It’s been an interesting week. Apparently the let-it-all-hang-out generation has discovered privacy and a few other things not quite so nice. The first news item that caught my attention was a report in a Wall Street Journal story by Daniel Henninger reporting on commencement cancellations at US Colleges. Seems Smith announced last Monday that Christine Lagarde, the French head of the International Monetary Fund, would no longer address the graduating class. A group of Smithies signed an online petition protesting that the IMF is responsible for “imperialistic and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.”
Then last Tuesday Robert Birgeneau, the former Chancellor at UC Berkeley, was encouraged to withdraw from Haverford College’s graduation ceremonies. Mr. Bergeneau is a committed defender of minority students, the LGBT community and undocumented illegal immigrants. What student body could find fault with that?
Scary stuff. But then there were the European censors trying to put Google in its place. The European Court of Justice now enables individuals in the EU’s 28 member states to demand that search engines and other content “controllers” including social media platforms remove links to web pages that don’t serve a public interest. Apparently the court believes the ability to erase inconvenient links to the past is necessary to protect privacy and the ill-defined right to be “forgotten”. Should have thought of that before you pushed send. The ruling is en banc meaning it cannot be appealed.
And all of this took place in tandem with the release of Glenn Greenwald’s much anticipated “No Place to Hide”. Greenwald is the lawyer who helped Edward Snowden disseminate classified documents taken from the US National Security Agency.
I have long thought that Americans generally are so preoccupied with rights and freedoms – let’s arm every idiot who wants to shoot a gun – that they really have forgotten collective good. I am pleased to say that for the most part, Canada has just been so much more balanced. At least when the right to speak is withdrawn at one of our institutions, it is usually because the proposed speaker’s views contain statements of hatred and racial bigotry or something equally heinous.
In keeping with our traditions of balance, a Globe and Mail editorial calling for a royal commission on spying just seemed so reasoned and … well thoughtful. The analysis was nuanced and took into account the complexity of the issues around electronic surveillance and cyberespionage. Yes, Canada is often compromising and as outsiders would have it “milk toast” in our perspectives. But sometimes don’t you just feel so damned proud that we take the time to get it right?