Why is the truth controversial?

5 March 2018

Emeritus Professor Lynn Bloom.

Speaking the truth through the #MeToo movement, and President Trump’s war on so-called fake news are shaking up different sides of the discourse. Distinguished Professor Emerita Lynn Bloom came from the University of Connecticut to Waikato,  looking at why true stories matter as well as risky writing, setting herself firmly in the heart of these two significant and potentially divisive discussions.

Professor Bloom says interpretations of facts can and should be debated, but facts themselves should not be. “Yet the things I thought were settled like climate change, women’s rights, and women’s rights to control their own bodies are all on the table again. We have, for the first time since I have been an American Citizen, a mean government.”

Brought to New Zealand as a Fulbright visitor and aware of her State Department sponsorship Professor Bloom has had to think about the risks of speaking critically about the US Government. Her bottom line is that truth matters - truth and ethics matter a lot.

While at Waikato working with the Wilf Malcolm Institute and FASS, she has also given a public lecture, Why True Stories Matter. One of those stories is her own: Escaping the Rapist.  She tells of being confronted by an attacker while travelling overseas, and the thought which ran through her head and helped her break free. “I didn’t ask for this, I don’t deserve it, and I’m not going to take it”. She has told her story before, and found those thoughts resonated powerfully with others.

How to save your own life, your own cultures, and how to preserve your integrity, are message behind all the stories Professor Bloom has focused on: David Sedaris’s tragi-comic view of survival in a dysfunctional family;  a Pulitzer-prizewinner’s tale of storytelling- transmitting cultural history--in a vast Sudanese refugee camp; and Theodore Walther’s “Homeless in the City,” an insider’s defining experiences of an outsider’s life. They are all stories she has shared during her time at Waikato.

Professor Bloom is also critiquing contemporary language abuse in Fake News and related Orwellian linguistic corruptions. She says she may be carrying over an American crusade to a country that doesn’t need it. “Unfortunately for the world the US is prominent enough that its word has to be honest and ethical,  respected and reliable. I think those are Universal concerns.”