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21 — 25 April 2021 | Leuven, Belgium

Een grote vraag om je week mee te starten: Is de waarheid nog steeds waar?

Een grote vraag om je week mee te starten: Is de waarheid nog steeds waar?

At and& festival, we are building an interdisciplinary space where sharp minds merge, in the quest for answers to the big problems of our time. Because all good answers start with good questions, we’ve come up with 21 questions for the 21st century

This week’s question: ‘Is the truth still true?’ With confirmed speakers: Angela Washko, Jimmy Wales, Peggy Valcke, Dana Nastase, and Chris Stokel-Walker.


This week’s question: Is the truth still true?

While many people are waiting in suspense for their Covid vaccine, the so-called anti-vaxxers are gaining followers. A recent study in Nature suggests that anti-vaxxers will be a majority in 10 years. At least online.

"In these disruptive times, the truth might be still true, but the concept of neutrality is outdated."

On Facebook, anti-vaxxers are still a minority. But their alarming messages are widely shared on the platform. Nature magazine states that reliable pro-vaccine information should be more widely available and spread, to counterbalance the fear for vaccines.

There is no consensus about what is ‘the truth’ and what are reliable sources of information, resulting in a lot of confusion and doubt, also in the scientific world.

More than thirty years ago media critic Noam Chomsky stated that everything written in The New York Times was false. In his criticism, Chomsky revealed a principle of enlightened and idealistic origin: science is the guarantee of a truth that sets us free. (Because) It is impartial and subjected to no practical agenda. Therefore scientists are the guardian of truth, and from this position can judge the truth of others—for example, that of the bourgeois press, subservient to the capitalist and imperialist interests. (*)


Alternative truths
With the advent of postmodernism, a different view prevailed: science is an institution, as much as politics or capital. It can be criticized, which gives rise to different truths. Then along came Trump with his "alternative truths," an expression reminiscent of the postmodern criticism of science. Claiming that there only is one truth is "dogmatic;" we are being asked to admit there are alternative truths, just as there are alternative medicines and energies. (*)

In these disruptive times, the truth might be still true, but the concept of neutrality is outdated. Today the other trendsetting newspaper The Washington Post publishes under the slogan ‘Democracy dies in darkness’. That puts everyone on the quest for truth on a very slippery road... 

Freedom fighters
Can innovation help to protect the freedom of the press, and create media that we trust? Some freedom fighters have been actively turning the tide, like our conference speaker Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia 20 years ago. With the newer platform WikiTribune, he paved the path for online fact-checking, for verifying misleading information, and therefore for evidence-based journalism.

American activist Angela Washko is an artist, writer, and facilitator devoted to creating new forums for discussions of feminism in the spaces most hostile toward it. Her talk on the and& conference is embedded in the 'Look at us now' exhibition, which is curated by STUK - house for dance, image and sound in Leuven, opening on April 20. 

“Some freedom fighters have been actively turning the tide”

In 2012, Washko founded The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft intending to facilitate discussions with other players about the misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and discriminatory language used within the game space. Instead of just continuing to ‘go on quests and kill stuff’, she created a series of video-documented performances - two of which are included in the show - in which she initiated and facilitated conversations about gender and discrimination within World of Warcraft.

And then there’s legal tech. We click away general conditions every two minutes while surfing the internet. Our speaker Prof. Peggy Valcke stands in the front line to advise governments on how AI-proof their legislation is. 

The line-up around ‘Is the truth still true?’ is completed by media enthusiasts Chris Stokel-Walker -the author of Youtubers: How youtube shook up tv and created a new generation of stars- and Dana Nastase, who will fill us in on all the challenges and advancements in the industry. 

In the 21st century, do we say goodbye to the truth as we know it?

(*) Source:

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