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The FCC, net neutrality, prudential judgment, the death penalty, and Luke 16:10-12

The FCC, net neutrality, prudential judgment, the death penalty, and Luke 16:10-12 March 16, 2015

Permit me some wide-ranging musings, beginning with the relatively (in the cosmic scheme of salvation) small potatoes question of net neutrality.

Let’s be clear. Net neutrality is a good thing:

It is, in a word, what we’ve always had. The only people who opposed it were people bent on making your life and mine miserable for the sake of profit. So when the FCC, to almost everybody’s intense relief, did the right thing and upheld net neutrality what was the reaction of the rightwingosphere that perpetually declares “prudential judgment” as its rationale for dissenting from clear Church teaching on everything from war to torture to the death penalty?

Well, Sen. Ted Cruz made good on the dollarpalooza of money he received from telecom lobbyists by lying that net neutrality is “Obamacare for the Internet“.

Thing is: It’s just not. But that did not stop the rightwingosphere from dutifully stampeding itself into a full-on panic du jour on net neutrality, repeating the “Obamacare for the Internet” trope 87,700 times and once again coming down on the visible-from-space wrong side of an issue while terrifying the very people who are going to benefit from this obviously right decision. Suddenly, everybody in the rightwingosphere was fantasizing that the effect of this decision was not (as it is) to maintain the status quo, but that it somehow meant that the FCC was going to police our speech and throw us into one of Obama’s Nazi Muslim concentration camps. You know, the same FCC that had FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, and every talk radio host rounded up and gassed years ago.

Tom McDonald (who differs with me in that he is more concerned about how the FCC sausage was made than I am, but not in seeing that the sausage still tastes good and is quite edible) mentions the absurd hysteria in his piece about the decision:

Ars compiled this selection of replies from opponents, which is notably most for 1) wingnuttery, 2) lies, 3) idiocy.

Everything in this statement from US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is utter nonsense:

“Ironically, this order will likely do nothing to address the fairness issues raised by Democrats and Internet activists. Rather, under the guise of keeping the Internet ‘free and open’, they simply advocated for an approach that allows Big Brother to step into the shoes of service providers. The government will regulate rates, create its own fast lanes, control the placement of content, and raise fees and taxes. If you like your service plan, you will not be able to keep it. The age of ObamaNet is upon us and I hope the government proves better at running a network than a website, but logic would seem to dictate that I not hold my breath.”

In fact, of course, all this obviously good decision does is make sure that we will continue to enjoy the amazing power of the internet without companies like Comcast ruining life for everybody but themselves and the corrupt politicians they have in their pockets. Could there be a downside to it? Sure. There is a downside to almost every human act. Tom McDonald makes a reasonable case for why some people might have misgivings that I can respect.   But the thing is, not many FCC critics make Tom’s reasonable case. Most make the hysterical lying demagogic case Tom rightly rejects.

More than that, I’m just not feeling the downside all that much which is why, with respect, I disagree with my honored Patheosi colleague Tom that there was something especially problematic with FCC procedure here.  It seems to have been conducted like any other with one exception: there was vastly *more* input from the public than usual.  And hurrah for that since, as far as human reason can ascertain, the downside of the FCC protection of net neutrality is so negligible that this easily qualifies as a good call and exactly what an informed public wanted. Meanwhile the downside to believing the documentably stupid lies of people like Cruz, Blackburn and the kooks, crooks, and liars Tom rightly ridicules would be disaster and nothing but disaster for the very suckers who are regurgitating their propaganda. And it is they, make not mistake, and not people like Tom whose voices completely dominate the rightwingosphere response to the FCC ruling.

Why do I mention this?  What does it have to do with the Catholic faith?

This:  Every time I hear a conservative Catholic argue to ignore the teaching of the Church, the appeal is made to “prudential judgment” as the rationale for doing so.

All that might be reasonable–if the demographic who perpetually appealed to their superior powers of prudential judgment over the teaching of the Church demonstrated the prudence God gave geese.  But the reality is that this demographic demonstrates, in almost every matter apart from opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and gay “marriage”, an almost preternatural capacity for sheer obvious wrongness and an eagerness to listen to demagogues and not reasoned discourse.  The same keen discernment that sees net neutrality as the prelude to tyranny

It’s this sort of thing, piled up a hundredfold over the past decade, that has completely killed my ability to take seriously conservative claims to a prudential judgment superior to the guidance of the Church on the death penalty, particularly when, with now-trademark lack of judgment, that demographic appeals to Conservative Folk Hero Antonin Scalia as the trump card against the Magisterium–a man who says that executing the innocent is constitutional.  Yesirree, if there’s one thing Roe v. Wade means, it’s that killing innocents is perfectly fine as long as it’s legal.

Jesus says: “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Lk 16:10–12).

The Left is epically wrong on some very large issues and lies that it is appealing to “primacy of conscience” to rationalize those evil it approves.  But the Right, flying the false banner of “prudential judgment” has perversely taken it upon itself to be massively and imprudently wrong on what sometimes seems like practically everything else.  Meanwhile, the sanity of the Church calls to us saying:

We are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will live in them and move among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore come out from them,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
then I will welcome you,
And I will be a father to you,
and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God. (2 Co 6:16–7:1)


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