Sunday 8 July saw 2018’s first instalment of the Oxford Royale Academy Great Debate, which brought students together from ORA’s campuses at St Catherine’s College, the Queen’s College, and Balliol College, Oxford for a debate at the historic Sheldonian Theatre.
The motion: “This House believes that government action to ban “fake news”, such as legislation considered in France, the UK or India, is an even bigger threat to democracy than “fake news” itself”.
The debate was chaired by Professor Karthik Ramanna of Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, a world-renowned academic and published author who delivered an insightful opening statement, outlining the key elements of the debate and areas to be considered. Many thanks go to him for this fascinating contribution which set the tone for the participants.
After this introduction, the teams began their opening statements. Presenting the opening statements in favour of the motion were Jadon Routley and Raphael Bealieu who are both studying with ORA at St Catherine’s College, while the statements against the motion were delivered by Matthew Foster (Balliol campus) and Daniella Thonemann (Queen’s campus).
Once the opening statements had been presented, it was time for the rebuttals! Often the hardest and fieriest part of a debate, this involves the contestants thinking on their feet and countering arguments they have heard so far. Rebutting in favour of the motion were Ioana Pitic and Natasha Farrington (both studying at St Catherine’s College), while rebutting against were Megha Sheth (Queen’s) and Carina Ye (Balliol).
The debate saw some tough topics broached, including those of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the power of social media, and where – if any – boundaries should be drawn by legislation. Participants touched upon the rise of extreme political movements and how ‘fake news’ has influenced their success, with particular discussion focusing on the recent US elections, as well as on the recent predicaments of Facebook and its role in propagating fake news.
Congratulations to all involved for their excellent contributions, and particularly to Matthew, Daniella, Mega and Carina, whose victory was marked by the loudest cheers in the Sheldonian Theatre when the audience was asked to vote.
The Sheldonian Theatre is one of the key features of Oxford’s landscape – a Grade I listed building that serves as the official ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford. Student graduation ceremonies take place in the theatre, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, as well as a number of other functions required by the University of Oxford. This historic location serves as a superb setting for the ORA Great Debate, providing students with the chance to speak to a large audience in an awe-inspiring atmosphere, and much credit must be given to all those who took part.