Forum: The formula for fruitful discourse

Constructive discourse is based on content and presentation, substance and style giving perspective and force to one's stand.

Tone and volume are, of course, important factors in the consideration of where someone is coming from (Don't judge arguments based on tone, by Ms Chin Hui Wen, July 17).

Non-face-to-face debates are difficult to moderate, with opposite parties not constrained by the civility of in-person meetings.

Freed from the inhibitions, the online equivalent of desk-thumping quickly erupts once the discourse strays from logic and facts, which can take the form of personal name-calling and insults.

Lack of mutual respect and needed introspection allows online forums to degenerate into squabbles where the winners are often the most aggressive, insensitive or vulgar.

This is the very reason many newspapers have removed online discussions from their platforms.

The Workers' Party leadership has been extremely successful in making inroads into Parliament by rising above petty politicking and winning the electorate over with succinct arguments persuasively presented, forcefully and amiably, as exemplified by Associate Professor Jamus Lim in the televised debate, where he countered Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan's formidable foils with congenial but incisive counter-thrusts of his own.

Those who follow Singapore politics and wish to have fruitful discourse should proceed in a similar fashion. The conclusions drawn this way are far more satisfactory for all.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

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