Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Covenant Eyes, snake oil, and Hustler.

Diligent Duck Noodlers may recall that last November I mentioned that Moore College would be requiring all students and faculty to install a nosey little piece of software called Covenant Eyes. This application, which may well have been designed by one of the nastier characters from 1984 creates a list of all web sites the user visits, and then mails this list to their appointed “Accountability Partner”. Who then presumably visits anywhere that sounds interesting, before “discussing” the results with the guilty party. Which in my experience of Moore College will probably be tantamount to an expulsion – and as most students are married and living with their family in College accommodation, the ramifications of this can be severe.

Thanks to a heads-up from Not The Southern Cross I’ve now discovered Covenant Eyes now have their very own professional blogger, someone named ”Luke Gilkerson”, whose job is to monitor the ‘sphere and toss in a suitably pure $0.02’s worth whenever his master’s product is mentioned. And it seems Caliban’s Dream has annoyed him enough to devote almost an entire post of his own in response.

It’s the usual fundie tactic: I get pigeon-holed as someone who is concerned about “social justice” but who ignores “the fight for purity”. In contrast Luke and his employers are urging their customers to “embrace, with the right and left hands, the fight for purity AND the fight against social injustice”.

Except Luke, like any good spin doctor, carefully avoids mentioning what I my point actually was. I have never for a moment suggested “purity” isn’t something worth embracing. Certainly, my definition of the term is a whole lot broader than his, and not centred upon the concept of gazing upon digital renderings of other people’s genitalia, but I’ve never suggested abandoning the concept. My point was and remains this: Covenant Eyes – nor any other from of surveillance - isn’t going to resolve the issues of identity, gender and sexuality that lead to someone developing an obsession with pornography. And further, that by focusing on the symptom of these problems instead of their cause products such as that marketed by Mr. Gilkerson in the long term only exacerbate the problem, in just the same way that the fixations of the sort of people pressuring others to purchase products like Covenant Eyes have kept the problem alive. But then again, admitting this isn’t going to make them any money.

Several days after his dubious exegesis of my post, Luke “I blog for Covenant Eyes" Gilkerson made this slip in another defence of what may well be his biggest customer:

“I am looking at this new initiative at Moore Theological College as an outsider. I am not an Anglican, have never been to seminary, and have never been to Sydney, Australia.”

Right. So knowing nothing about the Sydney Anglican Diocese, nor how it operates, Luke still feels suitably qualified to address those of us who've spent much of our lives fighting the appallingly cult-like behaviour that infects every aspect of the Diocesan machine. But hey, Sydney Diocese are good customers, aren’t they Luke? So how can they be too bad? And who cares if they may use your product to crush people in ways you never imagined. It’s all money, ain’t it?

Larry Flynt of Hustler magazine and the folk at Covenant Eyes have more in common than they realise. Both of them make a living out of the porno industry, and both of them are doing all the things necessary to keep their customer’s interest in porn alive. There’s one big difference, however: Larry Flynt doesn’t try to use Jesus’ life and words to support his business, which in my book makes him a person of somewhat greater integrity.

Although let’s be frank about things: I don’t like either of them. Anyone troubled by their interest in pornography should seek professional help - or at very least start by reading Boaz's excellent two articles on the topic. Just don't punish yourself by listening to the snake-oil salesmen. And please don't ever forget that God really does love you.


Lapinbizarre said...

The links to the "Covenant Eyes" blog do not work. I found it at this address:

Doorman-Priest said...

It was ever thus, Alcibiades. I occasionally post what I believe to be theological gay-friendly comments and I am now an appologist for pederasts.

Alcibiades said...

Thanks lapin - I've fixed the links now. Don't know what I was thinking when I put the other other ones in - all the porn I've been viewing because I don't have Covenant Eyes must have damaged my eyesight ;-)

DP: Thus my last paragraph: I'm sick of them being the only ones allowed to draw wide smeary circles around other people. They want to make out that I'm some kind of peep-show advocate then hey - let's look at them through the same filter for a moment: who's the ones earning a living out of the porn industry now?.

Given that much child abuse is heterosexual in nature: I find anyone advancing the gay-friendly = pro-paedophile argument has automatiucally proven themselves to not only be bigoted and dishonest, but stupid as well. And part of the problem.

Ellie Finlay said...

Mercy! Just when I think nothing about the fundies will surprise me anymore, they come up with something like this! Sad. Really, really sad.

(And, Luke, just in case you're monitoring this, I'm a nun, faithful to my vow of celibate chastity and I have absolutely no interest in porn.)

Anonymous said...

I'm obviously late to this discussion... and I'm sure there's some context I'm missing here (even though I did peruse the links)...I just wanted to throw in my $.02. I was a Protestant minister for 10 years. In 2005, I stepped down from ministry and almost lost my marriage over a severe addiction to porn. Many were hurt in the wake of my addiction.

I've walked a long tough road of repentance and restoration & while I agree that CE isn't a solution to the cause of internet porn addiction, it has been a great tool for my continued restoration.

Inviting trusted friends to watch over my life and help me is a choice I made early on... CE has been one way I’m able to live a life of vulnerability... to me CE is more than just a "nosey little piece of software".

I understand that your bemoaning of CE is more complex than just a direct criticism. However, you're ridiculing (along with the rest of your head nodders who've posted follow ups) is terribly insensitive to those of us utilizing anything we can to escape continued destruction of addiction.

To suggest that the creators of CE are motivated solely by financial gain is an unsubstantiated and ridiculous accusation on your part. If that weren’t enough, to insinuate that we who use it, are just being conned and manipulated by those who only want our money is in the same judgmental spirit of the fundies you all are so quick to decry.

Jared Cramer said...

I am also a bit late to this discussion, but I wanted to contributed. I'm a deacon in the Episcopal Church, soon to be ordained a priest. I blog at Scribere Orare Est where I have for several years advocated on behalf of GLBT Christians.

I'm certainly no "fundie."

However, I have found the Covenant Eyes software to be a god-send. By having my fiance as my accountability partner on CE, I have a powerful tool that keeps me from viewing sites that I shouldn't.

Certainly, forcing people to use CE is not a good idea. However, that doesn't mean that the program itself, nor those who provide it, are bad people. There are many, including myself, who are grateful that it exists.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Good grief! I'm with Ellie up there. I thought I couldn't be surprised any longer, but this sneaky, spying thing called Covenant Eyes being forced on people is downright creepy.

Gee, all I have to do is set my computer to screen out porn, and - voila! - it does! Why would I need CE. If the problem of viewing porn is excessive and adversely affecting your life, then get help.

Oh, what the hell. Get Covenant Eyes, if you agree that it's a good thing to spy on each other, but it should not be forced on adults. That is 1984.

Gray Wolf said...

What a wonderful and creative idea. I am sure that no seminarian, finding himself alone in his friend's room with access to his friend's computer, would ever access forbidden sites as a joke. No way.

I am continuing the campaign by making clothing and gluing it onto the Renaissance paintings at my local museum. Do you know they even let children in there? How will they ever learn to be ashamed of their bodies if we don't teach them?

Grandmère Mimi said...

Gray Wolf, LOL. Keep up the good work with the porno so-called "art".

Anonymous said...

Heh... Gray Wolf... it is one thing to experience a porn addiction, and it is another thing to be a christian artist in today's age.

I didn't live in the Renaissance, and neither did anyone posting here.
I am lead to believe that art that involved nudity back then was not necessarily erotic. It seems shameful today because of the problem of porn. Well... at least I hope people back then had an actual appreciation of the beauty of the human body rather than just attributing it to sex, like we do today so often. In today's age, beauty is infrequently perceived separately from sex. Back then I'm sure that statues of David and such were not made with regards to sexual nature, but rather God-given beauty.

I haven't really seen much art like that being produced today (point it out if you have seen), probably because it's an implied taboo to have nudity in a public work.

Eh... I'm not sure I can really understand it either. I figure that back then people had a better appreciation for the God-given beauty of the body. Still I am kinda torn up over it because today it does seem very wrong because of the magnitude of the problem of porn - perverted beauty. "Give no appearance of evil" right? I am also reminded of Adam & *his wife* were naked and unashamed... this was before the fall, and after the fall we felt shame, but perhaps this is not the way it should have been (before the fall). Also like I ephasized above, it was his wife (scripture phrases it this way too) and I can ever wonder about if there were more people born before the fall, would they have just gone on living naked too? See I think that maybe being naked wasn't a problem then, and it means there is a right way to go about it. However I don't know if we have any better biblical examples, but for now (in this age), it may be wrong to be naked when so many are clothed.... oh dear, I could go on and on about this with comparisons and contrasts (like in Africa, how they don't wear clothes and yet are not unchaste... not having clothes seems a fact of life there - so how do they deal with it?)

Anyways I've said enough, I'd like to hear thoughts please.

Anonymous said...

OH yeah... I'd like to also respond to this article too.... (kinda forgot sorry)

Yeah, like about half the people here, I think that CE has been a help and not a hurt. Accoutability works, everyone says. CE is designed to keep you accountable to people of your choosing, not to the government. And if you believe that maybe it's somehow spying on you, well then you probably also believe that the government monitors all internet traffic, looks at you with a satellite, and the whole shebang, and maybe you should just stay away from unified communications. You should go live on a boat and sail all over the world so that you won't have to pay taxes to some government you believe is out to get you for some reason.

Anyways... even if the CE people do want to make money, the means have not unjustified the ends here. CE does help me a bit. I can't use the internet without it running, and the people closest to me are the ones who know. Facing people is tough. The whole thing discourages me from looking at stuff. I think it may be true that without porn, my addiction to masturbation may die - I still believe that it's only by a *closer* relationship to Christ that will truly bring me out of this.
On the technical side, I'm a computer science major (programming), support tech [hobbyist, in fact], and the all-things-computers-and-technology-guy, and I can't even break it (but honestly, I was trying to find info on bugs today because I found one most people wouldn't because I'm me and I have the feeling the 'development team' won't be fixing it for a while - pray for me on that :`( )

Anyways covenant eyes is good for the URL logging. Just don't get the filter.... it stinks so much it's nonsensical. It may prevent accidents for small children (who really have no business being on the internet alone), but doesn't seem appropriate for adults and teenagers trying to use the web. (it blocks deviantart for some wierd reason). The only plus in it is that it sometimes blocks ads out of pure coincidence. Instead of the covenant eyes filter, the thing I really want to try out is Dan's Guardian. It's open source and works on standards already established on the internet to provide site ratings, on top of a heuristic filter. You can run it on a gateway computer for an entire network and still be able to block and stuff. I'm excited about that. Yeah,.... I actually... haven't tried it, but I will someday as soon as I have a real opportunity. (It runs exclusively on Linux at the moment - this is my problem)