We need to toughen up and have more arguments

It’s such a shame we’ve forgotten the art of civil debate, writes Rupert Hawksley, because proper arguments can be so invigorating

Monday 22 November 2021 00:00
<p>No, not listening: social media has contributed to the decline of debate </p>

No, not listening: social media has contributed to the decline of debate

In the not too distant past, you might remember, we used to do this thing called arguing. It was healthy: sometimes bruising, but often quite productive.

At some point, though, we seem to have forgotten how to argue, preferring instead to flatly deny the validity of someone else’s opinion. Fingers in ears. Much safer that way: if you’re definitely, unambiguously wrong, so the logic goes, then I must be definitely, unambiguously right. The reasons for this are no doubt complex, but social media – its insistence that every statement be reduced to a soundbite – is clearly one part of the problem. It’s such a shame, because proper, reasoned debate can be so invigorating.

I was thinking about this over the weekend because of two pieces we published in the Voices section of The Independent, a few weeks apart, which put forward opposite arguments. One piece called for the Labour Party to move away from the far left; the other for the Labour Party to wash its hands of centrism and be more radical. Both were eloquently written and robust – and I’m still not sure which writer I agree with. Quite possibly neither. But the experience of contemplating both points of view has been infinitely more rewarding than bickering on Twitter (something I still, pathetically, find hard to resist).

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in