November 7, 2007
On the 60th anniversary of Orwell's Politics and the English Language, George Orwell described political speech as consisting largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Some six decades later, many symptoms of manipulation and propaganda diagnosed by Orwell persist on the American political landscape, along with new disinformation techniques enabled by modern technology.
Historians, scientists, philosophers, linguists, cognitive experts, journalists, image-makers, and public figures will debate in three separate sessions the current state of political discourse?and journalism's response to it? on the dawn of a bitterly contested presidential campaign.
Part I Propaganda Then and Now: What Orwell Did and Didn't Know
Part II Deceiving Images: The Science of Manipulation
Part III Solutions: The Future Political Landscape
Each session will explore the past, present, and future of deceptive political speech, and assess what can be done to bring more realism and honesty into the conduct of America?s public affairs.
This event is co-sponsored by the Open Society Institute.
I. PROPAGANDA THEN AND NOW: WHAT ORWELL DID AND DIDN'T KNOW
Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director, Center on U.S.-China Relations, Asia Society; former dean, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Konstanty Gebert, Warsaw-based former Solidarity activist; columnist and international reporter, Gazeta Wyborcza
Masha Gessen, Moscow-based author and journalist; contributor to The New York Times, The New Republic, and US News and World Report
Jack Miles, senior fellow for religious affairs, Pacific Council on International Policy; distinguished professor of English and religious studies, UC Irvine
George Soros, chair of Soros Fund Management LLC; philanthropist and author
About Konstanty Gebert
Konstanty Gebert, a former dissident activist, is a columnist and international reporter for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and a frequent contributor to international media. He was the co-founder of the (unofficial) Jewish Flying University in 1979, and of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews in 1980. In September 1980, he co-founded a white-collar trade union that soon merged with Solidarity, the independent self-governing trade union that precipitated the downfall of Polish Communism. After avoiding internment in the 1981 coup, Gebert became, under the pen name of Dawid Warszawski, a well-known editor and columnist for various underground publications. The author of eight books, he has served as a visiting professor at a number of American universities. He lives in Warsaw.
About Masha Gessen
Masha Gessen is an author and a journalist living in Moscow. Her books about Russia are Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace and Dead Again: The Russian Intelligentsia After Communism. She has written for and worked at many publications in Russia and the United States, including The New Republic, The New York Times, US News and World Report, Bolshoy Gorod, Itogi, and The Moscow Times. She was born in Moscow, emigrated to the United States with her family in 1981, and returned to Moscow as a reporter in the early 1990s. In addition to Russia, she has reported from the Balkans.
About Jack Miles
Jack Miles is senior fellow for religious affairs of the Pacific Council on International Policy and Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies at the University of California, Irvine. A former MacArthur fellow, Miles won the Pulitzer Prize for God: A Biography, which has been translated into sixteen languages. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. Miles was a Jesuit seminarian, studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem before earning a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages from Harvard. He is fluent in several modern languages. He serves on the final selection committee of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. A former literary editor and member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board, he is currently general editor of the forthcoming Norton Anthology of World Religions.
About Orville Schell
Orville Schell is the former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and the recently appointed Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York City. He is the author of more than a dozen books, nine of them about China, and a frequent contributor to major newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Granta, Wired, Newsweek, Mother Jones, The China Quarterly, and The New York Review of Books. He has served as a television commentator for several network news programs, worked both as correspondent and a consultant for PBS Frontline documentaries, and been the correspondent for an Emmy Award-winning 60 Minutes segment. He divides his time between Berkeley and New York City.
About George Soros
George Soros is chair of Soros Fund Management LLC. Born in Budapest, he survived the Nazi occupation and fled Communist Hungary in 1947 for England, where he graduated from the London School of Economics. He then settled in the United States, where he accumulated a large fortune through an international investment fund he founded and managed. An active philanthropist since 1979, when he began providing funds to help black students attend Cape Town University in apartheid South Africa, Soros has established a network of philanthropic organizations in more than fifty countries. These organizations are dedicated to promoting the values of democracy and an open society. The foundation network spends about $450 million annually. Soros is the author of nine books, including most recently The Age of Fallibility. His articles and essays on politics, society, and economics regularly appear in major newspapers and magazines around the world. He lives in New York City.