National Agenda 2018: Midterm Matters with Lauren Duca

National Agenda 2018: Midterm Matters with Lauren Duca

I vote because my voice matters. I vote because my voice matters. I vote I vote I vote because America matters. because my opinion matters. because freedom matters. I vote because I matter. I vote because my future matters I vote because my generation matters. I vote I vote because who we elect to congress matters. I vote because the midterm matters. I vote because the midterm matters. I vote because the midterm matters. DR. HOFFMAN: Evening everyone. Thank
you so much for being here. AUDIENCE: [Applause.]
DR. HOFFMAN: This is our Eighth Annual National Agenda Speaker Series and I’m so excited
to bring this to you from the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication
with support from the Office of the Provost and the College of Arts and Sciences. I am
Dr. Lindsay Hoffman. I am the Director of the National Agenda Series and Associate Director
of the CPC. This year’s theme, Midterm Matters. We’ll be talking all things related to the
midterm elections, as well as issues that matter for the midterm elections. We are a
non-partisan organization and we’ve organized nationally known speakers here. We’ve brought
them here, and you may recall my discussion with Joe Biden and John Kasich right here
on this stage last fall. Our goal is to be a model of civil dialogue, speaking with Americans
from across the political spectrum; Americans young and more experienced; Americans from
different backgrounds; Americans from different parts of this country. Both in the classroom
and in this auditorium, I’ve witnessed firsthand that it is possible to talk to those who disagree
with you without it turning into a rancorous fight. And in election years, yes, even in
the midterms, it’s more important than ever to talk to a variety of folks to get perspectives
on the issues that matter most. Tonight’s event is cosponsored by the Department of
Women and Gender Studies. And all of our events this semester are on Wednesdays so please
visit for all of our dates and times. Coming up we’ll
hear from a 16-year-old who writes a daily political newsletter and has over 50,000 subscribers;
an expert on cyber security who is also UD alum; a writer from the Daily Show with Trevor
Noah; and two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists from the Washington Post. And of course, the
Delaware Debates will happen right here October 17th. Mark your calendar. And if you want
your voice heard, this is the second year of our Voices Matter Audio Essay Contest.
Tell your story about what it’s like to communicate about politics as a student at
the University of Delaware. Find out more at, you’ll hear that a few
times tonight, and yes, there are cash prizes. If you appreciate these events, please sign
up for our email list out in the foyer before you leave and consider supporting the CPC
so we can continue to bring you high quality programming. Tonight’s event is free and
open to the public, like all of our events, to create an open space for thoughtful dialogue.
I encourage audience participation both from the audience here in Mitchell Hall and via
Twitter. Just tweet using the hashtag @udelagenda for a chance to join the discussion. Before
we get started, as I always like to do, I’d like to remind our audience that civil and
courteous dialogue is vital to the success of this program. Although it may seem that
all of the political dialogue we see in Washington, at the local town hall, even at home is contentious
and vicious, we can come together and engage in civil dialogue. Enter this beautiful space
at Mitchell Hall curious, open-minded, and compassionate and you may come away with some
real solutions for a compassionate conversation or just hear a really good story. Either way,
let’s all agree to be candid and courteous. Tonight, without further ado. Lauren Duca
is an award-winning journalist best known for her earth, earth scorched viral piece
“Donald Trump is Gaslighting America” in Teen Vogue Magazine. She’ll explain what
that means tonight. In just over a week the op-ed was viewed 1.2 million times and reshaped
the world’s perception of the magazine targeted at teenage girls. She’s also known for a
short but contencious interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson which inspired the name of
her ongoing column for Teen Vogue, “Thigh High Politics”. Her writing can be found
in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine. She graduated from Fordham
University with a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy in 2013. There she was the
editor-in-chief of the alternative newspaper simply called The Paper. She went on to receive
a master’s degree in journalism and Critical Theory from New York University in 2015. But,
if you know Lauren Duca it’s probably because of her wildly popular twitter account where
she tweets about everything from feminism to Supreme Court nominees to Arianna Grande.
Tonight, our program focuses on why opinions matter; why we need to be able to share our
views strongly and passionately, and why voting in the midterm matters. Please join me in
giving a big Blue Hen welcome to Lauren Duca. AUDIENCE: [Applause.]
LAUREN DUCA: [Indiscernible.] DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] Thank you so much
for being here. LAUREN DUCA: Thanks for having me. We have
these really weird headsets on. DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.]
LAUREN DUCA: It’s freaking me out. DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, they're kind of like Star
Trek. LAUREN DUCA: — in our brain. [Laughter.]
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] Well, before we –
LAUREN DUCA: [Indiscernible] DR. HOFFMAN: — before we get started I wanted
to share the story of how I found you – LAUREN DUCA: Uh-huh.
DR. HOFFMAN: You were, you know, a relatively unknown writer, I mean, before this particular
piece that got published in Teen Vogue. The 2016 piece called Donald Trump is Gaslighting
America went viral because of its provocative claim that the Trump White House is manipulating,
psychologically manipulating the American public. Google gaslighting and you’ll probably
come across your piece on the first page. Let’s start with this concept: what exactly
is gaslighting and where did the term come from?
LAUREN DUCA: Ah, yes, gaslighting is a psychological abuse tactic in which the victim is made to
doubt their own sanity and it, it comes in modern parlance from a Victorian thriller
which is a super short and cool play to read and also a movie. But essentially the, the,
the plot is what I use to, to breakdown the term and to – but my goal in writing this
piece was to give people a word to use to explain feeling insane from the president-elect
deliberately deceiving us. Um, my views on how Trump has gaslighted America, and in fact
the way in which he’s gaslighting America, has evolved, become more sophisticated since
I wrote that piece. The thing, the reality is, and what I wrote at the time, is that
this was going to then come, these, these acts of deception and contradicting use of
reality were then going to be under the official seal of the White House and now in fact they
are. And, I hoped to empower people by giving, by clearly explaining this term and I, I think
that that’s actually an important point is like I didn’t invent gaslighting. Not
by any means. That’s a 1938 play; people had said gaslighting in the context of Trump
before. I wasn’t the first person to say that. What I did was very clearly break it
down and explain it in terms of an example. Um, and I think a big misconception about
the work of journalism is that you have to have this oddball completely unique and irreverent
sideline cool view; this like hipster angle for approaching the news. When in fact the
rule of journalism now is about verifying information and making it more accessible
and easier to understand. And I think that role when we’re bombarded with information
and disinformation and misinformation is increasingly on empowering people to feel confident in
a shared truth. And so, its not that ah, that, that article was not revolutionary because
it pioneered the term, but because it, it allowed for a central place for people to
have a currency for identifying a feeling of generalized public insanity. And, I think
that we, we should all kind of insist on journalism’s role being making politics more accessible
to people. DR. HOFFMAN: Well, and I mean, what you do
as primarily an opinion columnist type stuff, how do we educate our students and the public
as to what the difference is between an op-ed versus a straight news story. Like, how do
we help them understand? LAUREN DUCA: I would say that everyone in
the country I wish would read Elements of Journalism and like, that’s on Amazon, you
can get it for a few dollars, like it costs less than gelato I think, so. Hey, we just
had gelato like in between the salad. It was super weird. But so –
DR. HOFFMAN: But go ahead; but go ahead. LAUREN DUCA: — but so, I’m, so, I ah, journalism
is about creating a shared foundation of information. So, what I do as an opinion writer is I very
clearly delineate between facts and opinions. Um, I am not cherry-picking facts to manipulate.
I am not trying to convince. I am presenting things as they are and when I am signaling
my opinion I am very clearly allowing readers to know that. I am totally transparent and
I’m saying here’s, here’s what we know, here are the hard facts. And by the way, like
the need for investigative journalism especially at the local level is crucial and different
than what I do. But I am radically transparent, and I believe that what I can do to, to further
connect with people is say, here’s the world and how I see it. It’s impossible to come
to anything just to reporting, to, to basic small talk without a particular set of preferences
and experiences. And I believe that we can better overcome our biases if we can admit
to them and if we can be honest about them and so that’s why I share bikini photos
on Instagram. AUDIENCE: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: Also, I go to barre and like
it’s a lot of money; it’s not like come on; anyway.
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: Well, you know, as a professor
– LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: — as a professor of media and journalism and, and politics I’m fascinated
by the fact that students don’t really understand that the vast history of journalism is routed
in very partisan, very opinionated politics –
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah. DR. HOFFMAN: — very opinionated writing and
I, the last half of the 20th century was more focused on objectivity, fairness, autonomy
– LAUREN DUCA: But I am objective –
DR. HOFFMAN: Do – LAUREN DUCA: — so I, I think that’s important
to clarify and I want to let you finish your question. But, I, it’s really crucial to
say I still follow objectivity of method and I am still, I still operate – and so objectivity
is kind of this viscous concept and I think it’s problematic that we don’t have a
public understanding. Ah, the idea is things are fair and balanced and the truth is a math
equation. That’s not the reality. Objectivity of method means applying a set of editorial
standards and ethics to verify that which is true, and I still operate in accordance
with those guidelines. And that’s very important to me. The human mind cannot be erased like
a *** white board. I mean, unless you do like a lot of Molly like four –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — or seven days in a row I’ve
maybe seen that in college. But like mostly, no, you can’t just erase your mind and you’ve
had, you have these things you like and you have this way you’ve grown up and you have
this high school you went to and these parents and, and the particular traumas of any given
childhood and you like things and you’re, your likely to tell a story in a certain way
because of who you are. I, I think it’s ridiculous to deny that and in fact more honest
to admit to it and to say hey readers here’s me, I’m a blazing feminist, I sometimes
eat an entire jar of pickles. Like, here’s all of what you could possibly *** know and
I’m telling you the truth like how I report it from that point. But, objectivity is something
that I think has been taken from us as a profession because its not about being fair. It’s,
it’s about being rigorous and experimental and held to higher standards of verification.
DR. HOFFMAN: All right, so like pickles, um I –
LAUREN DUCA: Pickles are good. My endorsement. DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] No, this is, and
by the way there will be some profanity – LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: — in this talk tonight. LAUREN DUCA: From who?
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] I think what’s
interesting to me, though, is that given that history of American journalism being very
partisan and being very opinionated, like what, what do we need right now? What does
journalism need right now? Do we need more, you know, and I might know what your answer
is, but do we need more opinionated partisan journalism, or do we need more objective,
fair – LAUREN DUCA: We need more people having conversations
from a foundation of fact. So, we’re having this conversation about opinions matter. So,
like, there’s a lot of confusion about that as well and I think it connects to the confusion
about objectivity. I’ve been at other colleges and I’ve had, you know, Libertarian Troll
Boy in the audience being like don’t all opinions get to be heard? No, not all opinions
have equal weight. Opinions with a strong foundation of fact that have been well researched
and are rigorous and are driven by logic and are connected with empathy. I think we all
are participating in our culture, we all are participating in our shared foundation of
fact when we are sharing things on line. Like increasingly our public square is social media.
And, also our conversations ought to hold to the same level of rigor. Like, not just
*** saying *** in kind of all I mean. Doing the research. Not operating out of fear. Not
operating out of ignorance. It, it doesn’t take much. And we have so much. So, I was
like joking at dinner with like some lovely young people, like have you guys heard of
Encarta. Like laughs from maybe but I used to have to get information by like putting
a CD in a computer and like it made a sound –
DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — and truly, and now you can
just Google. Anyway, we have so much access to information. We have so much power. It’s
not hard to embolden yourself. I think that that’s what we need. I feel like, like my
take on this is we should all be kind of operating with a journalistic, journalistic ethics in
our political conversation in the sense that we are saying things that are true, we are
moving from a place of being willing to learn, we are moving from a place of being willing
to accept evidence, and we’re not trying to manipulate people. And I don’t think
that that’s, um, so crazy. I think that there are also different types of journalism
that are necessary. I, I’ve shared a stage in a “Me Too” conversation with Meghan
Toohey who broke the Harvey Weinstein story with Jodi Kantor and was like frothing at
the mouth because she’s so *** cool. But like her approach to journalism is rigorous
investigative work and research and she’s excavating power structures by going and digging
and being a detective and finding the receipts. That’s different than what I’m doing.
I am taking risks and I’m putting my personhood on the line by saying what I think is the
most precise possible condemnation of what I believe is an attack on authoritarianism
and rejection of compassion for the marginalized. Those are different things. My friend Sarah
McBride is in the audience and I don’t see her – there, there’s Sarah. Buy her book
Tomorrow Will Be Different. But, I will conclude with this. There are different forms of practices
and Sarah was kind enough to participate in a panel I did on, on, on feminism and different
modes of feminism. And Sarah is the first transgender person to ever address a national
political convention. Like, I’m so *** proud to know her. She’s in the room. Right?
AUDIENCE: [Applause.] LAUREN DUCA: Love ya.! Tomorrow Will Be Different.
Buy it for real. I love her. But Sarah was sitting across from Emma Sulkowicz who you
may know as the, the performance artist who did mattress performance at Columbia and Emma
has recently been seen with asterisks on her *** out nude outside of the Whitney. And so,
like Sarah and Emma were talking about how we need people in the room and people outside
of it. Like, we need diversity of practice. I think the diversity of practice is about
progressivism and diversity of practice also applies to journalism, but the motivating
ethics has to be about truth and a, a shared foundation of truth ideally with the intention
of building a truer, more equitable society. And if that’s biased then I’m mother *** biased.
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: Well, speaking of bias, I have
a photo here – AUDIENCE: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: — of your appearance on Fox News with Tucker Carlson –
LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: Um, he really went after you
– LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: — after you had made a comment about Ivanka Trump on a plane.
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah. DR. HOFFMAN: Could you tell us a little bit
about that interview? We talked about it today but why did you get invited, what happened
there at Fox, and sort of what was the fallout? What was the result from this interview?
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah, oh wow. What’s a good place to start because there’s so much that
we, like, I don’t even know – DR. HOFFMAN: The Ivanka Trump, Trump tweet
maybe? LAUREN DUCA: I think, okay, cool. So, it was
hard because I, we were talking about this and there’s a whole kind of conversation
about what Tucker Carlson has become and what the place of Fox News is. So, there’s a
lot there. When I got asked to come on I didn’t know who Tucker – I knew like he, a, about
a bowtie that was in the general vicinity of John Stuart. You know he’s since kind
of metastasized into this poster boy for white supremacy in this really miraculous way. But,
ah, that was not the case and I, I didn’t have a full awareness of him. I had a, an
awareness of Fox and I thought that the Ivanka plane conversation – we also talked about
this in class, like, that was an event that happened maybe four years ago – but like,
Ivanka was on a plane, she was on Jet Blue for some reason dot, dot, dot. And a man was
like why is Ivanka on my plane which is perfectly reasonable. But I understood that the trap
that was being set was a matter of civility and respectability. And these kind of nonsense
rules about how we must behave in, in the, in the context of a figure like Ivanka. And
I thought that I could go on and dismantle that bomb by just being like no drama on airplanes,
let’s not talk about that. Instead I would love to talk about how Ivanka is now at the
time poised to become one of the most powerful women in the world and frequently deflecting
all accountability by playing a role of daughter. She, she subsumes to sexism when it is in
her favor and allows her to further consolidate power and then waves the flag of feminism
to her benefit. Stumped for and was a surrogate for the most anti-woman candidate, explicitly
anti-woman candidate of our time while pretending to be a feminist. I wanted to have that conversation
in the context of Fox with what is her power in the White House and what answers do we
have on that? I thought that I could get them to be rational in that regard. He was clearly
and actively hostile and sexist. [Laughter.] That’s really like a calm way of – I,
I did not know what I was getting in to at all. I think that, people ask me often what
prepared me for it and why I was so – we, we talked in class – how are you so expressive.
And like that’s just me. I didn’t have any TV training or, like I clearly still don’t
have training. Like I’m going to be cursing and saying like and like touching my hair
and whatever. DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.]
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: But –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — and be like making jokes that
are probably — don’t tweet but just tweet flattering photos you guys, okay?
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: People are always like retweet
me. I’m like, I look like ***. Just like look at the picture. But –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — so anyway. Weird. But so,
it, on this context of Tucker I knew what I wanted to talk about. I just explained it.
I wanted to say what is Ivanka’s power? I knew how to talk about that. I had a lot
to say. I felt confident that I had things to kind of pull out of my bag of tricks that
I felt confident in in the sense that I had verified them, I had researched them, and
I was ready to go. And I think that that’s why I was unshakable. And I, I think that
the bigger takeaway – there are two – one as we talked about earlier, is that was a,
sort of, in retrospect, a really gratifying experience because it translated into explicit
gruesome terms – you are not welcome here because you have written about fashion and
pop culture. And, I mean, it was kind of a relief because I was getting that sense. There
was this cheeky sort of young women care all about politics, why? Like who? And it was
just so annoying and patronizing and sexist, and people were complimenting me and saying,
wow, I’m, I’m, I’m, my name is Gary and I’m middle-aged and like I read Teen
Vogue. Like, you’re welcome. And I, it’s just sort of, you know, it was like miraculous.
Like, the, the thing is that the intention in those emails was positive and so even at
that level, I mean, even at the level of then I was on the Today Show and they were like,
do you like, do you like politics? I was like, am I on some weird *** crossover of the Twilight
Zone and School House Rock? Like – DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.]
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — what is happening? And it’s
just this absurd, like, we, we are patronized, and we are dismissed and, and we are rejected
from the conversation or made to feel silly and sad and then we’re told we’re apathetic
and it’s like they're making fun of me. So, I don’t know, I think that Tucker encapsulated
that in a way that was a really clear bulls’ eye that I might have had a harder, a harder
time clearly taking aim at and it was just like, yeah, *** you dude. Like, I don’t
even, you haven’t worn a bow tie since 2006 but it’s still part of your brand, honey.
And that was – DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.]
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — helpful.
DR. HOFFMAN: Okay. Wow. LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: That’s not the first time I’ve
said that tonight. LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: I think I do want to get to a more, a little bit more serious topic though.
LAUREN DUCA: It’s just good that there’s not a wine glass here.
DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: I did break a wine glass, but
it was while I was making a point — DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah.
LAUREN DUCA: — so I’m good. DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah, it was like – DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, it was very –
LAUREN DUCA: Shatter the glass — DR. HOFFMAN: — it was very dramatic.
LAUREN DUCA: — wine glass. Yeah. DR. HOFFMAN: But, I mean, you have been a
victim of, I, I hate to say cyber bullying –
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah. DR. HOFFMAN: — but like online harassment
based on how you have obviously been very vocal about your opinions. I mean, how do
you deal with that? What advice do you give to young women and young men who are wanting
to voice their opinions online, wanting to have a space in the online sphere but are
nervous about what’s going to happen to them. What kind of backlash they might get.
LAUREN DUCA: Okay. Yeah, there’s a lot in that. The first biggest thing that I think
applies to everyone is that it’s scary. Like I’m scared. It’s overwhelming and
it’s a bad time. There are pile-ons and outrage, a complete total uneven alignment
of punishment and only the people who are subscribing to decency are held accountable
to it. At that same roundtable with Sarah, my friend Aquila [phonetic spelling] put it
as like, you know, somebody’s robbing the bank and you’re sitting here arguing with
me that, like, pennies aren’t real. And it’s, we just so lost the conversation in
nitpicking each other and that’s real. I think that there’s frustrations about that
that vary based on different intersectionality’s of identity. What I would say to you overall,
and what I try to do for myself, is just be willing to learn. You’re going to have bad
opinions. Like, we’re not all, we’re, we’re, we’re humans living and figuring
out and, and we’re all questioning the status quo. So, in questioning that we’re coming
at, at it from different levels of evolution. And I didn’t fully understand racial justice.
I am a white woman. I needed to learn about that. I didn’t fully understand — I have
a lot of really close gay friends — I didn’t fully understand the gay experience. I still
learn about parts of that. I think being willing to learn and being willing to say — just
don’t die on the hill of your bad opinions. I think we all participate in a conversation,
and also then maybe check yourself and say when am I participating in a pile-on when
progressivism ought to allow for progress. Like, let, let people learn and teach people
where you have the energy and the resources and the privilege to be able to do that. I
think that express yourself also and know that like some evil thing is not going to
jump out. If you think you love people and you generally just want love and equality
hopefully is what most people in this room are willing to subscribe , like, I don’t
know — probably like the New York Times would try to say that that was biased, not really
– people who want love and equality, like Maggie Haberman would be like I don’t know
if I can say that. It’s become a weird *** time but if you want love and equality, right?
Like you generally wish for that, you’re not going to be magically awful. You might
say something that hurts others and your intention might not be to do that but what you must
learn from it is your impact and then you adjust it for the future. I, I think I’ve
made mistakes and I’ve found it really rewarding to say it’s come to my attention that this
made people feel this way. That’s not what I was trying to do. I’m sorry. Like, its
not like this is not what I meant and you’re coming for me is just like – show compassion.
It’s not; we’re not taking hits. There’re not losers. Like, we’re all, we’re all
in this together. I think that just be willing to learn and like participate in that. Then
though there’s harassment which is a different conversation. It’s not, I don’t know,
I think I’m often asked, and not that you’re asking in this way, but I think I’m often
asked about it in terms of, like, tell them, like, girl power. Like, tell them you’re
a bad-ass. And I’m definitely a bad-ass. I’m definitely really *** resilient and
I like, I don’t take any *** and I have a particular upbringing. I’ve endured a
lot of crap and a lot of trauma and I’m really scrappy. And I’ve had to be. Um,
And I’m ready for it. I also struggle all the time. I also am overwhelmed all of the
time. I also am figuring out how to do it better all of the time. Um, it takes a colt
(sic), a cost. It takes a toll. DR. HOFFMAN: Um-hum.
LAUREN DUCA: It makes me angry. I am mad that I am sometimes literally thinking I hope I
finish my book before someone shoots me at an event. Like, then its like, I’m not totally
getting, um, I am exposed to death and rape threats. I am exposed to people saying things
that seep into my consciousness and my brain is my entire well-being. I’m a freelancer.
I come up with ideas for a living. I write for a living. I have to have energy to communicate
for a *** living and people interfere with that deliberately. Ah, that’s not okay and
I have to, I think I’ve had to learn to experience that pain, and to admit that that’s
pain. And to admit that that’s awful. And I don’t –
DR. HOFFMAN: Well, so – LAUREN DUCA: — deserve it. And to be self-righteous
then about combatting it. I’m angry and so I’m going to use that anger and I’m
going to use it to become stronger and to continue fighting back because the only other
choice is to despair, and, like, I refuse to sit and eat garbage in silence. And so,
I would say, like, if you are a young woman, if you are anything that presents, and your
avatar is anything other than a straight white man – and also I understand the internet
is hard for straight white men too and it’s also difficult – the point is the more marginalized
you are the more automatic gutting your opinions will have. The more just you speaking out
will be an issue. And the reality is, like, just me being a young woman is the problem
a lot of the *** time. And I’ve had to understand that and move from a place of righteousness
and say that in taking the bullets of this I am paving the way and setting an example.
And I think that the more people who do that creates more of a collective power of refusing
to let this force, which is just like the white, white supremacist patriarchy as like
a virtual swarm of locusts, quash the conversation because the public square is increasingly
taking place online, and our right to assembly and our right to express our opinions is policed
before it even happens because people are scared to express opinion by virtue of receiving
harassment. So, if you can push through that it is worth it and it is an act of defiance
and it is a political act. So that’s how I justify it. Also, I listen to Donna Summer
so like it’s a lot of – DR. HOFFMAN: Oh, wow –.
LAUREN DUCA: — [Indiscernible] – DR. HOFFMAN: Donna Summer. But, I mean, I,
I’m wondering if you did have the option to talk to one of these many trolls that you
have once – LAUREN DUCA: I have.
DR. HOFFMAN: — people – yeah, like, can you also see the humanity in them and sort
of try to make a connection compassionately to where they're coming from. And how, how
can; I guess what I’m saying is like we’re in such a politically divided place right
now and we, we are disgusted by the other side. We talked about this, about the disgust
and disrespect. And, like, how can we see those other folks as potentially also being
human beings that we might be able to connect to?
LAUREN DUCA: I have a really, just a problem with that question. I think it totally miss
understands the power structure. I think that when somebody is trolling in the way we’re
talking about where they're making a death threat, they're making a rape threat, ah,
they're calling me a ***, they're calling my little brother and asking if I’ve been
institutionalized. They're calling a college friend and spreading a rumor that I’ve been
in porn to pay for college. They're deliberately trying to harm me, um, and ruin my life as
a goal. I’m, I don’t think it’s fair to ask if I understand their humanity because
my humanity is under active attack. I have spoken to trolls. Lindy West has this like
apocryphal story that I was inspired by where she confronted her trolls. I wrote a piece
about the affect of harassment and one of my trolls apologized to me and I spoke to
him on the phone. He explained to me basically this process of dehumanization, of he had
been on the Donald on a Reddit Board. There have been message boards that had coordinated
harassment; 4-chan, there had been actually a post that was like harass – it actually
said, harass her until she has a mental breakdown or goes into porn. I’m like, I don’t know.
All of this – by the way, right, like all of it centralizes around mental health and
sexuality which is a whole other dissertation but like we have limited time here.
DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] AUDIENCE: [Laughter.]
LAUREN DUCA: He, he, he understood my humanity through this essay, and, and was willing to
talk to me. I actually caught another live one – I don’t know, maybe anyone who follows
me, this guy Gary who basically, I don’t know, he clearly just like wrote every insult
he could think of. It was so insane. Like, it was just, he was like emptied the pot of
like every possible nasty thing that he could think to say about a person. And I was like,
just tired and I sometimes hesitate on the ethics of throwing a person to the wolves,
but it was just so gross, and I just felt like emotionally he had come on my face and
I was like no thank you. And I’m going to put you on and people are going
to come and for you now and you’re going to experience this. And now he’s apologized,
and we have a phone call this Sunday because he was drunk, and he did, and forgot I was
a human, basically said in my apology. I think that this is not; I am constantly trying to
be as transparent as possible because I think there’s a willingness to perceive people
who speak publicly and who are public voices as symbols, um, and to forget that. But that,
that’s what’s happening when you’re getting harassment and it is, is a loss of
humanity. So, it’s, it’s kind of this cumulative affect, I find, of, of, of feeling
like, I feel people forgetting that I’m a human being. It’s not even; there’s
a, there’s a traumatic toll of worrying about a death threat and a rape threat and
someone taking my secure, social security number, and telling me they know where my
parents live. That’s a real practical safety threat. But the broader thing that’s corrosive
and hurtful and harmful is, is them forgetting my humanity. So, I guess the answer, though,
is just remembering love overall and I don’t think that work deserves to be done with these
people. I think that the best you can do is keep asserting love, and keep asserting that
you are the light, and that, that you believe in love and that, like, you are motivated
by an honest desire to do good because so much of what gets lost in the conversation
and allows for this hate is a partisan conversation where we think we’re trying to harm each
other and come from two different sides. So, the best that I can do in understanding those
people’s humanity is continue to assert that my goal is again creating a true or more
equitable society and I’m not going to go out of my way to make someone listen to that
who has told me they're going to come to my apartment and rape me.
DR. HOFFMAN: Okay. Always interesting. [Laughter.] Well, I’d like to switch to the topic to
something that’s very dear and true to you which is millennial apathy. So, you have posted
that millennials are now the largest voting block in this country, which I tell my students
all the time, and Gen Z is growing. So, pardon me, you’ve been actively asking young people
to vote. What’s the one message you want to share with college students here in the
audience tonight about the upcoming midterm elections?
LAUREN DUCA: Well, ah, it’s, it’s, vote. Vote, vote, vote. But, voting it feels, it’s
not as simple as that and its frustrating that it’s framed as if its as simple as
that. As was just learned, why, why don’t you guys care? Like, just, just care. Just
vote. And I’ve heard that. I’ve been in a lot, I’ve, I’m, I’ve been working
on a book since the election and I’ve been researching the way we understand youth apathy
in general not just in the context of millennials. And I feel like I cared before. I cared a
lot. I just didn’t understand my passion as applied to a traditional political context.
I didn’t understand the weight of my voice. I didn’t understand a practical application
of democracy. I think that all of that it’s coming more sharply into focus and we’re
questioning more grandly who makes the rules. These things that were seen as kind of like
a sanitized self-cleaning litter box of a *** system like democracy is just going to
magically propagate itself and we can just be like good job America. Like we are eating
hot dogs. It’s just insane. And I think that, like, a lot of what we’ve been taught
denies an active civic participation. Also, by the way, you know what, yeah, our individual
voices are kind of statistically non-significant as Northwestern and Princeton found in 2014.
Like, Citizens United, yes, we all know about the weight of money in American politics.
We all know generally about these big monied interests and how power is consolidated. And,
we all know that our voices don’t have enough weight. So, what’s the solution to that?
To just say like, okay cool. Like fine. Like lets just become China in a few minutes. It’s
like what the ***? Like we just, if you accept inevitability you confirm inevitability as
reality. The second you say I can’t you, you make that the truth. And I think we’re
all kind of subjects of this broader demographic bystander affect. But the people to blame
are also politicians who are deliberately – and another part of this conversation
is we’re not being catered to. The system is setup to make it harder to vote. They're
not catering – Like. my favorite example of how are, how do you know young people are
not of genuine interest to politicians? What would their campaigns look like if they cared
about us? What do people who are trying to market us do, right? They got, they have a
certain color pink, okay? They have fonts. They have avocados. All right? You can picture
it. Like, anybody in this room who has been on Snapchat or Instagram for two minutes knows
what a powerful – we are on the subway, I’m buying sheets. I don’t even know why.
We’re being marketed in really, in really specific ways that campaigns aren’t doing.
And that’s just a surface level example of a lack of interest. And I actually asked
Al Gore about this at the Teen Vogue Summit. Interestingly enough, a setting in which there
were like palms, you know, like whatever. There was [indiscernible], and it was like
I’m a registered voter. It was all of these things that are esthetically youthful that
make perfect sense that you don’t have to be any kind of genius to understand would
be appealing. And in that context Al Gore is saying this sort of thing, this sort of:
Vote. Vote. Just vote, you guys. Why aren’t politicians using those marketing tactics?
Why aren’t politics, politicians actively trying to expand the electorate beyond even
young people? It’s deliberate. It’s by design. And when I asked Al Gore about that
knowing, knowing this, understanding this, his answer was this reciprocal loop of disengagement.
Well, young people don’t vote. Well, young people don’t vote so we don’t have to
cater to you. I guess now he’s an activist, but he was a politician. But in general, that’s
the line of thinking and, and it, we, we have to, our votes don’t individually *** matter.
I’m not going to lie to you. We have to build our, in seemingly insignificant individual
contributions to elective, to collective power in order to flex the muscle of people power
in general as a country. But as a youth demographic we are, millennials are the largest voting
block; Gen Z, you guys are honestly way better than us. Like we kind of sucked but we’re
trying. But like we’re hanging on. And we’re like [indiscernible], like you all need to
even better than us. We’re trying. We’re figuring it out. But you are really coming,
you’re coming of age in this moment where you’ve had a president elected that is positively
absurd that was, we were told was impossible, that is an illegitimate *** panzer of a person
and you’re saying and who’s questioning and demolishing our ideals of democracy, of
decency, who is constantly embracing authoritarianism and, and, and being just objectively deliberately
cruel to marginalized communities in a way that it’s indisputable while, by the way,
being mentally unfit in a way that is routinely obvious to everyone in the country and no
one is stopping it? So, the question is who makes the rules and what I would tell you
is us now. So, vote is the message. AUDIENCE: [Applause.]
LAUREN DUCA: All right. DR. HOFFMAN: Opinions matter.
LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.] He keeps doing it [indiscernible].
DR. HOFFMAN: Opinions on all sides matter. LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: Before we get to the audience Q & A, which I’m sure there are lots of
great questions, you’ve been very active in the opposition to the nomination of Brett
Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. LAUREN DUCA: I would just quickly; I know
this, you guys have probably, have like maybe C4, C3 rules about this ***, but like I would
just say calling out the president for these harmful tactics in an, in, in a clear-cut
hard-hitting way is not something that should be caught in the conversation of both sides.
And I think that the conversation about both sides is part of that objectivity issue. The
truth is not a math question and Elements of Journalism I recommend everyone reads.
Journalism needs to do a better job at communicating its job to the people but, but it, it, both
sides is not someone’s criticizing the president and someone’s not. And I think that –
DR. HOFFMAN: It’s not as simple as that. LAUREN DUCA: Yeah. I think that also it’s,
it’s important to clarify that the, the, that the, the, the TV model of broadcast news
and kind of that fair and balanced framing of things acts as if like climate change for
example ought to be two people on a stage and one person says climate change is real
and the other person says climate changes is fake; that’s not a reasonable rational
debate and that we’ve seen an over compensation for criticizing the president that is extremely
painful and normalizing. And we talked just at dinner about this desperation about like
cataloguing his lies because it was everyone scrambling to appear objective. That’s performance.
When you have Maggie Haberman, for example , and I will use her name again because she
pisses me off, you are saying, you are just quibbling about falsehoods and lies when what
you should be doing is doing the work to ensure the American people know the things coming
out of the president’s mouth are not true and this is what’s happening. He’s lying
or he’s crazy. He’s unwell or he’s deceiving us deliberately because they're not *** true.
So, one of those situations is the reality and that’s what the American people need
to know. So, you can call it whatever the hell you want but you need to contextualize
it within that. And there’s this, this double, this bending over backwards – I, I’m sorry,
I just feel this is very important – that we also see in the teleprompter thing, right?
That’s what that’s about. That’s why that has reached such a fever pitch in the
conversation of oh Trump, Trump read off a teleprompter and he, he, he demonstrated literacy.
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: The, the, that is about trying
to say look I can find a good; it’s like when you hate someone and you’re like well
she had a nice shirt. Like it’s insane. And, and, and we shouldn’t be bending over
backwards to do that because the work of journalism, the fundamental thing to make clear besides
the fact that Trump is a demonic *** sweet potato is –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — that – it’s journalistic
– it’s okay and that’s opinion – so, um, but –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — but I think the thing to make
clear is that the job of journalism is empowering people’s information. The job, the job of
journalism is empowering people with information. I just can’t say that enough because from
a foundation of information is how we participate in our democracy. And that is what the service
must be and our, our, our allegiance and my allegiance most certainly, is, is to my fellow
citizens and, and anybody who is not operating by that standard is not a journalist.
DR. HOFFMAN: Well, a, a less controversial topic. Brett Kavanaugh.
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: You’ve been very active. You
did a — LAUREN DUCA: Who is she?
DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] AUDIENCE: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: You’ve been on tour this summer talking about the importance of Roe v. Wade.
LAUREN DUCA: Ah. DR. HOFFMAN: Tell us a little bit about Brett
Kavanaugh, what you think about that particular Supreme Court nomination, what you’ve been
doing in your advocacy work, and then we’ll open it up to the audience.
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah. One thing I would want us, want to say first, yes, I have a difficulty
with navigating two roles which are activist and journalist. I don’t think they can’t
coexist. I think that takes a lot of work to make them coexist. I am a feminist and
I am a journalist. So, I, I went on tour fighting this nomination. I’m going to explain why
fully in that specific context. But the broader up top thing I want to say is, and I, I spoke
about this with some of the students earlier, is that is, being a feminist is about equality.
Period. A lot of confusion about that. That’s what it’s about. Being a journalist is about
providing a foundation of information upon which we can participate civically. I believe
the American Project is about building a truer more equitable democracy. In that regard,
not only can feminism and journalism, coexist. In fact, we should all be feminist journalists.
I have an argument for that. I stand by it. I believe that reproductive rights are essential
to that equality. I don’t, I think that these things are inarguable when we use logic
and by that, I mean that having a baby costs money. So, when we’re talking about financial
justice and we’re talking about people having; or we’re talking about evening a playing
field, we’re talking about welcoming all voices into the, into the formal civic conversation
about how we ought to live together, that requires reproductive rights. Period. There
are no progressives that are willing to compromise on that. Bernie Sanders, I’m just, that’s
just not up for debate. So, I’m sorry, so I may throw up. But, um so –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — that’s why I initially joined
the tour. I wanted to just, I wanted to rant about reproductive rights. I feel some type
of way about that. What I came to learn from it, and I crossed, I, I, the line between
my journalism and my activism became really intense when I finally wrote about it because
when I finally sat down to write about this thing I had done for ten shows in 14 days,
losing my voice finally in a rally at Union Square where I was advocating solely for our
senators, responding to their constituents, I, I wondered where, where I was rallying
people power why that would ever be considered in somehow opposed to journalism. And I think
that that shows that our collective idea of journalism has gotten out of whack. My message
in this regard is that our senators are elected officials and they ought to answer to us.
They work for us. Period. The majority of the country opposes this nomination and the
idea that its inevitability is a reflection of an illegitimate government. That’s what
I think. And, I, I have a constitution to back that up. I mean, what is government by
and for the people when we have elected officials who are somehow inoculated to public mandate
and public opinion. What does it mean when there’s a confirmation hearing about a position
that is going to shape American lives for decades that we’re told is a sure thing,
that we’re told there is nothing we can do about it. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t
know exactly what the rules are for breaking through that noise where you have the Washington
Post saying that Brett Kavanaugh is a *** car pool dad. You have, you have the New York
Times saying that liberals are stagnating without, without covering any of the grassroots
efforts that I was on the ground for. We can’t expect a mainstream media to reflect back
to us the size of a movement while it’s happening, but we have these numbers and these
people *** work for us. And our voices will be heard. And if advocating that is not journalism
then um, maybe by the person who is making that definition I’m doing something else
but by my definition of journalism which is empowering people with information and the
information they need to participate civically extremely *** Brett Kavanaugh.
AUDIENCE: [Applause.] LAUREN DUCA: Opinions matter.
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: You know, I’m just trying to
bring up some light conversation here – LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: — on stage. Well, I think what
I’ll ask Hannah and Parker to do is, they are two of my students in National Agenda,
this is actually a class, so as, as Lauren mentioned she’s been meeting with my students
throughout the day and they are, have volunteered to throw around what is literally a microphone
as a box. A catch, it’s called a Catchbox. They're going to come down to the front and
we’re going to invite a Q & A from the audience. But I think I’ll, before we do that maybe
I’ll just open this up talking about journalism, what is journalism and what isn’t journalism.
We talked a lot about this op-ed, this anonymous op-ed in the New York Times –
LAUREN DUCA: Oh, yeah. DR. HOFFMAN: — from within the White House.
Um, um, do you have some quick thoughts on that before we open it up to the Q & A? Like,
is that, was that appropriate for that person to do that?
LAUREN DUCA: Ah well, I guess, well I don’t know, I guess if ew mean, what do we mean
by appropriate because, yeah, as we discussed there’s a lot going on with that. I do think
that there are sinister implications to it and cynical ones as well with what the goal
is for kind of shoring up the idea of some underlying principle within the GOP that could
somehow be separated from Trump. But maybe what the main take away of it is that there’s
somebody within the, the administration who recognizes completely and fully that the man
has no moral center and is completely mentally unfit in, in a completely explicit terms in
this article. For the public to have that grander permission to recognize Trump as the
abominable cancer to our democracy that he is, is significant and hopefully will make
a difference in recognizing his legitimacy, I hope, in the most present time in terms
of blocking Kavanaugh because why should that man get a Supreme Court pick. But, what it
also shows is that there’s a crisis of cowardice. That there are people that now we, we, we
know for certain, I think we’ve kind of all known for awhile that there, there are
people that understand Trump as the monster he is and, and, and will have points of, of
equivocation but are unwilling to stand up for him. And to, to explicitly recognize it
as was the case in this op-ed and refused to stand up for it. I mean, it just shows
us that the norms and values that we, we take for granted that we think are going to magically
again uphold this self-cleaning litter box of democracy, they are not self-enforcing
and, and our norms and values, our laws are only as strong as the people who are enforcing
them. And, and what we’re seeing now is that, you know like, we are the ones we’ve
been waiting for in such a profound way. There aren’t, there aren’t some magic authorities
or gatekeepers who are going to save us and, I mean, I think that they, they already showed
us that when they told us it was impossible for him to win and then boom, he won. But,
it’s just a further corrosion of, of, or should be a further corrosion of our willingness
to accept the status quo because these things are not going to correct themselves and so
vote in the midterms. DR. HOFFMAN: All right. Thank you so much.
LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.] DR. HOFFMAN: Um, I, I will remind everybody
that this is, we are a nonpartisan center and we bring lots of voices in to this conversation
and we want to make sure that we engage and demonstrate civil dialogue. And in that spirit,
I’d like to invite questions from the audience. So, it looks like Hannah has the, the Catchbox.
Do you want to toss it, you can toss it, you don’t have to hand it? Toss it. All right,
our first question. Q: So, my first question for you is about
you, obviously you’re very passionate and really — first of all, thanks for coming,
we really appreciate it. But my question for you is obviously in your abrasiveness to the
president we know that negativity drives down voter participation so how do we kind of address
what’s going on with the president but at the same time not turn down the voter participation.
And how do we balance the two? LAUREN DUCA: What do we know?
Q: So, when we’re negative and we know campaign, negative campaign ads from politician’s
turndown and drive down voter participation –
LAUREN DUCA: Oh — Q: — candidates —
LAUREN DUCA: — well I think we also need positive policy proposals as well. So, there’s,
there’s this, this general criticism of the resistance from people who are cynical
*** out for themselves in media who are framing the resistance as like simply a reaction to
Trump. That’s not actually what’s happening. Um, I think that that’s a really simplistic
understanding. There, what Trump is, is this grotesque event that has made us question
the status quo. It’s not as if; somebody running on just *** Trump doesn’t deserve
to be elected. That’s not even happening though. Like, I feel like there’s always
this coverage that’s like just resisting Trump is not a platform. So, like, whose are,
I don’t know, who is that candidate. There’s, no one’s even actually doing that. Everyone;
there’s, there’s rich outsider candidates coming from across the board with awesome
interesting progressive platforms but also in general the awakening moment that has come
about in many ways because of the election. It’s not about him, and it wasn’t about
him for me. Um, he is the red herring for a prevailing sickness of our democracy. Where
we previously were willing to accept that our lack of solutions for our political problems
is just the way things are and now we’re saying no we demand solutions. And I mean,
Parkland is an example of that that has, that is tangentially related to Trump in the sense
that he took money from the NRA, and in fact 30.1 million dollars – double check it.
But like, the reality is that this is about saying hold on, why have we said that our
political problems are inevitable. These people answer to us. What is this system that we
thought was getting better and more equal all the time and that is what will turn out
voters and has already turned out voters? DR. HOFFMAN: Can I put on my academic hat
or my tam with a little tassel? LAUREN DUCA: Yeah.
DR. HOFFMAN: There is actually a lot of research to show that negative advertisement, advertisements
do bring people to the polls. They do actually motivate people. I mean there’s some discussion
about it, but I think that it’s something that – we, we can’t assume that, that
they're always bad. I mean, who likes to listen to the ads; there’s like Mr. Smith is a,
he cheated on his wife. You know, like, like they're, they're all terrible but like they
actually do draw people to vote particularly in local elections. So –
LAUREN DUCA: Which also pay attention to people who are campaigning that way –
DR. HOFFMAN: Right. LAUREN DUCA: — because what does it mean
if people are campaigning by smearing and doing this negative – that’s not what
we should be interested in [indiscernible]. DR. HOFFMAN: I think that’s a very good
point, but I think that its, it’s a larger discussion. I, I’d love to talk with you
more about it in terms of what different types of political ads motivate people to get to
the polls, particularly in midterms. All right, so Parker’s got the Catchbox.
Q: Thank you. Thank you very much for your contribution today. I really enjoyed your
comments. I was just wondering, you reject the inevitability of like Kavanaugh’s nomination,
but you also asserted that, you know, elected officials have to represent the interests
of the constituents. And while the majority of America opposes Brett Kavanaugh, more than
25 states, more than 50 senators their constituents support Brett Kavanaugh. And how would you
say – LAUREN DUCA: That’s not, not good.
Q: Okay. That’s great to hear. But I’m just concerned about the fact that we’re
looking at a lot of, even Democratic senators that have states where most of the constituents
voted for Brett Kavanaugh and continue to vote motivated by the platforms that he supports.
And, maybe if you just, like, respond to my question by saying by saying why you believe
that’s not true I’d also like to hear that.
DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah. Can you give us sort of a breakdown of –
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah, I’m a little confused about this question.
DR. HOFFMAN: Well, I think she’s concerned about which senators are kind of pro Kavanaugh,
anti-Kavanaugh. Q: Oh. Yeah. Sorry about that. No, no, I was
just saying that there’s a lot of, there’s at least over 50 republican senators and they’ve
been elected and not a lot of their seats are considered very vulnerable. There’s
not a lot of democrats that might flip those seats –
LAUREN DUCA: Oh. Q: — the democratic seats where the – in
North Dakota for example we have a democratic senator who supports reproductive rights but
over, there’s a 35 percent margin for weight of Donald Trump and her constituents are urging
her if you want to be elected vote for [indiscernible] Kavanaugh. So, I just mean, maybe you believe
that that’s not representative of their states but that at least seems to be the impression
to maybe me or some other people tracking you know the electoral politics of these states.
DR. HOFFMAN: Okay. Thank you. LAUREN DUCA: Ah, okay, so some, some of that
was just patently [indiscernible] but I get your overall point which is that there is
a majority of Republican senators and they are Republicans. I think, and we assume they're
going to vote a certain way. That’s really problematic. I was in, I was in Texas on the
“Rise Up for Roe Tour” and people were really frustrated, and they were like our
senator is Ted Cruz, of course he’s going to vote a particular way. There in lies the
problem. That playing for a particular team means you don’t have to answer to your constituents.
I mean, I, I don’t know what your reelecting back in terms of these opinions but actually
there’s recently been data that shows that people are not going to even – whatever,
I’m not going to get into the; I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think
– DR. HOFFMAN: Well, no, but there’s recent
polling shows that people don’t really care about —
LAUREN DUCA: Right. DR. HOFFMAN: — how their senators feel about
Brett Kavanaugh. LAUREN DUCA: [Indiscernible].
DR. HOFFMAN: That’s not going to influence their vote this November.
LAUREN DUCA: I’m going to vote based on that. And I think because people don’t feel
a voice in it and that’s what the problem is. I mean, the, the idea is like within democracy
as presented as something separate and other and something that’s going to grind away
magically at the Supreme Court is even more vacuum filled off within this as a thing that
we don’t have a role or a voice in and who decided that? I don’t, it, it’s, it’s,
its positively absurd that this governing body would be completely and totally removed
from prevailing public opinion and, and, and voter opinion on, in terms of that not reflecting
votes and low voter turnout is what allows for there to be a calculus that doesn’t,
doesn’t even begin to consider opinion. But I think like the overarching takeaway
has to be we, we all have to vote. I mean like, I’m saying if you, if you want to,
you live in Texas and, and, and you support Ted Cruz I still think you should vote. I,
I’m, I, I, if you live in New York and you support Andrew Cuomo I still think you should
vote. I, I, I think that we flex our muscle as a people power and as a voting body in
showing that we are going to show up and showing up we’re going to register and showing up
we’re going to vote. And there’s a lot going on there and there’s a lot that’s
complicated but the problem is that everything falls into these two teams that are presumed
to, to fall into these two camps automatically and that we have to choose the less bad one
and like sometimes the less bad one like is Joe Biden and likes ice cream and were like
that’s a little more palatable. But it’s still part of the same *** up system that’s
not actually listening to our voices. I, I, there’s a, I’m just frustrated because
the idea that there could be both sides on Brett Kavanaugh I think is a, is, is, is easily
as disproved as this: seven in ten Americans are pro-choice. This is a pro-choice nation
in terms of public opinion and unequivocally based on his past rulings and his hearings
as well Brett Kavanaugh would gut reproductive rights. There is no argument otherwise on,
based on any kind of logical standing. And, that is opposed to what the majority of the
country wants as rule of law. And the fact that our senators are willing to rule against
that reflects in unwillingness to represent constituents that should enrage everyone regardless
of where they fall on the political spectrum. DR. HOFFMAN: All right, let’s take a question
from the; I don’t think we got a question from the middle here. Parker? I see –
PARKER: [Indiscernible]. DR. HOFFMAN: Just toss it. See where it goes.
Don’t be afraid. [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: Yes.
Q: Welcome. We’re glad you’re here. I have a question about what you define as journalism
because I agree with you. You say that journalism is empowering people with information, but
I think one of the big problems with journalism with my students and with many people is they
don’t understand that journalism is not information that’s transcribed from the
journalist’s experience, it’s information that the journalist gathers and verifies.
LAUREN DUCA: Yeah. Q: And I think, because I, I heard you say
verify like two times. I, you’re the only journalist I’ve run into in a really long
time, on every channel I’ve ever watched, and any conversation was even talking about
that people don’t understand what journalism is, even though it’s in complete crisis
and is faltering. So, my question is – LAUREN DUCA: Hum.
Q: Because I didn’t go to journalism school and you did and you were just recently at
a relatively good one. So, the question would be, what kind of messaging is out there to
explain journalism is not transcribing the observations –
LAUREN DUCA: No. Q: — of the person with the microphone. It’s
actually a process – LAUREN DUCA: Yes. Yes. And I, I, I, we, we
have a – DR. HOFFMAN: Parker.
LAUREN DUCA: — we have a great – DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.]
LAUREN DUCA: The, the work of journalism is the work of verification is, it’s absolutely
essential. So, its empowering people with information through a method, an objectivity
and method in terms of verification. And that is essential. Thank you. I think that I’m
fact checked and I go through copy and research on everything I write and sometimes I make
mistakes and things need to be tightened and I’m a human being and I see things in a
particular way, um, and I also – a, a good example, because now I do a lot of opinion
writing so I’m sometimes have analysis or moral judgments that I hopefully have signaled
clearly but, but when I worked for Teen Vogue I would sometimes cover campus rape stories.
And, like, my gut reaction to any campus rape story I did is like where the *** is he? Right?
Like, that’s how I gut respond to it. I have to mitigate that, and I have to say okay,
the grander contours of my personal experience of being a college student, of my friends’
personal experience that makes me very angry of this general story of how young women are
treated in hook-up culture is not about this particular story. This particular story has
a set of facts and things that I am to represent, and I need to confront my own personal anger
in writing about this. I think that’s a really good example because I then also can
be aware of it and admit to it. And I’ve also been really, really open with people
that I’m a fiery feminist who might be more inclined to that kind of belief. I’m still
correcting it but also people know more where I’m coming from. So, in addition in my opinion
writing as well I also strive to a level of radical transparency that I hope informs my
readers so that they have as much information as possible because I’m going to make mistakes
and I probably do every day. But, that they have all of the information and know everything
about the eyes through which I’m seeing things. My goal is never ever to manipulate
but certainly I see things from a particular perspective and I can, I do my best to verify
it. I work from an objectivity of method standpoint. But we are all humans and, you know, at, at
a grander philosophical level these communications have to be about communicating with truth
which is a difficult concept. We’re all, we’re all in college here. We know about
truth. Who wants truth. Like, who wants truth. That.
Q: [Indiscernible]. Why do you think the journalism community doesn’t get, nobody knows what
they're doing – LAUREN DUCA: Hah, hah.
Q: Saying I’m reporting it and saying I verified it.
LAUREN DUCA: I think that the, there’s a lot of speed. There’s a loss of the role
of the journalist in the context of the information age. It has to increasingly; it used to be
about I’m reporting it. It used to be about what does the public need to know and gatekeeping
information. And now everyone is being blasted with, with, with seven versions of the thing
and four of them are fake, and, and, and you do have to make sense of the literal phenomenon
of fake news and the more quiet kind of odorless gas of bias and processing all of that and
what the work of journalism needs to be doing now is breaking things down and verifying
and discount, like, understand an entire information ecosystem and working to guide people through
it um, and, and, and doing the work of saying this, hey also this is out there and it’s
not true; this is out there and it’s inaccurate; this is, this is what we know for sure and
breaking down an, an, an absurd amount of information I think is a bigger challenge
and I don’t know that the metabolism of the industry has caught up to it. And there’s
a lot of reasons for that as well. I don’t think, I think any individual journalist is
like, is extremely hardworking. We’re all underpaid and overworked, and newsrooms are
not providing the time and resources often to do that work and the rush to be first and
the rush to get the clicks and the content, we’re going to need a new model. But I also
am confident that we will find it. I think, I think that, that I have been able to, to
maintain an independent channel that I’m really excited about. I think it can be used
for evil because like so has Alex Jones, right? So, the things I’m optimistic about I’m
also concerned about. But, honestly the question of like what you believe in in terms of the
future of journalism and the future of democracy does come down to believing whether or not
people are basically good, right? So, like, if we’re not optimists, like, lets all go,
like, do heroin tonight. I don’t know. But like –
DR. HOFFMAN: [Laughter.] AUDIENCE: [Laughter.]
LAUREN DUCA: — I am an optimist and I think that, like, my, my commitment to authenticity
and to these ethics and values will shine through and that the people who are doing
the good work will persevere – DR. HOFFMAN: Okay –
LAUREN DUCA: — I hope. DR. HOFFMAN: There is no mandate to do heroin
— LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: — tonight when you leave here. AUDIENCE: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: But, I will, I will mention that we have, here I am with –
LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.] And don’t do heroin. DR. HOFFMAN: Here I am the professor –
LAUREN DUCA: Watch [indiscernible], it’s a PSA.
DR. HOFFMAN: Oh, yeah. LAUREN DUCA: [Laughter.]
DR. HOFFMAN: Wearing my professor hat again, um, we have, we do have a journalism minor
and a political communication minor, both of which I think talk about a lot of these
issues. I mean, we’re in a really delicate interesting place and, um, I think it’s,
it’s great for students to engage in these kinds of conversations and I’m so glad to
have my National Agenda students here tonight. Um, I think we have time for one more, Hannah,
if you want to through one – maybe one or possibly two. So, toss as far as you think
you can to someone whose got their hand raised. Do you think you can do it?
LAUREN DUCA: Can we give it to a woman? DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, lets —
LAUREN DUCA: [Indiscernible]. DR. HOFFMAN: Let’s do the one right here
– LAUREN DUCA: Or give it to her.
DR. HOFFMAN: — right here on the, on the aisle.
AUDIENCE: Why is that? LAUREN DUCA: Because women don’t get to
speak as often as you, sir. I’m going to take her –
AUDIENCE: [Indiscernible]. LAUREN DUCA: These are the questions from
the audience and look at you talking without any permission. Can I have your question,
Miss? AUDIENCE: [Indiscernible]
LAUREN DUCA: You are just being annoying. DR. HOFFMAN: All right. All right, all right.
AUDIENCE: [Applause.] LAUREN DUCA: All right.
DR. HOFFMAN: Do over. Can we just toss it to the young woman in the white shirt on the
aisle, Hannah? Thank you. Q: Just one second.
DR. HOFFMAN: Yeah. Did you have a question? Q: Ah, yeah, hi. It feels great to have another
friend in the room by the way. Um, my question is about the hostility between the Trump White
House and the media. Do you think there’s a better way to cover this complex Trump administration
– LAUREN DUCA: [Audible sigh.]
Q: — and if so, what do you think we can do?
LAUREN DUCA: You know, I think that hostility is the, the wrong, is the wrong context for
it. There’s a, there is a, there’s a; automatically journalism should be hostile
to the White House in the sense that it’s questioning its power. I mean, I don’t,
I’m going to admit my bias and say like Obama’s my dad and I love him so much, right?
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: But, right? He was one of the
least transparent presidents and he did a ton of harm to the press in terms of his policies
and there are things about his presidency that were overly criticized and also things
about his presidency that I, at the time, I think was coasting by and didn’t recognize
as harmful. For example, he had a huge chance to regulate Wall Street that I don’t think
he took advantage of. I don’t have time to criticize Obama. Like I will, he, if he
[indiscernible] please, like him and Michelle. I, that’s my bias on that. But the point
is, like, the press should be constantly interrogating the power of the state. That is our role.
It’s been framed as if everything Trump does is wrong which –
AUDIENCE: [Laughter.] LAUREN DUCA: — what’s he actually doing
though on a daily basis, right? Like, I mean, are there times when the language is too extreme
or severe? I, I, I feel like we’re getting caught up in the civility and particularity
of coverage and mincing words when what we should be saying is the White House is deliberately
attempting to undermine our foundation of truth and therefore abolishing our chance
at a legitimate democracy. And, I’m not really concerned about curse words and nasty
terms and little insults and civility and respectability. I think that, sure, let’s
all try to do our best. Let’s all try to dignify the conversation as I clearly need
work on. Like, I’m whatever, l [indiscernible] like a sailor which I don’t totally understand
that metaphor. But like, whatever, so that’s what she would say. The point is, I find that
there’s catharsis in humor and I don’t spend the extra time correcting and policing
my expression in order to fit rules that I didn’t set. And I’m willing to learn and
be told the things I’m doing are harmful, but I’m most concerned and swimming as hard
and fast as I can at preserving democratic values and I hope that my fellow journalists
would do that as well. And I think that ultimately, like, yes, the press should be adversarial
to power. The people are trying to derive more power than the consolidation of power
that is government even in the best of times. We are on the same side. Journalists are on
the same side as citizens and the state inherently operates to increasingly consolidate those
power structures and remove voices from the people. And, and, and in that model, we are
adversarial. And so, I, I, I think that that is, is, like maybe reflective of the last
question as well where we’re as a public we think of the press as manipulating us.
The, the, the overarching duty of journalism should be empowering the people to retain
as much power from the state which inherently consolidates as much of it as possible.
DR. HOFFMAN: All right. Thank you. Let’s thank Hannah and Parker for monitoring our
– AUDIENCE: [Applause.]
DR. HOFFMAN: — Catchbox conversation. And before we thank Lauren for being here tonight,
um, I wanted to make a point, Lauren is very interested in making sure that students, no
matter what your perspectives are, what your opinions are, that you make sure to register
to vote. LAUREN DUCA: I mean that. Seriously, if you
hate me, like, still vote. Still register and still vote. Yeah, I, I truly, truly – our
democracy is healthier if more people are informed and active honestly, truly.
DR. HOFFMAN: Well, and I’m really pleased that we have a student-led initiative on this
campus: UD Make It Count. So, we’re using the hashtag #udmakeitcount. Students in public
policy, political science, communication across the campus have entered a competition. It’s
called the All In Challenge. And we are competing with over 300 other campuses in the country
to engage the most students in registering to vote and engaging to vote using Turbo Vote
— which I think I have on the next slide – it’s And even if
you’re already registered to vote, if you sign up through you will
get notifications no matter what state you live in about when your upcoming elections
are. And I’m really happy to and pleased to announce tonight for the first time that
we at the University of Delaware; when I came here in 2007 we were rated one of the most
politically apathetic campuses in the nation and as of Friday we were recognized as one
of the top 58 out of almost 1500 campuses in terms of our voter registration and engagement
efforts. So, thank you. AUDIENCE: [Applause.]
DR. HOFFMAN: So, you can find out more about, we’ve got several events planned. On September
25th, on October 25th we’ve got more National Agenda events;, be
looking for that. Our next speaker is a University of Delaware alum. He is an expert on cybersecurity,
he was the president of McAfee. He has a lot of cool information about like what we can
expect or be concerned about when it comes to voting, um, in the midterm elections, in
the next elections. And finally, I wanted to mention that we have our Voices Matter
Contest, audio essay contest. There are cash prizes for this contest. Sarah McBride was
so nice to be our keynote speaker at, at this year’s contest. It was a really wonderful
experience. I hope you thought so too. And it’s great to just hear students offer their
perspective on what matters to them. And so, this year our theme is about free speech,
hate speech, what its like to be able to talk about politics on a college campus. So, without
further ado I’d like to give a big thank you to Lauren for being here.
AUDIENCE: [Applause.] DR. HOFFMAN: And I invite you to join us here
at our next event, same time, same place, September 26th right here in Mitchell Hall.
Thank you. AUDIENCE: [Applause.]

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Sponsored by the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware, the 2018 National Agenda Speaker Series opened with Lauren Duca, an award-winning journalist and columnist for Teen Vogue magazine. She is best known for a 2016 piece titled, “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.” The Series is moderated by Dr. Lindsay Hoffman. Visit for more info.

18 Replies to “National Agenda 2018: Midterm Matters with Lauren Duca”

  1. This woman is a sick mental case, her Twitter is full of crazy, man-hating, bizarre babble and suchlike. Her hate for men has even affected her, she was married to a man and suddenly just a few months ago she said she was gay and got divorced. It blows my mind that any University can take this woman seriously.

  2. Yikes ! Is this really what our school's are churning out these days ? Valley girl, virtue signaling,incoherent,
    blithering idiots with no focus,and no point but waaaaaah waaaaaah I'm so edgy and mad.I honestly don't even know how I wound up here but alas,I am now dumber and will never get this time back

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