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Intolerable Tolerance

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Tolerance is a relatively modern idea. Those with tolerance are able to accept and respect those who are different from themselves. This is unambiguously a good thing, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Some people use "tolerance" to take advantage of basic decency and give themselves free rein to act like jerks, or to make themselves blameless for acting like jerks because that's something they're entitled to or it supposedly isn't their fault for whatever reason. And if someone tells them that they're being a jerk, they can deftly turn the tables by saying The Complainer Is Always Wrong, so they aren't required to change their ways. These sorts of characters pretend to be Holier Than Thou and have higher views of themselves than those who aren't as "tolerant" and "progressive", but truthfully they are nothing more than common jerks who uses "tolerance" and "progressiveness" as a cover to act like It's All About Me and expect special treatment beyond what they actually need or deserve.

According to Merriam-Webster, there are multiple definitions of "tolerance":

1. capacity to endure pain or hardship
2. sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own; the act of allowing something
3. the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4. 1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure ; also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) : relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor

Intolerable tolerance plays with all of these senses of the word. Frequently, people engaging in this behaviour do not appear to have tolerance in the second sense. Also, for them, there is no such thing as tolerance in the third sense, yet they expect it in that accepting sense from their victims. Often, they aren't willing to brook any response from their victims to the contrary. It's also true that many such people don't seem to see that their hostility might be problematic; instead they describe the need for their victims to endure such treatment (sense one) and seem to assume that everyone around them has the capacity to thrive in such a toxic environment (the last sense).

These people may use the warped definitions to say "I'm different from you. Even if what makes me different from you is that I prefer to murder my enemies. I'm disadvantaged and/or supporting the disadvantaged. I have every right to kick you in the head and demand what I want because you have more and can afford it. Even if my demands means calling you names and forcing you to buy me a free lunch with no compensation in return. You must comply with it. If you raise a fuss, you're acting like an intolerant bigot and you probably deserved to be kicked in the head."

It could be that an unacceptable target is using their status to pick on Acceptable Targets using their former abused status to accrue guilt from others. Or that Underdogs Never Lose... because that would hurt their feelings, and we can't have that. Or the jerk understands in full that a Double Standard exists, and they use this to their advantage whenever possible. In essence, it's when Moral Myopia exists, but no one dares to call it out. In especially absurd cases, this scenario will veer straight into Logic Bomb territory if the perpetrator uses the idea of tolerance as a justification for intolerance: I can't stand you, and I'm allowed to hate you because you can't make me respect you if I don't feel like it. That would be intolerant.

The person demanding the tolerance may tell others to Turn the Other Cheek, only to laugh as they gleefully brand the next one, knowing they can continue getting away with it and never get punished. This person would also expect to be Easily Forgiven for any of their transgressions, but heaven forbid you say anything bad to them. They'll never forgive you until after you've thoroughly humiliated yourself apologizing, and then respond with "See? I was right all along. You are a bigot."

This can lead to some very unfortunate and awkward situations where it is clear that one party is being wronged, but circumstances make them unable to defend themselves without being Made Out to Be a Jerkass.

People with this kind of tolerance are also apt to say "We're happy to accept other people's points of long as they agree with us." They'll reject those that don't agree, often by using verbal dodges and occasionally with violence that they expect not to be penalized for. Or they will tolerate people who disagree with them, allowing them to voice a divergent point of view - and then kill them. Don't expect them to acknowledge the hypocrisy. Instead, expect such people to say things like, "This is a free country!"

Supertrope to:

  • Activist-Fundamentalist Antics: Religious fundamentalists who do nothing but cause trouble for everyone.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Animal rights activists who have no qualms with hurting or killing humans in the name of their cause.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: A violent group draw the line at killing one of their own.
  • Appeal to Inherent Nature: It's attempted to defend wrongful actions on the grounds that it's normal for the person to do them.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: A character has no qualms in doing illegal or immoral things, but objects to their actions being referred to as such.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: A race believing themselves to be the superior species uses this belief as an excuse to look down on everyone they deem inferior and insist that they're always right.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Someone tries to win a court case using a completely irrelevant logical fallacy.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: A person gets in legal trouble for trying to defend themselves.
  • Crosses the Line Twice (when it fails)
  • Culture Justifies Anything: A person uses their cultural background as an excuse to do horrible things.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: A woman gets back at her father by entering a relationship with the kind of person her father doesn't like.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: A dignitary abuses their diplomatic immunity under the belief that such a right makes them exempt from the laws of the country they're visiting.
  • Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: A disabled person uses the excuse that having a disability enables them to get away with being an asshole.
  • Eat the Rich: Vilifying those who are wealthy.
  • Everything Is Racist: Anything and everything can be potentially misinterpreted as racist or otherwise offensive.
  • Flawless Token: A minority is treated better than the other characters.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: A character hides their true nature by pretending to be religious.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: It's attempted to rationalize sexual harassment and sexual assault on the grounds that men have little self-control when it comes to their carnal impulses.
  • Jerk Justifications: The rationalizations given for a person to act like a jerk.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: Someone tries to avoid retaliation for saying or doing something mean by claiming that their actions weren't sincere.
  • Karmic Trickster: A character retaliates to those who wrong them by playing tricks on the offending parties.
  • N-Word Privileges: It's okay to use a slur only by the people the slur is aimed at, with people who aren't in that group sometimes trying to rationalize that being close with members of that group entitles them to say the slur whenever they want.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: An arrested person is assumed to be guilty the moment they ask for a lawyer.
  • Playing the Victim Card: The one at fault tries to make it look like they are the victim.
  • Political Correctness Is Evil: It's believed that society has gone to pot because too many people are overly concerned about being politically correct.
  • Political Overcorrectness: People obsess over being as inclusive and inoffensive as possible to the extent that they attack anyone they see as not meeting their standards of progressiveness.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: It's ridiculously easy to get a bunch of people all riled up to the point that they start rioting.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless: A work downplays or outright ignores the dangers of school bullies.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: A senior citizen uses the excuse that being elderly means they can be rude to everyone.
  • Selective Enforcement: A law or rule isn't enforced consistently, resulting in people who've broken it regularly not being punished and people who've otherwise done nothing wrong facing harsh retribution just for breaking it once.
  • Soapbox Sadie: A person who takes up a cause will annoy the hell out of everyone by lecturing them about what they're protesting over.
  • Straw Feminist: A woman claims that her goal is to fight against inequality towards women, but she's really using her cause as an excuse to be bigoted towards men.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Society will loathe and envy those who are special.
  • There Should Be a Law: A character remarks that they wish something were illegal.
  • The Unfair Sex: In a heterosexual couple, every problem is always the man's fault.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Ceasing a disagreement with violence and making the victim feel like it is their fault.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: You manipulate everyone by convincing them the other guy hurt you.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Terrorists believe themselves to be fighting for noble goals.
  • Zombie Advocate: A human who defends the rights of non-humans