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Freedom of the press requires a societal framework that empowers free speech. So it’s rare to witness the Australian media unite together in order to tear down an Australian politician for speaking his mind.

However, what most in the Australian media expressed to the world in their dealings with Fraser Anning this week, is that free speech is only available to a select, and authorized few.

It would appear that Senator Fraser Anning’s biggest sin wasn’t his poorly timed press release; but the fact that he spoke out of turn about things that should not concern him. In other words, Anning is not “approved opposition”.

Had Senator Anning been a woman, or someone of minority status, the 17 year old perpetrator, who filmed himself physically assaulting an elected Australian official, would have been toast by now.

He’d have been dragged through the mud, and beaten until he, his friends, his parents and some fifth cousin, in some backwards town (someone, living somewhere, he rarely ever saw), were all forced into admitting he did the wrong thing, and was consequently made to attend mandatory cultural sensitivity “classes”.

Those well acquainted with the globalist media, and the Leftist cult of modern liberalism in general, know this is exactly how it would go down.

Instead, the crime was applauded, the perpetrator hailed a hero, and Senator Anning, was further driven towards the guillotine, by a Leftist lead mob, hell-bent on his destruction.

This same mob, who were right to condemn the premeditated, internet streamed, Eco-fascist terrorist attacks in New Zealand, now seem only too happy to give applause to premeditated, internet streamed, physical assault.

The condemnation of Anning also included ridiculous attacks on the 69 year old Queensland senator for exercising his right defend to himself.

Anning’s reaction was slammed as unbecoming of a statesman, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying, ‘the full force of the law should be applied[1] to the Senator – presumably because Anning hit back.

In addition, Seven news ran an online poll which showed significant support for the Senator’s arrest. It also showed a poll which suggested support for, what amounts to the police turning a blind eye to the actions of the assailant.

It doesn’t take a security expert to know that Anning would have a long list of death threats already made against him. Those are bound to make anyone giving a public appearance reason enough for concern for their own personal safety.

Prime Minister’s have a security detail for this very reason.

The largely Leftist controlled media cannot have it one way, then another.

For example, when in July 2010, ‘a 55-year-old small business owner was charged by police for throwing an egg at Julia Gillard in her first visit to WA as Prime Minister.’ (WaToday)

If a 55 year old throwing an egg at an elected politician is considered a crime, why isn’t a 17 year old smashing an egg into the head of a politician treated differently?

None of this has been taken into consideration. Suggesting that thinking rationally about why a high profile politician would defend himself is counter-productive to the group-think used to suck in the gullible.

Anning stuffed up with the timing of his press release, but demonizing him, just because he doesn’t hold to the globalist views of most in the elitist Australian media, is opportunistic.

The same can be said for not showing any level of fairness, or understanding. It feeds the self-interest of Anning’s enemies, to selectively use some of Anning’s points to further build the “white supremacist” narrative they appear to be determined to construct, not just around Anning, but everyone who doesn’t side with them.

This determination to link what happened in the New Zealand with everyone not of the Left was exemplified by the violent mistreatment of Pauline Hanson[2], when she was interviewed on Sunrise, by David Koch and Darryn Hinch. Yet, there was no outrage from the usual quarters, accusing Koch and Hinch of “mansplaining”, “toxic masculinity” or “misogyny”.

Qantas joining the press posse[3] looking to lynch Anning only goes to prove my point. Qantas management jumping on the virtue-signaling bandwagon, are doing so because they see a profit in capitalizing on a shell-shocked and angry public. Adding the Australian corporation to the list of globalist voices trying to not only to somehow link Fraser Anning to the New Zealand shooting, but label him a terrorist, gets them publicity. Cui Bono? (Who benefits?)

Don’t miss the irony. Carrying out a premeditated act of violence is a crime. Whether it be committed via egg or gun; dismissing the former, gives quiet approval to the latter. It’s hypocritical to laugh at the former. Then condemn the latter.

If the media and celebrities can get away with their attempt to destroy Fraser Anning, and get away with justifying the actual crime committed against him, don’t think they wouldn’t do the same to you.

As warned by ex-leftist, turned Conservative Philosopher, Roger Scruton,

‘Once again I was forced to acknowledge that crimes committed on the Left are not really crimes, and in any case those who excuse them or pass over them in silence always have the best motives for doing so […] From the beginning, labels were required that would stigmatize the enemies [of the Communist movement] within and justify their expulsion […] The success of those labels in marginalizing and condemning the opponent fortified the communist conviction that you could change reality by changing words […]The purpose of communist Newspeak, has been to protect ideology from the malicious attacks of real things.’[4]

For Leftism to gain total control, it requires Leftists to seek the total destruction of anything not of the Left. Any crime or injustice committed, by the Left, in the process of achieving this, is not considered to be unjust or a crime. It’s simply a means to an end, and the end justifies the means.

Anning isn’t completely innocent. He often appears reactionary, not all that unlike the late, Bruce Ruxton. Is there a place for some of Anning’s points, absolutely! Is there a place for hotheaded, reactionary politicians, no.

One of Anning’s strengths, however, is that he is no mediocre politician. He doesn’t come off as self-serving, and he has the balls to say what many think; or are concerned about, but fear speaking. He can do better and should aim to do better.

However, given the activism, diatribes and vitriolic standards set by Leftism, will the Leftist dominated society we now live in, take notice of anyone else? They haven’t so far. And they’ve successfully silenced those who have sought to dialogue with the Left on fair terms.

When you send smart delegates into a diplomatic meeting between two camps, and one camp all-but executes the other, the time for “niceness” is probably at an end. A new strategy of diplomacy and communication needs to be applied.

I don’t condone all of Anning’s words, or approve of the timing of them, but when is the right time to discuss the discomfort many Australians feel about having new cultural laws imposed upon them?

The Leftist doesn’t want coexistence, they are out to destroy, control and dominate. Not just the Right, but the traditional Left as well. It’s unjust, naive and senseless, to sit back and let that happen.

If that means not beating about the bush with the truth, and hurting a few feelings in the process, so be it.

We all would benefit from keeping in mind the words of Margaret Thatcher in her 1984 address to the United States Congress:

“Let us not forget the 1930’s […] from good intentions can come disastrous results.”

Appeasement only serves those being appeased. It rarely serves those doing the appeasing.

We would also benefit from keeping in mind the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said,

‘the ultimate possible rebellion, is that the lie [of the serpent] portrays the truth as a lie. That is the abyss that underlies the lie—that it lives because it poses as the truth and condemns the truth as a lie [and we fall for it].’[5]

This is the dark precipice we are being guided towards by many of our leaders. It’s a precipice that few will survive, if the socio-political trends of the past two decades are allowed to continue, unchallenged and uncorrected.

In the process of pushing back against this, may we ALL be drawn back towards the words of Jesus Christ, as he lowered himself in the defense of a woman facing a Pharisaic death squad, “let he who is without sin, throw the first stone” (John 8:7, ESV).


References:

[1] Paul Karp, The Guardian, 17th March 2019

[2] Pauline Hanson’s Official Facebook page sourced 19th March 2019

[3] As reported by Radio FiveAA, and the Australian, 18th  March 2019

[4] Roger Scruton, 2015. On Marxist Newspeak in Fools, Frauds & Firebrands Bloomsbury Publishing

[5] Bonhoeffer, D 1937, Creation & Fall, Fortress Press (pp.109-116)

(Originally published on Caldron Pool, 19th March 2019)

Photo ‘Chains’, by John Salvino on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Photo by Melany Rochester on UnsplashRegardless of whether the recently convicted George Pell,  is innocent or guilty, there is a precedent in the latest Pell case (verdict) that should send a shudder along the spine of every citizen in Australia.

Greg Craven, lawyer and columnist for The Australian, explains why.

Craven asks whether social media, and the MSM had on influence on the juror’s view of Pell. His question is a good one. Is bias in media reporting, and among some officials, responsible for Pell having been convicted of the crime, in the minds of his jurors, before he was even brought to trial?

“The police and media should be impartial, reporting cases fairly…Media and police never combine to form a pro-conviction cheer squad. This is where the Pell case has gone terribly wrong. Impartial judge and jury accepted, parts of the media – notably the ABC and fromer Fairfax journalists – have spent years attempting to ensure Pell is the most odious figure in Australia.
They seemed to want him in the dock as an ogre, not a defendant. Worse, elements of Victoria police, including Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton co-operated in this. Ashton’s repeated announcements of impending charges and references to “victims” rather than “alleged victims” were matched only by the coincidences in timing between police pronouncements and favoured media exclusives…this include a book from Melbourne University Press, called Cardinal: The Rise & Fall of George Pell, was printed and published before the gag order made it into the public.
This reputational blackening works in two ways. First, at the human level, is there any Australian who does not now associate the word “Pell” with “child abuse”? Second, is there any public official in Australia who does not understand that any action, no matter how appropriate, that might tend towards Pell’s acquittal, will meet swift, public retribution?
This is not the story about whether a jury got it right or wrong, or about whether a justice is seen to prevail. It’s a story about whether a jury was ever given a fair chance to make a decision, and whether our justice system can be heard above the media mob.’
(Excerpt from The Australian, 27th February 2019, p.7 )

I’m not Roman Catholic, and I consider child abuse, institutional or otherwise, to be as bad as abortion. Child abuse doesn’t just involve sexual sin, it’s also an abuse of power.

However, Craven’s question is important.

In light of Kavanaugh, Trump, Covington School boys etc.; We should all be asking, has activist journalism, and social media, hindered due process and the right to a fair trial?

Related reading:

Profiteering from Falsehood: Proof that Leftist Australian media needs a narrative of racism and oppression to stay relevant.
Death by lynch mob: Brett Kavanaugh, Asia Bibi and the shared rage of the mobs out to get them.
Ford Vs. Kavanaugh: The Attempted Hijacking of Justice?

 

If you’re not really into Information Technology and are not aware of what the Golden Shield project is, you’re forgiven. The majority of Chinese people either don’t care or aren’t aware of its existence either.

The Golden Shield Project is Communist China’s massive firewall. It’s designed to keep a lid on dissent and ward off foreign influence on Chairman Mao’s, carefully constructed Communist culture, which was largely forced on the Chinese people during the Marxist/Maoist Cultural Revolution[1].

Some basic history: ‘The Golden Shield project has been in development since the 1990s’[i]. According to a Tom McDonald field study published by the University College of London (UCL) in 2016, ‘The Golden Shield Project is the best-known mechanism of Chinese state control over the internet…though most Chinese people are unaware of its existence, those who are, are largely unconcerned about it.’ (ibid)[2]

Both the UCL study (p.147) and Stanford’s Torfox, state that the ‘self-censorship[3] by Chinese internet users, is essentially the byproduct of both Government censorship’ and an unspoken social media etiquette within China, which views ‘posts regarding news, politics and current affairs as inappropriate’ (p.148).

Whilst the UCL study and Stanford’s Torfox online articles don’t talk in an outright manner, about the role fear plays in self-censorship, with what has happened to China’s Uighurs (Muslim community), and the continued harassment of churches, and house churches, along with the imprisonment of Christians, it’s fair to assume that fear of the Socialist State, plays a sizeable role. Heavy Government restrictions[4] on internet use, means online dissent against the Communist Regime is rare. (As a side note to reasons for how fear plays a role in self-censorship, Communist Chinese authorities also silently encourage doxing. It’s labeled, ‘online vigilante justice’, called “Human Flesh Search Engines“.)

Of the two reports, only Torfox makes the suggestion that self-censorship is the result of compliance with totalitarian Government:

‘What makes the Great Firewall of China so effective (and controversial) is not only its complex technology but also the culture that the system engenders – a culture of self-censorship.  The Chinese government mandates that companies be responsible for their public content.  In other words, it is the job of these companies to make sure that their online portals do not contain any prohibited topics or obscenities.  Leading online news media in China, such as Xinhuanet.com, Chinadaily.com.cn, Chinanews, and Baidu.com obediently follow the government’s decree, pledging that they “will make the Internet a vital publisher of scientific theories… maintain social stability, and promote the building of a socialist harmonious society” (Torfox, Stanford).

Tom McDonald’s field study published by UCL also hints at this reasoning:

‘limiting users access to social media platforms, and certain types of content appearing within them, in order to promote  a social media aligned to both the state and family interests,  was only one aspect of state control. Another method was by populating these platforms with content – propaganda and ‘patriotism’ (p.151) […] ‘Most social media posts about politics are nationalistic. There were very few posts that directly criticized the central government, or policies and attitudes of the state’ (p.161).

There are three good reasons why you should be aware of The Golden Shield Project. First, the project is “supported” by Big Tech (Silicon Valley) Companies. Second, it’s a Communist tool used not just to suppress free speech[5], but create and police, a culture of total compliance with Government approved thought, speech and content. What makes this second point even more alarming is that the technology used for The Golden Shield Project is now being exported. Third, the Golden Shield Project is promoted as being something that upholds family values, while underneath this the Government enforces the socialist state, through total surveillance, and sleight of hand, statist propaganda[6].

Although I use the word, “supported” cautiously, it may not come as a complete surprise that the Golden Shield Project is supported by Big Tech (Silicon Valley) Companies.

According to Torfox, ‘transnational Internet corporations such as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are also subjected to self-censorship regulations.  Although censorship is very much against Western ideology, the size of the Chinese market is too profitable for the companies to bypass these opportunities.’ (Torfox, Stanford)

This raises the question, does participating in active censorship, and complying with China’s Golden Shield Project, make these Western, and largely Leftist companies, hypocrites? Further, does this active compliance mean that participating companies are profiteering from an oppressive regime?

Put another way, does the active compliance of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola, and Nortel Networks, with China’s Golden Shield Project (which is designed to abolish, punish, and silence dissent, ‘and promote the building of a socialist harmonious society’) mean that these big tech companies, are profiteering from oppression?

Or, as Grant Clark from Bloomberg suggests, are these companies to be viewed also as victims of China’s Communist heavy restrictions?

Simple examples of this compliance include, when Winnie the Pooh, was temporarily banned in  2017.

More complex data shows Google actively blocking the use of its search engine to look up words unapproved by the Chinese Communist Government.

As highlighted by Harvard’s 2002 comprehensive list of searches blocked by Google in China, by request of the Chinese Communist Government. (Complete Chart) Top Ten:

1. Tibet
2. Taiwan
3. equality
4. dissident China
5. revolution
6. dissident
7. freedom China
8. justice China
9. counter-revolution China
10. news China/Democracy China

With this evidence, and these examples in mind, Western concerns about Big Tech companies, which are often ridiculed as fanatical, and fear mongering, are justified.

When these same companies choose to block dissent or a different opinion on their servers/social media platforms in the West, they are importing the same political lockout system that they (at least, in the case of Google, as shown above) apply to Chinese citizens, under the satisfied and watchful gaze of the unelected Chinese bureaucratic caste.  When these companies block dissent or a different opinion, they are choosing to restrict freedom of speech. They are picking a side, and imposing their favored form of ideology on those who may have no choice, but to use their technology or social media platforms.

This should be of concern to Westerners, because the technology used in the Golden Shield Project is now being exported[7].

According to the McDonald field study for UCL, ‘in China, while propaganda frequently ends up forming the basis of news, not all news comes from, or is, propaganda […] [However] 80 to 90% of China’s news is fake news’ (McDonald 2016, pp.151 & 155). Since ‘the Chinese government controls all of the national authority name servers’ (source), it has total control over social media and social media companies.

Evidence of propaganda is seen in the defense of the GSP. Advocates say that Golden Shield Project is only a tool for protecting family values.  The GSP, however, was designed to protect the Communist state, not families. Its primary purpose is to guard the state against the ‘use of the Internet by domestic or foreign groups to coordinate anti-regime activity.’ (China Golden Shield, 2001)

Stanford’s Torfox confirms this, stating that ‘the government initially envisioned the Golden Shield Project to be a comprehensive database-driven surveillance system that could access every citizen’s record as well as link national, regional, and local security together.’

Ergo, even if upholding family values is now a small part of the usefulness of the GSP, it was not part of the Golden Shield Project’s original intent.

In conclusion, it’s reasonable to have governance of the internet based on a nation’s laws and boundaries, but that governance should be small, effective, and preferably have at its core classical liberal ethos, anchored by the Judeo-Christian moral compass. It’s important to remember, that ‘human beings do not have to serve causes, causes have to serve human beings’ (Karl Barth, Against the Steam p.35).

If when talking about the GSP, our focus is on protecting family values, than the GSP is an easy sell. Protections that include internet safety for Children and adults with addictions are plain common sense. For true freedom to exist, it has to have a certain degree of parameters to ensure and uphold its existence. Otherwise, we become enslaved to the machine, and land somewhere in the Matrix.

However, if the goal of governance over the internet, such as the GSP, is the protection of an ideology, an unelected bureaucratic caste, the invasion and suppression of citizen’s rights, and that control is masked by propaganda about protecting family values, then instead of being controlled by the Matrix, we enter a land controlled by those who own the Matrix, which is as equally horrifying.


References:

[1] For a full explanation of this, see Jacques Ellul’s, 1965 publication, ‘Propaganda’.

[2] For a deeper reading of the history, see Bloomberg’s article called, Quicktake: The Great Firewall of China by Grant Clark

[3] McDonald, author of the UCL field study further claims that ‘such reactions can be understood as ways that townsfolk form a strategy for coping with inflexible  controls that they are  otherwise unable to influence’ (p.148). However, ‘the controls which receive the greatest attention outside China – the Great Firewall and deletion of social media posts – are the ones that typically concern local people the least […] Other systems of control – such as checking users’ ages and restricting access for young people – that act at a local level are immediately visible and very important to townsfolk. Some of these measures come from people’s own convictions about the appropriate use of social media, rather than just from state- imposed restrictions’ (p.150)

[4] Bloomberg: ‘Critics say China’s Great Firewall reflects its paranoia over the internet’s potential to spread opposition to one-party rule. As well as impeding freedom of speech, China’s approach constrains it economically, they say, by stifling innovation, preventing the exchange of important ideas and cutting access to services used by businesses like Google Cloud.’

[5] Greg Walton: ‘Many people in China have been arrested for Internet-related “crimes,” ranging from supplying e-mail addresses to Internet publications to circulating pro-democratic information or articles that are critical of the Chinese government, in blatant contradiction of international human rights law guaranteeing freedom of speech.’ (China Golden Shield, 2001)

[6] Greg Walton: ‘China’s Internet regulations and legislation are guided by the principle of “guarded openness” – seeking to preserve the economic benefits of openness to global information, while guarding against foreign economic domination and the use of the Internet by domestic or foreign groups to coordinate anti-regime activity.’ (China Golden Shield, 2001)

[7]  Stanford: ‘China even exports its technology to other countries such as Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Belarus.’ (The Great Firewall of China: Background. Sourced, 23rd January 2019)

[i] McDonald, T. 2016 Social Media In Rural China, ULC Press, U.K. Link to a free copy of the PDF  (p.146)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

(Also published at The Caldron Pool, 24th January, 2019.)

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.

Politicising tragedy for political leverage seems to be the going thing these days.

By the tone on social media, one would not be wrong in assuming that the victims of the shooting which occurred on Sunday at a Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were atheists, and those from the Left side of the political spectrum.

Some decided to use this tragic event to ridicule prayer. Throwing their contempt at anyone who took a second to share their sympathy with those actually caught up in the shooting.

The response from the Left on social media was far from their alleged tolerant embrace of diversity. It was far from the “love” activism the Left say they stand for. Instead of showing solidarity, charity, or real care, in a selfless act of lament and sympathy, they used the real victims of yesterday’s tragedy for selfish gain.

Instead of promoting support for the community involved, the Leftist social media complex decided to add insult to injury. Then sat back to watch their social media stock value rise, as like-minded sycophants padded their stats with like, share, meme, retweet and opportunist comment.

Though prayer bashing has increased in recent years, this isn’t a new phenomenon. What stands out here is the magnified incongruence between a group of people who claim to speak from a platform of diversity and their active prejudice against Christian practice. The question has to be asked, if this were a Mosque and not a Church, would the response have been the same?

One on hand I can understand the suspicion. Saying that you’re praying for someone doesn’t always translate into the act of praying for someone. Christians have from time to time dropped the ball by giving lip service to prayer, rather than actually doing it. Instead of standing with people, prayer has been used as a cop-out.

On the other hand, not every Christian does this. No real Church advocates lazy discipleship or mechanised stoic detachment. Prayer unifies, it brings different people together. It doesn’t divide or distinguish between whether you are holy or not. It’s an invitation to participate with God, and Jesus Christ is the seal on that invitation. Come as you are.

Immediately after the news broke, social media lit up. Instead of offering sympathy and support to the victims, many on the Left attacked Republicans, using America’s cruel obsession with high-powered guns as a moral platform to build support for higher levels of gun control.

This is where the unintentional hilarity XYZ writers talk a lot about, hits the ground running.

The second that tragedies of the same ilk are attributed to Islamic Terrorism, the Left rushes to defend Islam. Attempts are made to suppress the real cause under a thick layer of denial, identity politics and false accusations. Whereby anyone who speaks out against the act in the context of its ideological origins, is accused of being an Islamophobe. All of which are tactics employed to control the narrative, telling you what to think, what to feel, and how you should respond.

The message is clear. Leftists have no problem with condemning an act and its ideological cause, as long as it serves up some form of political gain. In the case of the Texas Church shooting massacre, this means that Republicans and the NRA are legitimate, politically correct targets. Just don’t apply the same rule, the next time there is an “incident attributed to” Islamists and their faithful following of the Quran.

Measuring reactions to the Texas shooting from people on both sides of the political spectrum, it would also seem that offering those suffering sympathy, is now a crime against humanity.

Those who share sympathy through thoughts and prayers with another community is intolerable, making your sympathy useless, antiquated and pointless.

This is a tragedy within a tragedy. People believe that ridiculing sympathy forces people to act. The reality is that sympathy precedes support. It motivates us to care and act on that care. Without sympathy we cannot show support.  It’s that part of our humanity which moves us towards empathy, towards the solidarity of suffering.

Sympathy is a valid emotional connection that leads to empathy.  It motivates us to move from sentiment to action. Only sociopaths are devoid of sympathy. Only psychopaths are devoid of both sympathy and empathy, and would ridicule both as worthless.

Sharing grief with those who are grieving is not a worthless act. It reminds us that we are human because sharing grief acknowledges the vulnerable, and through the vulnerable we are reminded of our own humanity. One worthwhile and traditional element of that sharing is to stand in prayer with those who are suffering or have suffered.

Genuinely offering to pray for someone may be politically incorrect, and loaded with suspicion, but it’s never a useless act.

Christian prayer, is not stoic detachment [i]. Honest prayer requires humility, it precedes responsible action. Prayer is only useless when it’s used to serve self-righteousness; lip service.

It’s ignorant to quickly condemn as Islamophobia, any link made between Islamic terrorist attacks and Islamic ideology. It’s hypocritical to then turn around and quickly condemn Republicans and the NRA, when the tragic event involves guns and not Islamic Terrorism.  It’s ignorant for those same people to condemn others for offering sympathy and moral support to the victims.

Only sociopaths and the ‘malignantly narcissistic’ [ii] would think that offering sympathy and support to the victims of a horrendous crime is useless.

Johann Goethe was right, ‘nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.’ ( Maxims & Reflections, 231)

As anti-Nazi theologian, Karl Barth, rightly said, ‘prayer is the beginning of an uprising, [a revolt] against the disorder of the world.’ [iii]

#prayfor #ourworld #prayfor #SoutherlandSprings


References:

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945, Discerning the Signs of The Times

[ii] George K. Simon Ph.D. In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People (p. 51)

[ii]  Barth, K. CD Fragments IV:4 See also the whole John 14. Verse 13 in particular:Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’ – Jesus.

Image: The Deserter, Boardman Robinson Wikipedia.

Л. Н.Толстой рассказывает сказку внукам. 1909

The quote below, taken from Tolstoy’s ‘A Confession’, reads like a critique of the leviathan that is social media:

We were all then convinced that it was necessary for us to speak, write, and print as quickly as possible and as much as possible, and that it was all wanted for the good of humanity. And thousands of us, contradicting and abusing one another, all printed and wrote — teaching others. And without noticing that we knew nothing, and that to the simplest of life’s questions:
What is good and what is evil? We did not know how to reply, we all talked at the same time, not listening to one another, sometimes seconding and praising one another in order to be seconded and praised in turn, sometimes getting angry with one another — just as in a lunatic asylum.
Thousands of workmen laboured to the extreme limit of their strength day and night, setting the type and printing millions of words which the post carried all over Russia, and we still went on teaching and could in no way find time to teach enough, and were always angry that sufficient attention was not paid us. It was terribly strange, but is now quite comprehensible. Our real innermost concern was to get as much money and praise as possible. To gain that end we could do nothing except write books and papers. So we did that’[i].

Of course, it is anachronistic to suggest that Tolstoy was talking about social media as we know it. Tolstoy’s words are, however, a critique of 19th Century, Russian media, its medium and the noise therein. Therefore, they are an early critique of the content and form which makes up a large part of social media. As such, they are a relevant criticism for us to take seriously, particularly when applying them to a 21st Century context.

Today, Henry Ergas from ‘The Australian’, made an interesting observation. In writing about sensitive information, how it is monitored, distributed and delivered. He provided an historical insight, which although topically unrelated, helps us to contextually frame the sharp poignancy of Tolstoy’s reflection:

“19th century’s Pax Brittanica, was built on a solid technological foundation: Britain’s control of global telegraphy. As late as 1890, 80 per cent of the world’s submarine cables were British; Britain ruled the wires even more decisively than she ruled the waves… The sophistication of today’s communications networks is obviously many orders of magnitude that of Britain’s global telegraph system. In 2012, daily internet traffic was in the order of 1.1 exabytes, one billion times more every day than the 19th century system could carry in a year. And the growth rates remain breathtaking: wireless traffic alone is now eight times larger than the entire internet in 2000[ii]

If Ergas’ facts are correct, that is a lot of information being exchanged. For better or worse we engage, encode, disengage and decipher information at ‘breathtaking’ speeds. Matthew McKay suggests that ‘55% of all communication is mostly facial expressions’[v]. Thus, my conclusion is that because most of the information exchanged via social media is in written form, it seriously limits our ability to receive a message, in the same way it was intended to be received by the author. (there are many examples of how comments have been wrongly interpreted).

I consider Tolstoy’s reflection a full-stop. An important interruption that encourages us to take a breath and ask ourselves:

  • Is the information we are consuming authentic, well-informed, or is it just propaganda; distortion (noise)?

Further questions might be:

  • Are we consuming information without really processing and retaining what it is being said?
  • Who is saying this, and why are they saying it?
  • Is the source trustworthy?
  • Will my time be well spent reading this or not?

There is a further word worthy of consideration here. Augustine, in his day, had this to say about grace and human nature:

…’many sins are committed through pride; but not all happen proudly. They happen so often by ignorance, by human weakness, and many are committed by people, weeping and groaning in their distress[iii]

Perhaps there is a timeless clarity by which these words help us to reflect on the interpersonal conduct, and content of the information exchanged on most prominent social media sites today?

Diary of Leo Tolstoy

Diary of Leo Tolstoy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even with all its pitfalls, the strength of social media is in its ability to connect people and strengthen relationships. I remain a cautious participant of social media, aware of its limited ability to ‘properly allow a healthy and fair exchange of ideas’ (Elshtain, 2007). Therefore, I find here in Augustine and Tolstoy’s words, a reminder about the limits and the responsibility which coincides with the right to use such mediums. Augustine’s insight here could be bridged to Tolstoy’s reflection, and therefore buttress our proposition. Their words present us with a useful framework for a theological critique of social media.

Finally, if we look at Proverbs 4:20-5:6, we can see a parallel logic that could exonerate this train of thought.

Be attentive to God’s word

Keeping them close.

Guard your heart with vigilance,

Avoiding spin and smear.

(“Refusing to be conned by the rhetoric of either the new right or the new left’’)[iv]

Looking forward, ponder the path of our feet.

Be attentive to wisdom.

Use words that guard knowledge,

And ponder the path of life.


Related articles

Tolstoy’s Faith – GVL

The Who, What And When Of Social Media – RVD, The Christian Pundit

Sources:


[i] Tolstoy, L. 1879 A Confession (Kindle for PC ed. Loc. 92-100).
[ii] Ergas, H. 2013 Wrong for Abbott to follow Obama and add lying to spying, The Australian, Sourced 25th November 2013
[iii] Augustine, ON NATURE AND GRACE (With Active Table of Contents) Kindle Ed. Loc. 704-706
[iv] Wright, N.T. 2013 Creation, Power and Truth: The gospel in a world of cultural confusion, SPCK & Proverbs 4:27
[v] McKay, M., Martha, D. & Fanning, P. 2009 Messages: The communications skill book p.59, New Harbinger publications

©RL2013

In a recent blog post Eitan Chitayat presented some high powered dialogue, choosing as his conversation partners those who (unwittingly?) position themselves as reactionary activists. Most of whom are from social media.

Despite the unfortunate, but forgivable title given to the article, the overall point rightly made by Chitayat is clear.

His words make up a necessary “no” to a protest filled with thoughtlessness and blind rage. (Both characteristics of any chaos fuelled lynch mob.)

He writes that:

‘If anyone doesn’t understand any of the above; if anyone doesn’t get it;
if any of my friends are going to post anti-Israel messages in a time where over 500 Palestinians have tragically died in this current conflict yet you remained silent while almost 200,000 Arabs were murdered by Arabs these past few years;
if you’re not writing about Assad using chemical weapons against his people; if you’re not writing about ISIS who crucified 8 christians the other day and who are telling Iraqi Christians ‘convert, pay tax, or die’;
if you only have criticism for the State of Israel that is doing EVERYTHING in its power to avoid civilian losses to Palestinians during a war;
if you’re going to do nothing but sit wherever you’re sitting and just dish out your anti-Israel dirt while rockets are being aimed at my house, family and friends as our boys are fighting to protect us – and you’re going to dish it out simply because we’re living in this land and you haven’t got a clue as to our connection to it;
if you’re going to join the anti-semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations flaring up in the world like we’re seeing in France, Turkey, Berlin, most Arab states and even in the US that have nothing to do with this conflict but are really just expressions of hatred directed at Jews and Israelis (and these expressions will be directed at the host countries soon);
if you’re going to stay quiet and just accept, then go ahead and unfriend me from Facebook now because you’re probably no friend of mine.’[i]

As I suggested in my own blogpost, written the same day Chitayat posted his article:

‘With small amounts of fact and/or information these glass houses become the launching pad for mobile projectiles of shame and exclusion. (We might need to also add ridicule.)
This is an ‘activism’ that measures efficiency by likes, shares and/or followers. Reflecting the fact that ‘thoughtless approval’ can be translated into hard currency by selling the side of story that is the easiest to sell (i.e.: the most believable or assumed to be most likely – potentially anything that continues to feed into the pipeline of hype)’[ii]

With the global community still trying to balance technological freedoms with responsibilities, it might be worth noting the words of Jean Bethke Elstain who, citing Hannah Arendt, highlighted the ‘strange interdependence of thoughtlessness and evil’.

According to Elshtain, identifying the ‘banality of evil disarms the seductive nature and hype surrounding evil’. What might also be applicable here is the imperative found in the New Testament letter of  1 John 4: ‘do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,…by this we know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error’ (ESV –  additionally, we might want to consider how fitting the practice of ‘Due Diligence’ is in this context).

Here we find ourselves reminded to keep a keen eye on context, details, and careful comment. This way we can defuse antagonism and walk through the confusion, towards healthy contributions that not only seek to speak truth but also listen. Resulting in informed conclusions actually worth sharing and/or liking.

If we aim for this, we aim to move responsibly, in a loving way, towards the place where we can play a part in denying ‘evil any form of representation that it might be seeking.’[iii]

The conclusion then is this: the Christian must not fail to hear and act, on what Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Edith Stein and those like them understood clearly:

(Judeo-) Christian hope does not permit a politically sterile withdrawal.’[iv]

References:

[i] Shalom, motherf****r. | Eitan Chitayat | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/shalom-motherfr/#ixzz38RLvkRb8

[ii]Truth & Balance Vs. The Side of The Story That Sells Best

[iii] Bethke, E.B. 1995 Augustine and the limits of Politics University of Notre Dame Press, pp.74, 75, 81

[iv] Markus,R.A. 1981 Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St Augustine in Augustine and the limits of Politics, Bethke, E.B. 1995 University of Notre Dame Press

Image:”In Mosul homes are marked with the letter “Nun” (ن), the Arabic equivalent of our “N” and the abbreviation for Nasara, or “Nazarenes”: what they call Christians in a gesture of contempt to make them seem like outsiders in their own land….”(Source: http://www.patheos.com/…/muslims-marking-christian…/)

[Originally published 7th July 2014]