Last night the Princess Alexandra Hall was heaving with members and guests as they eagerly awaited the next instalment of the Evelyn Wrench Lecture Series, focusing on the Post-Truth presidency of Donald Trump. 

Our panel, moderated by our very own Michael McKay, included Sir Peter Westmacott GCMG LVO, who was the British Ambassador to the United States from January 2012 until he retired in January 2016; Dr Jacob Parakilas, Deputy Head of the US and the Americas Programme; and Dr Jack Caravelli who was a Senior Career Officer in federal service prior to his 2006 retirement.

With such a variety of backgrounds, the panellists offered very different and unique perspectives on Trump’s presidency. Opening the debate, Dr Caravelli remarked on how the US population had elected Trump to do a job, but it is a job he ultimately is proving he cannot do. He cynically pointed out his damaging impact both domestically and internationally, and in particular highlighted the consequences of the involvement of Russia in the election.

Dr Parakilas continued with similar sentiments, discussing Trump’s continuing accusations against the press of fake news. He made a very important observation that fake news is not a necessarily new phenomenon, as technically it has been around for a long time. One such example is the world is flat: this is undeniably a fake fact. What is new with Trump’s declaration of fake news is that Trump uses the term to discredit news stories he himself dislikes. This has a damaging impact on media outlets and causes further divides between the left and right.

Sir Peter Westmacott furthered Parakilas’ point by exclaiming “can we stop laughing at Trump? His words, from his tweets to slagging off Mexico and Korea, have real consequences. Not just for the USA but for the world.” He continued by further clarifying that whilst we are all entitled to our own opinions, and if Trump disagrees with certain news stories it is natural, we are not allowed our own version of facts, especially if we are the supposed leader of the free world.

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After these opening remarks from the panellists, the debate was opened to the floor, which took the conversation from Trump as a threat against democracy, to foreign relations with Saudi Arabia, the prominence of social media in elections and the world’s opinion on America now.

It was a wonderful and thought provoking event which left many members of the audience with a variety of thoughts and further research projects. On behalf of the Royal Over-Seas League once again, a warm thank you to our panellists and those of you who participated.

Click here to find more details on the next Evelyn Wrench Lecture.

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