Alfred Korzybski's initial impulse, in formulating his non-Aristotelian system of general semantics, was to address political concerns related to peace and justice. He hoped to find a way for us to make the same kind of progress in human relations that we have been able to make in science and technology. His concerns were shared by many others who embraced general semantics, including the economist and social theorist Stuart Chase, peace and conflict studies pioneer Anatol Rapoport, and cultural critic Neil Postman.
The 2020 US presidential election has often been referred to as the most consequential of our time, if not of the entirety of American history. Without a doubt, it seems that American society and polity is in the midst of a major crisis, one that may well determine the future of democracy in the United States. And that this election will be pivotal in deciding the direction we will take, as we face the challenges of a global pandemic, economic collapse, disastrous climate change, international conflict and geopolitical realignment, etc.
In the midst of all this, we find ourselves in a semantic environment characterized by extreme polarization, and a dangerous degree of semantic pollution of the sort that Postman referred to as crazy talk and stupid talk.
With election day drawing near, rather than spend one more nail-biting evening watching cable news pundits saying the same things over and over, on October 29th, 2020, we hosted a panel discussion informed by non-Aristotelian perspectives, held online via Zoom featuring the following participants:
Susan Drucker is a Professor in the Department of Journalism/Media Studies, School of Communication at Hofstra University. She is an attorney, and treasurer of the Urban Communication Foundation. She is the author and editor of 10 books including two volumes of the Urban Communication Reader, Regulating Convergence, Voices in the Street: Gender, Media and Public Space, two editions of Real Law @ Virtual Space: The Regulation of Cyberspace, and Regulating Social Media: Legal and Ethical Consideration with Gary Gumpert. Her work examines the relationship between media technology and human factors, particularly as viewed from a legal perspective.
Salvatore J. Fallica was born in Brooklyn, New York, and earned his doctorate at New York University, where he studied under Neil Postman and Terry Moran, and where he currently teaches courses in propaganda and spectacle culture in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication. He is currently 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.
Thom Gencarelli is a Professor of Communication at Manhattan College, a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Society for General Semantics, and a Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics. He is the editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics, the official journal of the IGS.
Katherine Liepe-Levinson is a member of the NYSGS Board of Directors. She worked as a choreographer and performed on Broadway before earning her PhD in Theatre from New York City's CUNY Graduate Center and subsequently joining the faculty of Colgate University’s Theater Program. Upon returning to New York City, she founded Muse Educational Resources, Inc, and was awarded a competitive NYCBOE vendor contract for her arts education program to train teachers in anti-bullying techniques and HIV/AIDS prevention, and to promote a celebration of cultural diversity. Her interest in celebrating cultural diversity led her to photography, she trained with the International Center for Photography in NYC and was invited to participate in ICP’s first worldwide Online Study Program in Social Landscapes, and created her own website: Social Landscapes, 2010-to present. Her work has been featured on journal, magazine, and book covers, and is regularly exhibited in New York and Long Island venues. Her awards include First Place in the National show, “Water,” at the Alex Ferrone Gallery, twice Best in Show and other awards for the East End Arts Council, and twice chosen for the annual show, “Endangered,” in Miami during Art Miami/Art Basel Week.
Michael Plugh is a Professor of Communication at Manhattan College, Vice-President Elect of the Media Ecology Association, and a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Society for General Semantics.
And the panel will be 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 8 books including Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition (2017) and Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman's Brave New World Revisited (2014), and most recently of the poetry collection, Diatribal Writes of Passage in a World of Wintertextuality (2020).
It was an engaging and electrifying discussion!