Category Archives: Provocations

Truth is the first casualty in war, and also in politics. Provocations is a series produced in conjunction with “The Future of the Truth,” a UCI Forum for the Academy and the Public conference taking place in Irvine on February 3 and 4, 2017. This event, staged in partnership with LARB, will look at views of honesty and truth in America today in light of the Trump election, controversies over fake news, and ongoing trends in literature, law, and journalism. The conference will also discuss dictatorships, democracies, and their vexed relationship with truth. What is the future of truth in today’s political world and media environment?

Provocations began as a LARB series produced in conjunction with “What Cannot Be Said: Freedom of Expression in a Changing World,” a conference cosponsored by UCI, USC, and UCLA in January of 2016.

Washington and Moscow in the Time of Trump: An Interview with Nina Khrushcheva

By Olivia Humphrey (PhD candidate at UCI) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

Given the recent attention on U.S.-Russia relations and comparisons, the team responsible for the “Future of Truth” workshop at UC Irvine decided to turn to Nina Khrushcheva, a participant in last year’s “What Cannot Be Said” forum for insight. Nina Khrushcheva is a professor of International Affairs at the New School, a senior fellow of World Policy Institute, and contributing editor to Project Syndicate: Association of Newspapers Around the WorldContinue reading

On Firewood, Fuel, and Fake News — North Korea as a Source of Urban Legends

By Barbara Demick (prize-winning author and Los Angeles Times reporter) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

There is something about North Korea, from the improbability of the regime’s survival to the ridiculous hairstyles of the leaders, which makes it possible to believe the most outlandish rumors. Perhaps that is why North Korea has been such fertile ground for urban legend. Continue reading

Digging Deep for the Truth

By Héctor Tobar (prize-winning journalist and book author) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

We write to be read. We write for readers. As writers we recognize that in a world of fakery and superficiality, there’s something sacred about the act of reading. A reader is someone who’s turned off the radio, tuned out television, and even social media. If they are in a public place, they create quietude around them. They commune with written words. With our words. Continue reading

True Lies

By David L. Ulin (book critic and editor of the prize-winning anthology Writing Los Angeles) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

Sixteen years ago, in another moment of crisis for the republic, I found myself in South Florida, watching the presidential vote recount at the Emergency Operations Center in Palm Beach County, where I had come as both tourist and something more. I was in Florida for Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law, which made the recount a respite in the most fundamental sense — and yet, I knew all along that I would write about it. I spent two afternoons wandering around, taking notes, and on the evening of the second, emailed an editor with whom I worked to see if she’d be interested in a piece. She was, and so I wrote it up, 1200 words that made an argument about displacement, comparing my own dissatisfaction with the process to that of the people on the other side. Continue reading

For The Future of the Truth: An Excerpt from Nothing Ever Dies

By Viet Thanh Nguyen (author of Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Sympathizer) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

As a Gook, in the eyes of some, I can testify that being remembered as the other is a dismembering experience, what we can call a disremembering. Disremembering is not simply the failure to remember. Disremembering is the unethical and paradoxical mode of forgetting at the same time as remembering, or, from the perspective of the other who is disremembered, of being simultaneously seen and not seen. Disremembering allows someone to see right through the other, an experience rendered so memorably by Ralph Ellison in the opening pages of Invisible Man. Continue reading

Buffalo Bill — A Truth-Bending Showman for Our Times?

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom (co-founder of UCI’s Forum for the Academy and the Public) for the Provocations series, in conjunction with UCI’s “The Future of Truth” conference

When Colonel William F. Cody, aka “Buffalo Bill,” died a century ago this week, the army scout turned Wild West Show star was still famous enough for newspapers published everywhere from Chicago and Shanghai to Berlin and Bombay to run his obituary.  Even as far back as 1917, though, Cody and his show, known for its reenactments of frontier battles and displays of trick riding, already seemed outdated. And yet, when a book project led me to immerse myself in materials on Cody, something peculiar happened.  I kept running across things that struck me not as throwbacks to the past but harbingers of things to come. Continue reading

Words Hurt

This is the 19th in a series of “Provocations,” a LARB series produced in conjunction with “What Cannot Be Said: Freedom of Expression in a Changing World” a conference cosponsored by UCI, USC, and UCLA (January 22 -24, 2016). All contributors are also participants in the conference.

By Brendan O’Neill

We shrinking few who still believe in freedom of speech have got ourselves into a terrible bind. We too often defend freedom of speech by insisting that speech isn’t particularly powerful or harmful. In one breath we argue that the freedom of people to think and utter whatever they want is the most important freedom in the world; in the next we suggest that people’s utterances are not weapons, can not wound, and thus should be categorised as “harmless” and should be none of officialdom’s business. Faced with a new kind of fragile and self-regarding censor, one who claims that novels can trigger PTSD and controversial campus speakers can make students feel physically ill, we respond with the favoured chastisement of the frustrated grown-up: “They’re only words. They won’t hurt you. Chill out.” Continue reading

Spillage

By Barton Gellman

This is the 18th in a series of “Provocations,” a LARB series produced in conjunction with “What Cannot Be Said: Freedom of Expression in a Changing World” a conference cosponsored by UCI, USC, and UCLA (January 22 -24, 2016). All contributors are also participants in the conference.

Some of this material appeared previously on the website of The Century Foundation, and is republished with the foundation’s permission.

On September 24, 2015, I gave a keynote presentation at Purdue University about the NSA, Edward Snowden, and national security journalism in the age of surveillance. It was part of the excellent Dawn or Doom colloquium, which I greatly enjoyed. The organizers live-streamed my talk and promised to provide me with a permalink to share. Continue reading