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Truth, bullsh*t and weasel words

How post-truth politics is wrecking public discourse

Hear from Don Watson, award-winning author and former speechwriter for Paul Keating, as he decodes political language and reveals its influence on democracy and civil debate. 

In a time of global climate crisis, political falsehoods and voters’ cynicism, how do we raise the standard of public conversation so that we can adequately address the urgent issues of today?

Post-truth politics is now dominating global media attention and political debates. From the White House to post-Brexit debates and Australian politics, disinformation rules and is often amplified by the echo chambers generated by social media bubbles.

Public discourse is progressively defined by disinformation, evasion, obfuscation or stonewalling. To what extent does this now ubiquitous distortion of public language shape our national destiny? And how do we re-establish public discourse based on facts, evidence and informed debate? 

This Sydney Ideas conversation between Don Watson and Benedetta Brevini will consider how post truth, bullshit and management speak have both taken over and fundamentally undermined the quality of public discourse and policy-making. 

This event was held on Wednesday 13 February at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Don Watson is one of Australia’s finest writers. His award-winning titles include Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: Paul Keating Prime MinisterDeath SentenceWatson's Dictionary of Weasel Words and American Journeys. In 2010 Don was awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for Australian Literature. Since 2003 his website weaselwords.com.au has documented the viral spread of management-speak and the decline of public language. His critically acclaimed 2014 book The Bush won both the Indie Book of the Year and the NSW Premier's Literary Award.

Dr Benedetta Brevini is Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media at the University of Sydney and Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University, London. She writes on the Guardian’s Comment is Free and contributes to a number of print and web publications, including Index of Censorship, OpenDemocracy and the Conversation. She is the author of Public Service Broadcasting online (2013) and editor of the acclaimed volume Beyond Wikileaks (2013). Her latest volumes are Carbon Capitalism and Communication : Confronting Climate Crisis (2017) and Climate Change and the Media (2018).

Lead image: Photo by Stephen Buwert

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