Sometimes Our Goals and Those of the Chinese are the Same

In this excellent article about eventual Chinese rule of the Internet, the first goal of China is this one:

Cyberpower sits at the intersection of four Chinese national priorities. First, Chinese leaders want to ensure a harmonious Internet. That means one that guides public opinion, supports good governance, and fosters economic growth but also is tightly controlled so as to stymie political mobilization and prevent the flow of information that could undermine the regime.

That’s not much different from what’s going on with social media these days.  In our case those directives don’t come from the government (although there’s no doubt many in the government are happy with them) but from the relatively small group of Silicon Valley people which control these organisations.  That’s an indication of how power is distributed in our society vs. theirs.

Unfortunately the result in both cases moves in the same direction.  Technology traditionally favours the centralisation of power, and US attempts to diffuse it haven’t quite worked out as expected.  The arc of history doesn’t always bend where we’d like it to.  The good news for Christians is that the One who really bends the arc is still in charge, although the earthly tools he uses for that purpose aren’t always the one we’d prefer or expect.

Banning Infowars is Easier Said Than Done

The efforts so far by most of social media haven’t quite panned out as expected:

Silicon Valley’s coordinated purge of all things Infowars from social media has had an unexpected result; website traffic to Infowars.com has soared in the past week, according to Amazon’s website ranking service Alexa.

Well, that didn’t work, not yet at least.  And their attempt to demonetise Alex Jones’ operations isn’t going any better: by driving people to his site directly, they’ve cut out the “middleman” of social media, which only makes that elusive monetisation even better.

I’m not really a fan of Jones; even Drudge is selective in what he links to on Infowars.  But for someone who has always been leery of putting all of the eggs in the social media basket, it’s good to know that the decree of a few organisations can’t totally make or break someone on the internet.

At least they can claim that they’re not profiting off of Infowars…

“Survival of our Democracy” Depends Upon Who We Are

One can feel the panic come through the screen:

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is calling on other tech companies to ban more sites like InfoWars, and says the survival of American democracy depends on it.

“Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it,” Murphy tweeted Monday.

To be frank, I am surprised that our constitutional/Declaration structural freedoms have lasted this long.  Revolutions like the 1960’s usually take an authoritarian turn; the fact that we’ve stalled this for fifty years is amazing in many ways.

It’s easy to laugh at Murphy’s logic, but in many places in the world there are “managed democracies,” where access to candidacy–and in some cases the voting franchise itself–is limited by those who really control the process.  The best known of these is Iran, but there are others.  In such a situation democratic process is a mechanism of legitimising the ruling elite, although surprises happen.

Murphy’s phrase “our democracy” is interesting.  Who are “we?”  The people in general?  The plutocracy/kleptocracy who decry and make worse income inequality at the same time?  The Ward Three types?  Answering that question will go a long way to bring clarity to Sen. Murphy’s panicky outburst on Twitter.

Sometimes Doing No Murder Can Get You in Trouble

The Old Grey Lady weighs in on Pope Francis’ death penalty ukase by invoking the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”:

Pope Francis’s condemnation of capital punishment is simple and unambiguous: It is inadmissible. No exceptions for especially heinous crimes; no loopholes allowing execution when other lives might be in jeopardy, as in past Catholic teachings. No, declared the pope; state-sanctioned killing is always an unjustifiable attack on the dignity of human life, it’s always wrong.

My senior year in prep school, one of my teachers was both a recent graduate of the school (which was not even ten years old at the time) and a newly minted “Sixties radical” to boot.  He brought this up, using the same commandment as the New York Times to oppose capital punishment.  My parish priest (I was a newly minted Roman Catholic) had, in accordance with the teaching of the Church, told us back at the parish that the commandment meant “Thou shalt do no murder.”  (Given the place of capital punishment in the old law, that makes sense.)  I repeated this to the teacher and he did what his kind are best at: he exploded in my face with rage.

Some things never change…as Andreas Killen pointed out, the issues that were at the forefront in 1973 are still with us, and this is one of them.  But now we have a pope, who prefers damage control to solution in the sex abuse crises, going against the teaching of his own church.  Personally I think he’s using the capital punishment issue to deflect attention from the abuse crisis, which only gets worse.

But that illustrates the duplicity of those struggling to hold the “moral high ground.”  Most of those who oppose the death penalty also support abortion and euthanasia, and now explode in our faces on social media with the hope that many of their opponents can be liquidated.  The question is not really keeping people alive but shifting who’s chosen to die from one group to another.

P.S. One of the most impassioned pleas for the restriction of capital punishment except in the most heinous cases comes from Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters, but Jesuits like the Pope and James Martin would sooner have us forget this masterpiece, as it shows what happens when you let the Jesuits run wild on issues of faith and morals.

My Last Facebook Post

I know this sounds a little dramatic, so an explanation is in order.

I started on social media nine years ago, all the while continuing this and (later) the other blogs and websites.  I’ve used several techniques to automatically disseminate these blog posts.  I’ve always had a problem with doing every post manually.  Keeping the online presence i have is enough work without adding to it.  It’s a question I frequently ask: is the technology working for us or are we working for the technology?

Well, Facebook, beset by woes of its own making, is going to make that harder: starting 1 August 2018, they will not permit third-party (in this case WordPress) apps to automatically post stuff like this to Facebook profiles (they will do it for Facebook pages, though.)  To continue posting like i have, I would have to do it manually for each post.

At this point, except for special cases or when I’m responding to someone else’s post, I don’t plan to do that.  The main reason is simple: based on the response I’ve been getting, I’m not convinced that Facebook is disseminating my automatically posted stuff very widely, either from this or my other blogs.  The ideological bias of Facebook is no secret, but I’m not really convinced that my Facebook audience has, on the whole, a great deal of interest in the topics I discuss.  The vast majority of the visits come from places other than social media.

I’ve always been leery of putting all my eggs in the “social media basket.”  While it’s important, the problem with any social media platform is that what you put there is basically theirs, and if they don’t like it (or you) they can kick you off at will.  (There are also copyright issues as well.)  That’s always bothered me, and it’s doubtless cost me traffic to not migrate posting to social media.  And that works both ways: any external link out of Facebook deprives them of potential revenue, and I’m inclined to think that they, struggling to maintain earnings, are doing this as a revenue preservation move.

I’ll still be sharing these posts via Twitter, which has its own problems but seems to be working at the moment.  For those on Facebook who wish to continue following this blog, Twitter is an option, and there are email notifications and WordPress following as well.  (I’m also on Google Plus, but that hasn’t amounted to much.)  But, as former Nigerian Anglican Primate Peter Akinola used to say, all things must end someday, and this part of this blog’s story is now done.

The “Debt Direction” of the British Empire Needs to be Reversed

While musing over what’s the “morally appropriate language” one should write in, Arundhati Roy was confronted with the following:

Only a few weeks after the mother tongue/masterpiece incident, I was on a live radio show in London. The other guest was an English historian who, in reply to a question from the interviewer, composed a paean to British imperialism. “Even you,” he said, turning to me imperiously, “the very fact that you write in English is a tribute to the British Empire.” Not being used to radio shows at the time, I stayed quiet for a while, as a well-behaved, recently civilized savage should. But then I sort of lost it, and said some extremely hurtful things. The historian was upset, and after the show told me that he had meant what he said as a compliment, because he loved my book. I asked him if he also felt that jazz, the blues, and all African-American writing and poetry were actually a tribute to slavery. And if all of Latin American literature was a tribute to Spanish and Portuguese colonialism.

One thing I’ve discovered about just about anyone who grew up in a former British colony is that they really don’t like either the concept or the reality of British colonial rule.  Americans, who themselves were the first to head to the exits, don’t really grasp this.  Roy offers some interesting observations on the effect of English in India (it’s been an advantage to Indian expats who head to some of those other former colonies) but I think that the following, which I observed in an appendix to my Positive Infinity New Testament, bears repeating:

The use of Bahamian paper explains how many of the pounds, shillings and pence got on this page; it came out of having to learn how to count it and spend it while in the Bahamas. The good news was that this education could be had in a place with a warm climate and people. This also illustrates one of the characteristics of the old British Empire: many of the colonies were improvements over the mother country. Why else would two small islands be able to populate two entire continents with the people who either wanted or had to leave, to say nothing of the “expatriates” in places such as South Africa and India?

If we compare the British Empire (especially in its early stages) with the, say, French or Spanish, the whole settlement pattern was different.  France and Spain wanted New France and New Spain to be echoes of the official idea of the mother country: no religious or political dissidents, etc.  With the Brits things were different: they were happy to export their malcontents (religious and political dissidents, economically distressed like the Scots-Irish, etc.) to their American colonies, and later to their others.  People wonder why there was a French Revolution and no English Revolution.  Actually there was an English revolution; it just took place over here and not in England.  Although the colonial system required the export (temporary or permanent) of officialdom, many of these (along with others) left because they could find a better life elsewhere than “Old Blighty.”

And the colonies returned the favour: they saved the “Old Country’s” bacon in two world wars (and that included just about all of them, including Canada, Australia, NZ, the US and yes India) and made English the global language that it is.  So perhaps next a Brit “imperiously” (how else would he or she do it?) waxes about the greatness of the British Empire, it’s worth reminding them that not only did the UK export the people, it exported the greatness too.  The debt of Empire is reversed.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want When You’re the State Church

That was certainly the case with Peter Ball, whom John Major appointed to the see of Gloucester, much to then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey’s horror:

LORD CAREY has expressed his horror that the former Prime Minister John Major was persuaded by a senior aide to choose Peter Ball over another candidate for the see of Gloucester against the wishes of the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC — now the Crown Nominations Commission).

That’s basically the deal with a state church: the church gets the privileges of official status but must submit to the state’s will.  I’ve noted this problem before (and so did Bossuet, who preached at the court of Louis XIV,) but it hasn’t stopped many in North American Anglicanism from pining for communion with Canterbury, even as the drift in the culture was reflected in the attitude of the state.

I think now that the consequences of this signal weakness are apparent to just about everyone, as was evidence as the recent GAFCON meeting.  Better late than never.

As far Ball’s appointment being recommended by Sir Robin Catford, recalling this is impossible to resist:

That could be applied to a large number of Anglican and Episcopal prelates and clergy as well…

Chesterton to be Canonised? Bossuet Hasn’t Been Either

His canonisation is being considered:

Is he or is he not on the road to being canonized?

In the coming weeks, the fate of Gilbert Keith Chesterton will be known.

Soon, all eyes will turn upon Canon John Udris as he presents his written report to the bishop of Northampton, England, with, thereafter, a decision being made.

I’m not optimistic about seeing “St. Gilbert” anytime soon, although the Roman Catholic Church is full of surprises.  Some of that is due to his anti-Semitic remarks, which should endear him to the current Labour Party.  But frankly I’m surprised that the RCC in England, as liberal as its hierarchy is, is even allowing consideration of Chesterton for anything.

On a broader view, the Roman Catholic Church has always had an aversion for canonising or even celebrating its best post-Reformation thinkers and preachers.  Whether you’re an Old Folk Mass or #straightouttairondale type, Catholics in parishes are presented with some of the most banal examples of Catholic thought and life out there.  For the better ones, one in particular whose cause is a main item on this blog is Jaques-Bénigne Bossuet.  AFAIK, he’s never been considered for canonisation, although he is the Church’s best and most eloquent defender since Trent.  Perhaps it is best that Chesterton be left to his fans to insure his legacy.

In the UK, he is known mostly for the Father Brown series; his magnificent apologetic works are mostly admired outside of Old Blighty.  With Bossuet it’s different; the French still consider him a major literary figure of the XVIIth Century, in some ways the country’s Golden Age.  But then again the French are better at appreciating their literary heritage en bloc, as they did recently when they re-entombed Simone Veil (a Holocaust survivor) in the Pantheon.

Another good reason for Brexit?

My Review of Duane Alexander Miller’s Two Stories of Everything for Global Missology

Recently Duane Alexander Miller, a long-time friend of this blog, wrote Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and ChristianityMy review of this excellent book is here at Global MIssology.

The Simple Solution for the Episcopalians’ BDS Problem

They’re certainly obsessed with it:

I intrude mention of the Episcopal Church here because of my presence at the late convention — where what could have been taken for the third, perhaps second, cousin of old-fashioned anti-Semitism prowled like a ramping and roaring lion, snarling at Israel, clapping its paws for the Palestinians.

Resolution after resolution targeted Israel for its apparently endless failures to bestow full rights on Palestinians in the so-called “occupied” territories. Resolution authors wanted the church, through its investments, to pressure Israeli acquiescence in a pro-Palestinian policy.

I’ve always marvelled at the fundamental contradiction of the Episcopal Church: ever since the 1960’s, it’s been a church obsessed with social justice issues, but at the same time it has an elevated demographic and, on top of that, is well endowed (literally) with trust funds (which it occasionally loots) too keep it going when that demographic disappears (which is it is doing.)  That’s one way they financed the USD40+ million litigation war to preserve their…property.

I don’t have any use for the BDS movement.  But it they want to move on from arguing about investments and be consistent about their “social justice” mission, they need to do what Jesus told them to do: sell all, give to the poor and follow him.

To put it another way, they need to sell all or shut up.