Pew: Liberals most intolerant online

posted at 11:00 am on March 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It’s a well-known fact that liberals are more tolerant than conservatives or moderates.  Superior liberal tolerance is such a fact that they will scream at you if you dare to disagree or debate them, demand that your advertisers bail on you, and pressure the FCC to get you banned from the airwaves.  Does that sound like tolerance to you?  A new survey from Pew confirms that liberals are the least tolerant of differing opinions, at least on line (emphasis mine):

Politics can be a sensitive subject and a number of SNS [social networking sites] users have decided to block, unfriend, or hide someone because of their politics or posting activities. In all, 18% of social networking site users have taken one of those steps by doing at least one of the following:

  • 10% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because that person posted too frequently about political subjects
  • 9% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they posted something about politics or issues that they disagreed with or found offensive
  • 8% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they argued about political issues on the site with the user or someone the user knows
  • 5% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they posted something about politics that the user worried would offend other friends
  • 4% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they disagreed with something the user posted about politics

Of course, that means that 82% of SNS users have not taken any steps to ignore or disconnect from someone whose views are different – or have not encountered any views that would prompt such a move.

Liberals are the most likely to have taken each of these steps to block, unfriend, or hide. In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates.

It’s not even all that close, as their chart shows:

Andrew Malcolm has some fun with the implications:

Not exactly shocking news for those exposed to them for years, but the respected Pew Research Center has determined that political liberals are far less tolerant of opposing views than regular Americans.

In a new study, the Pew Center for the Internet and American Life Project confirmed what most intelligent Americans had long sensed. That is, whenever they are challenged or confronted on the hollow falsity of their orthodoxy  — such as, say, uniting diverse Americans — liberals tend to respond defensively with anger, even trying to shut off or silence critics. (i.e. photo above of President Obama reacting to Boston hecklers.)

The new research found that instead of engaging in civil discourse or debate, fully 16% of liberals admitted to blocking, unfriending or overtly hiding someone on a social networking site because that person expressed views they disagreed with. That’s double the percentage of conservatives and more than twice the percentage of political moderates who behaved like that.

For some full disclosure, I’ve blocked more than a few people on Twitter.  I didn’t do it for disagreements, but for being unpleasant about disagreements.  I consider Twitter to be a true social network; I don’t hang out with unpleasant people in real life, and so I see no need to do so in virtual life.  Twitter is my water cooler, my hangout in slack time between bursts of writing.  I’m happy to have a debate, but when it gets insulting, unpleasant, and intellectually dishonest, I take a pass.

Even if that counts in the Pew poll (and I’d argue that it doesn’t), I’d be in a small minority among conservatives — and to be fair, it’s a small minority among liberals too.  It’s just that it’s a statistically significant larger minority among liberals.  While Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda demand that the government act to silence Rush Limbaugh for challenging their orthodoxy, Forbes’ Dave Serchuk points out the irony, the hypocrisy — and the unintended consequences:

Imagine this scenario: you are a lifelong liberal. You pretty much hate everything Rush Limbaugh stands for, and says. You are really glad that the times have finally seemed to have caught up to him, and that people are outraged by his callous, gross comments. So what do you do next? You do theone thing that will make him a sympathetic figure. You call on the FCC to remove him.

Think this is just not-very-good satire? If only. Nope, I draw from this example because in an opinion piece just published on CNN.com Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan did exactly this. In the process they seem to have played into the exact stereotype of the thin-skinned, hypocritical liberal. One who supports the First Amendment and freedom of speech … except for when they don’t.

Here is the lame excuse they offered for why the heavy hand of government sponsored censorship should come down on Limbaugh, a guy who seemed to be doing a pretty good imitation of a man hoist on his own petard anyway.

“Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh’s radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.”

Umm, okay. But isn’t there something called ratings that are a truer indication of what these respective communities already want? And shouldn’t that count the most? Don’t ratings (i.e. “popularity”) in fact tell the FCC just whom the public thinks serves their interest? Whether we like it or not?

Why do they go for the block rather than provide an alternative?  Michael Medved says they can’t compete — and need government to intervene:

Limbaugh’s critics seem unable to accept the fact that many of their fellow citizens actually appreciate the opportunity to listen to his opinions on a regular basis, so rather than persuade those poor benighted souls to listen to something else, they mean to take away the broadcast that they enjoy.

Why not try to build an eager new audience for liberal opinion leaders and steal listeners from Rush and the rest of us who host right-leaning shows? How about recruiting the most outrageous and opinionated voices on the left, syndicating their shows in major markets, and promoting these fresh, progressive voices with a catchy moniker like “Air America”?

Oh wait, that’s been tried, starting in 2004 and proceeding (intermittently) till 2010 when chronically low ratings and bankruptcy court performed a belated mercy killing on the ill-fated experiment. It’s true that some of the Air America “stars” ultimately found their way to other opportunities—with Rachel Maddow hosting a successful TV program on MSNBC, and the insufferable Al Franken enjoying an unlikely career in the U.S. Senate.

But attempts to create viable radio alternatives to Rush and other right wingers have never gained traction, so rather than continuing to compete in the open market place, lefties merely yearn to shut down the other side with sponsor boycotts, public pressure or, most obnoxiously, the so-called Fairness Doctrine. Fortunately, Barack Obama has consistently opposed the Fairness Doctrine, but many of the Democratic colleagues have promoted it for years, with Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and—most adamantly—that heroic public servant John Edwards providing support.

Well, it’s not exactly news that the Intolerant Tolerance Hysterics are all about choices that they want to dictate to people, too, even if (or especially if) it involved the use of “an oppressive, invidious authoritarian relic” like the Fairness doctrine.  Don’t expect them to understand that irony, Mssrs. Serchuk and Medved, but thank you for pointing it out.  They can unfriend and block all they want on social networking, because those are personal choices not to listen to differing opinions, and every American has that choice.  The problem is when they want government to unfriend and block so that no one has that choice — and that’s the kind of intolerance that’s much more dangerous than humorous.


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