Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — the first woman to be the nation’s top diplomat — is calling out for both the media and technology companies, urging them to examine their role in last week’s election of Donald Trump as president.
“It was unclear where people were getting their information or whether they were passing on information that was incorrect,” Albright told WWD while visiting San Francisco Wednesday, adding that the “echo chamber aspect” of social media also played a role.
She called on members of the media to “take the lead” in sorting out accusations against the fourth estate.
“Democratic societies cannot operate without a free press,” she said. “It’s absolutely basic, but also I think it’s something that needs to come as a result of self-examination, because something did not work and whether it’s the fact that the tech outran facts, or various people abused it, or it was about ratings, it is absolutely crucial in determining what role the media played in political change.”
She pointed out the new role of technology in democracy and noted the balance of privacy and security with freedom of the press and monitoring prejudiced information.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has come under fire for his dismissal of the role of the social network in influencing the election, and for its dissemination of inaccurate or false news. He has defended the company as a tech company, although 44 percent of Americans reportedly get their news from the platform.
“What I would like to see, in the best of all possible worlds, is discussions between the public and private sector on this, between the press and the tech companies and the government in a way that is not hostile but realizing that there is a new issue out there to deal with,” said Albright, who will be meeting with former foreign ministers on the matter.
Albright was visiting San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum for the opening of “Read My Pins,” an exhibit of her vast pin collection from her career as a diplomat. She became known for silently communicating through her pins, from a serpent pin in response to Saddam Hussein’s calling her as much, to “bug” pins after a Russian spy was caught listening in to the State Department.
Albright said that she plans to add a safety pin to her arsenal; both British citizens protesting Brexit and Americans protesting the recent President Elect have begun wearing them.
“I think it is a very interesting thing to do. I think that it’s a mark of solidarity and identifiable and it certainly fits with my view of using inanimate objects to express an emotion or an opinion,” she said.
She noted that Hillary Clinton wore purple in her recent concession speech and might have worn purple in acknowledgement of purple states that went for Clinton, such as Virginia, adding that there was a suffragette aspect to the color. (Suffragettes wore white, green and purple to signify purity, hope and dignity, in that order.) Albright also noted that Clinton wore white when she accepted the nomination.
Albright is a strong supporter of Secretary Clinton, and said on the campaign trail that there was a special pace in hell for women who did not support other women.
To that end, she encouraged those who might be angry at the election results to use anger and frustration for change.
She said that while women are often criticized for the manner in which they express anger or frustration, she recommended channeled that by doing something — “and not necessarily going out on the streets but trying to figure out what needs to be done.”
“I think [working together] is what we have to do,” she said. “We need to assess really what has happened here. This is a major shift in a lot of different issues.”
In a presentation later in the day, Albright said, “I am sure I am not attending the inauguration, but I will keep wearing a question mark [pin], because I am not sure we are sure who our country elected.”