“This House Would do Whatever Necessary…”

This House would do whatever necessary for an individual’s political advancement. That much was clear from last night’s debate, which can only be described as suboptimal and disappointing on the eve of Union elections. All three presidential candidates spoke in response to the ambiguous motion, but seemed to treat it as an extension of their overrun hustings. The Chamber was less than half full and one of the Guest Speakers was absent. Most of those in attendance were stressed committee members or the Press. As the Press, we have therefore adapted this week’s non-motion for the purpose of our column! Not only will we report on the loosely-debated topic of protest, but we will also explain why we do whatever necessary for the sake of reporting…

Comments by Freya Jones

In recent months, protest movements have stopped traffic, disrupted flights and caused a gradual shift in our attitude towards global issues. While protesting alone will not reverse climate change or end racism, disruptive demonstrations do play an important role, altering public conscience and building environments where we can create and demand change. In my opinion, the right to protest must be protected at all costs. However, the ambiguity of This House’s motion left me floundering beyond this point, and I gained little more from the preoccupied speakers… 

This led me to think about the role of the Press in general. In a democratic society, journalists provide the public with unbiased news and documented opinions, communicating information which helps people to make decisions about their daily lives. It is essential that facts are reliable and that opinions are well-justified, so as not to reflect inaccurately on the subject in question. Indeed, this is why I feel unable to give a glowing report of the Union’s necessary Week 7 debate. And, because of their integral function, I believe it’s completely right that reporters have freedom to travel, request comment and investigate tips. When a point of public interest arises – like how government ministers break their own regulations or (on an Oxford scale) how several Union members commented that a debate was well below par – there must be someone to verify and expose it.

The press is powerful. All too recently, we’ve seen how it can be weaponised to dictate the character of a nation through lies and propaganda. This is the same strength which, in a democracy, must continue to be used as a force of truth, in the name of free information and freedom of speech.

Comments by Nidhi Bhaskar

In line with a very abstract debate topic and set of debate speeches, the argument against “doing whatever necessary” can mean a wide variety of things depending on the audience. Within the realm of protest culture, “doing whatever necessary” to effect change may represent anything from persistently maintaining a presence among protestors to actively participating in the destruction of property.  Here, one could argue that the sacrifice of public safety towards an end represents the dangers of “doing whatever is necessary”. The limitations of the use of violent protest are that the intensity of violence can scare away allies and conflate public opinion on potential referendums and amendments to be passed. While peaceful protests, on the other hand, are sensationalised to a lesser degree, they uphold the ability of individuals to have discourse about topics not marred by looming violence.

Journalism is a different story. The need for transparency is critical to the field and writers and reporters are beholden to “doing whatever is necessary” to better prioritise news. However, an argument can also be made that “doing whatever necessary” to get coverage, such as that of war, can be potentially traumatic or place journalists in harm’s way. Furthermore,  when accounts are marred by the associated difficulties of “doing whatever necessary” within the reporting world, it is possible to extrapolate them and place the publication or piece in a more precarious position.

Overall,  while doing whatever is necessary may be a great abstract and noble goal at face value, much like the Union debate, speaking in abstracts does little for tangible improvements. Although this sentiment may be well-intentioned, there must be limits to what is truly important for positive discourse and communication.

Summary of Union Speakers – Proposition

Ahmad Nawaz

Ahmad Nawaz argued that acts which are truly necessary would be done without question. He also spoke in the abstract about the need for global change. How #Empowering. He would doubtless like your vote today.

Anjali Ramanathan

Anjali Ramanathan’s argument contained the fewest notable election hacks. She spoke in favour of non-violent yet disruptive protest as a means of instigating change, advocating damage to property as a reasonable middle-ground. Hoping to #Spark enthusiasm for today, she encouraged the Union to vote responsibly.

Ben Smoke

Activist Ben Smoke argued that protestors should raise the bar higher in order to threaten governments more effectively. Unfortunately there were few Members present to hear his point.

Matt Barrett

Matt Barrett said that he’d been asked to speak for the opposition, before being shifted to the proposition side. It’s no wonder that his views were (also) rather abstract, and he made lengthy allusions to Union elections before arguing that extremism may be justified when all else fails.

Summary of Union Speakers – Opposition

Rachel Ojo

Rachel Ojo argued that we must not fight violence with violence and made an #Uplifting reference to Nelson Mandela, before continuing in the abstract. Like her fellow candidates, she appeared preoccupied with the elections and would probably like to count on your first preference today.

Helen King

Helen King spoke about her career in the police force, arguing that protestors’ anger doesn’t make them right. She believes that those in power should be supported to implement change, rather than rebelled against.

Rayhan Asat

Rayhan Asat spoke about her brother’s detention in a Chinese concentration camp and the condemnable violence towards Uyghur Muslims. She passed on her brother’s message of unconditional kindness and urged the audience to vote against the motion, as China justified her brother’s incarceration on the grounds of “whatever necessary”.

Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell argued that ends should never justify means. He believes that the mentality of “whatever necessary” should be avoided, as it has been the rationale of many tyrants in history.

To conclude, I can only imagine that all three presidential candidates featured in last night’s lineup because they are truly experts at doing whatever necessary. And judging by the number of aspiring seccies in my inbox, the same could be said for the whole House. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love reporting on Union debates, and look forward to sharing the discourse from next week’s International Women’s event. In future, however, it would be nice if the Week 7 debate could be handled with the usual standard of professionalism – this, unlike hacks, may be more likely to send Members to the polls on a high.