Actions and Detail Panel
Public debate on the Oscars boycott
Wed 17 February 2016, 19:30 – 21:30 GMT
Debating London invites you to a public debate on the Oscars boycott - FREE ADMISSION
The motion reads:
'Celebrities concerned about racism in the film industry are right to boycott the Oscars'
The 2016 Oscars have been more the subject of debates on the diversity of the award givers than the talent of the award winners. This is in large part due to the decision of several of Hollywood's biggest names, including Spike Lee, Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, and Mark Ruffalo, to boycott this year's ceremony due to the omission of any black or ethnic minority actors from the list of award nominees - for the second year running.
We have asked a selection of our members to play the role of advocates for each side of this debate and help the rest of us work out where we stand. Specifically, we want them to address the question of when is it right to take drastic action to achieve social change? You won't know where they really stand until after the debate and some of them may even end up changing their own minds by the time we vote on it.
Ever since Jada Pinkett-Smith announced her intention to stay away from the 88th Academy Awards, a heated debate has ensued about whether the Academy - a vast group of 'experts' from across the industry - is institutionally racist, or simply being punished for upsetting the actors who didn't make the final cut. It has even spurred the Academy's first female, African-American President to propose a series of sweeping reforms designed to make the panel of judges more representative of wider society.
This has raised a broader question that we hope to answer in our debate. When is it appropriate to take action as dramatic as a high profile boycott that forces people to take sides? Much has been written of the pressure Chris Rock has come under, for example, to withdraw from hosting the awards ceremony, not to mention a plethora of ethnic minority actors who share the protesters' pain, but not their remedy.
Will the harm done to the reputation of the Academy and the relationships between actors and industry professionals on different sides of the debate be worth it if the result is a new commitment to equality and diversity in Hollywood - and what should such a committment even be?
Debating London is a platform for members of the public to learn how to debate, so the speakers in each public debate are volunteers from our structured training programme, the Great Debaters Club. As they are learning how to examine questions from mulitple perspectives, we tell them in advance which side of the debate they will be taking - whether they genuinely agree with the position they are defending or not.
The panel will be made up of between 4 and 6 speakers, depending on how many volunteers we get. They will be divided into two teams, one to argue in favour of the proposal being debated and the other to argue against. Each speaker is given up to five minutes to open their case after which they spend the next hour answering questions from the audience. One speaker from each side is then given a further five minutes to close their case before the debate is ended by an audience vote.
Public debates are all about engaging and persuading the audience, who we expect to play a central role. Because we care more about how many people changed their mind than who won or who lost, we call a vote both before the debate and at the end of it so we can measure the impact of the speakers. During the hour long Q&A, audience members are invited to ask a direct question or simply make a comment on the debate. All questions are answered individually by the speakers. The only time we don't allow this is if we only have a few minutes left and lots of people still want to ask a question.
Keep it civil - disagreement doesn't need to be disagreeable. If you have an issue with someone's else's viewpoint, talk about the argument not the person. We are very proud of how civil and inclusive our debates are and we want to keep it that way. Also, it's just heated rhetoric, not a logical argument that anyone can independently examine, and that really irks us.
Please be brief - we don't impose time limits on audience contributions during the Q&A, but we do ask that you think carefully about the point you want to make and do so briefly, rather than thinking aloud with no end in sight. We also ask that you do not interrupt the speaker when they are responding to you or follow up with more questions after they have finished.
Respect the speakers' privacy - the reason our members volunteer to speak in a debate is to test their ability to think differently, speak publically, and withstand criticism. Part of this is being willing to defend a position they don't necessarily hold in front of a live audience who often feel strongly on the subject. We therefore ask that you do not video them or attribute arguments made during the debate to them in public or on social media without their explicit consent.
No heckling - stepping up to speak in public and submit yourself to the judgment of your peers takes a lot of courage no matter how experienced you are. Please respect this by waiting to be called on by the debate Chair before sharing your views with the room. We do want to hear from you, but only if you show the same courtesy to others that you would in turn expect from them.
If you break ANY of these rules - you will receive ONE polite reminder of the rule followed by ONE final warning. After that we reserve the right to take action to prevent further disruption, which includes ejecting you from the debate and/or refusing you entry to all or any future debates.
Admission is free and open to everyone and you do not need to show your ticket when you arrive. The only reason we ask you to book your place online is to get an idea of how many people to expect to make sure we do not exceed the capacity of the venue (which is about 100).
Other than that, grab yourself a seat and drink and enjoy the debate!