Letter of the week: Presence of ideologues threatens reasoned debate

Forum writer Chin Hui Wen attributes my (and perhaps others') perception of intolerance of pro-establishment views as a misunderstanding of the more abrasive tone adopted in online discourse nowadays (Don't judge arguments based on tone, July 17). Unfortunately, I do not think this is a matter of tone.

I am in complete agreement with Ms Chin that in the free marketplace of ideas, different people convey their ideas with different degrees of forcefulness. To the extent that the tone adopted is not indicative of bad faith, I agree that we should focus on the arguments put forth and not be hung up on the tone adopted.

However, the phenomenon I was commenting on is not a matter of tone (Alarmed by intolerance of opposing viewpoints, July 14).

To discredit an argument in a meritorious, even if abrasive, manner is acceptable and even laudable.

But what I have observed is that points (mostly voicing pro-establishment views) are dismissed not on the basis of any lack of merit, but because the person espousing those views are labelled, among other things, "bigots" or "boomers". On this basis, whole arguments are derided on the basis of the person making them.

Such sweeping judgments and censorious behaviour are indicative of the presence of ideologues among us.

This is dangerous for society.

In such a situation, ideology stands in place of true knowledge.

And the know-it-all approach characteristic of ideologues not only drowns out attempts at reasoned debate on both sides of the political spectrum, but also chills any desire to express views contrary to those held by such ideologues.

Debates on the merits of opposing viewpoints are what we should strive towards. This can be seen, for example, in Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim's recent Facebook post explaining why a minimum wage model should be adopted in place of, or in addition to, the progressive wage model.

Pointing out the flaws and inadequacies of a certain policy and making reasoned proposals should be the way forward. The running to one's ideological camp when faced with opposing viewpoints, only to launch ad hominem attacks, needs to end.

Brent Lim Zi Jian

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