There was hardly a spare seat in the house as the first Althing of 2017 kicked off in Staney Hill Hall last night with the motion “Trump – we got what we deserved”
After a fiery and often humorous evening, the motion was carried with 23 voting in favour, 11 against and eight undecided.
Speaking for the motion was well-known writer and former teacher Donald Murray along with Thor Holt.
Mr Holt, an Althing debutant, had travelled up especially from Deeside to take part. Hailing from Papa Stour he runs a communications business and has also spent time working in America.
Speaking against was SIC councillor Jonathan Wills and Ryan Thomson, campaigner and owner of Tagon Stores in Voe.
An initial poll saw 15 people in favour, 18 against and 15 undecided.
“It’s all to play for tonight,” said chairwoman Karen Fraser.
Mr Murray gave the first speech of the evening, claiming, with a smile, he was some distant relation to Barack Obama.
Some of Obama’s relatives were Murrays, he said and he knew a number of Donald Trump’s cousins from the Western Isles who were good people.
“There are Scots and rats the whole world over and they’ve had their fill,” said Mr Murray, giving examples such as Jardine Matheson who sold opium to the Chinese, and Scottish slave owners.
It was the descendants of such Scottish slave owners that voted Trump, he said and “turned up their noses” to his cousin Barack.
Mr Murray went on to talk about the all-consuming internet, which he told the audience had been allowed to “take over our home”.
He spoke about the attraction of clickbait, suspect and dubious alternatives to mainstream media, and appealing to a sense of outrage.
The result, he said was that people rarely encounter any material on the internet that “challenges our preconceptions and our prejudices”.
“Our knowledge of the world becomes one great, vast echo chamber”.
Thoughts and opinions of others were seen as violations and intrusions, said Mr Murray, people began to occupy “bubbles” and “we start to imitate if not his [Trump’s] views then his mindset.”
“We ignore inconvenient truths that jar our vision of the world,” Mr Murray said.
“I’m as guilty of this as anybody else.” – admitting he did not for see Brexit or and never thought Trump would replace Obama.
People failed to take Trump seriously, he added, and “even more tragically” failed to treat the people who voted for him with sufficient seriousness.
Dr Wills was the first to speak against the motion, and questioned its meaning.
“Does the motion mean ‘we’ the people in this hall?” he asked, questioning how many present had a vote in the election.
“Nobody deserves Donald Trump, not even the poor, deluded folk who voted for him.”
Hillary Clinton had almost three million votes more than Trump, he said but the Electoral College system did not deliver “popular democracy”.
Americans, he said, urgently needed a constitutional amendment where the winner was the the one with the most votes.
“Millions of poor and middle class Americans voted in protest at what they were repeatedly told was a remote, spendthrift, uncaring federal government and congress, where their elected representatives and civil servants were routinely bought and sold for corporate gold,” he said, a message from much of the mass media and in particular the extreme right wing media.
Dr Wills said for decades the right in America had seen taxes as a punitive imposition on the public and a sort of “unnecessary evil”.
Meanwhile, real problems such as as high unemployment, low wages and expensive healthcare were blamed on the federal government.
Mr Holt, also spoke about the power of new media, in particular Breitbart and how the news outlet has helped Trump’s campaign.
He spoke about the feeling that older media had filtered the news and that “new, alternative media are blasting past” the “old gatekeepers”.
Mr Holt also spoke of “political dynasties” – there had been two Bush presidencies, and with the option of a second Clinton in power “is that the cream that America has?”.
Leaked DNC emails proved Bernie Sanders never got a look in, he said.
Three times as many Muslims voted for Trump last year as voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, Mr Holt argued.
People who voted for Trump “heard a guy who spoke his mind and sometimes speaking their mind in a way they didn’t feel allowed to anymore”.
Voters don’t like to be treated like children, Mr Holt said, told what to say, think or listen to.
Mr Thomson quipped when he first saw the motion “I thought this shouldn’t take long” as people didn’t even have a vote to cast.
Like Dr Wills he said Trump won because of the flaws in the American voting system.
He said both David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon had made their views known on Trump becoming president and “we did warn them” there was “little else we could’ve done”.
• More in Friday’s Shetland Times