Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The State Of Our Privacy Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown shares with Renee Montagne the best things she's been reading lately about seduction by Facebook and some altruistic acts of exposure.
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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The State Of Our Privacy

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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The State Of Our Privacy

Tina Brown's Must-Reads: The State Of Our Privacy

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Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast, is here again with some reading suggestions. Lately she's been reading about privacy, how much we have of it and the perils of losing it. She joins us from New York to share her thoughts on our regular feature, Word of Mouth. And she joins us again now. Good morning.

MS. TINA BROWN (The Daily Beast): Good morning, Renee, nice to hear you.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, nice to talk to you. Let's start with a pick from one of your readings from Time magazine, and it's an article called "How Facebook is Redefining Privacy." We all have ideas about that, but what does this article say?

Ms. BROWN: Well, it's a very good piece by Dan Fletcher, just because it digs really down deep into the whole Facebook phenomenon and how it's changed our social DNA, making us share things that we really never really expected to. I mean Mark Zuckerberg - obviously he is completely messianic about the fact that really we all are wanting to share more.

MONTAGNE: He is, of course, the CEO of Facebook.

MS. BROWN: He is indeed the CEO. And of course that has some problems and we've seen lately how there have been a lot of protests really about some of the settings that they've used recently to kind of keep expanding our sort of connecting powers when in fact sometimes we didn't know it.

One of the things I kind of like about the piece actually is how he describes how Facebook in the creation of some of these applications has what they call the a-ha moment, which is the emotional hold that you get as you start to go into the site for the first time. And he describes how they videotaped the testers' expressions as they kind of surf the site and start to understand with that kind of glint in their eye how they can connect suddenly to their old friends from their email addresses and people from their past.

But he does say, of course, there is also the kind of oh-no moment when you end up wanting to kind of end the situation, and he talks about how Facebook actually tries to guilt-trip you with pictures of your friends who the site warns you will miss you if you deactivate your account, and kind of holds onto you with that same emotional pull.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, he also quotes Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg as saying that he really believes that what people want isn't complete privacy. You know, is that what you think?

Ms. BROWN: Well, I certainly don't think that. I mean, to be honest, I actually really value not knowing what people from my past are doing and saying because there's something kind of nice about, you know, you lose touch with people, they come back into your lives. I rather miss that kind of - the surprises that life used to mete out to you when you didn't know what people from your past were doing. And I also don't want to be found, and I don't want to be shared with, and I want to hide. But I think that it seems like I'm in the minority because of the many billions of people who are sharing and downloading in every second of the day.

MONTAGNE: Well, that is one of the premises of another reading that you're suggesting. It's Peggy Noonan's recent Wall Street Journal column called "The Eyes Have It." And one of her conclusions is you can't hide anymore. And for her that's scary.

Ms. BROWN: Now, what I know, and I think the piece actually is a good piece, I really do. I mean I tend to share the Peggy Noonan view, because she says, you know, we increasingly know things about each other or think we do that we shouldn't know, have no right to know, and have a right actually not to know. And of course technology is not the only force at work. An exhibitionist culture will develop brutish ways, and so candidates and nominees for public office and TV stars are now asked - forced is a closer word - to make public decorations about aspects of their lives that are actually personal and private. And of course we've seen that recently with Kagan - you know, the constant pressure to have to sort of share who you are, to kind of wear your sexuality on a T-shirt.

MONTAGNE: You speak about Elena Kagan, Supreme Court nominee. Not only is she being asked to reveal every aspect of her life, but also there's suspicion there...

Ms. BROWN: Yes.

MONTAGNE: ...maybe behavior that she wouldn't want revealed, which is some of what Peggy Noonan is worried about.

Ms. BROWN: Well, she is. And she says, you know, what I also think is absolutely right, and what she says is what replaces what used not to be said is something that must be said and is usually a lie. And I think that's right. I mean what you're seeing more and more, of course, is celebrities with sort of fake Facebook pages, really, where their are people just creating dual identities, which is my happy, carefree, laughing, jumping around in the beach and sharing, you know, drinks in the bar with, you know, Mr. Everyman and stuff, is my kind of Facebook persona, and on the other side is really what I'm really doing.

So I think that there is kind of a dual society growing up too, of people who are kind of living slightly fake lives on Facebook. Interestingly enough, you know, my daughter is 19 and I see how really the pressure, the peer pressure amongst her age group is to kind of share pictures where everybody's doing wild stuff and where they're always kind of like partying like crazy. And of course if you're not part of that scene, if you feel that you're a bit of a nerd whose life is really a bit of a sort of solitary affair, you feel constantly left out of the party, which I think is one of the dangers of Facebook.

MONTAGNE: Now, another reading that you're recommending to us is the new memoir "Nomad" from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and this is a person who's embraced opening her life to the world.

Ms. BROWN: Well, of course nothing could be further from the Facebook culture than the life that Ayaan Hirsi Ali led in Somalia. I mean, this is a brilliant book, "Nomad," which follows on from her memoir, "Infidel," which was a best-seller.

She came from a very fundamentalist Islam family. Her mother was absolutely maniacal on the subject. But she was also reading the books of Nancy Drew and romance novels and so on and so she was getting a different feeling, a different desire really to live a different kind of life.

At the age of 23, her father put her on a plane from Kenya to Canada to have an arranged marriage with a man that she had never met. And she did the most brave act of her life, really. When she got to the layover in Germany, she decided she wasn't going, instead of which she got on a train from Germany to Holland, sought refugee status and began a new life in Holland, where she worked as a cleaning lady, where she got Dutch citizenship eventually. She went to Leiden University. She became an MP in the Dutch parliament and it's an extraordinary story.

And then she began to speak out very, very vehemently about the rights that have to be addressed for Muslim women. And she really shed her Islamic religion. She decided that she could not let it hold her back. And she made this film with Theo van Gogh, which was about the submission of women in Islam. And he famously was then murdered, stabbed to death in the streets of Amsterdam by an Islamic fanatic. And she fled to the United States, where she still lives under police protection.

MONTAGNE: So in a sense, though, she's shed her privacy in the interest of a larger cause. Does that hold any lessons for the - most people out there?

Ms. BROWN: Well, in Ayaan's case, she has really decided to shed her privacy in a very, you know, particular act of self-determination. She believes that unless she shares her story, she isn't fulfilling her mission, because she believes that there's a lot of cowardice in how we're addressing Islamic issues. She feels that in telling her story - for instance, I mean she herself went through genital cutting when she was a girl in Somalia.

She actually wrote a piece on the Daily Beast which is up at the moment about how angry she is about the American Pediatric Association, who now are saying perhaps young girls of Muslim faith can be cut, nicked as they put it, because that will stop them going abroad and having the full genital cutting done. And she's outraged about this and she speaks very candidly and freely, in chilling clarity about her own genital cutting, which frankly is a fairly - you know, talk about revealing your own private acts, it's an extraordinarily harrowing thing to read, but she feels she must do it in order to open people's eyes to what these practices mean.

MONTAGNE: We've been hearing Word of Mouth from the Daily Beast, Tina Brown. Tina, it's been a pleasure.

Ms. BROWN: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: And you can find links to Tina Brown's reading recommendations at NPR.org.

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