The rise of far-right has brought to the forefront the debate about whether such ideas should or not have a public say and as to whether they should occupy public space and time. Many even argue that if we do not give public say to the far right, if we do not let it express its views then we become the same with what we fight, we become fascists and democracy is abolished.
This argument is so invalid and unwise that it should not even be set, let me explain myself. Initially, pluralism is not identical to tolerance, since tolerance is nothing but a compromise formula that has its roots in the era of religious wars. Tolerance has no theoretical affinity with democratic pluralism.
The fact that there is pluralism in a democratic society does not mean that there should be unconditional tolerance for all opinions, even for the harmful ones. In short, while democracy for the sake of pluralism gives the right to fascist groups to speak, that does not mean that democracy should provide them a megaphone to be heard better.
Karl Popper in his book “Open Society,” with the well-known “The Paradox of Tolerance,” has best explained how if, in the name of a latent perception of democracy, a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. If we try to sum up Popper´s thought, we would say that tolerance to non-tolerant people is a threat to society as a whole, and society, in order to survive, has to defend and protect itself. In a few words,
“In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.”
Here it must be made clear that democracy is not afraid of a debate as its deniers say, a democratic society just refuses to listen opinions which has rejected decades ago. We are not talking about something new, fascistic ideas have remained the same, there are no new ideas on the far right, there are only new recruits and we are over with such nonsense long ago.
Moreover, there is no point in confronting fascists because their reason is not based on rational arguments but on populism, bubbles, and conspiracy theories, and there is no way to stand against a fascist with logical arguments and a compound reason. Not only there is no way, but also no reason to debate someone who challenges the parity of human life, there is nothing to debate, because there are values non-negotiable and not consulted.
Long rivers of blood have been spilled to secure the rights of various groups that have long been in the target of the fascists. Who gives the right, and in the name of what democracy, the fascists want to get back what the struggles for social justice have deprived of them, why do fascists have the right to invoke democracy? Societies have experience, they know that far right ideas have been defeated and there is no reason to come back to the fore, there is nothing new to offer.
Some will talk about leveling out different opinions, this is untrue, there are dozens of areas of controversy, and political life is filled with conflicting views, but fascism and racism is not an opinion, it is a disease and debt of democracy is to protect and not to help strengthen the fascist pandemic. For example, democracy, of course, should provide the area for a debate about whether there should be more or less control of migratory flows, but there is no debate about whether human life has self-worth as this is non-negotiable.
Some argue that the exclusion of the fascists from the public discourse will victimize them in the eyes of public, perhaps, however, the supply of public space legitimizes them and makes their ideas just another alternative and this is more dangerous. Society must realize that there are opinions that do not deserve a public say and is wrong in the name of a misconception of democratical tolerance to embolden and legitimize them.
Far right does not respect the free and liberal exchange of ideas. It is not open to compromise, and it does not want a debate, it wants power. What matters to them is not a debate, but airtime and attention, so it is wrong for the naïve democracy to provide it.
Why tolerance should legitimize intolerance? And let’s be honest, none of these formal debates offers sunlight to the truth. What they offer is a chance to build one’s brand. And this is mainly because political correctness and civic courtesy does not allow a person to call someone a liar, a bigot or a fascist on a respectable news program.
Let’s make it clear, freedom of speech is not under assault and far right can continue to say what it likes. But there is a distance between the right to free speech and the privilege of being given a public say and a platform to spread your views. Democracy is not so naïve as to be a Trojan horse for the ideas of the far right to be inserted into mainstream politics.