…among other such nonsense. The New Left has been all about creating a generation of spoiled brats unable to handle an opposing viewpoint, shouting them down at every turn. Want to know where the left-wing noise machine got its start? Look no further:
When Samuel Stouffer first wrote on political tolerance during the McCarthy era, he concluded that Americans were generally an intolerant bunch. Yet, finding that younger people were more tolerant than their parents, he also concluded that Americans would become more and more tolerant over time, due to generational replacement and increases in education. However, Stouffer did not predict the rise of the New Left, which I argue has reframed our collective notions about free expression, resulting in a significant decline in political tolerance among America’s youth. I develop this argument in a chapter I wrote for Stanley Rothman’s last book, The End of the Experiment, (Rothman, Nagai, Maranto, and Woessner, 2015) My findings are outlined below.
First, I make the case that young people are less politically tolerant than their parents’ generation and that this marks a clear reversal of the trends observed by social scientists for the past 60 years. Political tolerance is generally defined as the willingness to extend civil liberties and basic democratic rights to members of unpopular groups. That is, in order to be tolerant, one must recognize the rights of one’s political enemies to fully participate in the democratic process. Typically, this is measured by asking people whether they will allow members of unpopular groups, or groups they dislike, to exercise political rights, such as giving a public talk, teaching college, or having their books on loan in public libraries.
Americans have not, in fact, become more tolerant. Rather, they have shifted their dislike to new groups. For example, “Muslim clergymen who preach hatred against the United States” are now the least liked group included in the General Social Survey (GSS), followed by people who believe that “blacks are genetically inferior”. Most importantly, compared to those in their 40s, people in their 30s and 20s actually show lower tolerance towards these groups. According to the 2012 GSS, people in their 40s are the most tolerant of Muslim clergymen who preach anti-American hatred: 43% say a member of this group should not be allowed to give a public speech in their community. Among people in their 30s, the number who would prohibit this group from speaking climbs to 52%, and for those in their 20s it jumps to 60%. Young people are also less tolerant than the middle aged groups toward militarists, communists, and racists. This is not true for tolerance towards homosexuals or atheists, because younger people simply like these groups more. (Political tolerance is not a measure of liking someone, but the willingness to extend political freedoms to those one dislikes).
Second, I argue that youthful intolerance is driven by different factors than old fashioned intolerance, and that this change reflects the ideology of the New Left. Herbert Marcuse, considered “The Father of the New Left,” articulates a philosophy that denies political expression to those who would oppose a progressive social agenda.