Lies and Democracy

Sep 2021

“No one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on rather bad terms with each other, and no one, as far as I know, has ever counted truthfulness among the political virtues,” wrote Hannah Arendt in 1967. Today, concerns run especially high over the fraught relationship between truth and politics, as majorities of Republican voters in some polls reportedly believe the “Big Lie” peddled by Donald Trump and many other political and media elites that the election was stolen from Trump through widespread fraud. Much of the discussion of the Big Lie has been ahistorical: It has focused on the strange and disturbing particularities of the present moment. But how unique is this kind of political lie in the United States? What does it reveal about American democracy? And how much of a threat do lies pose to the democratic order?

Opening Remarks

  • Katy Glenn Bass, Knight First Amendment Institute 


  • Masha Gessen, The New Yorker 
  • Quinta Jurecic, Brookings Institution 
  • Sophia Rosenfeld, University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences

Moderated by 

  • Genevieve Lakier, Knight First Amendment Institute 

Note: Due to Columbia University’s COVID restrictions, only Columbia University students, faculty, and staff will be able to attend in person. You must present a "green pass" in your ReopenCU app to enter. Everyone else is invited to join the conversation online. Columbia University community members must register through Bedework. Others can register through Eventbrite to receive a link to the livestream.

Event Contact

Madeline Wood

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