Donald Trump is dividing the church

As women of faith find their voice and Millennial Christians question the Religious Right, what does making Donald Trump the candidate of the faithful mean for the church?

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I was traveling through the Mississippi Delta when I heard the tape of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk.”

“How can he recover from this,” I initially reacted, before reminding myself how many times we’ve wondered that before.

But as the weekend progressed, the backlash was stronger than any Trump controversy to date, as more establishment Republicans disavowed their own candidate.

Trump couldn’t have been luckier from a news cycle perspective. The tape leaked on Friday afternoon and the exodus followed while most of us were watching football. By the time we started paying attention again, the second debate had fragmented political media attention in a million different directions. And while Trump may have not won over many undecideds with his performance, he delivered enough red meat to his base to give fleeing Republicans pause.

Leaks targeted both candidates that Friday. Before the Trump tape, Wikileaks released emails containing text excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street executives. Both leaks were revelations only insomuch as they confirmed things we already knew about each person’s character.

But the Trump audio was the far bigger story. For one thing, it was more visceral. We could hear the crude words from Trump’s own lips, as opposed to reading the pandering words attributed to Clinton.

More importantly, while the Clinton excerpts outraged people who were never going to vote for her, the Trump tape caused division among his supporters… a division that’s more significant than one election.

It was the countless churches lining that Mississippi highway, and highways like it all across securely red states. Trump divided Evangelicals.

Continue reading “Donald Trump is dividing the church”

Self-censorship, speaking up and showing empathy: Reflections on a tragic week

Why is it sometimes difficult to speak, and harder still to listen? An introspective look at Black Lives Matter after Sterling, Castile and Dallas.

 

People are being killed more quickly than we can react. Tugged from one tragedy to the next, it’s difficult to contextualize and reflect.

But we’re trying, even if it reads like whiplash. My friends have been vocal on social media. Politics and prayer. Anger and anguish. Hopelessness and hope.

It’s not just the news junkies, the political commentators, or the trolls. People who use Facebook primarily for relationships, photo albums, and cat videos are entering the fray. Speaking out is stretching out.

I respect the heck out of them.

I love to teach about the First Amendment, but we self-censor way more than the government ever will. We worry what others will think. Speaking out is stretching out our neck to get guillotined by our friends, family, faith body, coworkers, or prospective employers. Maybe by people we don’t even know. And so we stay silent.

[Related: Hate speech, social media and the marketplace of ideas]

We carefully curate our digital presence. For many of us, stepping into controversy isn’t part of the life we want to portray. That message we want to get off our chests is held down by social pressures, both external and of our own creation.

I’m talking about this today in the context of one perspective on one issue, but the principle is transferable. Continue reading “Self-censorship, speaking up and showing empathy: Reflections on a tragic week”

Is there an (((echo))) in here? Hate speech, social media and the marketplace of ideas

Hate and harassment on social media is driving users away. The difficulty of exposing hate, protecting victims, and limiting censorship.

Any corner of the Internet that facilitates anonymity is going to attract trolls. Twitter is no different. Recently, you might have noticed users placing their names in multiple (((parentheses))). It all traces back to anti-Semitic groups. Members place this parenthetical “echo” around Jewish people or businesses when attacking them on social media, giving compatriots an easy way to search for the target and join in on the harassment. There was even a now-removed Google Chrome plugin that made echoing easy, by cross-referencing text against a database of Jews. Here’s what it looked like in action:

echo_sample
Tomorrow Comes Today // Tumblr

Vox has an explainer if you want to read more about how the echo was used, as well as how it and the Chrome plugin were discovered by the rest of us.

Point is, once the echo was exposed, Twitter users, Jewish or not, began putting the echo around their names and other content. Not only a symbolic stand, it also undermined the beacon system being used by the hate groups.

The echo was defeated by the rest of the social media community. But that also involved Google taking down the plugin, which violated its terms forbidding “promotions of hate.” And it involved Twitter banning a number of users who “promote violence against or directly attack or threaten” other users.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the like all have different policies on dealing with harassment and hate speech, as well as the ways in which they curate content. They range from Google’s broad ban on hate code to Twitter’s fairly specific ban on direct, violent threats. A few weeks ago, all three agreed to adhere to the European Union’s “code of conduct on illegal online hate speech,” which requires resolution of hate speech reports within 24 hours, be it by removing or restricting the content or the user responsible.

However, speech laws are more restrictive in the E.U. than in the U.S., and vary by country. It’s the service provider’s job to figure out if a particular post fails to meet legal standards in those various jurisdictions. Much like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which YouTube already lets rightsholders wildly abuse, companies face penalties for failing to suppress content, but suffer no consequence for blocking everything in sight just to catch a small number of actual offenders.

It’s easy to see how the social media platforms could lean on the side of heavy censorship.

Continue reading “Is there an (((echo))) in here? Hate speech, social media and the marketplace of ideas”

In due time

The tragedy in Orlando, a vigil in Little Rock, and knowing when not to post something.

My post this week was going to be about online hate speech, and how attempts to regulate it can inadvertently do harm to the marketplace of ideas. It’s a commentary I stand by, and will share with you at the appropriate time.

The day of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States* is not that time. It’s not chilling of speech by some homophobic terrorist; it’s just not being tone-deaf. This can wait.

Don’t misunderstand – this is not one of those “don’t politicize tragedy” refrains. In the wake of another mass shooting, The Onion shouldn’t be ringing true. ‘No way to prevent this,’ says the only nation where this regularly happens.

The Orlando shooter had been questioned by the FBI at least twice since 2013 and was previously on the terror watch list. He legally purchased the AR-15 assault rifle he used to shoot over 100 people in rapid succession. The same weapon used to kill elementary school children at Sandy Hook, movie goers in Aurora, college students in Oregon, and public health workers in San Bernardino. (By the way, even if he had still been on the terror watch list at the time of the purchase, it still would have been legal.)

I make a concerted effort to empathize with people who hold differing viewpoints. And the gun culture is one I’ll admit having great trouble understanding. But it sure seems like we should at least be able to agree that a person with such a history so easily purchasing an assault rifle is problematic. After our politicians’ “thoughts and prayers,” perhaps we could fix it?

And while empty platitudes from politicians who intend to do nothing are aggravating, we shouldn’t so callously dismiss those whose genuine thoughts and prayers are what they can offer. People who are at the same time comforted and mobilized by the healing and intercession found in prayer. People who would be physically serving the families of the victims if they could.

I just got back from a vigil on the steps of the Arkansas state capitol (pictured above). A few hundred people, led by Little Rock’s LGBT community, sang, hugged, cried, and prayed. Right now, many of them are gathered to watch the city’s bridges become illuminated in rainbow colors. It won’t change what happened. The families of the victims in Orlando will probably never know it occurred. And after a day like today, it’s still intrinsically important.

We’ll pick up this conversation again. In due time.

 

*At least by a lone gunman in a single attack. There are some pre-20th century incidents that could be included depending on your definition.

[Weekly Rundown] Muhammad Ali tributes; Uncle Verne and Joe Buck; a Christian rocker comes out; what is tronc?

Today, we’re sports-heavy – honoring The Greatest, more Baylor fallout (now featuring Mississippi State), and sports broadcasters accused of bias. That, plus a Christian rocker comes out, social media faces censorship, and something called tronc.

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Sports

Muhammad Ali died Saturday night. If you only knew him as a boxer, I hope you’ll take all the tributes as an opportunity to learn more.

The news broke as I was finalizing this week’s rundown, but people more attuned to great sports writing have been curating your must-reads. I recommend this list from Don Van Natta and Jacob Feldman’s Sunday Long Read newsletter.

From a sports media perspective, ESPN did something I can’t recall seeing before. They went live in the wee hours Saturday with their top journalistic talent. Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap anchored a SportsCenter that was relaxed in pace, letting both men and their guests share longform stories about Ali. Deadspin, who loves to hate on the Worldwide Leader, offered praise, and captured a 12-minute segment for you to watch. SI’s Richard Deitsch has the behind-the-scenes look at how the late-night broadcast came together.

This probably isn’t your first time to see the photo at the top of today’s post. It was taken by Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated in 1965, and remains one of history’s most iconic sports photographs. Many stories have been written about it since. Here’s a longread by Dave Mondy published about a year ago that explores the photographer and the fighters he captured. Continue reading “[Weekly Rundown] Muhammad Ali tributes; Uncle Verne and Joe Buck; a Christian rocker comes out; what is tronc?”

[Weekly Rundown] Hulk v Gawk gets a Bond villain; New NFL media policies; Bad headlines

Hulk Hogan’s legdrop on Gawker is tainted by outside interference, Baylor gets busted, the Buffalo Bills block beat reporters, and SEC fandom exposes problems for a local newspaper following a media conglomerate’s process. That, plus paying to sit at a park, that guy with the water bottle, and more.

Summer means my return to semi-regular blogging! Join me as I experiment with a weekly rundown of stories I found interesting.

Media

Was Hulk Hogan a pawn in a billionaire’s vendetta against a media company? It’s not a wrestling storyline. This week, we learned that Hogan’s lawsuit against online tabloid Gawker was anonymously financed by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who was a co-founder and CEO of PayPal and sits on the Facebook board of directors. Why? Because Gawker outed Thiel as gay in 2007. Continue reading “[Weekly Rundown] Hulk v Gawk gets a Bond villain; New NFL media policies; Bad headlines”

Can you hear me now? The (ridiculously over-dramatized) end of a millennial relationship

I gained much in 2015. But every gain comes at a cost. I should know, because this year I sacrificed one of my most defining relationships.

Even worse, I did so consciously. Willingly. I could have saved it, but I let it go. The day will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Continue reading “Can you hear me now? The (ridiculously over-dramatized) end of a millennial relationship”