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- NYPL
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.
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.
Paul Holdengräber is the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.
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.
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of 14 books, nine of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes. His most recent books are Virtual Tibet, The China Reader, and Mandate of Heaven. He is also a contributor to such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and many others. He is a fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a senior fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize for Asian Reporting.
George Soros came of age in Hungary at a time when it was a battleground in the decades-long conflict between fascism and communism, the two great totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. A personal experience of this conflict--including the violence, foreign occupation, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance that went with it--as well as a personal fascination with philosophy shaped Soros’s thinking in later years and influenced his successful strategies in both finance and philanthropy.
Born in Budapest in 1930, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II as well as the postwar imposition of Stalinism in his homeland. Soros fled Communist-dominated Hungary in 1947 and made his way to England. Before graduating from the London School of Economics in 1952, Soros studied Karl Popper’s work in the philosophy of science as well as his critique of totalitarianism, The Open Society and Its Enemies, which maintains that no philosophy or ideology has the final word on the truth and that societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression, a diverse range of opinion, and respect for individual rights.
Later, while working as a financial analyst and trader in New York, Soros adapted Popper’s thinking in developing his own application of the social theory of "reflexivity," a set of ideas that seeks to explain how a feedback mechanism can skew how participants in a market value assets on that market. After concluding that he had more talent for trading than for philosophy, Soros began to apply his ideas on reflexivity to investing, using it to predict, among other things, the emergence of financial bubbles. In 1967, he helped establish an offshore investment fund. In 1973, he set
up a private investment firm that eventually evolved into the Quantum Fund, one of the first hedge funds.
Soros’s memories of anti-Semitism in wartime Hungary prompted him, in 1979, to begin providing financial support for black students at the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa. In 1984, Soros created an education and culture foundation in Hungary. He later supported dissident movements in Eastern Europe’s other Communist countries, helping people to organize themselves at a time when popular organizations were banned, to voice their opinions when dissonant opinions were considered anti-state propaganda, and to promote tolerance, democratic governance, human rights, and the rule of law when a one-party dictatorship exercised a monopoly on power.
As the East bloc crumbled during the late 1980s and the Soviet empire collapsed in the early 1990s, Soros expanded his funding in an effort to help create open societies in all of the region’s countries. He demonstrated his commitment to critical thinking and democratic political development by establishing Central European University in 1991. In 1993, he founded the Open Society Institute. Over the past three decades, Soros’s philanthropy has spawned a network of foundations dedicated to promoting development of open societies in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. To date, Soros has given over $8 billion to support human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education in more than 100 countries.
Soros’s most recent book is Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States: Essays (2012). His other books include The Soros Lectures: At the Central European University (2010); The Crash of 2008 and What it Means: The New Paradigm for Finance Markets (2009); The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of The War on Terror (2006); The Bubble of American Supremacy (2005); George Soros on Globalization (2002); Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism (2000); The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered (1998); Soros on Soros: Staying Ahead of the Curve (1995); Underwriting Democracy (1991); Opening the Soviet System (1990); and The Alchemy of Finance (1987). His essays on politics, society, and economics appear frequently in major periodicals around the world.
Andras Zanto is a writer, researcher, and consultant whose work spans the worlds of art, media, policy, and cultural affairs.
He is a member of the senior faculty of the Sotheby's Institute of Art and director of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. The former head of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia, he has designed conferences, conducted research, and launched initiatives for major foundations and cultural organizations. He is co-author and editor of five books, and his reporting and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The American Prospect, The Art Newspaper, and other newspapers and periodicals.
He is a founder of the online arts publication Artworldsalon and has edited the journals ARTicles and Reflections. Born in Budapest, he lives in New York City.
Senior fellow for Religious Affairs, Pacific Council on International Policy, Jack Miles argues that Orwell's novels such as 1984 and Animal Farm are not the only cases in which art, propaganda, and ideology overlap.
Art and propaganda are not mutually exclusive, Miles states, and we all are "missionaries" who use propaganda to promote our own causes.
Orville Schell cites Orwell's "naive and quaint notion" that totalitarians may have control of citizen's exterior behavior but remain outside the "inner heart which remains impregnable." Schell questions the role that advertising, propaganda and fear played in China and other similar regimes.