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The Limits of Tolerance in Diverse Societies: Hate Speech and Political Tolerance Norms Among Youth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2010

Allison Harell
Affiliation:
Queen's University
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Abstract

Abstract. Conventional measures of political tolerance have tended to assume that people see all forms of speech as equally legitimate (or equally illegitimate). This article develops an alternative view, and measure, of political tolerance to account for individual distinctions across types of speech. Political tolerance is conceptualized using three individual-level dispositions. The intolerant reject speech rights for all objectionable groups; absolute tolerators endorse speech rights for all groups viewed as objectionable; and multicultural tolerators support free speech except when such freedoms are used to target racial and ethnic minorities. Survey data from close to 10,000 youth in Canada and Belgium show that multicultural tolerance reflects civil liberties attitudes among many young citizens. These youth do see exclusionary speech as a special category of “intolerable” speech, consistent with legal restrictions on hate speech in many industrialized democracies. Such target group distinctions are an under-studied and under-specified component of contemporary political tolerance judgments.

Résumé. Les mesures conventionnelles de la tolérance politique tendent à présumer que les gens perçoivent tous les discours comme étant également légitimes (ou également illégitimes). Cet article développe une perspective différente et une mesure plus nuancée de la tolérance politique en relevant des distinctions entre les types de propos. On distingue trois dispositions individuelles en matière de tolérance politique. Les intolérants rejettent la liberté d'expression pour tous les groupes ou propos perçus comme importuns; les gens absolument tolérants appuient la liberté d'expression pour tous les groupes ou propos perçus comme importuns; et les adhérents de la tolérance multiculturelle appuient la libre expression publique des idées, sauf quand celle-ci sert à bafouer les minorités ethniques et raciales. Les résultats d'une enquête menée auprès d'environ 10 000 jeunes au Canada et en Belgique indiquent qu'un grand nombre de jeunes citoyens pratiquent la tolérance multiculturelle. Ces derniers considèrent les propos empreints d'exclusion comme une catégorie spéciale de propos «intolérables», conformément aux lois contre la propagande haineuse adoptées dans la plupart des pays développés. Les distinctions de ce genre sont des facteurs négligés dans notre compréhension des jugements contemporains sur la tolérance politique.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 2010

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