Locked Out

Locked Out September 4, 2020

As though teaching online in a pandemic were not stressful enough, I recently found myself locked out of my home PC. The details are probably not worth going into. Suffice it to say that the PIN for Windows 10 stopped working and the admin privileges of my only account on the computer likewise disappeared. It was much simpler than you might imagine or hope to find a way to essentially hack into the PC, create a new administrator account, and then copy my desktop and many other essential files to the new account. Sure, I am having to log in again on various websites and in some instances need to ask for a password reminder or change a password. But this was resolved even so without a need to reinstall Windows, which is what I and other technical consultants feared would be necessary, and that would have been even more frustratingly time-consuming than the original issue was.

I found myself thinking of the time when I lived in England and (yes, rather foolishly, I recognize with hindsight) had a folding table in a very short corridor near the front door to the home. One day I left the home, closed the door behind me, and heard a thump. The table fell into the corridor, as I indicated a small space between the door, another door to the ground floor, and a stairway going to the next floor. There was no way to open the door other more than a few inches. Calling for assistance I was able to get someone to bring a ladder and force their way in through an upstairs window.

In both these cases I became aware of both the vulnerability of our homes and computers, and of the relief that getting access to our own properties is not rendered so impossible by security measures we put in place that it is impossible even for us when something goes wrong.

Why am I blogging about this (other than to boast of my hacking skills and/or to warn you of a danger)? Because I think the same point applies to our ideologies. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the entire QAnon phenomenon was created by someone as a hoax, an attempt to see how many people would fall for it. Often people who create hoaxes wish they could put the genie back into the bottle later. The home or operating system of their own concocted worldview becomes one that they no longer retain admin access to, the key to which no longer functions.

There are a great many instances in which a religious stance is created, adjusted, or otherwise co-opted for some end. Likewise there are religious leaders who are happy to create, foster, and/or associate with political, nationalistic, and a variety of xenophobic stances that they believe will help garner adherents or build cohesion among those already connected with them. Sometimes when they see where it ends up they may be appalled. I suspect that some felt that way when Mike Pence delivered a paraphrase of Hebrews 12 that made the idolatry of the movement around president Donald Trump explicit in a manner that was surprising (in just how blatant it was) even to those who saw this subtext from very early on when it was more subtle.

Idolatry is diabolical, and the warning in the above is that you can reach the point of selling your soul in an incremental process so that you arrive there so gradually that it is possible to miss what is going on until astonishingly late.

There are sometimes ways for a computer owner to hack into their computer. There are sometimes ways for a homeowner to regain access to their home when they forget their keys inside or inadvertently set up a booby trap as I did in the story I told earlier. When it comes to worldviews and ideologies, is there any similar method of hacking back in to regain admin privileges? Or once you’ve secured and firewalled your ideology, will it run and do damage even if its own creator repudiates it? Is there a way to regain control of such forces once someone has unleashed them?

I can use my computer and did not need to spend the night on the street after the falling table mishap. But in the other instances I mentioned, which I have not been directly involved in, I worry that there may not be a way to regain creator rights and privileges after starting the process. Even if it is too late to stop some of the pernicious ideologies spreading today, it may still be possible to forestall the next one before it is unleashed, and that’s why I wrote this post…

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