US-Irish Symposium  discusses ‘Factions, Fears, and Fake News’

Major  societal issues such as  right wing nationalism, ‘post truth’  and the migration crisis are topics  of a joint US-Irish symposium on ‘Factions, Fears and Fake News’ taking place  in Dublin and New York this week. The symposium which features leading academics from Columbia University and Trinity College Dublin is being organised by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute in conjunction with the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, New York. 

Preceding the symposium a talk took place on 'Freedom of Speech: Where Journalism and the Law Collide at the Boundary of 21st Century Debate', the latest in the 'Behind the Headlines' series of talks. Panellists  explored the changing media landscape of freedom of speech, defamation and the search for truth in traditional media and online. They included Professor Todd Gitlin,Columbia Journalism School, Editor of the Irish Independent, Fionnán Sheahan, Professor Eoin O’Dell, Trinity's School of Law and media lawyer, Andrea Martin.

The  symposium   which followed in the Trinity Long Room Hub explored key issues in the context of the current political climate with panel discussions moderated by the Irish Times opinion columnist, Fintan O’ Toole, Editor in Chief of the  Independent News and Media Group, Stephen Rae and author, journalist and policy analyst David Rieff. The second part of the symposium will take place in Columbia later in the week.

Panellists, professors Balazs Apor, Juergen Barkhoff, Dan Geary with  moderator, Fintan O'Toole.

The panel discussion on the Growth of Right Wing Nationalism and the collapse of centre left explored the implications of the collapse of the centre left in a number of recent elections worldwide, the dynamics driving this trend as well as measures to safeguard the rule of law and democratic principles central to a thriving democracy. 

The session on Post Truth looked at the post truth era of ‘political lying’, where debate has become increasingly polarised and where expert comment has been replaced with opinion and personal belief.

As part of this discussion, Professor Todd Gitlin of the School of Journalism, Columbia University   in his talk on the Enlightenment and truth stated:

“The Enlightenment struggle for truth was always a struggle—a campaign against toxic propaganda, vicious tribalism, and authoritarian deceits. The challenge today is posed by the ease with which liars avail themselves of far-reaching media to spread and reinforce their delusions. Attention must be paid to experiments in training publics to sort through fraudulent claims.”

The panel discussion on the Migration in Crisis  considered how in Europe and the US today, immigration continues to cause division in public debates around globalisation, security, labour, war, and economics. It  brought different disciplinary perspectives from history to human rights,  on ways that communities think about and respond to the arrival of migrants.

Visiting scholar to the Heyman Center for the Humanities, Dr Hidetaka Hirota in his talk, traced the roots of these issues back to the mid-nineteenth century, when Irish immigrants faced intense nativism and were deported back to Ireland as governmental policy. He said:

“The current debate over immigration in the United States is shaped by the alleged threats of undesirable foreigners, disregard for the rights of immigrants and their American-born family members, and the coercive nature of deportation law enforcement.”

Looking at the European context, Trinity’s Professor Gillian Wylie of the School of Religions, Peace Studies and Theology explored alternative responses to the crisis which draw on practices of peacebuilding:

“Treating migration as a security threat is a dominant response by European governments to the current crisis, leading to exclusionary border politics. Yet future peace and security in Europe, and in the countries people are fleeing, is closely tied to a response that forges and enlivens a politics of inclusion.”

Commenting on the significance of the US-Irish Symposium, Trinity Long Room Hub Director, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer said:

“This joint symposium between the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and the Heyman Centre for the Humanities at Columbia University is emblematic of our shared goals to better understand the times we are living through. Looking at themes such as ‘post-truth’, nationalism, right-wing politics, and immigration, we are thrilled to bring together these panel discussions with distinguished speakers from both Trinity and Columbia. We hope that this is the start of one of many joint initiatives as we deepen our links between the two universities.”

The equivalent symposium taking place in Columbia University on the 9th and 10th of November will feature Trinity academics Professor Juergen Barkhoff and Professor Darryl Jones.



For all details on the Columbia University event see:




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