Alarmed by intolerance of opposing viewpoints

Election campaign posters for the PAP and WP as seen along Sengkang East Way on July 6, 2020.
Election campaign posters for the PAP and WP as seen along Sengkang East Way on July 6, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

In explaining the 8.7 percentage point drop in the People's Action Party's (PAP) overall vote share in last Friday's general election, former PAP MP Hong Hai, a Nanyang Technological University adjunct professor, said that Generation Z voters want a greater contest of ideas (A watershed election and new normal?, July 12).

But while Gen Z voters may claim to want that contest of ideas, the way many of them behaved during the election period did not really support that claim.

Simply look to social media, where it is common to see the youth express what can be described only as contemptuous outrage when faced with a post voicing pro-establishment views.

Outrage at a post's content is one thing, and perhaps understandable given ideological differences.

However, a large portion of this rage is directed towards the person who posted the pro-establishment views. It is an approach that demonises those that hold opposing viewpoints, and is entirely contrary to the desire for a greater contest of ideas.

This style of politics, characterised by a complete rejection of any opposing views and placing labels such as "bigot" or "boomer" on those who hold such views, seems inspired by far-left liberal values in the United States. This approach, unfortunately, seems to be in vogue in many parts of the world today.

All of us, especially the young, should take a page from the book of the academics, artists and writers, including authors Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, who signed an open letter warning that free speech is under threat due to an "intolerance of opposing views" (J.K. Rowling signs letter warning over free speech, July 10).

Brent Lim Zi Jian

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2020, with the headline 'Alarmed by intolerance of opposing viewpoints'. Subscribe