The Culture Heaves in Response to the Internet

In my writings about culture and the web, I’ve always presented the upside of free people connected. However, I’ve also given reasons why the culture would reject such a freedom in the name of self‐protection. “The” culture, of course, is steeped in traditions and promises that set the path from nobody to somebody in a democracy, and as C.S. Lewis famously pointed out, the farther up the ladder one advances, the more it becomes their duty to keep others off the ladder altogether.

Why?

Because human beings are self‐centered at core and absent an internal governor, need a bayonet at their backs in order to get along with others. It is one of the great necessities of government to prevent these “rulers” from destroying others in the name of advancing themselves. Government, it turns out however, can be bought and forced into compliance with the corporate will. The opposite of government is not freedom, as many would have us believe. The opposite of government is licentiousness.

And so the culture sets the rules for what it determines to be civilization, which often then turns out to be anything but civil. The net doesn’t play well with this, for it connects people to each other absent a hierarchical filter, while the hierarchy that represents our civilization demands command and control in order to maintain its place within the whole. We either can’t or won’t see this for what it is: a blatant attempt by the wealthy to tighten their grip around the culture, so it can be used to separate them even further from the have‐nots of the world.

And, astonishingly, many of these people claim to be “Christian.” White evangelical leaders are more than happy to look past their licentious behavior, because their contributions help raise these ministers’ profiles, lifestyles, and cultural power. The web cuts right through this by allowing — even fostering — non‐hierarchical communications and the dispersal of filterless information.

This is the inherent conflict that the culture has with the web, for the culture is a set of siloed hierarchies that work (poorly) together for their own best interests. The net looks at this and responds: “Inefficient!” And, so has begun attempts by the culture to wrestle control back from the people who are horizontally connected, even though most don’t realize the disruption they represent. This, too, is intentional.

We need leadership where nothing else will do. Having managed our way into this shrinking corner, the people long for leaders who’ll rescue us from the trap of being born without the privileges of wealth. In the world, this is a bad place to exist. How do faithful people then respond? Do we challenge the hegemony that is slipping into the deep abyss of obsolescence? Or, in the name familiarity, stick with the culture’s promise of the American Dream. And, if information is power in a connected universe, then what do we do with it? The cultural war today is largely one over information and the conflict over whose information will reign over all?

This brings us to the focal point of the 21st Century’s culture war — the business of news.

The news is a self‐governing institution in the U.S. We have the First Amendment to thank for that, although that freedom is under attack on many fronts today. It has to be self‐governing, because of the watchdog role it plays over government. We can’t have the press governed in any other way, especially by that same government. Any person with even an ounce of reason can understand this.

And self‐government means exactly that. The news industry abides by a code of ethics that means much more to its denizens than the average person thinks. Failure to follow this code is required when presenting point‐of‐view journalism as “news,” for at that point, they fall out of the protections of those who use the code to govern their practice. Again, this is not an unreasonable premise for an institution of the West that can have no outside governance.

The bias of the news is that its mission is towards what’s new. It doesn’t qualify to the mission, if it isn’t new. Like it or not, this is inherent to the industry and cannot be denied. But, and here’s where it gets tricky, embracing the new is not a political position. It’s a bias, yes, but it is not a political bias for that would likewise be contrary to its real bias. If there is an exception to this, it would fall into the category of unsupported enthusiasm for that which is new. What we must realize, however, is that those who profit most from the accusation of political bias are those who themselves are guilty of spreading political talking points as news. Conservative news is not a response to the political liberalization of the press; it’s a pro‐active tactic in a one‐sided propaganda war. It’s meant to accomplish two things: one, to convince everyday people that their only enemy is the evil‐intended political left, the mouthpiece of which is the liberal press. Two, that since there is a liberal press, it is right and justified that there should also be a conservative press. With this false narrative, they place themselves in the same arena with the real journalists, those who abide by a code of ethics, which prohibits them from behaving in the manner with which they’re being accused.

So what happens when an organization calls itself “news” but refuses to be self‐governed according to what the institution requires? Many things, but especially a rejection by the institution, and this is significant, for it’s not the point‐of‐view, per se, that’s being called into question but the organization’s insistence that it is, in fact, playing by the rules when it so clearly is not. Moreover, in order to grant itself the protections afforded those who do play by the rules, the organization must attempt to paint the entire institution with the broad brush of identical — albeit opposite — bias, In other words, the organization must claim that it is simply a response to the politics of the institution. Such a claim doesn’t have to be true in order to be pressed, and this is what infuriates those who are, indeed, functioning with the self‐governance provided by the institution.

This is where we are today in the struggle for information control, and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves permanently assigned to the status of needy, a position from which there is no escape.

We are living in times of shifting cultural norms. America is no longer a white nation, and this shows no signs of abatement. We can either accept this or kick against it, but if we’re going to assume the latter position, we must be prepared for a future of weeping and gnashing of teeth, for their really is zero hope of going backwards.

The answers are in our connectivity. If not, today’s hierarchies wouldn’t be so desperately afraid of it?

Welcome to the culture wars of the 2020s and beyond.

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