Free Speech, Fake News and Fascist Movements: 2017 Ryle Lecture Series Sparks Debate

October 10, 2017

Dr. Jason Stanley “a hit” as 2017 Ryle lecturer at Trent

“Many Trent instructors and students felt this year’s lecture series, called ‘How Fascism Works’ was one of the best they had ever attended. The audience of students, faculty, staff and community members were engaged, questioning, and critical, and they did not fail to challenge the speaker. It was a hit.”

Dr. Kathryn Norlock, associate professor of Philosophy at Trent and the Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics, is speaking of the 2017 Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series, delivered by Dr. Jason Stanley, professor of Philosophy at Yale University and the author of How Propaganda Works, winner of the 2016 PROSE Award in Philosophy. 

Each year, Trent’s Philosophy department hosts the lecture series as a free event for the community. The 2017 event ran from September 26-28 and focused on how democratic ideals like free speech can permit fascism to flourish if we are not keeping an eye out for its warning signs.

Professor Norlock was impressed with the timeliness of Prof. Stanley’s lecture and recent book, commenting that: “Although published before the American presidential election, what Prof. Stanley had to say is so incredibly applicable to the rise of fake news. In his lectures, Prof. Stanley understood the breadth of applications, discussing fascist movements in many parts of the world and the danger that fascism always poses to democracy.

“Let’s face it, we’re all rushing to glance at news headlines, skim readings, and swap links as a substitute for taking time to deeply ponder complexity. There’s a world of burning issues to discuss, and it’s a great gift to have an expert on campus who offers us all the fruits of a lifetime of research, cooking down tons of work to offer our brains a meal. And like any big shared meal, it’s social, a sort of friendly intellectualism that we rarely stop to enjoy. The Ryle Lecture series is a feast!”


The Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series was established by the Philosophy Department at Trent in 1977 in honour of the late Gilbert Ryle. This year’s lectures are supported by the Franklin L. Matchette Foundation, the Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences—Humanities, The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics, Traill College, Lady Eaton College, and by funds from members, alumni, and friends of the Department of Phil