Saturday, March 03, 2018

Twitter rethinking things, thinking back on how it was thanks to MH members and staff using Twitter that I found out things that MH PR was trying to deal with back in 2012

Normally when some corporate entity is announced to be "rethinking everything" it's the kind of bromide I expect to see in an advertisement for a car.  Yes, you're rethinking everything Company X, and you threw out all the rules and came up with a car that looks like very other car out there on the highway. The rules you threw out weren't the rules governing aerodynamics, internal combustion engines or things like that.  If we wanted to drive the most fuel efficient vehicles possible we might all be deaf from the noise.  No, this kind of thing is a script, a script in which what is being sold is that if you buy our product you will be different, too.
So its a little tough to believe Twitter is necessarily really rethinking everything because someone at Slate says so.  Still ...
It's worthwhile for Twitter to consider that it has managed to become a powerful platform for what Jacques Ellul would have called sociological propaganda.  The usefulness of social media depends a lot on what  you're using it for, why you're using it for that end, and how aware you are that you're using mass media by way of using social media.  I'm not the least bit convinced that most people who are using it fully or truly understand the significance of that usage.  The reason, this blog being what it is, that I have doubts about that is because I used to attend and be a member at Mars Hill Church.
I even wrote thousands and thousands of words about how, just using content available through social and mass media content I was able to piece together who the parties involved were in the Andrew Lamb disciplinary case.
Way back in 2012 I wrote the following:

... Mars Hill has lamented that they were not contacted by authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding the cases prior to publishing articles. But if Mars Hill was so concerned that nobody contacted them to verify the facts why did Mars Hill suspend its entire campus blog network and associated archives in early March 2012? Why did Mars Hill scrub away all references to spouses or offspring in pastor profiles? The question at hand has not been why bloggers and journalists didn't contact Mars Hill to verify facts about Andrew's case. The question is why Mars Hill said they regretted the press not verifying facts, yet undertook a massive information purge of the very facts the press, in the past, could have looked up without having to talk to anyone directly?

... So when Mars Hill lamented that nobody contacted them to verify the facts related to Andrew's case that lament was specious precisely because during this period of time they were, if anything, probably suppressing access to facts that were easy to look up before the controversy made the news. What does an information purge that has gone unmentioned in the press or blogs suggest? It suggests this-- bloggers and journalists verifying the facts connected to Andrew's case was the last thing Mars Hill wanted to happen.

Then later, this:

Someone could have done a massive info-dumping project showing all the still publicly accessible, on record information necessary to identify the key parties involved in the Andrew case and have done this months ago.
That was 2012.  I ended up discussing all the stuff I had managed to find about a year or so later in the series "A Confluence of Situations", which has fourteen parts total.  One of the reasons I was able to find out as much as I did was because although Mars Hill as an institution was purging content the individual members and former staff still had their Twitter feeds up and their blogs and associated posts up and so it was not that difficult, knowing the campuses Mars Hill had in place thanks to their advertising their existence, to work back from Matthew Paul Turner's not very successful attempts to anonymize Andrew's case.  At the Ballard campus only two men in eldership had documentable second marriages. Bill Clem's wife Jeannie died and Noriega's second marriage was documented by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer back in 2002 or so.  This thematically gets to stuff I will probably discuss again when I finally get material together to the point where I feel I can satisfactorily discuss Justin Dean's book PR Matters
A church as an institution can be as responsible (or irresponsible) as it chooses to be about using social media as a mass media tool and all of that can be irrelevant if the individuals in the leadership culture, regardless of what level they're in it or their family members, do not also understand the significance of the tools they're using.  If I may be indulged a moment of speculating here in 2018, what the leaders of Mars Hill Church didn't seem to understand was the significance of their social media usage.  They began to purge content in times of crisis without realizing something I was aware of, that they had so cross-pollinated so many media platforms in mass and social media terms that they couldn't possibly purge their content as fast as I could compile it and document it for the public record. But, perhaps equally important was that I knew the culture enough to know that the leadership figures and associates at Mars Hill were also using social media and mass media in the same way.  I knew enough about the ways people within Mars Hill used social media, whether Twitter or blogs or Facebook or whatever, to recognize that just because stuff was purged at the official websites didn't mean there wasn't content floating around in plain sight in the other platforms over which Mars Hill had no direct jurisdiction.  The tragicomic irony of the Andrew Lamb disciplinary case was that the people who did the most to give away the identities of the parties involved were the parties involved ... and Mark Driscoll by dint of bragging so much about real estate acquisitions from the pulpit in his sermons.
In that sense Mars Hill Church/Fellowship was a truly exceptional church culture but in the worst possible way.  If there's a lesson by way of Twitter and churches to be gleaned from the rise and fall of Mars Hill it might simply be that if something's important enough you don't put it on Twitter unless you want the whole world to know.  I didn't run anything that I couldn't verify or felt unsure about, so while I'm sure there are still people associated with Mars Hill from the past who may be angry at things I at some point published the unfortunate reality is that if "you" didn't put it in a mass or social media platform for the whole internet-reading world to see I couldn't have found it. 
Now I actually do agree with Justin Dean that church leaders need to think about how and if they use social media.  I would suggest, however, that they want to reconsider using the platform.  To go by the way people actually behave on Twitter it seems like it's all advertising or animosity.  Or both.  There's nothing wrong with the world today that is going to be made better by someone who distills what they believe their intellect and wisdom to be in a tweet ... or a tweetstorm. 

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