Event Details

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.





Nicholas Lemann, dean and Henry R. Luce Professor, The Journalism School, Columbia University



George Lakoff, Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, UC Berkeley; senior fellow, Rockridge Institute

Frank Luntz, political pollster and consultant; author of Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear

Deborah Tannen, University Professor and professor of linguistics, Georgetown University; author of fourteen books on language, communication, and perception

Drew Westen, professor of psychology/psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University; author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

About George Lakoff

George Lakoff is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute, where he studies the framing of issues in politics. He is one of the world's best-known linguists and a founder of the field of cognitive science. He has published hundreds of articles and numerous books on linguistics, psychology, poetics, philosophy, and mathematics. Among his works on mind and language are Metaphors We Live By (with Mark Johnson); Moral Politics; Don't Think of an Elephant!; and Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea, and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute). His next book, The Political Mind is an introduction to recent scientific results about the brain and mind that have a bearing on politics. As a private citizen, he helps progressive citizens' groups, activists, and policy makers think through their values and principles, formulate policies, and frame issues to express their deepest beliefs more effectively.

About Nicholas Lemann

Nicholas Lemann is dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Lemann has published five books, most recently Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, which helped lead to a major reform of the SAT; and The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, which won several book prizes. He has written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and American Heritage; worked in documentary television with Blackside, Frontline, the Discovery Channel, and the BBC; and lectured at many universities. Lemann continues to write for The New Yorker and serves on the boards of directors of the Authors Guild, the Center for the Humanities at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and the Society of American Historians, and is a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities. He lives with his family in New York City.

About Frank Luntz

Frank Luntz has been called the "hottest pollster" in America by The Boston Globe, and was named one of four "top research minds" by Business Week. He was the winner of the coveted Washington Post "Crystal Ball" award for being the most accurate pundit in 1992. Luntz has written, supervised, and conducted more than 1,500 surveys, focus groups, and dial sessions in more than two dozen countries and four continents over the past decade, and is the pioneer of the "instant response" focus-group technique. He consults Fortune 100 companies ? from General Motors to Federal Express, Disney to American Express, AT&T to Pfizer, Kroger supermarkets to McDonald's and the entire soft-drink and motion-picture industries, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable on communication and language. He also served as a consultant to the award-winning NBC hit show The West Wing. He is the author of Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear.

About Deborah Tannen

Deborah Tannen is a University Professor and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. In addition to her fourteen academic books and more than a hundred articles, she has written six books for general audiences, including You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, which was on the New York Times best-seller list for nearly four years and has been translated into twenty-nine languages. The Argument Culture won the Common Ground Book Award. She has received fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She has been McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University and has received five honorary doctorates. She is a frequent guest on television and radio news and information shows. Her first play, An Act of Devotion, is included in Best American Short Plays 1993-1994.

About Drew Westen

Drew Westen is a clinical, personality, and political psychologist and a professor in the departments of psychology/psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University. As the founder of Westen Strategies, a consulting firm, he advises Democratic leaders and candidates. He holds a B.A. from Harvard, an M.A. in social and political thought from the University of Sussex (England), and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan. He has been chief psychologist at Cambridge Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He is a blogger for The Huffington Post and a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. His book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, explores how politicians can capture the hearts and minds of voters through examples of what candidates have said or could have said in debates, speeches, and ads. He lives in Atlanta.