The danger of young people’s intolerance of intolerance

I just came across a fascinating piece by a Professor of political science in the U.S. on the distinct signs of political intolerance in today’s young people. Many people may find this surprising or even shocking because I think there is a natural tendency to assume that younger generations are generally more peace-loving and open-minded than their parents and grandparents when it comes to how we should treat those we dislike/disagree with.

In her piece, Professor April Kelly-Woessner argues that “young people are less politically tolerant than their parents’ generation…this marks a clear reversal of the trends observed by social scientists for the past 60 years.” And that “for older generations, support for social justice does not require a rejection of free speech” (e.g. the kinds of censorship that’s happening on university campuses, not just in the states but also in the UK).

She concludes that: “[intolerance of] intolerance is being reclassified as a social good. For six decades, social scientists have almost universally treated intolerance as a negative social disease.  Yet, now that liberties are surrendered for equality rather than security, the Left seems less concerned about the harmful effects of intolerance.”

She makes the profound point that “political tolerance is not a measure of liking someone, but the willingness to extend political freedoms to those one dislikes.”

The signs that many young people today see little value in political tolerance are there for all to see. University campuses, the place where the political convictions and tolerance levels of many a young mind are forged, are fast (and purposely) becoming censored safe places where only people who agree with each other may speak.

Only recently, a mob of young people believing themselves to be activists for social progress physically attacked an eccentric cafe in London – terrifying customers inside – because to them it (and its owners) represented ‘gentrification’, which is social change that they refuse to tolerate.

Perhaps it’s not as bad as it seems, but I fear today’s students, smitten with the irrational ideology of modern liberalism, along with highly motivated millennials lacking the ability to think coherently, are in danger of creating exactly the kind of society they want. However, by the time they realise that their imagined liberal utopia turned out to be a very real totalitarian State with a human face, it will be too late.

Millennials need to step back from the precipice, for below is a very dark place indeed. That place is, as Professor Woessner put it, “an environment that values anger and orthodoxy over inquiry and debate.” Or as I put it: a world that values force over reason.

It took thousands of years for humanity to escape this world. But with a willing majority and a willing State bolstered with modern technology, it could easily take mere decades to walk back into the cage and set human progress back a mighty long way.

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