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The Contested Global Public Agenda: Why citizen engagement, diverse media ownership and resistance groups matter

 

By ©Catherine Fleming Bruce

7/14/2017

“G20 meetings provide opportunities to forge the global public agenda, a critical charge which can best be fulfilled in a meaningful way IF citizen engagement and resistance are present and heard, and IF diverse media ownership contributes to open dialogue and policymaking through a global public sphere.”

G7_Taormina_family_photo_2017-05-26

President Trump with other leaders at the 43rd G7 summit in Italy, May 2017

 

As Donald Trump returns to the US after his time in Warsaw, Hamburg and Paris, he will cross the ocean that brought to the United States immigrants like Barrett Visanska, a Jew from Poland, who in the second half of the 19th century learned English by reading the Bible on board the ship to American shores. Visanska landed in Columbia, South Carolina, founded the Tree of Life Synagogue, which still operates; fathered children who would grow up to perform music for royalty throughout Europe, and lived in a house noted with a marker in Historic Waverly, now a National Register of Historic Places African American District.  When Mr. Trump addressed the people of Poland in Krasinski Square, site of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, he commemorated those who stayed behind to fight the German occupation of their country during World War II:  the underground resistance, which included Polish Jews, and serves as an modern day example to various resistance what they view as harmful governments, leaders and policies.

U.S. National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster’s press briefing on this official trip came with ‘ground rules’: off camera with audio not for broadcast. The commemoration of the Warsaw Uprising was similarly suppressed by the communist forces of the People’s Republic of Poland. The monument that now stands in Krasinski Square was not approved until decades later, finally unveiled in August 1989, on the 45th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, three months before the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The restoration of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated, and the Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm X was assassinated, took similar long roads.

From Warsaw Mr. Trump continued to Hamburg, Germany and met on July 7th and 8th with other member nations of the G20. Among several other US goals, the National Security Advisor relayed the President’s desire to ‘reassert who we are; a ‘we’ that according to General McMaster, did not include those who submit to ‘a perverted ideology’. G20 meetings provide opportunities to forge the global public agenda, a critical charge which can best be fulfilled in a meaningful way IF citizen engagement and resistance are present and heard, and IF diverse media ownership contributes to open dialogue and policymaking through a global public sphere. The images of protesters filling the Hamburg streets, some attempting to stop the G20 meeting altogether, reminds us of the contested nature and history of these global gatherings.

At all levels of politics, the quality of life for citizens remains a burden of communications. ‘Keeping politicians honest’, providing access to public information, transparency and open lines between citizens and their government has been a constant centerpiece of media practice, policy, philosophy and law. In 1962, German philosopher Jurgen Habermas introduced public sphere theory, an idealized model within which national political communications might take place. Habermas’ model of the public sphere responded to the works of Marx and Hegel, and set about creating a platform by which citizens could come together in a space to have their opinions both heard and shaped, as well as providing some participation in the actions of local and national governments, so that elections could properly hold political actors accountable.

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WTO protests in Seattle, November 30, 1999. (Steve Kaiser)

The need to construct a global public sphere emerged during the 1980s and 1990s, with the concept of globalization. Defined by a United Nations report as ‘increased integration of a national economy with the world economy through exchange of goods and services, capital flows, technology, information and labor migration,’ globalization facilitated the movement of some decision-making power from the nation-state level to the global level. The World Trade Organization, formed in 1995, is an example of a rulemaking global organization that citizens felt locked out of, leading to protests and an increased emphasis on human rights activism and civil society engagement at the global level.  New forms of governance included an increase in the number of global forums, and in the level of civil society group participation in existing meetings of international bodies. Many of the issues that are addressed by these groups can be impacted by media, as media with broad reach is the most pertinent contributor to the creation of a formal global community with significant interactions between actors from the nation-state, multinational corporations, non-government and civil society realms.

The melding of the informal global community (citizens/resistance), in relation to the formal international organizations community led to the founding of groups such as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives in 1990, a local governmental membership organization for sustainability and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These efforts to open the global public agenda to formal non-international organization groups contributed to an increased number of Mayors at international climate change conferences, and later to the profusion of U.S. Mayors who have committed to climate change policy in the face of President Trump’s decision that the US would exit the Paris Agreement in 2017.

The current members of the G20: the European Union, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, convenes  as a full group and in bilateral sessions to discuss the global economy, energy and climate policy, women’s empowerment, famine and other global crises. While membership has gradually expanded from its start in the White House as the Library Group, or Group of Five, in 1974, the G7 has not relinquished its leadership, having recently met this past May in Italy. The G20 leaders were joined by leaders of the International Labour Organization,  the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, and this year, at the invitation of G20 President Angela Merkel, the World Health Organization, a historic first time that health has been a part of G20 deliberations.

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G7 Youth Summit participants at with Chancellor Merkel. (Bundesregierung/Denzel)

The deliberative forms of governance used by these groups, and in global forums like the World Summit for the Information Society in 2003 (First phase) and 2005 (second phase), can be seen less as a public sphere, and more as the use of deliberation as a substitute for democratic practice. Bureaucrats and other leaders continued to demand ‘off-camera’ options, which closed door meetings, free from the eyes of the media, mandated public representatives and interest groups in the decision-making processes. The German tradition of social science in which Habermas emerged, was rooted in the Second Ward War, the reign of Hitler and his Third Reich as overwhelming features in the political, cultural, economic, ethical, moral and social landscapes of the time, and Habermas thus chose deliberative over revolutionary methods.

Media outlets can provide a more sharply focused produced, while the Internet and social media can provide a more interactive but not necessarily overlapping discussion. Despite the goals of the second phase of the World Summit for the Information Society, many organizations documented free speech violations as the event was taking place. Despite the presence of national and global bureaucracies in the country, its citizens were ’out of’the public sphere of local and global decision-making. Launched by protests in December of 2010, the Tunisian government was overthrown in January 2011, leading to events that came to be known as the ‘Arab Spring’, which spread the demand for Democratic practice to other countries in the Middle East.

Ongoing contributions of ‘the resistance’ in all these forms and more, are amplified by a press which is increasingly under attack.  Independently owned media could be more resilient in resisting these attacks. One example of such an independent media is Entertainment Studios, owned by Byron Allen, an African-American whose use of Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act led to settlement with AT&T and a decision in his favor by the US District Court in November 2016, advancing his case against Comcast. In this move, Mr. Allen’s actions echo the work of Medgar Evers, who was the first Civil Rights Movement leader to address mass media inequities, and to challenge the actions of media organizations. While there is no guarantee that a media mogul who is a member of a minority will produce more programs for the public interest or to support minority issues, a win based on the Civil Rights Act would come with a greater obligation to create such programming.

The G20 meeting was somewhat diversified by permanent guest Spain and by German Chancellor Merkel’s invitations to the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership, G20 partner members Norway, Singapore and the Netherlands. French President Emmanuel Macron, a polar opposite of his American counterpart in worldview, extended the invitation to Mr. Trump in the hope that his continued outreach during Bastille Day, a historic period of extraordinary collaboration between the two countries, might symbolize opportunity for expansion of thought and possibility for American action. Likewise, the inclusion of civil society groups in G20 proceedings is an expansion that reflects the historical change from nation-state leaders only to a mix of actors. Over 150 of these groups met in June to frame recommendations for the G20.  While social media has bridged some of the gap in the way that global public sphere can be achieved, it will be the combination of citizen engagement, resistance groups action, and increased diversity in access to and ownership of media outlets that will have the greatest potential for impacting a global public agenda through greater accountability and transparency.

Catherine Fleming Bruce is the author of The Sustainers: Being, Building and Doing Good through Activism in the Sacred Spaces of Civil Rights, Human Rights and Social Movements, winner of the 2017 Historic Preservation Book Prize, University of Mary Washington Center for Historic Preservation.

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Missives from Philly

From the 2016 Democratic National Convention Host Committee Blog

‘Building Bridges in Philadelphia’

 

Blogging @DNCinPHL 2016

Here at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I’ll be wearing two blogger hats!

The first hat: I will join the social media team that is a new volunteer category for the Democratic National Convention Host Committee.  The team supports the official blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, with a full complement of photographers, videographers, GIF creators, graphic designer and digital editors.

In this capacity, I will serve as blog writer for the Democratic National Convention Official Host Committee blog, from opening to closing gavel. During the evening shifts I will be the sole blog writer. There are two other writers, one on the morning shift, and one on the afternoon shift. We have an editor working with us (thank goodness!).

My role there will be to summarize the activities of each day.  The Host Committee is non-partisan and non-political, so all of its communications will reflect that policy. I will post a link to that blog a little later today, so readers will be able to check it out.

For the second hat: on this, my personal page, I will post thoughts about progressivism in our country, and how the Democratic National Committee, rank and file Democrats, and other actors at the Democratic National Convention plan to advance progressive policies going forward from the Convention.

I’ll be doing an interview about my activities here at the Convention on U Need 2 Know, a Columbia, SC-based radio show later this afternoon.  I’ll also be talking about my new book on civil and human rights sites and their link to progressive discourse and action. That link is here. Check it out at 4:30pm today.

Follow me on Twitter at @tnovsa for extras and other links to both the official and the personal blog posts.

Catherine Fleming Bruce

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BEFORE THE DEBATE: “America’s Right: a Conversation on a South Carolina campaign for elected office – Mark Sanford, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch and Eugene Platt”

(Presented verbatim from the ‘Good Governance in South Carolina 2013 Facebook page, Monday April 29, 2013)

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Good evening everyone! We are about to start our discussion on America’s right: A Conversation on a South Carolina campaign for elected office. In 30 minutes, Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch will debate in Charleston. We hope this commentary will provide food for thought and dialogue.

Author Robert B. Horwitz

Author Robert B. Horwitz

We posed questions to Robert B. Horwitz, on the release date of his new book: “America’s Right: Anti-establishment conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party”.  Mr. Horwitz is a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California at San Diego. Let’s start with defining anti-establishment conservatism.

'America's Right'

‘America’s Right’

Horwitz defines Anti-establishment conservatism:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act

Roosevelt/Truman 1944 poster

Roosevelt/Truman 1944 poster

“American conservatism broke into two factions after World War II. The main faction made its peace with the basic features of what historians call the post-war “liberal consensus”: state intervention into the economy and the modest welfare state established by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and President Truman’s policy of the containment of international communism. This faction was “establishment conservatism” or moderate Republicanism.”

“The other faction of post-war conservatism, which I have called ANTI-establishment conservatism, broke with the liberal consensus. It vociferously advocated the rollback of the New Deal on the one hand, and called for the military defeat of international communism on the other.

A mixture of libertarian (free market) and traditionalist (largely Christian moral) principles, anti-establishment conservatism is characterized by the embrace of individualism and capitalism, and a (selective) hatred of the state. In the realm of foreign policy, anti-establishment conservatism holds to American exceptionalism, that the United States is a special, even divinely consecrated nation whose values and interests coincide, and whose actions on the world stage bring the blessings of liberty to the world.”

Barry Goldwater, 1962

Barry Goldwater, 1962

“The first national candidate to embody anti-establishment conservatism was Barry Goldwater, who was soundly defeated in the 1964 presidential election by Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater stood for rolling back New Deal “socialism” and for defeating the Soviet Union by military means if necessary. Anti-establishment conservatism made a comeback in the 1970s, bringing evangelical Christians and neoconservatives into its fold, and with their support elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980. The Reagan revolution marked the essential triumph of anti-establishment conservative principles. The latest manifestation of anti-establishment conservatism is the Tea Party, characterized by its determined doctrines of small government, anti-tax, and anti-spending.”

Electoral College 1964

Electoral College 1964

“South Carolina has always been a state drawn to anti-establishment conservatism. Even though it was part of the “solid” Democratic South, South Carolina was one of only six states to vote for Barry Goldwater, and has voted Republican since (except in 1976 when it voted for fellow southerner Jimmy Carter). Some of that has to do with conservative economics; some of that has to do with white South Carolinians opposition to African-American advancement.

Newt Gingrich 2012 Presidential Elections Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Newt Gingrich 2012 Presidential Elections
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

South Carolina’s support of Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP primary was indicative that South Carolina Republicans had no great love of Romney, perceived representative of the GOP establishment.”

 

United States Capitol

United States Capitol

“Anti-establishment conservatism has always stood for small government and individual responsibility. As such, it has opposed the growth of government and links that growth with liberalism. Liberalism is attacked also because of its connection to secularism. Anti-establishment conservatives see the growth of the state and the decline in morals and individual responsibility as intimately interrelated. They view taxation as a liberal plot to take monies from hard-working producers of real economic value (workers and owners alike) to redistribute them to the undeserving (a category that includes minorities and parasitic professional elites).”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Next we asked Horwitz for his comments on possible impacts on foreign and domestic policy if an Anti-establishment winner emerged victorious on May 7th:

Horwitz responds:

Former SC Governor Mark Sanford

Former SC Governor Mark Sanford

“Mark Sanford fits the anti-establishment conservative mold – but this is not a particularly significant observation inasmuch as the entire Republican Party is today pretty much in thrall to this version of conservatism. Moderate, or establishment, Republicans have become a distinct minority within the GOP. Sanford showed his anti-establishment conservative bona fides as governor when he vetoed almost all the budgets that came out of the (Republican-controlled) legislature as containing too much pork. In 2009 he addressed and identified with a South Carolina Tea Party tax-day rally. Claiming that deficits and deficit spending were the source of the Great Recession, Sanford adamantly refused to accept Obama stimulus funds until forced to by the South Carolina Supreme Court.”

“A Sanford victory in the congressional race would restore him to his earlier congressional career as a strident fiscal conservative. A social conservative against abortion, Sanford seems not quite on board with the entire social conservative agenda. He opposed a bill offering faith-based license plates. But his marital peccadilloes appear to have wounded him with social conservatives.”

“In terms of foreign policy, it’s not clear what a Sanford victory would mean. Although anti-establishment conservatism under President George W. Bush led the way in championing military crusades abroad, including the disastrous war in Iraq, the failed Bush presidency injected a level of uncertainty in foreign policy in the GOP. Marco Rubio and others continue to back the muscular (largely neoconservative-inspired) Bush foreign policy; Rand Paul and his followers advocate a more prudent, even isolationist foreign policy. I am not aware where Sanford stands.”

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch

“Elizabeth Colbert Busch has campaigned as a moderate, pro-business Democrat. If elected, she is likely to follow the President on foreign policy and strike a stance somewhat to his right on domestic policy. “

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

We wanted to know, what’s the background? What are some historical points of development of anti-establishment conservatism: 1950’s, 1970’s, Reagan Administration, War on Terror?

Horwitz responds:

Ronald Reagan campaigning in 1980 with Senator Strom Thurmond in South Carolina

Ronald Reagan campaigning in 1980 with Senator Strom Thurmond in South Carolina

“After the collapse of Barry Goldwater’s presidential run, anti-establishment conservatives were eased out of Republican Party leadership positions. They collected themselves and built organizations and networks in media, think tanks, and foundations. They got their chance again in the 1970s. The liberal consensus broke down in the 1970s when domestically, Keynesian tools of fiscal and monetary policy were seen as unable to deal with the economic problems of the time: high unemployment, high inflation, and stagnant growth. The ongoing cultural revolution of the 1960s upended traditions and norms. Anti-establishment conservatives were able to address this turmoil with claims that the state had become too powerful and manipulative. Through their effective networks of think tanks, foundations, and media, anti-establishment conservatives helped galvanize constituencies that had not been much involved in politics – especially evangelical Christians who felt themselves under attack by the federal government and the culture of secular humanism – and brought them into the ambit of a reenergized, very conservative Republican Party. The election of Ronald Reagan marked the triumph of anti-establishment conservatism.”

“Since the Reagan victory, the anti-establishment movement has come to challenge the establishment Republican Party, if not mostly displace it. As this process has unfolded, the GOP, which historically had been relatively heterogeneous ideologically, by the mid-1990s began to look like a bona fide disciplined, conservative political party and, arguably, a religious one. As such, it increasingly displays utopian and dogmatic features.”

9-11 south tower plane strike

9-11 south tower plane strike

“The attacks of September 11, 2001 created a sense of fear and heightened sense of risk that were addressed by neoconservatives, who had become part of the anti-establishment conservative political alliance in the 1970s as well. The neoconservatives urged Bush to attack not just al-Qaeda, but Iraq. They provided a rationale for such military adventures, to wit, preventive war against rogue regimes and failed states on the one hand, and the ability of US military intervention to bring freedom to peoples long-suffering under dictatorships on the other.”

President Bush addresses the media at the Pentagon, Sept. 17 2001

President Bush addresses the media at the Pentagon, Sept. 17 2001

“The failure of the Bush presidency – two long-running wars, huge deficits, and especially economic collapse – left a newly elected President Obama with few options. As the Obama administration applied the Troubled Asset Relief Package and the economic stimulus, anti-establishment conservatives re-awoke and opposed these government programs as illegitimate and anathema to liberty.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

I asked about the Tea Party in South Carolina, and what would explain their motivations and goals:

Horwitz responds:

Tea Party rally in South Carolina

Tea Party rally in South Carolina

“The eminent historian Richard Hofstadter coined the phrase “the paranoid style in American politics” to try to understand the rage and conspiracy thinking that accompanied McCarthyism and the followers of Barry Goldwater in the 1950s and 60s. Hofstadter theorized that that rage owed to “status anxiety” of the white, largely religious Protestants who believed themselves becoming displaced by new groups and new social mores. A similar kind of rage can be found among Tea Partiers, whose hatred of liberalism and especially of President Obama knows few bounds and seems often impervious to facts.”

Governor Mark Sanford at Tea Party Rally in South Carolina

Governor Mark Sanford at Tea Party Rally in South Carolina

“Hofstadter’s paranoid style was about social psychology. While descriptively alluring, I don’t particularly like social psychology. I think the reasons for the Tea Party’s success has more to do with the 40-year attack on liberalism by anti-establishment conservative institutions, reinforced now by the echo-chamber effect of right-wing media.”

….and a definition of Social Gospel:

“The Social Gospel was the belief among mainline (liberal) Protestants at the beginning of the 20th century that good Christians could hasten the Kingdom of God through good works that alleviated the suffering of the poor and unfortunate. Traditional Protestants – those whom we now call fundamentalists – opposed the Social Gospel as blasphemy. Only God could change the world. Indeed, the secular world was Satan’s. What mattered was salvation, not good works”.

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Finally I asked Horwitz his view on this: “What forces are mobilizing, to oppose this brand of conservatism? What does the tight race in South Carolina’s Congressional Dist 1 suggest for South Carolina’s future, and the future of conservatism?”

Horwitz replies:

“My sense is that the Republican Party is now in the situation it found itself after Barry Goldwater was thrashed in the 1964 election. In the wake of that defeat, as I noted earlier, the anti-establishment conservatives were drummed out of the party’s leadership. A similar struggle (or at least conversation) is going on inside the Republican Party now, after it lost the 2012 election. But I highly doubt that the anti-establishment conservative wing – concentrated in the Tea Party faction – can or will be purged. The money that supports candidates is mostly outside party control, which allows rich, ideological, plutocrats like the Koch brothers much more sway than in previous years.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Now we have a few minutes for your questions. I posed this one from S.D. in Columbia:

“If (paranoid) fear is one of the bases of anti establishment conservatism (AEC), how come it is not shared equally? what i mean by Fear “shared equally” is that all of us could be afraid. In fact some are, and some are not. Why is that so? Is that related to the ability to think critically / logically? Going further in this direction of lack of critical / logical thinking, that is what we see with fundamentalist Christians. It is belief in whatever it is comfortable to believe in.”

Mr. Horwitz’ response:

“Sometimes what seems like the ability to think critically is bounded by patterns of thinking instilled by particular religious or intellectual traditions. If one is always looking for signs of corruption or has been trained to see evidence of Satan’s influence, one is bound to find them. The 18th century English philosopher John Locke suggested that it’s hard to ascertain the truth, so one should look hard and hold one’s conclusions on a contingent basis, always being open to contrary empirical information.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

this one from F.M. in Columbia:

“If Ronald Reagan actually conducted his political praxis in terms of raising taxes and foreign accommodationist REALPOLITIK, despite pandering to much anti-establishment conservative rhetoric, why, exactly is he perceived as the embodiment of the anti-establishment conservative agenda? Is it because of the creation of an illusion in the manner of Karl Rove’s later rhetoric or is there some other more fundamental reason?”

Horwitz replies:

“Good question. The case of Ronald Reagan is complicated. Reagan did help instill the revolt against liberalism, and with his support of deregulation, privatization, anti-union actions, etc, weakened the public sector and the social safety net and restored power and prerogative to corporations. But his rhetoric was far stronger than his actions, and he was a consummate politician in the sense of understanding what was possible and entered into negotiations to get there. True even in foreign policy. Unlike Reagan, today’s anti-establishment conservatives make the great (in their perspective) the enemy of the good. I don’t have a really good answer as to why they elevate Reagan to a pinnacle on which he actually did not sit. Could be the way that fundraisers and political campaigns constantly gain money and support by ginning up polarization.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Catherine Fleming Bruce

Catherine Fleming Bruce

Thanks to all of you for your participation in this discussion! Please stay with us for the Sanford-Colbert Busch debate, live from C-Span. (Review the Sanford-Colbert Busch debate here)

Read the introductory chapter of Horwitz’ ‘America’s Right: Anti-Establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party’ here:

‘Public Dialogue’ on Nuclear Power?

I didn’t realize that today was the two year anniversary of the

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Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in Japan. Good thing I have Facebook friends who always highlight these critical issues, and keep them in the forefront, despite their busy schedules. So many images come to mind on this day: the jarring daily reports chronicling the struggle of engineers to get the disaster under control, blog posts from teachers, civil servants and observers, and the revisiting of powerful images from

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So it pleases me to see that public dialogue on nuclear power is taking place in our communities. But I have to ask: is it ‘public’, and it is ‘dialogue’? Image
South Carolina news reports revealed that last week, an organization called the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion on nuclear power.  Stephen Gilchrist, SCAACC’s Executive Director reported close to 400 in attendance to hear discussion on the theme: ‘Nuclear Matters: Redefining Our Energy Future”.   The panelists were elected officials or public servants employed by federal, state or local government:  Dot Harris, director of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity; J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County School District; and US House Democratic Leader James Clyburn.  The private sector was represented by SCANA vice president and SCE&G chief nuclear officer Jeff Archie.

Funders included the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, whose mission is: “to advance the national dialogue about our energy options, focusing on the value nuclear energy provides to America’s economy and the environment.” Members of this 3000+ strong organization include the University of South Carolina; HELO – the Hispanic Elected Local Officials; South Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce;  The Greater Washington Urban League, Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness (CNTA); the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH); Energy Northwest;  and the New England Energy Alliance, to name a very few.  Here are some accounts from a jobs and nuclear power event, held in South Carolina in 2009. A much higher level of coverage seemed to take place at that time than in 2013.

This week and next the University of South Carolina Sustainable Carolina program and the Sierra Club are jointly hosting programs on Nuclear Power. This week the topic is: “After Fukushima, Does the US Really Need More Nuclear Power?”, a presentation by Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma, MD. The program subtitle asks: “Is nuclear power too costly, too dirty, too dangerous to be part of our energy future? What will we do about nuclear waste? How do the costs compare with other energy technologies?” Dr. Makhijani is the author and co-author of numerous reports and books on energy and environment related issues, including Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (2007).  Image

Later this week, I hope that both these presentations will make their way to YouTube or other social media, so that I can share them with you for review.

The question I hope you will ask is: what is dialogue?  Are these two events examples of community dialogue? Are different perspectives and positions thoroughly explored? Would someone in the audience, speaking from a different perspective, be heard?

In a world where the economy is fragile and jobs are scarce, what happens to information, and how it is presented? What happens when social media and digital TV both increase and decrease opportunities to capture viewers, and help citizens understand the complex? Are we as a public becoming too accustomed to one side being presented to us by ‘media’ that we have both produced and accepted the same in public dialogues?

How do we assess what we are hearing? Do we decide to go to a meeting that presents one side, the other, or try to attend both? Do we base our agreement with one side or the other upon which ‘opinion leaders’ we agree with, and whether or not they are in the room? How are we as public to develop the knowledge that we need to engage more fully in these difficult subjects?

South Carolina, the state of the ‘Great 1886 Earthquake‘ has a lot at stake in this issue. This quake, one of the the largest in North American history, still looms large in Palmetto State lore, with over 100 deaths and massive multi-county destruction.  According to a 2012 Geological Society of America study, there is ‘ongoing seismic activity’ in the Summerville-Charleston area, and that quake risk ‘remains high’. There were twelve minor earthquakes in South Carolina in 2012, and South Carolina Geological Survey warns: “South Carolinians need to realize that South Carolina faces the possibility of the occurrence of a strong quake having its epicenter within our borders.  We also need to realize that a major earthquake anywhere in the Eastern United States could adversely affect us, causing damage.”

Our existing nuclear sites are already subject to groundwater contamination. All the more reason why public dialogues on nuclear power in South Carolina must openly and honestly address these concerns. We ARE on a fault line, and our decisions about the future of nuclear power will impact our communities for hundreds of years. We must see the dots, and connect them. In order to become better informed, the public should provide feedback to program organizers that encourage them to produce events that are truly ‘public’ and truly ‘dialogues’.

Catherine Fleming Bruce

Hello to all who happen by,

With a calendar full of fat, skinny, brief, complex, and business-oriented writing to do, I can say that not only am I pressed for time, but I find, surprisingly, that I am also pressed to blog.  Despite profiles in other social media, I am compelled to return to a form of writing that I enjoy, that is, a more personal, expressive form than what I might offer while wearing one of my other hats. One or two friends in particular have influenced this idea with their work in the blogosphere.  I expect they will share their thoughts and criticisms; through this and practice I will hone both my thinking and my expression.

First, my hats: I am a doctoral student in the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina. My foci are on intersections between communication, global ethics and norms, and policy making. I am working on a number of scholarly pieces; ranging from Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers and his contributions to new directions for the American Civil Rights agenda to continued examination of the public sphere and global policy. Other subjects that compel me to wrestle with them from time to time include solutions to homelessness, public and private postures toward the poor, economic opportunity and capitalism, among others.

Another hat: I devise projects that I believe connect to the title themes of my blog: Politics, global ethics and norms, cultural preservation.  My Facebook group, ‘Good Governance in South Carolina: 2013” is now in its third year, as has members from around the state.  I post articles and tweets that provide an opportunity to engage on the subject of governance.  Perhaps this blog will give you and I more time to think, talk and reason together on some of these issues.

I  hope we will be thinking and talking together about a range of ideas and projects, but my focus in coming weeks will be green infrastructure and the environment, cultural and historical preservation, global public policy. Two projects that I am very excited about, and will be writing about this month, are green infrastructure  and nature trail projects targeting under served communities, and the further development of the Visanska Starks Historic site in Columbia South Carolina. I will update this page to reflect those projects shortly.

So follow, subscribe, stay tuned, and get ready to engage.

Catherine Fleming Bruce