Forum: "Democracy Depends Upon Certain 'Truths' and Facts"

Title slide from "Lies, Facts, and the Future of Our Democracy" forum on March 3.

On Wednesday, March 3rd the Library led a forum entitled “Lies, Facts, and the Future of Our Democracy” with librarians Courtney Walsh, Vicky Ludas Orlofsky, and Romel Espinel. The discussion centered around the persistence of misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda, and how those issues impact democracy here and around the world.

This event is part of the Library's ongoing work on the subject of information usage and evaluation. It was co-sponsored by Ducks 4 Democracy, an initiative of Undergraduate Student Life.

The forum started by defining key terms:

These definitions laid the foundation for three “stories” that illustrate the problems permeating our information ecology.

Espinel discussed the impact of social media platforms like Tik-Tok and the spreading of misinformation that lead to the creation of conspiracy theories suggesting Helen Keller was not a real person.

Orlofsky discussed the pandemic's effect on the publishing of medical research and how that research was used by politicians and on social media to misinform the public in what the World Health Organization called an “infodemic.” 

Walsh focused on the research of psychologists and neuroscientists who study the mind and brain to understand how emotions and biases contribute to the proliferation of “information disorder.”

Lastly, the librarians discussed how the prevalence of an unhealthy information ecology can damage our democratic institutions and society. Participants in a healthy democracy must be able to agree with certain “truths” and facts. This ended with a lively question and answer session with attendees.

Stay tuned for more events and please visit the event’s research guide for more information and the librarians’ bibliography.

Stevens faculty, students, and staff interested in the forum can request a link here