Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met with UC Berkeley students to explore the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009 and what lessons that pandemic might have for our current situation. Lesson number one: good communication is essential.
According to Sebelius, Epidemiology has a couple of core principles – one of which is providing clear, concise, accurate communication on a regular basis. One of the dramatic differences between the 2009 outbreak and what happened in 2020 was that the communication was inconsistent, often inaccurate, and contradictory.
During a fast-moving, global health crisis, you have to make decisions based on the information you have, says Sebelius. Taking no action is not an option. You’re going to probably makes some mistakes along the way, but then you correct them and move on. Napolitano adds that during the H1N1 pandemic, it was important to hold press events regularly and repeat basic public health messages like washing your hands and practicing social distancing because, if you get the communication part wrong, your crisis management will lack credibility. Indeed, it’s essential to communicate with the public not only what is known, but what is not known, as well.
Hear more about the importance of good communication and other lessons learned during the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009. Watch The United States Pandemic Response: Lessons from the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009.
The rise of social media has given everyone with a smartphone or computer access to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter the power to broadcast their voice, their message to the masses with the touch of a button. The definition of social media is simple, interactive technology that allows the creation or sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. However, with its rise in popularity, social media comes with some pitfalls, including the increased spread of disinformation.
There is a difference between disinformation and misinformation.
Misinformation is defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead.”
Disinformation is defined as “false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.”
In just the past 18 months, disinformation has had direct, harmful effects on efforts to check the spread of COVID-19, on initiatives for racial justice and on the 2020 election and its aftermath. What is even scarier, is that the continued spread of disinformation has no sign of slowing or stopping. It has forced social media companies to add disclaimers to social media posts implying that the information being read may not be accurate or truthful. News organizations are employing more fact checkers to ensure the information they disseminate over the airwaves is not false.
Eminent scholars were brought together for a Berkeley Conversation to debate and explore one of the most critical questions facing our democracy: How can we counter disinformation to protect our communities without compromising America’s core principles?
The event is sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy, Berkeley Law and the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
Watch Defending Against the Ravages of Disinformation.
The Biden-Harris administration faces an evolving mix of foreign and domestic threats. Repairing the damage done to domestic security agencies and returning public confidence is at the core of this conversation among four former leaders of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, served as Secretaries of the Department under President George W. Bush. Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson served during the Obama administration. The discussion is moderated by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas B. Wilson.
The panel explores topics from Russian interference in the 2016 election to the racism of the white nationalist groups that were prominent in the January 6 attack on the capitol, and the role of social media in both. They note that the department was created in 2002 based on the assumption that terrorism came from beyond our borders but the principal threat is now increasingly domestic-based.
Challenges abound for the new Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The panel agrees his job includes rebuilding trust in the department, a trust that was eroded by former Present Trump who systematically undermined the department, using it for political gain rather than public safety.
Fortunately, they have faith in the national security officials’ ability to meet the current challenges.
Watch Homeland Security in a Post-Trump Era: Bipartisan Insights for the Coming Years.
The United States suffers from a “strategic narcissism” that leads to international missteps and catastrophes, retired Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said in a recent conversation with journalist Lowell Bergman.
In a wide-ranging conversation, the Army combat veteran and historian discussed topics ranging from the Iran Nuclear deal, the war in Afghanistan, the Syria conflict and US-China relations.
McMaster served for 13 months as National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump. He declined to discuss details of what that was like. He is now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
McMaster expressed confidence in the nation’s democratic institutions despite the tests this year: the pandemic, the recession, racial and social divisions and extremely partisan presidential election.
Watch General H. R. McMaster in Conversation with Lowell Bergman.
This fall we have the quadrennial opportunity to study American politics during a presidential campaign. Combining real-time analysis of the election campaigns, an in-depth study of the relevant historical context, and a lively roster of guest speakers from academics and social movements, this twice a week class taught by two UC Berkeley professors provides an interdisciplinary introduction to American politics in a time of unprecedented crisis and possibility.
Michael Mark Cohen, American Studies and African American Studies, and Saru Jayaraman, Goldman School of Public Policy, take you through the day-to-day flow of the 2020 campaign, taking on everything from polling data and social media coverage, the COVID-19 pandemic and the waves of social protests, to the presidential debates and the final vote tallies. While the presidential election will hold center stage, they will also explore politics from a local, state wide and international level.
New programs are added every Monday and Wednesday evening. Each session begins with a lively, up-to-the-minute discussion of the latest events in the race. From there, delve into the sources of these current events. Each Wednesday features a guest speaker; specialists, academics and social movement leaders from across the campus, the Bay Area and the world offer their expert insight into our political system.
This election, and this moment of crisis, will define the future of American democracy. And in this class, we will examine this turning point as it happens.
Browse more programs in Big Ideas: Election 2020.