The Education is a public solution to an invasion of privacy: Privacy is something of a Marmite concept. Some cling to it in the personal lives; others let their activities and opinions all hanging out in the social media not to mention in their back gardens. Some see it as the vital bulwark against oppression, others as an impediment to protecting law-abiding citizens from criminals.
The Education is a public solution to an invasion of privacy
The concept is big news, in the wake of the scandal over Cambridge Analytica’s alleged use of Facebook data gathering by an academic to influence voters in the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election.
The European Commission, which always has value privacy highly, is about to roll out new data protection laws which will also be relevant to its aspirations to grow research in artificial intelligence, discussing in our news pages this week.
The Cambridge Analytica affair is still a long way from civil liberties activists’ nightmare scenario of an authoritarian regime using a mass-monitoring to control citizens, but it is arguably on the fringes of that territory mainly if you are viewing Donald Trump as a quasi-fascist with the dictator-envy.
That view is articulating again in literary scholar Sarah Churchwell’s new book, Behold, America A History of America First and the American Dream, about which she is interviewing in our news pages.
Its cover features an image from the year 1937 of Americans in New Jersey doing the Nazi salute under flags bearing the stars and stripes and the swastika.
Churchwell’s point is that Trump’s America First rhetoric has a conscious root in historical fascism. Trump’s antipathy to America’s first black president is well known.
He was the primary driver of failed attempt to show that Barack Obama was born outside the US and was, therefore, ineligible for the Oval Office.
And it is striking how energetically he has sat to overturning his predecessor’s policies even when, as in the cases of healthcare, climate change or Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he has no credible alternatives to offer.
Trump’s ban on travel to the US from several Middle Eastern and African countries is another example of racially inflected policymaking.
So is his insistence on building the Mexican border wall Mexico is one of the shithole countries from which he is reporting to have an objection to immigration.
As this week’s cover feature makes clear, Mexico has its problems.
In our field of interest, its education system underperforms on international comparisons, and there is little sign of that changing soon. But if its best scholars end up going to the US, it is difficult to see that as anything but a net gain for its neighbour. US universities will heartily agree, regarding themselves as bastions of meritocracy and internationalism.
In some ways, of course, their identification with the anti-Trump cause makes it more difficult for them to influence the opinion of his supporters however well articulating and evidence-based their arguments. As Churchwell admits, die-hard Trumpers will not read her book although she hopes the less committing may be swaying a little.
For all the identification of American campuses with the Left, it was interesting that at the Research Excellence Summit in the Czech Republic last week, John Connelly.
A historian of European fascism from the University of California, Berkeley, suggesting that college students can be ease electoral pickings for illiberal populists offering them relief on their debts.
That claim seems surprising in the US, the trenches in the culture wars are dug deep and switching sides is increasingly regarded as betrayal.
But it is interesting to speculate how committing modern students genuinely are to the progressive values which they often espouse particularly in light of the 75th anniversary of the execution by the Nazis of the handful of extraordinary LMU.
Munich students are making up the White Rose resistance movement, which is commemorating in our feature pages this week.
Posting their pamphlets on Facebook will certainly have eased the White Rose members’ distribution headaches in a country in which all travel had to account.
But it is also hard to believe that the movement will have to endure for the eight short months that it did has it possible for the police to data-mine citizens.
Communications for phrases indicating opposition, or to track people via their phones and other virtual footprints.
The truth is that no restrictions enacting during relatively liberal eras can restrain subsequent authoritarian regimes from invading privacy for control.
As numerous recent cases from countries such as Russia and Turkey have demonstrated, authoritarian regimes have a less than a robust relationship with the law and even constitutions can be ignoring or overturning.
In the end, the preservation of tolerance, respect and freedom comes down to the mindsets of individuals and societies.
The Education remains the best tool we have to mold minds capable of seeing through propaganda and fake news.
But given the array of political, media and technological forces intent on stoking humanity’s worst instincts, the tug of war will not easily be the winner.
So, these are the points to describe the Education is a public solution to the invasion of privacy.
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