Friday, November 4, 2022

Offsite Post: ‘Whom Will We Serve: The Free Market or Christ?’

 U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (4th District, La.) said something in reply to the furor that erupted over his commentary on Little Demon that deserves some commentary of its own:

Disney and FX have made a decision to embrace and market what is plainly and obviously evil. We the people have the freedom to call it out and to decide what we want to do about it. I am encouraged that many millions of families are taking a stand over this, that countless many have committed to part ways with the companies responsible for the new series, and that some concerned citizens (like have created an online petition to try to stop it.

That is the beauty of America, y’all. We have the right to debate and disagree and take appropriate action in the free marketplace when our consciences compel us to do so. And you know what’s most ironic here? That precious freedom we enjoy—those inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—are given to us by God. We should exercise that freedom responsibly. And we ought to honor Him for it.

The implication is that it is just fine to have explicitly evil ‘entertainment’ being broadcast over the public airwaves as long as Christians have the ability to voice their objections to it.

But this raises a very serious question:  What is the highest aim of our society?  Maintaining an amoral freedom with no responsibility to any traditional religious values?  Or a society where as many people as possible know the freedom that is found in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Body the Church?

If we choose the first, we undermine the Church as well as many of the freedoms that we have enjoyed for centuries.  Without the principles of Christianity acting as guardrails in the marketplace of ideas, if Christianity is simply one of many voices in that marketplace, other principles will become dominant, and they won’t be as generous and merciful as what we have known heretofore.  Mary Harrington acknowledges that this is already unfolding in the West:

A couple of years ago, Adam Garfinkle made this case, in an essay examining the decline in “deep literacy” following the arrival of the internet. Delving into the interlocking histories of print, Christianity and democracy, the author argued that all three of these combined to create a particular type of subject well-suited to democratic governance. And, he suggests, the principal means by which such democratic subjects were shaped was long-form reading.

 . . .

If “deep reading” produced democracy as its governing political form, what can we expect to see associated with its networked digital successor? As Garfinkle sees it, this would probably be toward “a less abstract, re-personalized form of social and political authority concentrated in a ‘great’ authoritarian leader”.

We may already be seeing this borne out. On this side of the pond, research by the think tank UK Onward revealed support for democratic norms falling with every generation, but then plunging sharply among those under 44. Notably, Onward’s data also show that after an authoritarian spike across the board, that coincided with Covid, every demographic has returned to more or less their previous dislike of strongman leadership — again, except those under 44.

And these trends are not just observable in Britain. Most young Western people are more authoritarian than their elders.  . . .

We can also kiss goodbye to the “marketplace of ideas”. This might have seemed plausible when everyone aspired to long-form, deliberative, rationalism and a broadly shared moral framework. When these are things of the past, we all absorb disaggregated, de-contextualised snippets of information at speed, our reading material rewards us for not concentrating long enough to think something through, and we can see everyone else thinking in real time on our screens?

Well, it turns out that this makes “the marketplace of ideas” much more volatile, infectious, and politicised, and accordingly less willing to notice politically inconvenient facts. That is, less a vector for collective truth-seeking than an accelerant for conspiracy fantasy, purity spirals and unhinged meme wars. And this is chipping away at faith in the capacity of debate to make anything better.

If we choose the second option, aiming for a society of Christians, then that will necessarily entail us putting limits on what can enter and move about freely in the marketplace of ideas.  Whatever undermines the Church would have to be excluded or strictly limited; shows like Little Demon would have to be banned.

Louisiana, thanks be to God, actually took a good step in the direction of Christian limits of the marketplace by passing and enacting Rep. Laurie Schlegel’s HB 142, which ‘would create a “civil cause of action against commercial entities that publish and distribute material for minors on the internet that don't verify the age of their users first.” In other words, Louisiana parents would be able to sue entities that distribute sexually explicit material for damages if the entity failed to take legitimate steps to verify the age of its users.

In the debate surrounding this law, the same question of primacy arose:  Is the marketplace itself the highest good, or does the marketplace exist to serve some higher principle?  The La. State Legislature and Gov. Edwards (surprisingly!) responded correctly in favor of the latter:

 . . .

The rest is at


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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