General Question

syz's avatar

What's the proper response to extremists?

Asked by syz (35647points) September 16th, 2010

Listening to NPR this morning, I heard an interview with a Tea Party representative (who sounded reassuringly logical, despite my disdain for the movement) and Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, who sounded intolerant, inflexible, and just plain hateful. I’ll admit, all of his beliefs are antithetical to my own, but even trying to accept that people have values other than my own, I just can’t get around my perception that he espouses bigotry, hate, and intolerance. Every one of his points (in my opinion) is based on the oppression of some segment of our society. I guess what I’m asking is, is my response to this individual appropriate? If I find him a total waste of carbon, does that make me just as bad a person as he is? How can a society with such diametrically opposed segments ever be truly functional?

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25 Answers

crazyivan's avatar

Must be a very thoughtful question if it gets 3 “Great Questions” before it gets its first answer.

I can’t help but feel that any attempt to be “tolerant” towards extremism is misplaced. You will not lower yourself to his level until you abandon logic and reason. As long as your distaste for his opinions is based in fact and opinion that you’re not afraid to claim as your own (as opposed to Tea-Partiers disguising their bigotry in fancy terminology), you are in the right.

iamthemob's avatar

Your response is totally appropriate! But that’s because it’s what you are feeling – that’s always valid (gut reactions are just that).

The fact that you’re trying to reason through a response shows a lot more restraint than most.

Cruiser's avatar

Tolerance of all things tame or extreme is what makes this country so great and also creates the need for a good pair of blinders and ear plugs.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. We are all extremist to someone the difference is some extremist are not violent. Those people who tried to suggest rock music had satanic messages in them if played backwards were extreme. The Nation of Islam here in the US is extreme. They don’t speak for me per se but they do in the since that what they seek benefits me in the long run. The Minutemen are extreme, especially if you are Hispanic. The best ways to handle extremism, in my book, is just to ignore them. Don’t stop by the soap box, either they will scream and yell to plain air or just go away to keep from looking like a lunatic.

UScitizen's avatar

If you expect others to listen to you, and respect your opinions, then it is incumbent upon you to do the same for others.

crazyivan's avatar

But there should be a limit to this tolerance. Sure, it sounds good to say that we should all tolerate one another’s opinions, but there has to be a limit to this. While we’re ignoring, let’s say, the neo-nazi on his soapbox, he is amassing an army.

(please note that I’m not trying to equate the Tea Party with Neonazis. I’m just making a broader point about the dangers of being overly tolerant)

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Vote Democratic.

TexasDude's avatar

Step 1: Work on an individual by individual basis. One man’s extremist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Step 2: Judge the actions of a group, not the views. We are free to have whatever viewpoints we want in this country as long as we obey the law.

Step 3: Act accordingly. If a group is just an “extremist” group in voice, then ignore them, argue with them, whatever you want. However, if an “extremist” group goes outside of the law and goes beyond their 1st amendment rights and acts violently, I would say it’s fair to respond with violence in return.

JustmeAman's avatar

Like with anything we all have our own thoughts, feelings, beliefs and insight. I think if we just state ours and let others do the same without name calling and insults then communication can be made. We all know that we cannot make anyone belief what we do but we can give a different point of view and except theirs as being theirs. Why do we ever have to argue and get to the point of being cruel or mean?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t know what was said, so I can’t affirm or deny your considerations of appropriateness. But is it possible that you’re reading more into what was said? I hear that a lot when people declaim various political, religious and other philosophical viewpoints. Someone may make a public statement decrying “special treatment for [this group or that group]” and the person who has an antipathy towards him (or his other positions) says, “Aha! He hates the [group in question]!”

In order to have some semblance of reasonable discourse with these people I have to point out that he never said anything about hate or intolerance, he said “no special treatment”, and what’s wrong with that, specifically?

I’m not a Republican or a Tea Partier, but I hear a lot of nonsense ascribed to both of those groups—just as I hear that shit with Democrats, too. And I’m not one of those, either. I get very tired of the way “intolerance” is thrown around so cavalierly, and yet the murder rate declines. So obviously the “intolerance” is only in people’s minds, and if they want to be personally “intolerant” of people, things, ideas and policies—and yet they actually DO tolerate those things, then why should I care one way or the other?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I avoid them. I don’t listen to them on the radio or TV. I don’t read articles about them. I choose this way, because I am powerless to change them.

What I’m not powerless over is my vote, and I use it to advance causes and candidates whom I believe will better the plight of the under-represented in society. I also contribute what very small amounts I can to causes I feel the most passionate about.

Jaxk's avatar

I’m curious. If you don’t listen to them or read about them, how do you know who you don’t like. Do you have a favorite spokesperson that tells you who to like/dislike?

faye's avatar

What is the saying? Evil exists because people do nothing? It’s past time for us to tell/show extremists they won’t be tolerated. Some fool kind of Tea Party group is trying to come to Canada.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Jaxk : I know that I dislike right-wing reactionaries, and they’re pretty easy to avoid. I don’t have anyone who tells me what to like or dislike. I can do that for myself.

Nullo's avatar

Truth is, you can’t move in any direction, politically, without stepping on toes. The Tea Party’s worried about getting its toes trampled on by a large-footed government. I personally worry about the health of those toes that care for things like God and morality, and I’m rather more comfortable if my dance partner, who’s wearing steel-toed boots in the first place, has smaller feet, as well, and isn’t trying to sideline me.

It is the frequent observation among Tea Partiers and their sympathizers that when push comes to shove, it’s the Liberals who are truly intolerant, and worse, hypocrites for claiming otherwise.

To answer your question: First, consider your opponent: are they really extreme, or do they just hold positions that you don’t like? The difference is important, and the latter is all too easy to come up with. Second, once you have decided just how extreme they are, you calculate how far to go in the other direction, and how hard, to compensate.

Just be sure that when you respond, you aren’t trying to marginalize anybody.

Austinlad's avatar

I’ve Liberal Democrat all my life, and on an emotional level, I despise most of the things I’m reading and hearing from the Tea Party, the Republicans and some Democrats. But I’m trying to be open to ideas rather than automatically closed to parties. So I try to listen to as many opposing ideas as possible, including the hateful ones espoused by radio talk showman Michael Savage (he calls everyone who disagrees with him “vermin”). Interestingly, I was listening to a couple of Republicans talk about some issue—at the moment I don’t recall what it was—and I found myself agreeing with their logic. I think there are lots of good ideas floating around but no force strong enough (including the President) to coral them and put them into action.

cubozoa's avatar


Austinlad's avatar

What we need is for Roy Rogers to ride into town and straighten everything out!

JustmeAman's avatar

Sad thing is it is not going to get straightened out.

Austinlad's avatar

I feel pretty much the same way, @JustmeAman, and an even sadder thing is, not believing it can be fixed is the surest way it won’t be.

Nullo's avatar

I read through the interview, and never did see Fischer say anything “intolerant, inflexible, and just plain hateful.”

syz's avatar

@Nullo Yes, well, your attitude toward gay marriage has been well established. And in my opinion there is no logical reason to oppose equal rights for homosexuals other than bigotry. But you are correct, he didn’t specifically say anything overtly offensive in the body of the interview. Rather, I find his ‘beliefs’ and the group that he represents to be intolerant, inflexible, and hateful.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@syz I have to say, after just now reading the entire interview myself, that there was nothing that was “hateful” about even what Fischer was saying. I don’t agree with it; I don’t agree with a word of it, but it’s a common enough viewpoint that some people have which is peaceful, even if it is wrong. The thing that he doesn’t realize is that gay marriage isn’t going to affect his marriage one iota, so why does he have to see that all conservatives band together to ban it?

And reasonable people disagree on abortion, too. If you don’t think they should be had, then you probably won’t get one or pay for one (and I don’t think they should be publicly funded for that reason, among others). Taken to a logical conclusion, abortion is an evolutionary dead end. Let everyone who wants one get one, and that line of DNA won’t be around for very much longer.

But just because he has a strong view against abortion, as @Nullo certainly does, too, doesn’t make him “hateful”. People always want the law to be made to suit their own interests. They believe that their interests further their group (obviously), their nation, and “humanity the way they want it”. That’s not “hate” or “intolerance”; that’s human nature, and perfectly logical.

Jaxk's avatar


Sounds like you’re a bit intolerant yourself. Or did I misread your comment.

Nullo's avatar

@syz I had thought that, in addition to my attitude on gay marriage, you would also have picked up some of my reasoning. Alas!

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