Free speech and free attention

This post is going to cover two different themes: social media and the attention it brings people, and Christian privilege in the public square. They’re related, I promise I’ll get to that point.

I grew up in a time that was right on the front end of the Internet age. As a freshman computer science undergraduate student in 1992, the Internet was still a weird buzzword that social rejects and highly specialized academics used.

The host of the local morning show that I used to listen to once told a funny story where he didn’t want to be pestered by the guy sitting next to him on an airplane. “So what do you do?” asked the guy in the story. “Computers,” lied the professional radio host. “That shut him right up!” he bragged. You can imagine how much that story cheered up a guy like me as I wrangled with projects in UNIX and struggled through classes on data structures and algorithms, and got scorned by the frat guys in my dorm suite.

People didn’t really get what was going on with the internet yet.  This cartoon was considered very amusing at the time.

On Facebook, a select group of 57 people know you're a dog.

The New Yorker mentions the Internet in 1993. How erudite of them.

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Texas Freethought Convention, with political thoughts

I had a great time at the convention yesterday.  I was a bit of a lightweight, only putting about six hours into it and not sticking around for the keynote speech (Sorry, PZ!  I’m sure it was great!) or the pub crawl afterwards.

Picked up PZ Myers at the airport at 12:30 on Monday and got him to his hotel by 1.  After that I slept in and then Lynnea and I drifted to the capitol steps around 11, just missing a speech by the head of Camp Quest Texas.

There were some protesters there.  We got pictures!

Lynnea Glasser and protester at the Texas Freethought Convention

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Whom does God really endorse, anyway?

Slacktivist pointed out that no less than four Republican candidates have claimed that God called them to run.  Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain all state regularly that they are in the race at least partly due to the wishes of the Lord.

I know this is never actually going to happen, but wouldn’t it be magnificently awkward if reporters would start asking the candidates about each other’s divine mandate?  You know, “So, Governor Perry, Representative Bachmann here has said that she regularly receives assurance from The Lord that she is meant to run.  Do you feel that she is incorrect?”

We all know that there is a big social taboo against questioning any candidate’s deeply rooted personal religious opinions.  But personally, I feel like the omniscient ruler over all creation ought to be a little bit more decisive about guiding an election, don’t you think?  In a world where God really existed and actively desired the election of one particular candidate, there might in principle be a single right answer to the question of who’s really God’s candidate.  It might, of course, be an undiscoverable answer; but if all these candidates are going around claiming they know they have God’s endorsement, at least three of them must be lying or mistaken, yes?  That ought to be a fairly obvious statement even for the most hardened theocrat.

And I’d like some follow-up questions, too.  Mitt Romney the Mormon is presumed to be the likely front runner right now; suppose he wins the primary?  Is somebody please, PLEASE going to go up to Rick Santorum and ask “So, Rick, you said that God wanted you to run, but that Mormon guy sure did kick your ass.  Why did that happen?”  And if Obama is re-elected, I’m dying for all four of them to answer the question about what the heck God was up to.