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Vrienden van Cobbenhagen Lecture

Democracy and Disinformation

Democracy and Disinformation

The third Vrienden van Cobbenhagen Lecture took place on 17 January 2019. In the lecture, Anne Applebaum discussed the role that propaganda and malign influence campaigns play in political changes such as spreading extremism, authoritarian regimes and weakening liberal democracies.

Anne Applebaum

European institutions should work together more closely to understand what is happening in the areas of disinformation, fake news and malign influence campaigns. But central regulation is also needed to manage the information revolution. That was the message of American journalist and historian Anne Applebaum during the third Vrienden van Cobbenhagen Lecture in Tilburg in a full auditorium on January 17th. She ended her lecture with an appeal to all of us:

"You, as a citizen, will have to find ways to distinguish propaganda from facts in the coming decades. Democracy seems obvious, like water from the tap, but we have to realize that it can also disappear at some point."

Read the full report or watch the registration of the lecture online

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum is winner of the Pulitzer Prize and columnist for the Washington Post. She is also a Professor of Practice at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics, where she leads a program on disinformation and 21st century propaganda.

Diana Matroos

Diana Matroos

Moderator Diana Matroos was in charge during the event. Diana is known from BNR Newsradio, VPRO, RTL News and RTL Z. She studied at the School of Journalism in Utrecht and then joined RTL News as editor and newsreader.


Democracy and Disinformation
13.30 Support program for invited guests
14.30 Welcome (Foyer Cobbenhagen)
15.00 Vrienden van Cobbenhagen Lecture (Auditorium)
Word of welcome by Prof. Koen Becking (Chairman Executive Board Tilburg University)
Interview with Wouter Scheepens, LLM (Chairman Vrienden van Cobbenhagen)
Introduction Anne Applebaum by Prof. Sylvester Eijffinger (President Tilburg University Society)
Lecture by Anne Applebaum: Democracy and Disinformation
17.00 Drinks

Previous to the Lecture, we offer a special support program for invited guests. In this support program, there are several sessions to choose from. For each session, a representative will take part in the discussion following the lecture by Anne Applebaum. Next to these sessions, you can also choose to participate in a speed date between alumni and students.

Reyer Gerlagh

‘Does Information Inform Climate Policies?’

(Session in Dutch)

Prof. Reyer Gerlagh will share his experiences gained during his IPCC membership. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body for the assessment of science in relation to climate change. He edited a chapter in the fifth Climate Change report that reported on the lessons we could learn from history, about the drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, notably population growth, economic growth, and absence of policies to reduce resource use. At the April 2014 IPCC approval session, the country delegates removed half of his chapter’s material from the summary for policy makers, as the information of that half was considered strategically unwelcome. Prof. Gerlagh will reflect on knowledge available to citizens, strategic misconceptions by the public and by policy makers, and the difference between rationalizing decisions versus supporting rational decisions. During the lecture, there will be ample room for interaction with the audience.

Odile Heynders

The Truth of Fiction as Counterpunch to Fake News

This session is about the concepts fiction, fantasy, fake and false and how a reader of literature learns that such concepts are connected. When you read a novel, you know that you do not have to believe everything, but that the novel is a reality in itself. In the populist democracy in which we live, according to Odile Heynders, literature still plays an important role, precisely because 1. It explores the boundaries of truth and imagination and 2. It shows that politicians also fabulate.

Randall Lesaffer

Russia and the West, from Cold War to Cyber War?

Over the last quarter of this century the relationship between Russia and the Atlantic West has gradually decayed. From the high hopes that were held for a 'Common House of Europe' to current talk about 'a new Cold War' leads a long dialogue of the deaf. In this session, the reasons for the collapse of the Western-Russian relation and the current 'war' on the information highways are debated from the perspectives and geopolitical strategies from both sides.

Peter Achterberg

The battle for truth: Rationalisation, unease and trust in science 

(Session in Dutch)

You would think that in information or knowledge societies science is widely respected and appreciated. But that's not the case! In this lecture I will discuss a fragmentation of scientific knowledge as a result of the rationalization process, and the role of social unease for trust in science.  

Vrienden van Cobbenhagen Lecture

During four years (2017-2020) the alumni network Vrienden van Cobbenhagen together with Tilburg University Society will invite an internationally renowned professor to share his or her views on developments in society. The Lecture is an active contribution to the international orientation of Dutch politics, research, education and business. The Lecture also has the goal to appeal new audiences and potential members of the Vrienden van Cobbenhagen.