When the world at last wakes up to a problem, it wildly overswings. It misses its target, who ducks, and hits square in the teeth the unsuspecting, innocent, and ordinary joe standing just behind. Will this be soon be the case in the world of blogging?
Mr. Admin thinks so. He runs a big site. He will go down at the end of the year, he fears, “as will many, many bloggers and other small ad-supported websites due to onerous and draconian data privacy laws.”
“The [California Consumer Privacy Act, to go into effect at year end] was supposed to curb the purportedly abusive privacy practices of internet giants (like Google and Facebook) and data brokers. Unfortunately, the law overshot this goal; it reaches most businesses, online or off. Facebook may have been the target, but the local pizzeria will bear the law’s brunt.” Cost of compliance to these new mandates, which carries a $20 fine per incident for any internet hit from California are so onerous that anyone not in the same league as Facebook will simply fold.”
“Well, if you are not in California and have no critical interests there, who cares if you run afoul of their law? What’s the worst that can happen?” I asked him. He continued to fret:
“I doubt development companies like IPS or Wordpress have dedicated anything to this problem. They were probably hoping Google would make it go away....Would you risk life changing fines “per incident” to make even $100 monthly profit? High risk + Low Reward = Find a new hobby for most small time publishers/bloggers/forum owners.”
Hmm. He’s not in California. But he doesn’t want to risk a trip to the mailbox to discover a letter:
“Dear Mr Admin:
It’s “Hasta la vista” for you, baby!
Very truly yours
Arnold Schwartsnegger - Governor emeritus of California”
PS — I’ll be back!
Now, I hang out there quite a bit on the forum of Admin. I have written substantial portions of text there latter reorganized to comprise parts of “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,” and “TrueTom vs the Apostates!” I think his fears are overblown and that outfits such as he mentions will come up with some solution that they will use to justify a price increase—hopefully not too huge. Our worst dreams do come true, but they usually come true gradually, not all at once with a swipe of the pen.
There will be a gateway at the entrance of blogs, I predict, where ones who wish to participate will waive away privacy rights. Already I see such things. Or (better yet) there will be developed a firewall to ban anyone from California, and then the outrage of those persons will cause lawmakers to backtrack. They do not want to be like John Jay, who negotiated a treaty with the British so unpopular that he later wrote he could ride the road from Philadelphia to Washington at night, his path lit solely by the burning effigies of himself hanging every 50 yards or so.
Still, Admin is closer to this than me, and paying more attention. Maybe I underestimate the problem and his forum will indeed go down. If so, I will miss it. But I will also move on. I have used my time well there. Engaging with malcontents, villains, as well as some “avant-garde” brothers has served to hone both my writing and my thinking. In turn, I have used that to write larger collections that stand on their own, even if distribution methods themselves may change. Admin himself rebuked me long ago, and the experience served as a quirky introduction to “TrueTom vs the Apostates.”
It finally dawned upon the troublesome “Foreigner” that Mr. Admin is not a Witness, and he said that now he realized it.
He didn’t know that? Admin has said it often enough. “So here you come charging like a bull,” I told him, “upbraiding for apostasy anyone displaying the slightest deviation from the latest writing of the Witness organization, far in excess of what they would ever insist upon themselves, and you do it all before unbelievers, making Witnesses look ridiculous!”
It is nearly as absurd as (I have seen it) the spectacle presented when brothers tell each other on Facebook that so-and-so is disfellowshipped, and so be careful not to associate with that one. Since you can’t really know what is real and what is rumor, one sister even proposed phoning an elder in the person’s home congregation to ask if so-and-so was in good standing or not. All this before just regular folk who know or care nothing of congregation matters. I responded that if I were that elder, I might comply once or twice, being caught off guard, but after that I would say: “Enough! I have a family, a job, congregation responsibilities, and a life! Now you want me to police the internet? Stay off social media if you have to ask such questions!” The internet is not the congregation and cannot be made to behave like one. Do not venture online if you cannot get your head around this.
Another value to me of the forum (and online in general) that may tank—if it does, it does—is the discipline of addressing heavy, even controversial spiritual topics, knowing non-Witnesses might be listening in, and learning how to say heavy things without turning them off. I mean, they may not like the religion itself, and if such is the case, there is nothing to be done about it. But sometimes it is our own inartfulness that is the turn-off, and I have learned (relatively) how to be artful. It is no more that what Paul said:
“To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law....I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)
Most Witnesses are not good at this. When they engage with non-believers, it is strictly mundane, regarding business matters or the weather—OR they go into “witness mode” and tell them of the paradise, petting the animals, and how the Trinity is a crock. They don’t seem to know how to mix the two. I have learned to do that, and I credit sites like Admin’s with providing the needed practice.
It is a good skill to develop, I think. We won’t be described as so “insular” should we ever pull of that trick. But I think we never will pull it off.. “Insularity” is too close to being “no part of the world”—a condition that must be so for Christians, per James 4:4, for example: “Adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of God.”
If Admin’s worst fears are realized and his site goes down, other sites will go down for the same reason. That will kick out tons of “apostate” sites, and I have no problem with that. “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it,” is the saying of Voltaire, not me. When it comes to trashing spiritual things, I’d just as soon they not say it. I can live with it should that become the new law.
None of this will affect the official channel, JW.org, that is not into collecting data in the first place, and when they do for the sake of log-in accounts, I think even already they require applicants to yield on such newfound concerns—and you should hear the apostates howl over that!
In fact, I think what Bethel will say with regard to the apostates who hang their hearts on the BITE model [Behavioral, Information, Thought, and Emotional “control”] is: “The idiots! They pressed their ‘victimization’ complaints to such absurd lengths that the asp came around to bite them in their own rear ends, knocking them all offline.”
As for Admin, he will have to find himself a new hobby. They are offering pickleball lessons down at the Rec Center, I hear—a fine way for duffers to keep in shape. It wouldn’t hurt me were I to sign up myself, and maybe I will see him there. Maybe someday I will even see him at the Kingdom Hall—that is, if he did not get chased away by the hotheads on his own forum.
After that, in search of new things to do, I may even start to tackle more of Mrs. Harley’s to-do list. Say—you don’t suppose that it is she who spoke to California lawmakers, do you?