- The IP Public Accommodation
- The alt-right and the internet
- Bannon Bye-Bye
- Set-piece fights
- Free Speech and Open Carry
- Tim Keller
- Rob Gagnon
A teachable moment?
Google, GoDaddy et al are private companies, and their reactions can be both moral and driven by PR. They each said they acted because of violations of their terms of service — despite the fact that racist sites like Stormfront have gone largely untroubled for years. The problem, however, as Will Oremus at Slate pointed out, is that when the president of the United States himself can appear to conflate white supremacists and leftist counter-protestors, such ad-hoc rationalizations become dangerous, subject to the ebb and flow of popular interest and dubious definitions and understandings.
(Navneet Alang, The Slippery Slope Problem of Policing Hate on the Internet)
Clearly, GoDaddy, Cloudfare and others are discriminating. That is, they’re discerning who and what they will tolerate, and some fall outside their boundaries. If you think corporations cannot have religious views, then how about moral views, or other “ultimate concerns” than money?
I start with a presumption that private business can serve or not serve whoever it wishes. I don’t think every private business is a public accommodation, like a motel along a U.S. highway in the Jim Crow south. I place the onus on advocates of non-discrimination and “human relations” laws to overcome that presumption of business freedom, and I freely admit no protected class other than race (no, not even religion), which is a unique class because of our history and the unfinished work of Reconstruction. I support public (not government) boycotts of those businesses that abuse their freedom.
My presumption about government’s own discrimination, or government-enforced private discrimination, are exactly opposite, presuming that government must serve all equally (that may entail less than you think, though) and that it may not decree that private business lunch counters, bathrooms and drinking fountains, for instances, be segregated racially or otherwise.
But let’s go back to private business. Surely GoDaddy, Cloudfare, PayPal and others who are denying services to what they deem unacceptable “hate groups” are inflicting on those groups greater harm than Baronnelle Stutzman inflicted when she drew a line and said, in effect, “Rob, this is an event for whose celebration I will not lend my flower artistry.”
There were, after all, countless other florists readily available and sympathetic. But if someone can’t type “Daily Stormer” into their web browser and get directed to IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx because some private business cancelled its domain name registration, that’s a big, big deal for the Daily Stormer (for whom sympathy of any sort doesn’t come easily).
And with the precedent set that some people are beyond the IP pale, someone is going to demand that SPLC’s tendentious list of hate groups (see how readily your DNS resolves that URL to the right IP address?) become the de facto screening mechanism for who’s beyond the pale — or that Hatewatch itself (or Playboy, or whatever examples you care to multiply) be delisted.
Errors will be made. Legitimate but unpopular opinions will be suppressed. I have long — like almost 50 years long — cherished pockets of passive resistance to the Zeitgeist, repositaries of unfashionable truths — be they monasteries preserving manuscripts, private schools preserving religion (then and now) or classical schools preserving humane letters (now, in the face of STEM Fever). Likewise, I don’t trust the private plutocrats of IP to filter my content for me (though I’m aware that they do, to an extent, by favoring paid advertising).
I think we’re going to need some kind of law, probably federal, that treats the internet infrastructure as a new sort of public accommodation, with a focus on banning viewpoint discrimination by the keepers of the web. I don’t think it will be hard to overcome the presumption I indulge for private business when that debate starts.
The New York Times has a podcast called The Daily. It typically runs 20 minutes or so. I can’t always spare 20 minutes, so I look at the text summary and listen to, maybe, one episode in three.
But Friday’s The Alt-Right and the Internet was irresistible and excellent, revealing (after a reporter got “embedded” in the discussions as investigative journalists sometimes do) how these manboys used the internet to communicate and embolden each other, and thence to plan Charlottesville.
They did come to Charlottesville hoping to gain sympathy from the more mainstream right, though nothing in this story corroborated (or refuted) Michael Brendan Dougherty’s theory that they wanted to gin up sympathy precisely be getting attacked by the antifa Left. Rather, they were mindful that masks would mark them unsympathetically, and they dressed fairly normally.
They did respond in repitilian fashion to the news that a counter-demonstrator had been killed.
And they are racists (the reporter found himself interrogated about whether he was “white” because someone thought he looked hispanic) and losers (posing questions about how to get neo-Nazi girlfriends).
The Daily podcast can be had for free through RSS, though my link above is to the New York Times site with its metered paywall. The Wall Street Journal’s Potomac Watch is another good podcast, though not always daily and more focused on D.C.
I was hardly alone, but I did call Steve Bannon’s firing about 24 hours in advance.
This seems like a pretty big deal to me. His role seemed to be explaining to the President what his overarching policy was (would that it were something like Bannon’s Vatican talk), plus he had the figurehead role of “liaison to the alt-right, whatever the hell the alt-right is.”
Worst case scenario for Trump is that he’s lost his core, must now expect (no more than) a single term, and could, if his personality disorders didn’t get in the way constantly, settle down to be the best single-term POTUS he can be. How good that is
remains to be seen we’ll probably never learn.
For more information, tune in All Things Considered, Fox News, MSNBC or whatever, because they’ll be talking about this as if they knew more than I do. Which they may. They at least are employed professionally to blather about things while I’m a mere volunteer who tries to shut up when he’s out of ideas (or other people’s writings that are fermenting as I post them).
We want to say that Bannon’s a “populist” of some sort, an anti-China guy, an America Firster. Heck, he even advocated tax raises on high-income earners. And we want to say that his enemies in the White House are either social-climbing socialites (liberals), generals who favor more military engagement (hawks), or business guys who think government is here to goose growth through interest-rate and tax policy.
And on some level, I’m sure that’s true. Supposedly the White House is still setting federal regulations and encouraging certain legislative items to come forward in Congress. But increasingly it seems that judging the White House in these terms is like trying to determine the stock price of different suntan-oil companies by following the ups and downs on episodes of Jersey Shore. The ideology is just the furniture and props that the characters throw at each other in set-piece fights. Trade protectionism: a sofa overturned in a tantrum. A vow to fight the globalists: a box of Valtrex fired across the room in anger.
For quite a few years, I’ve been using 1Password as a password vault so I can keep 100+ unique strong passwords straight. It works on all my devices (Mac, Windows, iOS) and keeps them in sync by storing the encrypted vault in the cloud (in an account protected by a strong password and 2-factor authentication, of course). It also stores credit card information for e-business (or you can use PayPal).
It’s not free or even cheap if you’re on a tight budget, but having seen the havoc identity theft can wreak, I wouldn’t be on the web without it.
‘Nuff said. You’ve been warned. If you can’t take the trouble and expense of learning a few vital internet security measures (e.g., Antivirus (I use Sophos), Anti-Malware (Malwarebytes), VPN on public WiFi, strong unique passwords, 2-factor authentication on all especially vital accounts), you should reconsider whether it’s safe to go on logged-in websites at all. (If you’re beyond me and use open-source free versions of such things on your personal server, be gentle.)
Well, glory be! I’ve been overlooking one of 1Password’s upgraded powers. It can be the 2-factor authenticator app, like Google Authenticator or Authy (both of which I have used for 2-factor, which I use on every important account that accepts 2-factor from an authenticator app). In other words, I won’t have to get out my smartphone, run Authy, and then quickly type the 6-digit code into the website’s two-factor (1Password calls it “one time password”) authentication field. It reportedly will even automatically put the current 2-factor code into my paste buffer, from whence I can just paste it. This makes 2-factor authentication much less a pain-in-the-neck, reducing excuses not to use it.
Setup was a little kludgy on some of the accounts as they had no way to generate new QR codes for a new authenticator app; I had to delete 2-factor authentication for those sites and then start it again.
Be it acknowledged that open-carry by “free speech” beneficiaries at rallies like Charlottesville makes me queasy. I agree that the White Nationalists and neo-Nazis were likely to be attacked. (By at least one account, perhaps speculative, they wanted to be attacked and roughed up to gain sympathy from the conservative mainstream.) I agree that the police might be unable (or tactically unwilling?) to protect them from attack. But ordinary citizens of Charlottesville encountering these visitors felt intimidated, as likely was the purpose.
I’m not going to join (yet, until I sort things through) the criticism of the ACLU for saying “free speech, yes; armed free speech, get another advocate.”
Credit where credit is due: I began following Tim Keller on Twitter recently, and I am encouraged. He’s not Orthodox, but he’s wise. May his tribe increase in the Evangelical/Reformed world, which is going to need a much higher GodPleaser/ManPleaser ratio in coming troubles.
… Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has just released the following statement: “Dr. Rob Gagnon will be leaving Pittsburgh Theological Seminary effective August 21, 2017. Dr. Gagnon has been a part of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary since 1994, serving since 2002 as Associate Professor of New Testament. The administration at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Dr. Robert Gagnon have mutually agreed to end their relationship. We appreciate the contributions Professor Gagnon has made to our students and the community during his time here and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
With my 23 years of service to PTS (tenured in 2002) I was, for the last couple of months, the longest-serving current faculty member. Other than again reiterating that this severance was a mutual decision on the part of the Seminary and me and that there was no issue of moral turpitude of any kind on my part, I will not now or in the future say anything further about my resignation. For the sake of all concerned, please do not speculate further on the subject of my resignation. It is my desire to be forward-looking to the next stage of my career and ministry in the academic world as I seek a new institution in which to teach, research, and minister. I think God is calling me to an evangelical institution, if the evangelical world will have me (it seems unlikely, given my stances on sexual ethics and Scripture, that any university religion department or mainline denominational seminary would take me). Please keep my family in prayer as we look for a new institution.
(Robert A.J. Gagnon, emphasis added)
Dr. Gagnon is one of my heroes in the contemporary Protestant world for exactly the reasons that will make it all but impossible for him to secure an appointment in a mainline Protestant seminary and, he fears, will make him a controversial and dangerous hire even at an Evangelical seminary, to the Evangelicals’ shame.
Need I say more? I have heard him debate, too, and his manner is that of a scholar, not that of a hellfire and damnation preacher. If I were to fault him, it would be because his knowledge is so encyclopedic that he tends to run on, barely giving his adversaries enough time to demonstrate that they are almost completely ignorant in comparison, and that their unorthodox positions are held for no reason other than emotionalism and the Zeitgeist.
But he is holding a line of Biblical orthodoxy on sexual matters that is deeply unpopular and apt to become a financial embarrassment to any institution that hires him (expect loss of accreditation for those who will not bend the knee to the great god, Orgasm). So, pray.
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Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.
There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)