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.