt, check the UN’s Declaration on Principles on Tolerance out. It’s no light reading but it’s pretty clear on the subject: all intolerant douche-canoes can GTFO.


My homey, philosopher and professor Karl Popper (only one of the greatest philosophers of science in the 20th century, no biggie), is often quoted about tolerating the intolerant and he had this little nugget to share:


“We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”  


That alone should be a mic drop moment but no – at this point the same clever-clogs usually make sure they remind you that they have free speech and this obviously means they can say whatever the hell they want.


Except they can’t. Free speech does not mean you have the right to say whatever you like about whatever you like, whenever you like.


According to Amnesty; “free speech is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, by any means.” So, free speech and the right to freedom of expression applies to ideas of all kinds including those that may be deeply offensive. But it comes with responsibilities and it’s the latter that the people frothing of mouth defending their freedom of speech often forget. If you choose to exercise your freedom of speech, you must take responsibility for your words. So if you choose to shout out about your offensive views (and yes, offense can be given, it’s not just taken) you have to accept that others may choose to shout out to you about those offensive views and it’s completely possible they won’t fancy hanging around you anymore.


Because, you know, they don’t have to. Just because you’re “entitled to your opinion”, does not mean people you know (and probably people who don’t know you, if you’re dicking about in a public forum) can’t immediately oust you from their lives (and timelines). You might have to right to spew your hateful rhetoric but no one has the obligation to listen to it.


Also, if your spew contains hate speech and incitement to such, you best get ready for some serious consequences with the law. As you bloody well should.


I’m gonna leave this XKCD comic here, because it says all of this much better than I ever could.



Anyway. Can we all collectively just decide to not be douche-canoes to each other? Come on guys. We should be so much better than this.


Otherwise, you know:


  • David Elliott

    I understand where you are coming from. And I certainly feel like I have the right to disassociate from the people who are mean spirited and bigoted. I just get nervous when we talk about being intolerant to people we disagree with and acting upon that intolerance. Protest peacefully. Choose not to participate in companies who violate your standards of ethics and propriety. Challenge those who are bigoted. Just don’t get violent. It sends the wrong message. And ultimately those you act upon will consider you to be the bigoted intolerant person.

  • Denay DeGuzman

    Such a well-written post about something that’s probably been on a lot of our minds lately. So much of this terrible behavior in the news. Freedom comes with an equal dose of responsibility. Intolerance has no place in our society.

  • Ashvin Nankoo

    This is a well written and informative post. I have so many arguements because of people not disagreeing peacefully. I do not see why they cannot move on respectfully and peacefully.

  • interNATionalcaty

    I definitely agree. Right now we are experience too many intolerance rather that respecting. You can respectfully disagree and move on.

  • Kat, I couldn’t agree more! Tolerance doesn’t mean passively accepting harm, offence and all that narrow-minded bullshit and anyone who thinks otherwise should definitely face the consequences! Xx

  • Really liked your style of writing.
    This is exactly what we need.. Freedom, Responsibility and Respect come hand in hand!!

  • I love this so much. I can’t even count how many times I have heard, “it’s free speech, I can say what I want!” Yes, you can say anything you want but expect that people are going to respond in ANY WAY they want as well. They have that same free speech and can respond!!

  • Phaytea’s Pulse

    This is so nicely written and timely..totally agree with the idea of being able to accept the repercussions of whatever you ‘spew’…..I just love the bits of sarcasm in this post too..haha…riding away from your bullshit….like…bye felicia

  • You have written this so well. With freedom comes responsibility right!

  • Wonderful reading Katja! Freedom is a right but it is an obligation as well. We should never forget this.

  • The choice of the topic is on point because we don’t talk about this enough also very well written I loved it

  • Great post and very important topic. I love how well written this is and also the comic at the end <3

    Nora /

  • Bonnie Laura

    I love this post, such an important topic. And love the comic at the end!

  • So far so Sabine

    Toodaloo MoFo… haaha! This made me laugh. Freedom is a right but it’s hard that not everyone experiences true freedom! So unfair.

  • Tadeja Umek

    A very important topic, beautifully written! I like how you choose to write about unusual “blogger” subjects, great job!

  • Haha i love that picture at the end, and well, all of this really. People think they’re entitled to say whatever they want but so often they haven’t a clue how incredibly one-sided and ignorant they are. Speaking up helps fight it so keep doing you x

  • I also feel this way – I can see there is a lot of people with these thoughts so I really am wondering how it’s possible that the other side is more seen, more exposed and louder? People can do better!

  • Sara

    love this… what an empowering post!

  • Kaylee

    This was very well written, I could not agree more!

  • Samantha O’Brian Summers

    Oh this was beautifully written! I love that you were able to articulate how I and many of my friends feel with current event commentators. It’s so often forgotten that our freedoms aren’t this umbrella of indemnity and that there are often real world consequences to hateful blather online. Bravo!

    • Katja Knox

      THIS! So much THIS! Freedoms come with responsibilities and life comes at you fast if you forget that.