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Bard College’s Hannah Arendt Center Hosts Two-Day Conference on “Lying And Politics,” March 4 to 5

Darren O'Sullivan

NEW YORK, N.Y.—Leading up to the Iraq war, some U.S. leaders claimed that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, while others insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Politicians asserted that all the prisoners held in Guantánamo prison were hardened terrorists. And they swore that the United States did not torture its prisoners. What is striking in all of these claims is not that we now know them to be false. Rather, it is that at the time they were made, repeated, and accepted, facts already existed that showed these assertions to be false. When deception, spin, and propaganda become the driving forces of politics, facts retreat behind the need for consistent talking points and coherent narratives. To preserve the fiction, facts that contradict it need to be eliminated or at least made questionable. To what extent does this hostility to facts threaten to corrode the common sense and shared world that underlies a civil and engaged political sphere?

To explore the implications of lying in politics today, The Hannah Arendt Center for Ethical and Political Thinking at Bard College and the Hannah Arendt Center at the New School for Social Research are gathering leading political and literary thinkers for a two-day conference, “Lying and Politics: What Is the Fate of Politics in the Age of Lying, Advertising, and Mass Market Deception?” in New York City on Friday and Saturday, March 4–5.

“The political lies Arendt worries about are not mere falsehoods,” says Roger Berkowitz, academic director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard. “What worries Arendt are political acts in which facts are denied and alternative realities are created. In its hostility to facts, the political lie opens the door to a politics that not only denies facts, but actively disempowers facts, thus enabling the creation of a coherent albeit fictitious world. The danger is that to preserve the fiction, facts that contradict it need to be eliminated.”


“Lying and Politics: What Is the Fate of Politics in the Age of Lying, Advertising, and Mass Market Deception”

Friday, March 4
Bard Graduate Center
38 W. 86th St.

10:30 a.m. - Welcoming Remarks: Roger Berkowitz, associate professor of Political Studies, Philosophy, and Human Rights and academic director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Ethical and Political Thinking, Bard College.

11:00 a.m. - Lying and Freedom: Andreas Kalyvas, associate professor of Political Science, The New School for Social Research. Chair, Jennifer Culbert, Johns Hopkins University

12:30 p.m. - Lunch

2:00 p.m. - Nobody's Facts: Kirstie M. McClure, associate professor of political science, UCLA. Chair, Tabetha Ewing, Bard College

4:00 p.m. -Democracy and Lying: George Kateb, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Emeritus at Princeton University. Chair, Jerome Kohn, New School

Saturday, March 5

Theresa Lang Student Center
New School
55 W. 13th St., 2nd Fl.

10:30 a.m. - Welcoming Remarks

11:00 a.m. - Is Lying a Political Virtue? Uday Mehta, distinguished professor in political science, CUNY Graduate Center. Chair, Chiara Bottici, New School

12:30 p.m. - Lunch

2:00 p.m. - Alchemies of Deception: Roger Hodge, editor of Harpers magazine, 2006-2010. Chair, Elizabeth Frank, Bard College

4:00 p.m. - Roundtable: Lying in Politics: Roger Berkowitz (Chair), Andreas Kalyvas, Kirstie McClure, George Kateb, Uday Mehta, Roger Hodge.

For more information, please visit the conference website:

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This event was last updated on 02-10-2011