Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Passive tolerance? Yes please!

So this week we had

'Britain to end what he termed "passive" tolerance of extremism' David Cameron seeks new powers to combat extremism in Britain (NY Times)

'ending what he said was a culture of "passive tolerance"'
David Cameron to unveil measures against extremism. (FT)

'"conclusively turn the page" on passive tolerance of extremist views'
David Cameron revives moves for tough action against non-violent extremists to target radicalisation. (Independent)

and in 2011 we had

'Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism'
State multiculturalism has failed, says David Cameron. BBC

This is what annoys me.

You have a belief that extremism should be punished but the most effective counter-argument is that a thing called 'passive tolerance' exists, is a force for good, and would be harmed by such a belief. So, instead of trying to better understand the social science you diminish it; you use its name in your announcements and frame it as a bad thing so that journalists and voters are misled.

Now when we hear about 'passive tolerance' we remember our well-spoken leader telling us it was bad.

No it's not.

"Passive tolerance is probably not a concept many people have yet heard of. Let's hope that changes, because "passive tolerance" is the most hopeful bit of academic social psychology research to emerge in a long time. It is the idea that simply living in an area of high diversity rubs off on you, making you more tolerant of ethnic diversity." Madeleine Bunting. Guardian March 2014.

We should work to prevent the causes of extremism in the first place not punish it which will simply encourage it.
There's probably a very good word for the rhetorical technique used - like equivocation - but I'm not sure - I'd need some journalist friend to tell me that. :-)


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