Thursday, September 6, 2012

Assault on Reason? Sure, Let's

Last night, I was part of a panel that featured Allen Gregg, a prominent Canadian talkshow host with a long history as a political consultant.  The Faculty (think School or College) of Public Affairs (in which my Norman Paterson School of International Affairs fits) held this event to open our new building.  The FPA asked the students last year what all students should read this year as they wanted to organize a series of events around a common text.  Those wacky students chose 1984.  Allen Gregg used the opportunity to argue that science and reason are under attack, using a variety of examples from the Harper government with a few from the US thrown in. He was most persuasive and articulate.

Given my rants here about the forces of ignorance seeking to de-fund political science research, I could not help but agree with much of the argument.  But to just agree would have been boring.  Plus Gregg tended to do things that always wrankle me--talk about a trend and blame culture.

So, I suggested that much of what he was saying was not so new.  That people have covered policies, for instance, with deceptive names.  I also argued that there is more to our popular culture than ignorance sauce, that much that is on television actually makes us think, such as Breaking Bad, Community, and the rest.  My basic stance was that there were forces at work on both sides, that his take was not that different than mine, but that I am more optimistic. 

Indeed, I took issue with one of his points--that the internet allows people to follow their own preferred facts.  I explained at dinner what twitter was adding to my work and I raised it again during some of my comments.  The internet may be both boon and bane, but it is much more the former than the latter.  And it is up to us to use the new access to information wisely.

The audience seemed to like the event.  It was definitely something different for me--both the subject and the format.  Definitely outside of my comfort zone.  It was good to meet some new people (including a twitter follower or two) and participate in the life of this university and town that are new to me.

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