Interview with Professor Remer on New “Politics and Morality” Course
Fall 2014 will be the first semester teaching Politics and Morality (POLT3010). How did the idea for this class develop?
“I had previously taught Rhetoric and Politics and was interested in rhetoric as a model for political thinking and political theory. Acting politically raises questions of morality, and so this class is designed as a special topic focusing on political morality. Rhetoric will be discussed, but the focus will be on morality in politics.”
How will the class be organized?
“There will be a mix of discussion and lecture, and the class will be organized thematically. The class will discuss topics that fall under “politics as normal” and political decision making under extreme conditions.”
What are some of the questions the class will deal with?
“It will deal with the question of is there a difference between morality in general and in politics? Is there a separate standard for politicians? Whether it is possible to be a politician and be moral; can you be both or do you have to choose? There will also be questions about everyday politics. When politicians speak to the public, they attempt to emotionally manipulate their listeners. The same is true for political ads. Politicians have to sacrifice principles for efficiency. The class will address a range of topics, from torture, drones, the issue of collateral damage versus purposeful destruction that we have seen throughout history, today and with the bombing of Hiroshima, for example.”
When politicians attempt to manipulate the public, they can do so without the public even noticing it.
“And that brings up the question of to what extent is the public responsible for being aware of what they’re being presented? Where is the culpability, the responsibility? Is it the responsibility of the public to know what they’re seeing and do something, or of the politician to alter what they present?”
For students who have never taken a Political Thought class, what would you say the main difference is between Political Thought and other subfields of Political Science?
“In Political Thought, rather than taking norms and values as given, there is discussion of the values themselves. In terms of looking at, understanding and judging morality, we have to look at the consequences of an action, whether it promotes the greatest good.”
So more philosophical.
“Yes. There’s analyzing and questioning norms and values, not just accepting them.”
What are you most excited about teaching this class?
“I am most excited because these issues aren’t new. They are inherent to political systems going back to the ancient Greeks. These questions of morality are part of the political condition and the human condition.”
By Amy Brown
The following is an interview with Tulane graduate, Ali Vitali. She is the first to participate in a series of career-related interviews with current and former Tulane Political Science students. Ali is presently a digital journalist with MSNBC and Vice President of Sweet Lemon Mag, a digital magazine and blog.
Have you always wanted to be a journalist?
I always knew I wanted to be in media. At first -- after a stint interning with Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon -- I thought that might mean producing late night TV. But then during one particularly heated, yet informed, debate about politics with some friends (at The Boot, no less!) I realized that this was what I loved. So I started delving into journalism with my honors thesis and I guess I liked what I found! I'm constantly finding new things I love about this field and the many ways we now have to report news.
How did you begin working for MSNBC?
I started here (as an intern!) in September 2012-- right before the election. Actually the infamous Romney '47 percent' tape was during my first or second week, so it was a really exciting time. I flipped over from intern to staff with a staff offer after Hurricane Sandy and so it goes.
What have been your favorite stories to write about?
I've been lucky in that I've been able to explore a lot of different beats during my time here, but I've always been passionate about foreign relations, gun control, and equal rights. There was one story I found about a Turkish man who started a Kickstarter campaign during the #OccupyGezi movement in Istanbul, Turkey and the role that social media is playing in these round the world hashtag crusades; another few reporting on state by state cases of gun control legislation, especially in the aftermath of the horrible Sandy Hook shooting. I remember I felt strangely proud when I got to write the headline that Colorado was passing comprehensive gun laws, especially after all of the violence that state had seen, or when I reported on a story that Delaware became the 11th state to legalize gay marriage. I also love writing about Millennials and being a female 20-something, not usually on MSNBC.com, but with SweetLemonMag.com, a digital magazine and lifestyle blog of which I am the Vice President and host of their YouTube channel series, "Sweet Lemon TV."
What have been the most difficult stories for you to write about?
Shootings are particularly hard for me and unfortunately they seem to be becoming a more frequent occurrence. There's this crazy chart from The Rachel Maddow Show (attached) that hits this point home that this is happening so often; it really makes you sit back for a second and think "wow, really? How is this OK?"
What do you find to be the best part about your job?
I get to read, tweet, talk about news and issues that I'm passionate about all day. Oftentimes, talking about those issues elicits some negative response, but I decided early on that if I'm getting hate-tweets about something I wrote it probably means I'm doing something right. Plus, I watch at least 5 hours of cable news a day-- which probably sounds miserable to normal people but I kind of like it, haha.
Where do you hope your career with MSNBC will take you?
This industry is amazing in that it moves so quickly and you never know where, when, or with who your next opportunity is going to come from. I've been with msnbc digital for about a year now and in a few weeks I'm embarking on a new chapter with a move to be a Graphics PA on The Cycle. If someone were to ask me today what I want to be when I grow up, the answer would probably be different if they asked me tomorrow. It's good to be driven and ambitious (I'm pretty Type A, so I am those things) but those traits aren't mutually exclusive with being open to new things and opportunities.
What advice would you give to students wanting to pursue a career in journalism?Write as much as you can. The Notes app in iPhone, or anything equivalent to that, is your friend because life throws potential stories at you often. The Internet, and the blogosphere more specifically, has given everyone a forum to voice their opinions. And while sometimes that can be used for evil (I see you, hate-tweeters!), it can also be used for good, constructive conversation on blogs, or in YouTube videos, or on Twitter. Start those conversations! Interact with big voices or people you're interested in on social media and who knows what kinds of discussions you may spark. Some social media advice: always think before you tweet, post, comment, Facebook. I keep that reminder on a Post-It on my desk just for the extra emphasis.
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