September Thiel Forum goes from trumpets to Trump

By: Brian L. Brink

This academic year’s first Thiel Forum on Thursday, Sept. 14 featured the music of Professor Andy Erb’s trumpet trio and a political communication presentation by Professor Lana Kulik.

Erb spoke about how he and his band, Northwestern Passage Trumpet Trio, recorded its first album during the summer. The trio’s other members are Professor Jennifer Dearden, Allegheny College, and Professor Timothy Winfield, Westminster College. Kulik spoke about her paper on protest communication, which won an award at the summer convention of the World Communication Association, which this year was held in Kyrgyzstan.

The Trio’s album was recorded in June at Sharon’s First Presbyterian Church. While there, Erb said, he learned that although it’s useful to tap one’s foot while playing to stay on beat, it makes for a difficult recording session because microphones pick up every little sound that can ruin a recording. He added that, when recording, one truly must be honest with oneself to fix one’s mistakes.

Erb said how the trio is still finishing the album, expecting to complete it by the end of the year. Once it’s finished and published, it will be available not only as physical CD copies but also digitally on iTunes, he said, adding that they will also send the album to be reviewed by their peers.

Kulik’s “Protest Communication at The Age of Trump: Not for Tea Party Only” covered the similarities and differences of two US grassroots movements, the Tea Party and the Resistance. The Tea Party was started by Republicans to protest President Barack Obama after his 2008 election. The Resistance was started after the 2016 election by Democrats opposed to President Trump.

Both movements used the power of social media to organize marches, and other forms of protest online, Kulik said, but she said the two groups have “blaring” differences.

Kulik explained that while the Tea Party used secrecy online to keep prying eyes away from what they were planning, the Resistance took the opposite approach and kept everything public. Both tactics had their pros and cons, she said.

The Tea Party’s secrecy could keep the opposing political party from finding them online, but it also kept its allies from being able to find them easily, Kulik explained. Because of this, the Tea Party took time to organize, which left it being more reactive than proactive when it came to protests, she said.

On the other side of this, the openness of the Resistance made it easier, and therefore faster, to organize but also allowed for the opposing political party to infiltrate the movement easily, Kulik said. Speed made Resistance protests far more proactive than reactive, even if it allowed the opposition to organize anti-protests, she observed.

Kulik ended her presentation by speaking about nonviolent communication and how she believes it will help bring both parties together for the good of the country. When asked whether a middle ground group could be formed sometime in the future she said, “It’s already happening.”

The next forum will be back in Stamm Lecture Hall in the James Pedas Communications Center on October 12. The presenters for the next forum will be Professors Cynthia Sutton, Russell Richins and Shannon Deets.

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