A good, old-fashioned debate, run by a highly regarded college debating society, and designed to legitimately help those people who are confused about how they will vote in the referendum? Oh no, that would never do in a modern Irish university. Instead the Society has decided that there will need to be 6 speakers on the pro-abortion side versus 3 on the pro-life side. Apparently, this is the new, improved version of balance we’ve been hearing so much about now that the BAI has decided that requiring a programme to split airtime 50/50 between different sides of the referendum was just too much to expect. As UCC Philosophical Society themselves state 'As UCC is a pro-choice campus, there was no obligation for us to invite members of the pro-life side of the issue to engage and provide a balance to this discussion', and 'There seems to be a misconception that equal representation equals fair representation".
Which, we suppose, means that the arguments of the pro-life side are so strong that every single pro-life speaker requires, according to the UCD Philosophical Society, 2 pro-abortion speakers just to make it fair. Pro-life speakers withdrew from the event, pointing out that the Society hadn't mentioned that the speakers would be 2/1 stacked against the pro-life, with one stating ‘your previous emails were written with the strong suggestion that it would be a 50-50 debate, so I was misled’.
The Society was kind enough to let people know that they could have simply have run a purely pro-choice slate, and they had no obligation to do so as ‘UCC is a pro-choice campus’, a statement which pro-life UCC students, of which there are likely many, should find perhaps a little presumptuous, and to which the simple answer is, ‘You haven’t provided balance, you’re provided a semblance of balance whilst stacking the deck heavily against the pro-life. You’ve done the bare minimum to push the idea the event is a debate or a discussion, and so bring in students who may be unsure about the 8th, whilst also acting to ensure that those students are likely to only be given a very particular answer’. This is not a debate or a discussion, it’s a lure into a trap for students who actually think the event will be a fair display of the arguments of each side and want to learn more about how to vote.The Society talk of the need to avoid ‘false balance’ and somehow manage to do so without mentioning that less than 50% of the population, according to the latest Sunday Times poll, actually support repealing the 8th, and that there has been no recent, comprehensive survey of the views of doctors and medical professionals within Ireland with regards abortion,. And so we’d like to introduce the Society to another phrase - motivated reasoning. It refers to the tendency of people to contort information and facts into a shape that gives the answer they wanted it to give. Or, to put it into an example even the members of the Society can understand, it describes a situation in which a debating society, which presumably knows how debates and discussions work, decide it is ok to rework how that system works in order to increase the odds of one side winning the debate, and then tells you it’s only fair for them to do so, in fact it's for your own good.Personally, we’re looking forward to seeing the Society apply this new, dynamic, some would say 'courageous', standard to every single event they put on for the rest of the year. Because if they don’t, and we suspect they won’t, they will have rather made liars of themselves, won’t they?
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