Ulysses Alvarez Laviada
5 min readSep 21, 2018


When I read for the first time the Paradox of Tolerance initially it felt like a very sounding idea: Wouldn't it be great to allow tolerance and only tolerance with the exclusion of intolerance?

It sounds like the perfect Parmenidian Being, in which all that there is in the world is Being and not-Being is excluded. There is something terribly fishy about Popper's Paradox of Tolerance.

I would re-write the Paradox of Tolerance as follows:

1. A tolerant society should be tolerant by default,
2. It should tolerate intolerance itself.

To give a specific example, a tolerant society should tolerate protest marches in general, and it should tolerate a white Supremacists march. If such march advocates for the oppression and killing of people of color – like the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 that ended with white supremacists beating and killing people, those white Supremacists who incited to violence with their speeches should be prosecuted.

That means that only when speeches incite to violence is that such speeches should be considered criminal. That wouldn't mean to be intolerant with them, but to prosecute them for breaking the law. The police is not being intolerant when arresting people for criminal actions. The police is just executing the law.

Absolute tolerance means that we won't break the law if other people are intolerant to our ideas without breaking the law.

Not because a speech goes against the moral values of a community, a culture or a country, no matter how evil that might appear to us and other individuals or communities, it means that it should be criminalised.

The Paradox of Tolerance by Popper might look like it could be a key defence against White Supremacists. I disagree. I actually believe that proving such philosophical principle wrong is what can give us a better defence against the White Nationalists and against those who break the law.

The Paradox of Tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

Now, there is an unquestioned premise in the above statement. Tolerance and intolerance are taken at face value merely in an abstract and general way. There are not intolerant people in general. There are intolerant people and people who break the law. Usually, we call the last ones extreme intolerants. Let's not call them the intolerant ones. Why? Well, you might think that is just a whimsical twist of semantics, but it is not.

When we call extremely intolerant people intolerant we are more likely to give the impression that we are being intolerant with them than actually calling their actions by their actual real name: criminal. In democratic terms a tolerant society is not and shouldn't be intolerant with intolerant people.

A tolerant society should do justice when its member break unlawfully their contractual agreements with the law. Acting so wouldn't make that society intolerant, but on the contrary, just.

Calling someone or a society intolerant appears as if that society weren't giving its people the rights that they should have. However, when you break the law you are simultaneously breaking the rights which protect you and others.

Tolerance of everything except intolerance itself is not a form of tolerance, but rather intolerance in disguise, intolerance until you annoy me, intolerance until my patience reaches its limits, intolerance until you get on my nerves.

In a democratic society tolerance cannot be left at the mercy of the fluctuating mood and morals of individuals or a political party in government. I learned this political and moral lessons first hand when I was living for 25 years in the Communist regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba.

In a democratic society tolerant people should tolerate white Supremacists march to advocate removing human rights from people of color if such march doesn't break the law. A tolerant society should tolerate all intolerant speeches which don't break the law when the law is just. If the law is unjust we have the rights to civil disobedience and boycott.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believes in protecting intolerant speech right up to the U.S. legal limit.

The ACLU is right in asserting that a peaceful white supremacist march doesn't differ from a civil rights march because allowing it to go forward wouldn't reduce free speech overall if they don't break the law.

The Paradox of Tolerance acknowledges that some speeches shouldn't be protected not because it normalizes the idea that people of color should have fewer rights than white people, but because some speeches incite to violence and break the law.

Some speeches shouldn't be protected not because of their ideological content, but because of their invitation to violence. That is a huge difference that the Paradox of Tolerance fails to address.

The Paradox of Tolerance doesn't seem to me like heresy whatsoever. On the contrary, it normalises intolerance through its semantic cover ups. Tolerance, in deed, is paramount and free speech must be protected regardless of its ideological content, but not oblivious to its undercover criminal intents.

Of course, a tolerant society must protect its own existence if tolerance is to exist in the world. What the article below misses is that tolerating intolerance wouldn’t result in the destruction and disappearance of a tolerant society. The only thing that could bring destruction and chaos to society is both, allowing violence and being intolerant with its law abiding citizens regardless of how intolerant their ideas might be to other citizens.

The article is misleading and inaccurate in two accounts.

First, let me clarify that I consider Trump's presidency as the most embarrassing chapter in American political history. However, this article calls out Trump as an openly white supremacists, but the source that it provides to prove so only refers to Trump interview with Lary King TV-show in which Trump failed to express a firm condemnation of David Duke’s views. To neglect so doesn't mean that Trump is OPENLY white supremacist.

This article also state that Trump is using presidential power to enforce racist government policies, however, the source given to prove so is another article referring to Trump administration plans to sue schools for anti-white biases.

Trump's idea is obviously preposterous but it doesn't de facto qualifies his policy as racist over the basis of not accepting anti-white biases. Even when the share of black and Latino students almost always fails to match their representation in USA's overall population, that doesn't necessarily prove that anti-white biases policies are racists.

If and when it is proven that the so called anti-white biases are false then we can speak of racist policies. The fact that current policies do not target anti-white biases doesn't mean they might not exist even in small amounts.

The article has used both of these accusations: Trump being an openly white supremacist and enforcing racist government policies to justify the validity of the Paradox of Tolerance. Such validation is however done under the false belief of America almost having a fascist government with openly racist policies.



Ulysses Alvarez Laviada

Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights. Friedrich Hegel.