Message from the President

“Ignorance is strength” – George Orwell, 1984

 

In his book The End of Authority, Douglas Schoen notes that the distrust of experts and authority is rampant in our world, and the worldwide collapse of trust in economic and political institutions has spawned protest movements of the left, right, and center. 

 

In his book What is Happening to News, Jack Fuller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former editor of the Chicago Tribune, observes that the distrust of authority and experts, accompanied by uncritical faith in the collective wisdom of the common man, is an American trait with a long history. First noted by de Tocqueville, it has accelerated very suddenly in the Internet age. People can now discover anonymously what many other anonymous people think and feel, and rely on people with similar views as confirmation of their own views — thus forming “us” — and the inferiority of people who think otherwise — who become “them.” As Fuller notes, what is striking about this is that so many people seem to think that “information” acquired this way is more reliable than the information gathered by professional journalists, published under the standards of professional journalism. Again, the psychology seems rooted in the collapse of trust in experts and established institutions. And so the dividing line between collective wisdom and mob psychology is becoming increasingly hard to discern.

 

At WACSC, we swim against this tide. We try our best to bring you reliable information about world affairs from well-informed people who are participants, reliable witnesses, or, yes, experts. We take exception to Orwell: ignorance may be bliss, but it is not strength.

 

At the same time, we try to season our information-delivery programs with human, first-person experiences (such as Ambassador Kathy Stephens’ experiences in Korea, Abigail Bridgman’s Rwanda experience, and Ambassador Chris Hill’s experiences in Iraq). We are also planning to go “outside the envelope“ this spring with a student debate about world affairs, giving us a surprising window on the world our young people inhabit. And our first program in January will feature a prominent professor presenting conflicting views of foreign policy, then advocating for both of them, and letting you choose. Q&A should be lively.

 

The year 2015 will be an adventurous journey. Come along for the ride.

 

Paul Willihnganz

 

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