After eight years of the Obama administration surveilling its political opponents, it seems that millennials have grown increasingly complacent to Big Brother watching them. According to a new online survey from Radware, 20 percent of millennials would rather have the government view what is on their phone than their significant other. Interestingly enough, only eight percent of adults age 35 and older felt the same way.
The results of this survey could have been driven by couples holding secrets from one another, but with the government actively monitoring personal internet usage, millennials would have to trust the government to even be so candid.
Most young people figure the government doesn’t care enough about them to spy on them. The American Press Institute found that only 20 percent of millennials worry all or most of the time about their digital privacy. About 34 percent say they don’t worry at all.
For better or for worse, millennials have grown up in the era of mass surveillance, but with figures like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and others exposing the extent of that surveillance (and its abuses), how is it that millennials are not more skeptical? Take, for instance, Snowden’s undisputed claim that it was not uncommon for NSA employees who “stumbled” across an “intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation” to pass it around.
Moreover, reports of the Obama administration spying on Tea Party groups, Fox News’ James Rosen and Associated Press reporters, world leaders, and others filled the evening news the past eight years, and the leakiness of the federal government with this type of information gave journalists plenty of fodder. By the time President Trump exposed the previous administration’s wiretapping of Trump Tower, the subconscious response of many millennials was: “So what?”
Leftist Noam Chomsky has argued that younger people were less “offended” than older people by the federal government’s intrusion of privacy. In a Guardian article, he called this attitude a generational issue that “someone ought to look into.” Younger people, he said, are “much less shocked” at being surveilled by the U.S. government than older generations, “and did not view it as such a problem.”
This might be the first time I agree with Chomsky, although my guess is that we disagree on the root cause of this trend: big government.
While the majority of millennials did not fully trust the president or the federal government towards the end of the Obama administration, they had enough faith in big government to believe in socialism, which speaks volumes. Respondents younger than 30 were the only group that rated socialism more favorably than capitalism in a 2016 survey (43 percent compared to 32 percent). Likewise, Bernie Sanders, an unabashed socialist, dominated the youth vote during the 2016 Democratic primary race, winning 80 percent of their votes in some states.
Under President Obama, and even previously under President Bush, the government expanded to such a degree that most millennials became inoculated to its massive size and overreach. Even if the era of big government is over (again), this survey shows that its imprint continues to linger, posing a serious threat to President Trump’s agenda in the coming years.