Tolerance should not be taken to the extreme

ByJoanne Lockwood

Tolerance should not be taken to the extreme

We are starting to understand the negative impact social media is having on our lives – the ability of radical or extreme views to be shared without apparent consequence or restriction.

The impact that Facebook’s algorithms have in amplifying divisive content is better understood, and it has been known for a while that platforms such as Twitter allow people to hide with anonymity while promoting radical views that generate followers. Everyone can be an author, publisher and influencer from the comfort of their armchair, and we need to better understand who we can trust.

The debate is the balance of free speech versus preventing the promotion of views that don’t benefit society as a whole. The argument is challenging – of course we want to have our own views and opinions in a free society, but should we be allowed to express them without restraint?

When does someone’s free speech become another person’s oppression? If we look at some recent polarised debates around Brexit, indyref, vaccinations and Covid-19, we see clear camps polarised to the extremes with little opportunity for debate in the centre ground – you are expected to be for or against.

The reality is the extremes only account for a minority of opinions, but they are disproportionately amplified in social media, which is also being transferred onto the mainstream media channels.

I maintain that in any society, we should become intolerant of intolerance. If we allow extreme views to take hold in the interest of freedom of speech, we are in danger of allowing the propagation of hate and oppression to vulnerable people and communities.

Organisations must clearly express their views on issues such as climate change, sustainability, racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism – not just in the workplace context but within society as a whole. What do you stand for? What are your red lines?

Employees should understand what is acceptable and unacceptable language to bring into the workplace, even if it is via personal Tweets. There must be consequences, or the organisational culture will become toxic – who wants to work with colleagues known to be overtly racist or transphobic in their private and online lives?

Staff need to feel they have psychological safety in their place of work and in the wider world, and are free from oppression and discrimination. Customers want to know your brand is safe, and they can be comfortable shopping with you.

Ask yourself the question – what do you stand for? Are you as an organisation fighting the rise of intolerance and ensuring your people can “bring their whole selves” to work?

Joanne Lockwood (she/her), inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen, is a guest writer on behalf of s1jobs.

Originally published in The Herald Scotland

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About the author

Joanne Lockwood administrator

SEE Change Happen: Transgender Awareness & Inclusion