The College Historical Society held its annual R’n’L debate on the controversial topic of political violence or terrorism on Wednesday April 4th. Organised exclusively by the Records and Libraries sub-committee, the debate was a roaring success. This Junior Freshman-run debate was quite an interesting departure from the normal discussions that take place in the chamber during the year.
The vibrant and varied discussion of political violence during the debate was a fantastic reflection on the R’n’L. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” commented Hist Auditor James O’Brien. “The energy and enthusiasm shown by the first-years is just amazing.”
The motion – “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” meant that the speakers didn’t address the House in the usual adversarial manner.
The debate quickly became an invitation for speakers to advance from the motion and tackle more broad and varied concepts. Ideas about the pejorative use of the word “terrorist”, subjective Western value judgements and the need to come up with objective criteria by which to define a terrorist were discussed. The debate also challenged the audience to question the violent foundation of western democracies and further used varied and unique analogies comparing terrorism to beating someone to death in a night-club, or pondering if the photogenic nature of the victims is what makes us feel so disgusted at the concept. Is killing killing or is terrorism something beyond that?
The highlight of the night was former body double for Uday Hussein, Dr Latif Yahia, asserting that the so-called Democratic Nations didn’t have the principles they so strongly advocated. Dr Yahia alleged widespread corruption, hypocrisy and abuse within the West and challenged us to revise our views of “terrorists” as depicted through our news services. “Two things make the Terrorist,” he warned the audience: “The politician … and the media.” At the time of printing, Dr Yahia’s speech has been downloaded over 2500 times from the Hist’s website, thehist.com.
Students themselves grappled on whether it was possible to justify terrorism, or if they were simply “psychopaths” or “impressionable idiots”. One student speaker assured the crowd that “terrorism is not only justifiable, but it’s also effective”. Everyone had a different view and there were no two speeches alike on either side throughout the debate.
The debate was a melting pot of different ideas – with speakers disagreeing on what a terrorist was. There was even some discussion as to whether one of the guests, Deirdre Clancy, was a terrorist herself after her disabling of a military jet at Shannon in 2003. Or, as Village columnist Harry Browne suggested, was she a freedom fighter?
The massive variety in the guests and speeches make this debate the best R’n’L debate in a long time.
- Dr. Latif Yahia
- 2nd Proposition. Global human rights activist and former body double for Uday Hussein, author of “The Black Hole“, “I was Saddam’s Son” and “The Devil’s Double“, PhD in International Law