In a victory for academic freedom (and common sense) Professor Anthony Hall is back at work at the University of Lethbridge, starting today, after the Board of Governors announced that it is rescinding his suspension. Here is the Board’s statement:
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What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
“You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one’s energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time.”
As feds and Facebook join forces to rein in ‘fake news’ who will fact check the ‘fact-checkers’?
Facebook is the world’s most powerful social media platform, deemed by one observer as “the biggest nation in the world” with no semblance of democracy. The mass medium’s size and breadth is often obscured by its capacity to interlink 1.8 billion users with their friends and loved ones in the broader context of everyday life. Situated at this primary intersection of human relations one cannot overemphasize the significance of the outlet’s self-appointment as chaperon of public discourse.
By its own admission Facebook is no longer merely a for-profit corporation seeking to inject advertising and commerce into the abundant social interaction it oversees. The entity’s new censorial ventures, loosely masquerading as promotion of “good journalism” and “information you can trust,” strongly suggest combined government and corporate efforts to suppress citizen-generated “alternative” news and analysis.
In the United States alone close to half of the population (44% 2016 Pew Research) receive “at least some of their news” from the social media behemoth, putting Facebook among the nation’s most influential distributors of news. This makes the entity’s actual transition from neutral observer to forthright interventionist aided by often unprincipled, even amateurish news media, a momentous and worrisome political event.
Facebook’s recently-announced “news literacy” and “fact checking” initiatives must be recognized as coming in the wake of two other especially significant and likely uncoincidental developments: 1) corporate media’s recent propaganda campaign highlighting so-called “fake news” and alleged Russian-inspired media seeking to “undermine faith in American democracy,” and 2) US lawmakers’ December 8 passage of the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” within the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act