Category Archives: Current Events

Post-Truth & the Culture of Dissent in the World’s Largest Democracies

By Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
-George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl, upon announcing that “post-truth” has been chosen as the word of the year, predicted: “I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.” Since the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s nomination and eventual victory, the term “post-truth” has gained major currency. Grathwohl identifies this upsurge in “the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust for facts offered up by the establishment.” Continue reading

Getting Schooled: Bluto vs. Tracy Flick

By Liesl Schillinger

On Friday, January 6th, eight weeks after our disastrous national election, Congress will meet for the official tally of electoral votes, and Vice President Biden will announce Donald Trump as our President-elect. At this moment, unthinkable a year ago, it’s consoling, if in a bleak and bootless way, to reflect that Hillary Clinton, the most qualified and experienced candidate for the Presidency this country has ever seen, actually did win the race. That is; she won the popular vote by some 2.9 million votes, perhaps more.
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Senator Feinstein and Judge Koh

By Carl Tobias

On December 10, the Senate recessed without conducting a final vote on United States District Judge Lucy Haeran Koh. This means that her February Ninth Circuit nomination will expire when the 115th Congress assembles on January 3. The upper chamber failed to provide Judge Koh’s ballot, even though she is an experienced, mainstream jurist, who enjoys the powerful support of California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, won bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee approval in September and has languished on the floor ever since. Continue reading

Word of the Year: Surreal

By Jonathan P. Eburne

Each year, the editors of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary select a “word of the year” based on the frequency with which users search for it on their website. They recently announced the 2016 word of the year to be “surreal,” which narrowly beat out “fascism.” The winning term — especially considered alongside its runner-up — seems a fitting descriptor for a year so full of unsettling geopolitical, cultural, and environmental surprises. So we are told, at least. Since 9/11 the popular use of the word “surreal” has become a shorthand way to describe events that overwhelm our very sense of the real. Surreal, in this sense, is the new sublime. A fashion trend in language, perhaps — no less than the emojis and vapes and selfies and hashtags that exploded into common US English in years prior to 2016. Even so, it seems more than a little discomfiting that a word used to describe events “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” has become so familiar. Continue reading

What He Believed: Revisiting E.M. Forster’s Defense of Liberalism

By Rhian Sasseen

“I do not believe in Belief.” So goes the first sentence of E.M. Forster’s 1939 essay “What I Believe,” written against a backdrop of ever-increasing global fears. “I have, however, to live in an Age of Faith,” he later goes on to say, “the sort of epoch I used to hear praised when I was a boy. It is extremely unpleasant really. It is bloody in every sense of the word. And I have to keep my end up in it. Where do I start?” Continue reading

Journalism Without Authority: What Have We Lost?

By Steven L. Isenberg

Journalism was once cloaked in a mantle of authority, offering trustworthy information and avoiding slant. Careful reportage and vigilant editing were the building blocks. Authoritative news had personality and style, yet both were as measured as seasoning. Authority was earned and sustained by a demonstration of intelligence, knowledge, and character. Authority set the tone for a news medium; it was the essence of professionalism. We depended on its commitment to stand back from personal opinion. We could hear the clank of failure when high standards went unmet. We expected acknowledgment for error. We knew we would be made to think, and that we also held our right to disagree and be skeptical. This was the quid pro quo for loyal newspaper readership and television news watching. Our minds were our own, but we were also part of a large, broadly based, shared experience. Continue reading

Remembering My Father in Trump’s America

By Catherine Biggart

On September 11th, an American freelance photojournalist ran from his apartment toward the World Trade Center after learning a plane had struck one of the towers. Four days later, his body and cameras were recovered from the rubble alongside several fallen firefighters. He was the only journalist to die covering the story and his name is one of 2291 engraved on the Newseum’s memorial to journalists who have lost their lives reporting the news. Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

By Emma Lieber

Psychoanalysis pays attention to names. So too, now, does the American public. Trump is a winner — he has to be, his name says so. Yet John Oliver’s campaign to “Make Donald Drumpf Again,” for one, suggests that we might question the self-appointment of a family that names themselves perpetual victors. Names exist in between the logics of subjective desire and communal code, and in this sense they speak both to an individual’s possibilities and to his limitations. Continue reading