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Shattered Monuments and the Technical System

By Richard L. Kirkpatrick In the news every day, down goes another statue, another name erased, of one historical figure or another, condemned for one reason or another, some compelling, others not, often depending, it seems, on which pole of the day’s polarization you occupy.  Wikipedia compiles a long list casualties, including Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt; Confederate heroes get a separate long list all their own. The lists are so long that everybody is touched, pro and con — a suspiciously systematic phenomenon. Our wisdom literature –ranging from Juvenal to Sir Thomas Brown, Samuel Johnson to Shelley– consistently warns us of the transience and vanity of worldly memorials. One might justly rest there in complex meditation on the human condition, history, and memory. But something else is going on; there is also a non-human, technical dimension. While each monument demolition and damnatio memoriae has its own advocates, rationale, and agenda, a … Read More

Planning in a Technological Age

“To plan, or not to plan, that is my question.” By Paul Garrison Hello, Ellul community. I hope you’ll forgive my conversational tone, but I have a practical, day-to-day issue that I am confronting, which I would love your insight on. Here’s my situation: I am a recent father, my oldest son is 7, and he has been joined by a younger brother, age 5, and two younger sisters, ages 2 and 7 weeks! I work as a high school teacher, but we home school our children primarily to lessen the socialization that schools intentionally bring. Ellul has opened our eyes to a number of necessities which determine our choices, and my wife and I are constantly working to take that first step of freedom described in the Ethics of Freedom: “One might say that the first step which is seen to be necessary–leaving open the possibility of a second … Read More

Finding New ‘F-words’ in Trump Era News

The delivery of political news in the Trump Era has certainly taken on new dimensions. Months before President Trump was elected in 2016, Americans were bamboozled with Fake News. That ‘f-word’ (Fake) has certainly been monopolized by Trump ever since; we are almost to the point where we can predict when he will pull that term out of his sleeve. No doubt, Ellul would have been all over this phenomenon with his social analysis were he alive today. I am more interested, however, in three other ‘f-words’ that President Trump’s team will not claim as useful adjectives to publicly advance their interests. They inform a newer style of generating news that carries significant power. These are: Fuzzy News, Fast News, and Flip-Flop News. Consider the obfuscation that comes from Fuzzy News. Trump’s first six months involved a daily diet of news about Russian involvement in swaying election results. Or was … Read More