Reviews & Interviews
Tolerism - The Ideology Revealed, Howard Rotberg
The acuteness of Howard Rotberg’s book Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed, now in its second, updated edition, lies in the ease with which readers will grasp his coinage. We know what he is referring to as soon as he begins to identify its salient features, as if the word has been around for a while. Indeed, the phenomenon is so widespread and so bizarre that it deserves its own term -- and Rotberg’s bracing dissection.
Tolerism is a worldview in which the tolerance of cultural “otherness” -- the more violently anti-Western the better -- has become Western elites’ most celebrated (perhaps their sole) value, before which all other values, of justice, freedom, intellectual inquiry, or political dissent, have given way. Rotberg posits that it is precisely the abandonment of traditional Judeo-Christian principles and the adoption of a pernicious, unmoored moral relativism that have enabled tolerance (though it is not very tolerant) to assume its unchallenged status as the absolute virtue. The particular focus and defining example of tolerism in our post-9/11 world is Western accommodation of radical Islam: the more violent and hateful the jihadists show themselves to be, the more insistent the tolerists are about the need to empathize with them.
Tolerism is not the same as simple tolerance, Rotberg explains, referring to the history of religious and political toleration as an enlightened recognition of reciprocal accommodation under which tolerance is only one among other, guiding, values. Once elevated to the status of an ideology in itself, however, tolerism is a belief system that requires the uncritical embrace of otherness not for some rational social benefit but as a proof of the tolerists’ moral rectitude; as such, it spells the end of proper discrimination and judgement, and results in the self-contradictory acceptance and encouragement of terrorists and rogue states that are themselves murderously intolerant.
Under the reign of tolerism, the so-called tolerant lose the ability to recognize or appraise evil, believing that fanatics can be placated if only westerners are willing to understand their point of view. Efforts on the part of the committed few to resist Islamic triumphalism are decried as “intolerant,” the mere charge thought sufficient to end all argument. As a result, the betrayal of traditional liberal institutions and rights -- through press censorship, the suppression of academic freedom, selective blindness about abhorrent cultural practices -- becomes acceptable, even mandatory, and Islam makes steady inroads upon its host culture.
The other side of tolerism, as we see, is a detestation of and determination to silence those who dissent from the pro-Islamist worldview. Also evident among the tolerists is an abiding antipathy towards the Jewish state of Israel, and Rotberg is indefatigable in showing how such hatred is revealed in everything from wildly inequitable United Nations resolutions to false reporting in the mainstream press about Palestinian casualties. In Rotberg’s apt formulation, the tolerist position “expresses more concern about Israel erecting a security fence to protect citizens than about the intentional targeting of those civilians, and obscures the fact that there would be no checkpoints and no fences if the Palestinians would give up their fantasy of ejecting the Jewish state from the Middle East.” Such evocative formulations are at the heart of this fine study.
Rotberg buttresses his analysis of tolerism’s signs and effects with an arresting diagnosis of it as the signature psychopathology of our time. He proposes that large segments of the West, including a leftist cohort in Israel, have fallen prey to a mass psychosis characterized by self-hatred and a deluded faith in the good will of those sworn to their destruction. He cites Kenneth Levin’s The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, on the manner in which citizens under existential threat “often end up internalizing the hatred against themselves.”
Janice Fiamengo, Professor of English University of Ottawa
Tolerance for Terror
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Howard Rotberg, an author of several books who has just released his latest book, TOLERism: The Ideology Revealed (Mantua Books). He blogs at secondgenerationradical.blogmatrix.com. He has previously been interviewed by Frontpage (Fatwa on a Book) about the fate of his 2003 novel about a Jewish professor’s worry about Iran developing nuclear weapons and the professor’s problems with political correctness.
FP: Howard Rotberg, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Rotberg: Thank you for having me
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Rotberg: Basically, I began to understand that, in a world that was treating Islamist terrorism with tolerance and submission, as opposed to a due recognition of the war declared upon us, much of our “intelligentsia” was prisoner of a certain ideology that inhibited an appropriate response to the threats to our freedoms and lives.
As a result of my novel, The Second Catastrophe, being, essentially, banned in Canada because of the objections of some 18 year old Islamists, I was becoming aware that the very people who proclaimed their tolerance were in fact the least tolerant of all when it came to listening to, and debating, contrary opinions. In other words, political correctness, moral and cultural relativism and moral equivalency were combining to create a certain ideology in the West. I decided it was high time to write about the values and ideologies that have handcuffed much of our media and academic elites from critiquing the fascistic aspects of Radical Islam, and elevating the alleged “right’ not to be offended over the human rights of all victims of Islamist rage, including their own people.
FP: Tell us a bit about your background that has influenced you in your thoughts and outlooks.
Rotberg: My paternal grandparents and aunt were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and my father barely survived as a slave laborer there. As a member of the “Second Generation,” I was becoming alarmed at how “tolerance” was being called the most important value in the West. My background as a lawyer and as an observant Jew taught me that the most important value is justice, not tolerance. I knew that had the West “tolerated” Hitler, I would not be here. And I wondered why the West was so intent on tolerating Radical Islam and submitting to values inimical to liberal freedoms, feminism, separation of church and state, human rights and all the other great values that so many Americans and Canadians had struggled so hard to attain. As I looked out on political culture in the age of Obama, I sensed a very serious ideological problem.
FP: What is the difference between tolerance and Tolerism?
Rotberg: Over the years, such philosophers as Karl Popper and John Rawls had struggled with the idea of toleration and what limits must be placed on the tolerance of the intolerant, who, without such limitations could destroy the tolerant and the ways of tolerance. As the Second World War becomes a distant memory, we have noticed an alarming development: Instead of warnings about appeasement of Evil, we are told by the post-religious that there is no good and evil, only “competing narratives” which in a world ofcultural relativism, means that western distinguished historians are given no more respect than mere polemicists, and that liberalism in Israel is given no higher respect than the totalitarian propaganda machines of its neighbours. The causes of Tolerism, then, are political correctness,cultural and moral relativism and moral equivalency.
Tolerism, the ideology, involves not just a tolerance of what should be intolerable, and the failure to set reasonable limits on tolerance, but an intolerance of opposing viewpoints within liberal democracies, and an element of self-hatred, cultural masochism, and delusions about the difference between social tolerance and political tolerance. Those who seek justice are mocked with the allegation that we are seeking “vengeance,” as Spielberg did with his dastardly re-writing of history in the movie Munich to show that Israel, and, impliedly, the Bush administration, were all about retribution and vengeance instead of the supposedly enlightened trait of tolerance. Tolerism, then, is the ideology of those who have attempted to cast off the Judeo-Christian ethics of justice and morality, and the sanctity of human life and fundamental liberties, and instead seek to undermine the great liberal democracies by their unwillingness to accept that tolerance has limits and that justice is far more important.
FP: How do Tolerists view the United States and its place in the world? Is Obama a Tolerist?
Rotberg: Obama gave the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to the horrible Mary Robinson, who presided over the U.N. Durban conference where the illiberals brought into the mainstream the absurd view that the Israelis are the new Nazis and the Palestinians are the new Jews. Obama’s equivalency of American tolerance and justice with that of Muslim countries in his first major foreign policy speech at Cairo was so absurd that it showed that he is not just “tolerant” but a proponent of the new ideology of “Tolerism” – which implies not just a sympathy for opposing views but an “indulgence,” that is a treatment of those views with excessive leniency. The idea that America is comparable to Saudi Arabia is surely laughable, except that if the American President believes that, the Founding Fathers must be turning over in their graves. And therefore one can see the relevance of Obama’s past associations with Reverend Wright, William Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and Rashid Khalidi.
There is no better proof that Obama is a Tolerist than examining his responses to the Fort Hood Massacre. By continuously referring to the Islamist Major Hasan (whose emails, statements and entire life-view was that of a terrorist Islamist) as an “extremist,” Obama creates a vile moral equivalency. For example, I might be regarded by some an “extremist” because some of my views are extreme relative to the mainstream, but I would not care to share that terminological status with the likes of Hasan. America must wake up; its soldiers must carry guns, and itsPresident must understand who is the enemy, before America descends into a British-like fantasy world of submission and tolerance of a parallel Sharia universe, where universities actively promote radicalization of Muslim students.
FP: What is the connection between Tolerism and anti-Semitism?
Rotberg: There are several: Firstly, to the extent that Tolerism contains a large dose of self-hatred, or the hatred of America and Israel standing for all that is good – liberal freedoms and human rights- a large number of Tolerists (think Naomi Klein here) begin to hate America and the Jewish state equally. These haters of all that is good relate well to Radical Islam which is the repository of unbridled hate for all things Jewish and American. While historically, up until the 1940s, Islam accepted Jews as dhimmis, Radical Islam has never accepted Jews in the Middle East, which is, according to them, Dar-Al-Islam, once and forever Muslim territory, notwithstanding the continual presence of Jews for 3500 years.
Secondly, Tolerism posits a type of moral and cultural relativism that resents states like America and Israel striving for the morality and justice advocated in the Bible. As well, if Islamic totalitarian theocracies or Palestinian death cults are as morally valid as any other position, then the Jewish narrative must by its nature be extremist and hence suspect. This is why there is such little regard paid in the topic of “refugees” for the nearly one million Jews who were expelled from Arab countries in the 1940s, and were taken in and resettled byIsrael . The United Nations then can create a separate organization for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and be utterly silent about the Jewish refugees from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Thirdly, I referred to Spielberg’s travesty of a movie, Munich, which portrays the Jew-nation of Israel as vengeful and intent on retribution, compared to the supposed Christian virtues of tolerance and mercy. This is a theme that is best explored in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, where a proper reading of this classic shows a man so marginalized and abused by society that he ends up, as a result of this marginalization, vengefully obsessed with retributive justice, which of course is denied to him, because the very Court proceeding has been corrupted by Portia impersonating the Judge. An improper reading, such as was done by the Englishman Michael Radford in the most recent movie version of The Merchant of Venice, makes the Jew Shylock the archetype for the supposedly vengeful Jews and Americans exacting a negative form of Justice against the poor, oppressed terrorists or the Iraqi terror state. The fact that the worst terrorists have university educations and come from above average income families is irrelevant to the anti-Semitic fantasy that the intolerant Americans and Israelis are the new Nazis and supposedly deserve the terrorism inflicted on them. It is all anti-Semitic in nature.
FP: How do we find the limits of tolerance?
Rotberg: Starting with the great philosophers of Toleration, we would have to accept, like Karl Popper that “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 … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”
But just as important, we have to begin to discuss how Tolerism and its associated ideologies are behind many of the delusions about the nature of the war that has begun against us, and the nature of the enemy. We must learn that Terrorism is successful precisely because it creates what I call a “Cultural Stockholm Syndrome” or a cultural response similar to the “Patty Hearst Syndrome” where we begin to indentify with our terrorist oppressors and begin to accept small benefits from them as part of a submission to their will and values. The idea that the West can defeat terrorism by more tolerance of the evil perpetrators of murder directed at civilians, is, quite frankly, preposterous.
In the book, I explore a variety of ways to find a suitable limitation for tolerance, and I refer to writings of such heroic writers as David Solway, David Horowitz, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Greenfield, Vijay Kumar, and even moderate Muslims like Tarek Fatah (who has called for a clear statement by Islamic theologians that Jihad must henceforth be only construed as an individual inner struggle for spirituality rather than be construed as an outer-directed violent struggle against Jews, Christians and Hindus). I hope that my book induces further discussion of what are the limits of tolerance.
FP: Howard Rotberg, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Copyright © 2009 FrontPage Magazine. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission from FrontPageMag.com
Link to this Interview at Frontpagemag.com here.
Posted By Jamie Glazov On January 27, 2010 @ 12:08 am In FrontPage
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