The Ford School of Public Policy welcomed Columbia University Journalism Dean Jelani Cobb and Public Policy Dean Celeste Watkins Hayes Tuesday evening at the Rackham Auditorium at the University of Michigan.
The event was part of a series titled “Democracy in Crisis” hosted by the School of Public Policy in partnership with the Wallace House Center for Journalists and the University’s Democracy and Debate Initiative. Cobb’s talk explored the role media plays in democracies in creating a more just world.
Cobb was a contributor for The New Yorker before becoming a staff writer for the magazine in 2015. He has been doing this work ever since. In the same year, Cobb won the Sydney He Hillman Award for his opinion and analytical writing. Cobb frequently writes on topics such as race, politics, history and culture.
Cobb began the conversation by questioning the credibility of American democracy, emphasizing that slavery was still legal when the American Constitution was ratified. He argued that the United States was not truly democratic until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited unfair voting practices. By Cobb’s definition, American democracy is less than 70 years old.
“If you ask most people when American democracy begins, they’ll say 1776,” Cobb said. “But…you can’t be a democracy while you are buying and selling people…It wasn’t until 1965 that this country could really be called a democracy. is considered a much more vulnerable state.”
In an interview with the Michigan Daily before the event, Cobb said growing up in New York City gave him a better understanding of inequality and social justice.
“I grew up in Queens, which is… an incredibly diverse place,” Cobb said. “I had my neighbors everywhere, my schoolmates everywhere. It was a broader perspective that may not be the same as
Watkins-Hayes and Cobb also discuss contemporary challenges in the field of journalism, highlighting the rise of misinformation (misinformation, intentionally or accidentally disseminated) during and after the presidency of former President Donald Trump. Did. A study conducted by Cornell University researchers analyzed 38 million articles and found that references to Trump made up about 38% of all misinformation conversations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was. Cobb said a free and trusted press is needed to keep voters informed and a successful democracy.
“(The media) are here for democracy,” Cobb said. “But we rarely address what exactly that means. How uncoordinated and rushed they were in dealing with violations of their ideological norms.”
Cobb went on to illustrate the complex relationship between media, capitalism, and democracy by comparing Trump to former US Senator Joseph McCarthy. Cobb pointed out the similarities between “Trumpism” and McCarthyism. McCarthyism refers to McCarthy’s false accusations of treason against senior U.S. government officials and collusion with the Communist Party. In both cases, Cobb said political officials spread misinformation to corroborate ulterior motives.
“Trump and Trumpism are therefore a new iteration of a counter-offensive, reactionary movement (McCarthyism) concerned with demographic totals and a society concerned with maintaining the already excessive power of white people in the United States. said Cobb.
LSA freshman Edra Timmerman, one of the attendees at the event, told The Daily that she found the comparison Cobb made between Trump and McCarthy fascinating.
“I really liked the comparison between McCarthyism and Trumpism, and it gave me some optimism that[Trumpism]would go away,” Timmerman said.
Watkins Hayes then asked Cobb to share his thoughts on the police system and whether it should be reformed. In response, Cobb noted that police brutality disproportionately affects black Americans. mentioned the death of Cobb said the fact that a black police officer killed Nikos still points to systemic problems with police brutality. said.
“The fact is that this is a coordinated action and the victims are very likely black,” Cobb said. “[But]you can have a system made up of black people and still act on the principles of white supremacy.”
Cobb ended his talk by discussing the role of race in education, explaining the concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT). This is the idea that race is a social and institutionalized concept rather than a biological one. Founder of CRT, he is a recognized rights activist. Cobb said Republican lawmakers’ attempts to ban the practice proved Bell’s claim that racial superiority is ingrained in American society.
“Derrick Bell argued that anti-discrimination language would be used as a means of promoting discrimination in a society that is considered colorblind,” Cobb said. “That’s exactly what happened.”
In an interview with The Daily after the event, Watkins-Hayes expressed how much she felt the event went well and how grateful Cobb was for speaking at the university.
“I felt really good about it,” said Watkins-Hayes. Having the opportunity to hear him speak made the event very special.”
At the event, Cobb said he wants to continue working towards a more just world for children and their future lives.
“My biggest concern is that I have two daughters and two sons,” Cobb said. “And I don’t want to embarrass them by saying there’s this world they’re trying to inherit.
Daily Staff reporters Luke Jacobson and Miles Anderson said: firstname.lastname@example.org When email@example.com.