General semantics was founded in response to a call for sanity in political affairs, domestically and globally. Alfred Korzybski argued that our leaders and government officials need to have the same respect for reality as our scientists and engineers. This requires careful evaluation and constant re-evaluation of our perceptions of the world, and the ways in which we think and talk about what is going on around us.
To that end, the New York Society for General Semantics has held periodic panel discussions devoted to the political landscape, to present-day language and symbolic action, to the talk and drama of our current democratic culture. At this perilous moment in the United States and worldwide, we return again to considering the uses and abuses of language in public discourse, and the ways in which candidates for office, public officials, and journalists create competing maps of our political terrain.
The participants on this program held on October 16, 2019, were:
Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, Associate Professor in Fordham University’s Communication and Media Studies department, and an expert in the study of digital campaigning. Her first book, Using Technology, Building Democracy: Digital Campaigning and the Construction of Citizenship (Oxford UP, 2015), investigates the digital strategies and tactics that electoral campaigns adopted in a post-Obama, social media era. She is currently working on a book about data-driven campaigning leading up to the 2020 election.
Salvatore J. Fallica, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, and earned his doctorate at New York University, where he studied under Neil Postman and Terry Moran. It is also where he teaches courses in propaganda and spectacle culture in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication. He presented “The Media Ecology of Paparazzi,” recently at the Media Ecology Association Conference in Toronto; he also presented “Early Dylan: The Contemporary Anachronism,” at the Dylan Archives this past June. He’s working on a project entitled “Norman Mailer and Celebrity Culture.” He was awarded the “Excellence in Teaching” award from the Steinhardt School of Education at NYU.
Isabel Vincent, an award-winning investigative reporter for The New York Post, and the author of several books. A former foreign correspondent in Latin America, Africa and the Balkans, her work has appeared in numerous publications around the world, including The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. She has won the Yad Vashem Award for Holocaust History, the Jewish Book Award (Canada) and most recently, an Associated Press Award for investigative reporting. Her most recent book, Dinner With Edward, is being made into a feature film, starring English actor David Suchet in the title role. She is currently working on a book about opera and the Second World War.
And the panel was moderated by NYSGS President Lance Strate, Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, and author of 7 books including Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition (Peter Lang, 2017) and Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman's Brave New World Revisited (Peter Lang, 2014).
It was a penetrating and perspicacious discussion!