THEY KILLED A HISTORY TEACHER

Andrés Núñez Leites


Social media has pushed us back to a primitive horde state, driven by group identity and emotion, and the consequences are terrifying.

Samuel Paty (RIP), the history teacher beheaded by a fanatical Islamist in France after showing Muhammad cartoons in class, was first exposed for days by some of his students' parents on social media, even with the support of religious authorities from the local mosque. Suppose the worst hypothesis about the teacher's behavior, suppose that he did indeed misbehave and exposed the artwork in a way that was offensive to Muslim students. It would have been much healthier if the parents of the students or the students themselves had gone to speak with the teacher to modify their practice, or that they had spoken directly with the head of the school or the regional educational authority. Even if they had assumed that the professor had committed a crime, they could have gone to court. Well no, they opted for derision, for escrache on the networks, for a campaign of claims so that the teacher was expelled from the educational center where he worked. The result: a young fanatic murdered him in broad daylight. The police, shortly after, killed the killer.

Somewhere Foucault says that morality, when it is the result of a technique of itself, of an action of the subject on itself to improve its condition, consists of having a power and voluntarily limiting its use, to make the world a more beautiful place . In the computing world, Linux users read, when they first run the command "sudo" on a console, which could be translated as "act as superuser", a series of three recommendations, the last of which goes back at least to the French Revolution: "With great power comes great responsibility."

It happens that social networks, in addition to trapping and controlling us, have given us, within their logic of popularity and scandal, a power whose scope we ignore until the damage is done.