From the 13th to the 16th November 2015, Project Forum hosted the seventh annual Central European Forum, encompassing debates in both Bratislava and Banská Bystrica. In 2015, the forum looked at the mass dissemination of disinformation and explored how this affects the way we perceive the world around us.
Below you can find information about 2015’s theme, the speakers, the discussions and the whereabouts of all debate locations. And, if you missed the weekend, then you can find recordings of all of the main debates on our recordings page (click on the link entitled ‘Recordings’ below to visit the page).
In her famous essay Truth and Politics, Hannah Arendt argued that “freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed“. In the countries of the ex-Eastern Bloc, people still remember how dangerous factual information was deemed to be under dictatorship. Yet, recently we have seen that it can be just as dangerous to a democracy when factual information is drowned out by myths, half truths and disinformation. Something which in the autumn of 2015 was seen to be particularly true as Europe was plunged into a major crisis.
Starting in late summer 2015, Central and Eastern Europe, much of which only celebrated its psychological and physical return to Europe in the autumn of 1989, started sliding back to the margins of Europe for reasons very different from those in the 20th century. It was not so much the influx of refugees which the region seemed to be so worked up about, as the the influx of myths, half-truths and disinformation which help to formulate opinions and thus often comprise the real danger.
On the eve of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Central European Forum 2015 thusly provided a platform for the local population and writers, sociologists and political scientists from all over Europe to discuss the causes and possible solutions to the rise in disinformation. At the close of the first Central European Forum in 2009, Václav Havel said that “Slovakia enjoys a special position in our region” “as it is the only country that shares borders with all Central European countries, a position which seems to predestine it to discuss Central Europe and its relationship with other regions, Europe and the world as a whole”. In 2015, the seventh Central European Forum continued to stay true to Havel’s words and invited visitors to join them once more in Bratislava, as they turned their attention to disinformation, its forms, its rise and the impact it was starting to have upon the region.
Are you interested in the Forum, but were unable to have been in Bratislava for the occasion? Don’t worry, all of the Forum’s main debates have now been uploaded to our recordings page. Click here to visit the recordings page.
To discover what happened on which days at this year’s CEF, click on the links below.
17:30 – 18:15
18:15 – 20:00
The problem with memory
Memory helps shape our lives. Two totalitarian regimes have left an indelible mark on Europe’s present, especially in terms of our attitude to refugees, to Russia and to our common European home. What does historical memory mean and what can we understand as its converse: is it amnesia or doctored memory?
Moderator: Siobhan Kattago
11:00 – 12:15
Povinné čítanie inak [A new take on set books]
Theatre Forum and a performance by Divadlo bez domova [The Theatre Without a Home]
16:00 – 18:00
Astorka – Korzo ’90 Theatre
How much of Europe and how much of Asia have the countries of the former Soviet Union inherited? And, which of these legacies is most dominant in the countries of Central Europe?
Moderator: Chris Keulemans
18:15 – 20:15
The New Enlightenment
Is there something hypocritical about the values of pluralism and tolerance Europe has been built upon? Has the time come to rethink the Enlightenment?
Moderator: Michal Havran
20:30 – 21:15
The Night Forum with Oksana Zabuzhko
11:00 – 12:30
Astorka – Korzo ’90 Theatre, Trezor, the theatre’s studio stage
Salon of the independents
On autonomous thinking, critique of capitalism and the Kremlin’s arguments.
Introduction: Jurko Prochasko
Moderator: Thierry Chervel
16:00 – 18:00
Welcome to Europe!
In the countries that used to constitute the Eastern bloc, politicians right across the political spectrum oppose migration. They base their arguments on concerns about the influx of different cultures, yet does co-habitation with people with different ways of life, for example with Muslim communities, actually entail any real dangers for the inhabitants of Eastern Europe?
Moderator: Chris Keulemans
18:15 – 20:00
Visegrád under fire
What has happened to the Europe of the Visegrád Four?
Moderator: Jana Starek
20:15 – 22:00
Night Forum with Bernhard Schlink
18:00 – 20:00
Bábkové divadlo na Rázcestí, Banská Bystrica
Everyone is lying
This year’s Central European Forum isn’t just taking place in Bratislava. This year the Forum will also be in Banská Bystrica, a city where the future character of Slovakia is currently being determined. On the eve of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (itself emerging from public discussions in theatres), Divadlo na Rázcestí [The Theatre at the Crossroads] will host a discussion on the influx of myths, half-truths and lies which have been undermining democracy and paralysing civic activities. After all, when everyone is lying, who can we trust to work with and move forward?
And, Banská Bystrica is the perfect location to look at the effect which wide spread suspicion and distrust has had on societies across Europe. A city where, for the first time in the post-’45 history of Slovakia, a man with a neo-Nazi past was able to win the regional elections in 2013. With it’s questionable leadership and as status as a bastion of the highly popular conspiracy theory radio station Slobodný vysielač [Free Broadcaster], Banská Bystrica could be considered to be a symbol of a European crisis of democracy.
After years of more or less successful integration attempts, for many the European Union is now losing its attraction. Instead, we seem to be entering an era of centrifugal trends. Why, after years of success, has such depression set in and what is now the way forward for Central Europe as it stands at this critical crossroads?
Iveta Škripková (Director of the Bábkové divadlo na Rázcestí [Puppet Theatre at the Crossroads])
Stredoeurópske fórum 2015, 13 – 17 Novembra, Bratislava
“Bez toho, aby boli zaručené overené fakty, je sloboda názoru fraškou,” napísala pred mnohými rokmi Hannah Arendt v slávnej eseji Pravda a politika. Si pamätáme, aké nebezpečné boli tieto overené fakty pre diktatúru. Teraz vidíme, že pre demokraciu je rovnako nebezpečné, ak sa fakty strácajú uprostred mýtov, poloprávd a dezinformácií. Dvojnásobne to platí uprostred najväčšej krízy, v ktorej sa Európa ocitla. Naša časť sveta, región, ktorý sa na jeseň 89 s takým nadšením mentálne aj fakticky vrátil do Európy, sa posledných mesiacoch a týždňoch znovu – aj keď z celkom iného dôvodu ako v 20. storočí – posúva späť na jej okraj.
Bezprostredným dôvodom nie je len príliv utečencov, z ktorých má náš región obavu, ale príliv spomínaných mýtov, poloprávd a dezinformácií.
V predvečer výročia Novembrovej revolúcie budú o príčinách a možných východiskách diskutovať – spoločne s prítomnou verejnosťou – spisovatelia, sociológovia a politológovia z celej Európy. “Slovensko má v regióne zvláštne postavenie,” napísal po prvom ročníku Stredoeurópskeho fóra Václav Havel, jeden z jeho prvých hostí. “Ako jediné má spoločnú hranicu so všetkými stredoeurópskymi štátmi a je teda tak trochu predurčené k debatám o Strednej Európe, o jej vzťahu k ostatným regiónom, k Európe a k svetu ako celku.”
33 Námestie SNP, Bratislava
2) Pistoriho palác [palace],
25 Štefánikova, Bratislava
14 Skuteckého, Banská Bystrica
– Nicolás de Pedro and Marta Ter “Operation Nemtsov”: disinformation, confusion and some worrying hypotheses
– Mayte Carrasco and Cecilia Ballesteros Real journalism now: the media after Spain’s revolution
– Joanna Szostek Is Russia outgunning Ukraine in the ‘information war’?
– Rikard Jozwiak EU to counter Russian propaganda by promoting ‘European values’
– Janis Karklins, Wojciech Przybylski and Raul Rebane Controlling the trolls
– The Atlantic Council Seven allies establish NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Latvia
– Frances Coppola The Greek negotiations: many angry words and no way forward
– Salvatore Palidda Criminalisation and victimisation of migrants in Europe
– Richard Seymour The campaign against Corbyn
– Eric Alterman Obama and the media
– Michael B. Kelly US government-funded domestic propaganda has officially hit the airwaves