Red Guards are alive and well, no longer confined to Chinese history

Yonden Lhatoo sees very little difference between the mob hysteria of the Cultural Revolution and the growing intolerance for unorthodox thinking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 7:15pm

Just for the record, I’m a believer in the need to address the threat of climate change and I’m convinced US President Donald Trump was wrong to pull out of the Paris accord.

With that out of the way, let me share a story about what’s happening to free speech and intellectual discourse over issues such as climate change here in Hong Kong and all over the world these days.

Last week, the Post published on its website an opinion piece from the Tribune News Service that dared to suggest Trump was smart to withdraw because it was a bad deal for America.

This one little article appeared to trigger mass hysteria among readers who smelled a conspiracy to undermine the good fight to save the planet and saw a lowering of editorial standards at this newspaper, never mind the scores of other stories it has run sticking to the mainstream narrative that climate change is real and anyone who denies it is the spawn of Satan and must be burned at the stake.

The concept of political correctness is becoming so skewed, and adherence to it so militant, that it’s all messed up

It seems there can be no debate, let alone dialectic, with so-called liberals these days if you dare to go against the ideological orthodoxy that dictates their brand of thought and conduct. Somewhere down the line, questioning the impact of man-made climate change has become as sacrilegious as denying the Holocaust, and any dissident is instantly stigmatised as a “climate change denier”. Like it’s a crime.

On a broader scale, around the world and the West in particular, the concept of political correctness is becoming so skewed, and adherence to it so militant, that it’s all messed up. And the saddest part is how it’s taken over university campuses, once the bastions of free speech and thought, and now the breeding grounds for lynch mobs.

Take the case of biology professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, who outraged social justice warriors in March by questioning a campus event driven by political correctness, where white students were encouraged to stay away for a day.

Weinstein, who has a history of fighting racism, was instantly branded a bigot, confronted by an unhinged mob and reduced to teaching his class in a public park – because campus police could not guarantee his safety.

His story is similar to that of Nicholas Christakis, an official from Silliman College at Yale, who was surrounded and verbally abused by a rabid mob of students for suggesting that those who were upset by Halloween costumes deemed offensive should either look away or talk to the offenders.

Watch: Yale students confront administrator over Halloween costumes comment

Or the case of Northern Arizona University president Rita Cheng. Students began baying for her blood in March when she spoke against the concept of “campus safe spaces” – you know, where Generation Snowflake students go to seek shelter from ideas they can’t handle, poor things.

The mass hysteria, the lynch mob mentality, the extreme intolerance ... the parallels are all there

That same month, professor Allison Stanger at Middlebury College in Vermont was injured when a militant mob of students attacked her as she was escorting a conservative guest speaker off campus.

The list goes on and on, but I don’t have the space for it.

The notorious Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s are alive and well, it seems, and no longer confined to an awful period of Chinese history.

The mass hysteria, the lynch mob mentality, the extreme intolerance, the absolute refusal to entertain someone else’s point of view – the parallels are all there.

As for the murderous aspects of Red Guard history, we haven’t reached that stage yet, but don’t discount it.

The world is going crazy. Donald Trump is president of the United States. All bets are off.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post