With a healthy dose of humour and insightful observations, Jeff Bleich delivered a memorable keynote address to launch Griffith University’s annual Integrity20 event at the Queensland Conservatorium.
The former US Ambassador to Australia, whom former Prime Minister Paul Keating described as the best to have held the post, Mr Bleich spoke on issues from integrity, technology, social media fame, the growing distrust in news media as well as a key theme of this year’s event, spin versus truth.
“This is a serious threat. It is why a summit on integrity and how to restore it could not be more timely.”
Using US President Donald Tump as a metaphor for the disconnect between truth and fiction, Mr Bleich argued that President Trump’s notoriety and fame was all he needed to garner power and remain relevant.
“He’s figured out that fame can be a faster and simpler way of getting what you want than actually doing something requiring sacrifice.”
“Unconsciously we’ve come to measure success and worth less and less by accomplishment and achievement and more by the number of online clicks. Fame can be bought,” Mr Bleich said.
Confounding the truth is another symptom of this rapid decaying of trust, according to the long-time friend of former US President Barack Obama.
“Facts are now ignored as people choose to acknowledge only the stories which support their view, like climate change is a hoax and Michelle Obama is a man dressed up as a woman.”
Mr Bleich though did not walk all the way down the path of doom and gloom, signalling that he’s optimistic about what lies ahead.
“The first step to recovering our integrity is to acknowledge the challenge. We need leadership that refuses to sow fear and distrust and instead brings people back together.
“We need to elect leaders with an understanding of how technology works and use it to better understand each other and ourselves.
The career diplomat and lawyer concluded his lecture by arguing the need to put humanity first by using and creating technology for all our benefit.