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By no means is this a conclusive run down on what I see as the need to find, and advocate for, a fair use of the vehicles we choose to communicate, and receive information through.  By pointing out inconsistencies, and connecting them to a possible cause, my purpose here is primarily an attempt to suggest, that when it comes to social media, we practice the proverb of looking before we leap.

A few years back an incident showed me the contrast between hard reality, and cheap comment. Comments from people, who in the comfort of relative security, only seem to be far more concerned with the side of the story that sells best, than with finding balance.

Surely, this is far from what media outlets mean by the term integrity and investigative journalism? To his credit, Bennett pushes back against the leading questions made by the anchor-man, quickly realising, not without some frustration, that the interview had ended before it had really begun.

Remarking:

“…You’re invited to a situation like this..it’s just great sitting on the sidelines, just telling us how to react” {2:39} – (Naftali Bennett, Isreal’s Economic Minister)

At the time, Australian journalist and political commentator Andrew Bolt, in support of Bennett, rightly noted:

It’s easy to say “disproportionate” when you’re sitting in London

The same applies to social media. It’s easy to make criticisms when sitting behind a keyboard.

We need make room for each other. We need to look before we leap. We need to make room for giving consideration to context, details, and careful comment. Patience is the imperative (if not the virtue), mainly because we’re all still trying to figure out live in a technological society, and how to use this technological freedom responsibly.

In spite of the evidence, or any quest for the truth, and balance. Like some aspects of the main stream media, social media can become a misinformation behemoth.

In the hands of resourceful and ambitious communicators, it has the disturbing potential to become the ultimate propaganda machine.

As hashtags and memes trend towards the ridiculous. The misuse of the mechanism allows an industrial grade hysteria to push a smoke screen of emotions over the facts, extinguishing balance and respectful dialogue.

The march of memes takes to the virtual street, utilising the same mass marketing concepts of Edward Bernays (1891-1995) that was so fundamental to fascism and its control of images.

By calling upon those willing to mindlessly wave around clichés and slogans, a mob-in-revolt is created. Its cause gathers momentum, often recklessly damning anything that stands to speak freely in reasoned disagreement against it, as “hate speech or racism”.

The mob-in-revolt lowers protest to the quantity of “likes, shares or follows”. Sometimes asserting itself under a mechanic of anonymity, which denies their target of protest any right of reply.

The ivory colossus of cyber communities end up inadvertently propagating totalitarianism. Inviting a repugnant irony through the vitriolic intolerance, exhibited by irresponsible and repressive armchair activists, who live in glass houses.

With small amounts of fact, and information, these glass houses become the launching pad for mobile projectiles of shame and exclusion. The term “hate speech”, for example, is utilised as a toxic and ambiguous whip statement, and is thus thrown around flippantly and without qualification. This fuels an irate frenzy of boycotts, accusation and intolerance.

A restrained, and civilised exchange of ideas is set adrift, by an unrestrained tribalism. It’s members march alongside images, marked by oversimplification. At its core is a subjectivism,  full of dismissive ridicule and cynical discounting. Consequently, social media can tend to magnify that which is dysfunctional and shocking, over against,

‘…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,  excellent, or worthy of praise…’ (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

An ‘activism’ like this measures efficiency by vanity metrics. This is because thoughtless approval can be translated into the currency of likes, shares and/or followers. In this case, why not mindlessly wave flags and howl with the wolves? The assumption being that if the price is right, so the comment should be also. Who cares if its wrong?

The questions then are:

Does self-interest, in a quest for approval, play a role in commenting, liking or sharing? If so do such considerations hinder an authentic, responsible but also vulnerable contribution? Does it drive out self-respect the same way that the mindless-mob-in-revolt drives out  decency and the respect for others?

American President John Adams, citing the prophet Jeremiah, wrote:

‘Let me conclude, by advising all men to look into their own hearts, which they will find to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer.17:9). Let them consider how extremely addicted they are to magnify and exaggerate the injuries that are offered to themselves, and to diminish and extenuate the wrongs that they offer to others. They ought, therefore, to be too modest and diffident of their own judgment, when their own passions and prejudices and interests are concerned…’[i]

Adams’ caution here cries out for a fair hearing. We should not politicise the pain of others.

We can do this by removing any hint of benefit to our social standing, and unmasking the transactions that hide self-interest behind indifference, or behind a facade of good intentions. We can do this by looking before we leap; giving real consideration to context, details, and careful comment.

As Australian scholar, Dr. John Dickson, in a comment about a recent debate on Facebook, once said, “redeem the medium”[ii].

 


References:

{Dedicated to the memory of Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013), a list of her works can be found here.}

[i] Adams, J. 1851 On Private Revenge http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2101 #Adams_1431-03_2153 Sourced: 23/07/2014

[ii] Dickson wrote this in response to the suggestion that he move a discussion to another site, because of the communication limitations of social media.

Originally published 23rd July, 2014, under the heading Truth & Balance Vs. The side of the Story that Sells Best. Also published on The Caldron Pool, 9th November, 2018 under the headline: Hate speech is a myth: It’s a shaming control technique used by those who can’t debate the issue.

An article entitled Will the bombing bring peace?’ authored by Johann Christoph Arnold, appeared on the Plough publishing blog feed on the 11th of September 2014.

Not long after that, Tim Costello, Uniting Church minister and CEO of World Vision Australia, authored a piece headlined: ‘Going to war no time for joy

The general flow of both articles advocates a caveat that falls just short of a protest in favour of non-involvement in military action against the self-proclaimed and militaristic ‘Islamic State movement’.

I appreciated the authors caution and respect the underlying pacifism expressed by their concerns.

However, I found both articles disappointing to read.

Whilst written well, they seem reactionary, unnecessary and  out of touch with what the majority really think about this subject.

No healthy individual or civilised community wants war. At the same time, Christians don’t have to walk around blindly ignoring the true nature of a clear and determined enemy, all in the name of peace. Particularly an enemy, such as I.S (Islamic State) who has already proven their hostile intentions towards Christians, Jews and the West in general.

Costello and Arnold’s historical comparisons are fair. However, I’m yet to see the same euphoria that was exhibited prior to World War one, in responses to the West’s involvement in this war against I.S.

What is of immediate concern is the shock and disillusionment at the continued allegiance of the pulpit with what can only be called a resurgence of ‘positive Christianity’. (Seen in the alignment of the pulpit with excessive political correctness, supported by a Gospel that has been emptied of its true content.)[i] Where Costello is wrong is not only in his assumptions about people celebrating war, but also his inability to see the compromise and surrender of theology into the service of ideology.

People aren’t celebrating the West going to War against I.S. In fact the biggest enemy at the moment is complacency and indifference in the face of a determined enemy. An enemy determined to make an enemy of the West and destroy all who show any form of dissent or opposition.

Warnings against complacency and indifference come at us from different historical voices. One of the strongest comes from pacifist and evolutionary biologist, Vernon Kellogg. His observations of the Germans and their adherence to ideology during World War One, demonstrates the need to take action in the face of a socio-political ideology determined to make itself lord of all:

‘For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism [social Darwinism], the Allmacht of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and Kultur…I was never convinced. That is, never convinced that for the good of the world the Germans should win this war, completely and terribly.And this conviction, thus gained, meant the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent supporter, not of War, but of this war; of fighting this war to a definitive end.’
(Headquarters Nights (1917:23).

When conflict is imposed on us, a good percentage of the time it will mean being drawn into a position where most just “push backs” are twisted. They are then used by aggressors, and spectators alike, as evidence of a ‘disproportionate’, ‘inappropriate’ and unethical response.

Enablers, enable abuse. They do so by their silence and discounting of the severity of evidence before their eyes. Enablers don’t want to get involved, because they either have something to gain or something to lose. Fear of retribution or loss of something personally profitable, trumps standing up for the truth.

Instances include Israel’s recent response to ideological belligerents in Gaza and the West. Israel had two fronts, Gaza and the internet. The Israeli defence force had to fight off a constant stream of misleading information that was circulating on social media.

In the case of Australia, our involvement, as the Prime Minister has made clear, is to assist in the defence and provision of humanitarian aid to innocent civilians. Australian involvement is not to make war for the sake of war.

In answer to Tim Costello and Johann Christoph Arnold: nobody wants a war outside those bringing war to us (and perhaps some extremist fringe dwellers that see this as an opportunity to further their own self interests).

An abysmal situation cannot be held back by passivity, apathy, a will-to-power, appeasement or a poorly informed soft diplomacy. 

Responsible action requires the restraint of faith in Christ, open communication, purpose, a unified team and the courage to dedicate a wide variety of resources to neutralise blatant threats to the innocent.

The old challenges of socialist-fascist imperialism, with its deification of men, society and sin, and the new masks it wears, must be answered. The end and actions must not be driven by an apathy, that thrives on the selective protests and permissions of the lords of neo-tolerance.

With regards to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, “just war” advocates do not have to dig very deep to make their case. The basics of which are expressed, in the often quoted statement made by Kennedy who said: Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

The atmosphere which surrounds us, illustrates the need for a firm, restrained response. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the world is seeing the resurgence of fascism. When we witness mass rallies and violence under flags with White script on Black fabric in the East, and rainbow flags that are paraded, in the name of pride down main streets in the West, what we are witnessing is the rise of fascism proper.

Under one there is war, gaol for dissidents and beheadings. Under the other, there is indoctrination, re-education classes, and law suits against anyone who dare to stand by valid opposing view.  

If, as Costello implies, there is any joy being taken in belligerency, we would do well to start our investigation there.

There is no doubt that the path ahead is treacherous. There is no room for belligerency from the pulpit, whether that be in support of Left or Right ideological platforms, but what cannot be forgotten is:

‘…personal safety should not excuse[s] timidity in the pulpit’ [or podium]. 
“It is not that I and all the rest of us have said too much in our sermons, but rather that we have said far too little.”
(Paul Schneider) [ii]

If we completely follow along in agreement with Costello and Arnold, or with those who demand allegiance to their views without question, we, the Church may get to the point where laments like Schieder’s are common place once again.

It’s not at all that surprising to see parallels between the past and present.

The Abyss is opposed to love. Yet the Abyss and it’s agents frame themselves as being the very epitome of love.

So we stand in agreement with Ezekiel, Clement of Rome and Ambrose of Milan:

‘As I live, says the Lord, I take not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather [his correction]; that he should turn from his way and live’
(Ez.18:21-24)

But in doing so we also hear and act on the clear challenge of Clement:

‘Let us cleave, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.’
(Clement, First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter XV)

References (not otherwise linked):

[i] I am paraphrasing a statement made by Dean Stroud in ‘Preaching in the Shadow of Hitler’ (2013, p.8).

[ii]Paul Schneider, the 1st Pastor to die in a Concentration camp, in a letter to his wife from his jail cell on Nov. 14, 1937 on Preaching in Nazi Germany’ – Stroud, D. 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.47

Photo credit: ‘Early 1960s. Before the construction of the Berlin Wall West German soldiers stare down the East after a young woman makes it across the line to the West.’ – Drive Thru History.

(Encore post. Originally posted Sep 21, 2014)

back to HomeschoolSunday involved preparing curriculum for a new Homeschool term. This was made more strenuous by a letter we received the other day. In it we were reminded about stricter guidelines now being set up for home education in our state.

For those foreign to attitudes in Australia towards homeschooling, the best way to illustrate them is by stating that they range between indifference, curiosity, confusion and sometimes hostility.

The general notion is that since the Commonwealth (Federal Government) and States provide “free” schooling, why homeschool?

It is not always the case, but hidden within this is the cultural hang-up that wrongly views “kids as burdens to be offloaded, and their successes paraded only when the result reflects “exceptional parental conduct.”

I feel sorry for the school teachers who are overloaded, overworked, underpaid and largely have their role misunderstood. Granted, the system works up to a point. However it ceases to function effectively when the State (or any private institution) begins to walk away from endorsing the fact that teachers are professional educators, not substitute parents. Nor, to use a more blunt analogy, are they glorified baby-sitters.

Parental responsibility is still the most significant part in the effective education of children. This includes making time to not only be concerned about the place of education, but participate in the method of education and contribute to the progress of their child’s education.

It is part of a more broader political party view, but some State Government representatives in Australia, see Home Schooling as primitive, biased and regressive.

For example:

”Without the watchful eye of teachers, some children could end up trapped in abusive settings or left without appropriate learning opportunities,” Greens MP, Dr John Kaye said. (source)

Although helpful to some degree, this new bureaucratic push has some unhealthy weight to it. As a result it is being felt. So for now we are back to homeschooling, but for how long, I couldn’t say.

The good side to this fresh approach by our governing agencies is that it means some empowerment for homeschoolers. For instance, a more targeted practice in the art of “review, review, review” and the opportunity to promote the benefits of homeschooling to those generally unaware of the them.

This can only translate as support. Otherwise we’d be consumed by the fact that it appears as though it’s a politely veiled, politically driven, disincentive to continue.

(Original image credit: digitalart)