Louis Menand asks what happened to the power of the press? He argues that the culprit is simple: the breakdown of a white, liberal, internationalist mainstream ideology that united the government and the press for decades in the 20th century.
After Donald Trump was elected in 2016, sale of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism skyrocketed. Now, in Russia, both The Origins and Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, are in high demand yet only available in private classifieds.
I was fortunate enough to be gifted the opportunity to award Jerry Kohn an honorary degree in Humane Letters yesterday at the 2022 Bard College Commencement. There is no one more deserving of a degree in humanity and letters than is Jerry and it was a special day. Here is the commendation I wrote.
Hannah Arendt is a thinker who insists that we make distinctions. One of Arendt’s most controversial distinctions is that between racism and what she alternatively will call “race thinking” in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and then "prejudice" in many of her later essays. In the wake of the shooting in Buffalo last week, John McWhorter made his own distinctions while trying to understand the place of racism in U.S. society. McWhorter argues that we use the word racism today to mean too many things. He states that we need to distinguish between different aspects of what we call racism in order to think more clearly about the problems and prevent such tragedies as the shooting in Buffalo.
As the world comes to the realization that old-fashioned ground warfare may be in our present and our future, the New York Times’ Azmat Khan has written a deeply researched account of the U.S. air war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Peter Baehr has spoken multiple times at Hannah Arendt Center conferences and until recently was a professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. In a new essay about the abandonment of academic freedom and intellectual integrity in Hong Kong, Baehr describes how “administrative ecstasy” has led university managers to quickly abandon liberal values, discipline professors who are not loyal to the Chinese government’s line, remove offensive books and artwork, and expel students who question University censorship.
Frances Haugen, the woman who blew the whistle on Facebook, has put her influence behind the European Union’s attempt to regulate social media. The European Digital Services Act passed this month seeks to “make social media far better without impinging on free speech.” The Act is an important model because it does not regulate content or take aim at offensive speech. Instead, it requires that social media companies reveal how their algorithms privilege some material over others. This new transparency will show how it is that lies and hate proliferate. And it will empower governments, corporate boards, and other public actors to hold media companies accountable for their actions. Haugen, who will be a keynote speaker at the Hannah Arendt Center Conference “Rage and Reason: Democracy Under the Tyranny of Social Media."
The politician, for Arendt, is someone who speaks and acts in such a way as to reaffirm or reconstitute the political community around a common and healthy sense of what is right and wrong. The challenge of appealing to the sensuscommunis today is that all the political incentives are to split the community, to appeal to a part of the whole, a faction, or a polarized movement. Jonathan Haidt argues that the rampant polarization of our political world has been exacerbated by social media.
Moisés Naim writes that a new breed of autocrats “uses populism, capitalizes on polarization, and revels in post-truth politics to undermine democratic norms and amass power, preferably for life.
There are all sorts of books written about How Democracies Die. Hannah Arendt argued that the great threats to democracies are bureaucratization and bigness, both of which led to Praxis-Entzug, a feeling of disempowerment and depoliticization. This certainly seems to be happening in France. Ivanne Trippenbach, Julie Carriat, Laurent Telo, Solenn de Royer and Olivier Faye write in Le Monde that the Presidential election in France has encountered unprecedented apathy. Ivanne Trippenbach, Julie Carriat, Laurent Telo, Solemn de Royer and Olivier Faye write in Le Monde that the Presidential election in France has encountered unprecedented apathy.