2016 Henry Allen Moe Prize

Spring General Meeting
Kathleen Hall Jamieson

The recipient of the American Philosophical Society's 2016 Henry Allen Moe Prize in the Humanities is Kathleen Hall Jamieson for her paper "Implications of the Demise of 'Fact' in Political Discourse" presented to the Society at its April 2013 Meeting and published in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, volume 159, no. 1, March 2015.

In her timely essay on the dangers to the republic of the strategies of what she calls "reality creating communities," Kathleen Hall Jamieson traces ways in which the manipulation of fact can thwart the public will. Following the traditional view of skepticism that well-founded belief must at some point rest on trusted premises, Jamieson underlines the importance of institutions that serve as custodians of knowledge. These institutions can, however, easily be undermined through misinformation, and mimicked through deliberate and deceptive manipulation. Her warning that the traditional institutional producers of knowledge are no longer protected by the halo of public credibility is substantiated through a succinct series of examples drawn from debates on prison furloughs, health care, welfare reform, and gun control.

Jamieson shows how the custodians of knowledge are undermined, whether through advertising or by new controllers of media dedicated to conflict. Pseudo-knowledge comes to take knowledge's place in a new reality not governed by credible fact. Deep-pocketed deceivers, conjurors of this new reality, threaten the public good. Citing James Madison on the need for the people to be armed with the power that knowledge gives, given that "knowledge will forever govern ignorance," Kathleen Hall Jamieson draws our attention to the importance of trust in fundamental, useful knowledge today. Her dedication to unmasking the rhetoric of deceit speaks to urgent questions in the study of the humanities today.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author or co-author of 15 books including: Presidents Creating the Presidency (2008), Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (2008) and unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation (2007). Jamieson has won university-wide teaching awards at each of the three universities at which she has taught, and political science or communication awards for four of her books. Her book, co-authored with Kate Kenski and Bruce Hardy, The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Messages Shaped the 2008 Election, received the 2010 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in the area of government and politics. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the International Communication Association. She was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1997.

The prize was established in 1982 by a gift from the widow of Henry Allen Moe, to honor the longtime head of the Guggenheim Foundation and president of the American Philosophical Society from 1959 to 1970. It pays particular tribute to his firm commitment to the humanities and those who pursue them. The prize is awarded annually to the author of a paper in the humanities or jurisprudence read at a meeting of the Society.