The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “Technology”

The Abuse of Power and the Power of Abuse: Dealing with an Inconvenient Truth

By Uri Brito

Republicans are the party of small government. Democrats are the party of big government. These distinctions no longer hold true. Reagan’s first term, perhaps, in recent history, is the last to come close to the type of small government Republicans say they envision. But for too long the scenery of the political landscape is replete with big government towers. We, the people, stare hopelessly at those babel-like towers wondering if any of them have read Genesis 11. We are Tolkien’s hobbits wanting to be left alone smoking our tobacco and drinking the finest beer, but alone they will not let us be.

David Shipler’s The Rights of the People: How our Search for Safety Invades our Privacy (2011) detailed some of these abuses. Shipler wrote that the Bill of Rights were “embedded in the first ten amendments to the Constitution…to climb and counter the might state, to keep their speech free, their confessions true, their trial fair, their homes and files sealed from cavalier invasion by police.” We are losing that right as speedily as the government (NSA) is tracking your e-mail or Verizon phone call right now.

What we are seeing today is more than the undermining of the Constitution; we are seeing the undermining of morality. And this implies that we need the objectivity of Christendom. We can no longer amen the actions of any party, because both major parties do not care about the shire. They will make deals with anyone. We need the boldness to assert the foolish actions of our party and then condemn them each election.

Obama’s promise to secrecy and the respecting of civil liberties in 2007 has quickly derailed into a Mordor-like crystal ball. They have looked and accessed every conceivable file. They have found what they wanted and used that information for their own purposes. “We cannot have 100% safety without inconvenience,” the president argues. Inconvenience? An absurdly burdensome tax system,  the waste of our taxpayer money, TSA, a destructive economic policy, reckless wars led by reckless leaders, the murder of the unborn? This is more than inconvenience; this is abuse; and all in the name of an agenda.

What we are witnessing is not the era of inconvenience; those days were relatively comfortable. At least we knew when the inconveniences would come. We are entering the era of abuse. We are in an era where the words “abuse of power” have become redundant. In an abusive society, led by abusive leaders, we do not know what to expect. Power corrupts, but absolute power in the hands of fools leads to abuse.

We are not claiming that this is a distinctly Obama problem. Bush’s Patriot Act opened the doors to this type of infringement. The tyranny of technology began long ago. And we are now recipients of a president who is continuing those policies.

The Economist observed in 2007, that in the past, information was gathered by drawing conclusions about citizens from fragmented reports by party loyalists. They would tap phones, send informers to workplaces, and follow people around. Today, “data about people’s whereabouts, purchases, behavior, and personal lives are gathered, stored, and shared on a scale that no dictator of the old school ever thought possible.”

We are living in a new era. This is an era where privacy is becoming extinct. The security of e-mail exchanges, counselor to counselee phone calls, and a host of other matters are sacrificed at the altar of safety. But are we safe? The answer to that is an inconvenient truth to our president.

How Christians Can Utilize Twitter

The latest issue of The Weekly Standard includes a rant against Twitter by Matt Labash, who does not have a Twitter account. I am on Twitter, and I like it a lot. Of course, it has its vapid and vicious aspects, but all in all, I find that Twitter is the most useful means of staying apprised of a ideologically and geographically wide range of opinion and news, and simultaneously the easiest means of connecting with like-minded folks. It is also striking another damaging blow against the tunnel vision of the mainstream media.

I sympathize with Labash to a certain extent – anything truly novel is likely to be bad, and a reflexive opposition to newfangled ideas is probably going to be vindicated much of the time. Newfangled technology, however, may just improve upon older, useful products, and the best of today’s information technology often represents methods of communicating that are very similar to what scrolls, books, newspapers and magazines have been doing for a long time. Twitter’s limit of 140 characters is not nearly as significant as people like Labash suggest – 95% of what I share on Twitter includes links to longer-form material, such as articles in The Weekly Standard.

Twitter_Town_Hall

Read the rest with more helpful links at The Anxious Bench

Thomas Kidd is a contributing scholar to The Kuyperian Commentary. His newest book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, published in 2011 with Basic Books.

Further Topical Reading:
“Why Most Christians Should Use Facebook!” ~ Uri Brito, KuypComm Founder

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A Lament for Google Reader

Guest Post by Alastair Roberts

After seven years, Google Reader will be closed on July 1, 2013. Perhaps Google thought tonight was a good night to bury bad news.

This isn’t the end of the road for web feed users. Services such as NewsBlur and The Old Reader still exist and there are ways to move your information across. Some have even suggested that this is a positive development, ending Google Reader’s dominance of the web feed aggregator field, and allowing a new wave of innovation and competition to occur.

My assessment of the situation is rather less sanguine. Whether or not new services rise up to replace Google Reader or not, the closure of Reader is a troubling straw in the wind, highlighting ongoing changes in the way that we read things online.

As this blog is typically devoted to the discussion of theological matters, it may surprise people that I am commenting on such an issue. I have discussed issues relating to social media from a theological perspective in the past, although this post is far more specific in its focus. As someone who believes that the forms of our reading, writing, and discourse are of great importance, and that the integrity of our thought and communication, especially on matters relating to Christian faith and thought, can be compromised by inappropriate forms, my interest in and concern with such developments goes beyond my longstanding appreciation of Google Reader’s service.

So, before proceeding, what exactly is the purpose of a service such as Google Reader? The principal purpose is that of enabling you to gather all of your major web reading together in a single place, without the need to visit sites individually. Once you have subscribed to a web feed for one of the sites that you read on Google Reader, you no longer need to visit it, unless you want to leave a comment. Doing this, one can easily follow dozens of blogs and websites simultaneously, without having to take the time to visit each blog or site: instead, everything comes to you. The amount of time that this saves is considerable.

I originally used Bloglines, but even before that closed, I had switched over completely to Google Reader. At one time I was following almost 500 blogs simultaneously, something that would have been absolutely impossible prior to the web feed aggregator, when visiting each site individually was so costly in time that one could seldom follow more than a dozen sites closely at a time. Nowadays, being busier, I only follow about one hundred blogs and websites, but the great benefits remain the same.

Given the effectiveness of Google Reader, why is it closing? Robert Scoble makes the following remarks:

What killed this? Flipboard and Facebook for me. Prismatic too. The trend line was there: we are moving our reading behavior onto the social web. Normal people didn’t take to subscribing to RSS feeds. Heck, it’s hard enough to get them to subscribe to tweet feeds.

But this is sad. Particularly shows the open web continues to be under attack. We have to come into the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to read and share. Here’s a problem: a few of my friends have deleted their Facebook accounts. Dave Winer and Ryan Block, to name two famous examples.

So they will never see my words here. The open web is going away and this is another example of how.

In short, services like Google Reader increasingly belong to a past age of the Internet. The social web is the future and the place where we now ‘consume’ our information. While the gap that Google Reader leaves may well be plugged by other services, the departure of Google Reader from this area is a sign of a steady shift in Internet culture away the sort of relationship with information that such a web feed aggregator represents. Read more…

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