This article was first postet at medium.com/@ToreRasmussen
Nassim Taleb, the author of the bestselling Black Swan, has an intriguing chapter in his book “Skin in the Game” called “The most intolerant wins: Dictatorship of the small minority.” It explains a disturbing phenomenon that we are seeing played out all over the West today.
The concept is simple: if you place a tolerant person together with an intolerant and strongly motivated person, then, as a rule, the tolerant will go along with the demands of the intolerant to keep the peace.
This behaviour scales up, so even if you have only one intolerant person in the room and ninety-nine tolerant people, as long as the demand of the intolerant is below the others’ intolerance threshold, they will go along with it.
Taleb uses halal as an example. Depending on which Western country you live in, most of the meat you consume could be halal. The reason is simple: most non-Muslims don’t mind eating animals that have been sacrificed through the practice of halal, while Muslims cannot tolerate eating non-halal food. It is easier and cheaper for the meat producers to take advantage of this tolerance of the public to produce, market and package one product instead of two.
A similar phenomenon has been observed in politics, where there is almost no correlation between what the majority of voters want and what policies will be enacted.
The reason is that it is not majorities that win elections, but small minorities that can tip the balance from one to the other. Therefore, politicians will peddle to these minorities and pressure groups on the assumption that the majority will tolerate it and vote for them anyway.
A recent example from the United States is Obamacare. The Republican party has for eight years touted that their primary goal was to get rid of Obamacare. The majority of voters want to remove it. It is the stated goal of the Republican party to get rid of it, and Republicans were elected on the promise of repealing it. Now the Republican party has the president, a majority in the Senate and a majority in Congress, so Obamacare is history, right? Wrong.
In Europe, we have a similar contemporary example. According to a recent Chatham House survey, The majority of people in EU countries want to stop all immigration from Muslim countries – an average of 55% across the EU, nearer 65% in Belgium and Austria. Only a small minority support open borders, and yet they determine EU policy, not the majority. Yet they, not the majority, determine EU policy. No wonder democracy is in crisis.
Another relevant example is the media, which is populated by a small but vociferous group of intolerant leftists who dominate the airwaves, to the virtual exclusion of any dissenting voices -who actually represent the majority.
In one rare example, we had an opportunity to witness this live during the funeral of Lady Margaret Thatcher. While uniformly denounced by a dismissive press, she was strongly supported by the majority. Hundreds of thousands of people came out to say farewell to their hero, who had saved them from socialism.
A few dozen leftist protesters came to make a fuss. Spontaneously, the audience started applauding her to drown out the intolerant minority. The applause spread throughout the crowd and lasted through the whole procession as her coffin passed by them. Ironically, the media remained virtually silent on this expression of approval for Thatcher.
However, this was an exception to the rule. In Europe today, the silent majority is agonising over the fact that their liberties and ultimately their homelands are being stripped away from them one inch at a time.
Fortunately, some groups give a voice to the tolerant majority against intolerance. The internet has enabled alternative voices to counteract the narrative of the leftist media, and on the ground, activist groups are forming to counter intolerance. One of these groups is Generation Identity who which is working to stop mass migration to Europe. The group rose to fame last summer in an unusual bit of maritime activism off the coast of Libya, aimed at stopping human traffickers.
The example of Generation Identity is a lesson that the defenders of the majority do not need to be many. One wolf can terrorise a large flock of sheep, but it only takes one sheepdog to protect them from the wolf. It does not take much to halt and reverse the tyranny of the intolerant minority. Another, more democratically-aligned, clear-sighted and highly motivated minority might very well succeed.
You can read more about Generation Identity on our website.