My Take

Rational debate overtaken by use of the ‘F’ word

These days, in public forums and the legislative chamber, arguing means swearing and shouting louder than your opponent

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 3:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 3:23am

Many big-character posters from the Cultural Revolution era might be vile and vicious, but usually a good deal of thought had gone into sending those messages of denunciation and character assassination.

Judging by some of its current posts, the same cannot be said about the big-character wall on the campus of the University of Hong Kong. It has been dominated by messages that say, and I quote: “Li Kwok-cheung, f*** your mother.”

The only thing you can surmise from the message is that some students are angry at Professor Arthur Li, the chairman of the university council. Beyond that, it’s not clear what they are angry about and why; or what Li has done that has provoked their anger or whether it’s just his being council chairman at all.

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People of my generation like to think university students are budding intellectuals. This, at the very least, means being able to state an argument clearly, and express and articulate your emotions. Otherwise, why bother with higher education and waste taxpayer’s money? You can just spend the rest of your life saying f*** this and f*** that without having to articulate an idea and defend it rationally.

I am not saying those students who post swear words can’t articulate and state a rational argument. In fact, I am pretty sure they could if they wanted to. But in today’s political climate, they are not obligated to and certainly feel no shame in not doing it.

HKU’s student union is supposed to police what is being posted on the big-character message wall. But it has done nothing, thinking that taking down those messages would amount to censorship. I suppose that’s HKU student leaders’ understanding of freedom of speech. An academic staff association chairman said they might be inappropriate but very understandable, linking the messages to the arrest of Billy Fung Jing-en, the former HKU student union head, over his alleged role in the siege of a council meeting in January chaired by Li.

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Such encouragement and understanding from peers and professors alike!

These days, in public forums and the legislative chamber, arguing means swearing and shouting louder than your opponent. Debate and deliberation are passe.

Why waste time arguing when you can just swear?