And now for a brisk jog down memory lane from Jesus in Age of Neoliberalism…
The second case concerns the greatest period in biblioblogging history: the advent of N.T. ‘Tom’ Wrong. Wrong is significant because this blogger explicitly brought forward a number of views challenging the dominant political and ideological tendencies on the biblioblogs. The reactions among some of the other bibliobloggers are crucial because not only is further masking of political tendencies apparent, but the emphasis is clearly shifted to those most postmodern of concerns: the body, personal surveillance and an avoiding of the radical to the challenging or embracing the cheekily subversive.
It is helpful to think of the subtle ways in which propaganda and surveillance infuse democratic states particularly with the rise of social media. Surveillance is central to modern societies and democratic systems for categorizing, group shaping, boundary guarding, social control, social predicting, and an ever-increasing observation of the individual or the group in an array of cultural contexts. One of the most important instances (at least in terms of success) of unintentional conformity to a general system of surveillance has to be the emergence of blogging, micro-blogging sites, and social networking. It is very easy to find out what certain scholars are doing and if we are very lucky we can learn precisely when a given scholar is in bed, praying, writing, travelling and so on. Who needs a totalitarian bludgeon!
Wrong is an interesting character in all this, partly because he doesn’t conform to the dominant trends in biblioblogging (on the Middle East he clearly didn’t slavishly conform to the party line) and partly because this mystery person had some fun escaping identification (which might explain some of the frustration when people tried to make a positive identification). One doesn’t like to engage in overstatement but he very clearly was a modern day Eleazar, with his whereabouts presumably hidden whilst on the run by the downtrodden online peasants who loved their bandit-hero (War 2.253), and eventually killed (Ant. 20.160-161; War 2.253) in 2010, though there are rumours of resurrection appearances.
Wrong was the exception that proves the ‘rule’, and only partly because the blog was pseudonymous and that this meant an alleviation of the pressures to conform and an ability to poke fun at attempts at surveillance. This is because Wrong’s political output was more-or-less ignored and so effectively dealt with by other bloggers largely refusing to engage with them. This is especially highlighted by the ways in which Wrong has caused controversy and where he has made a number of bibliobloggers take note: remember the heated discussion caused by the scientific and highly accurate (or as John Lyons put it, inspired, nerdish and pedantic – that’s the price of science John) ideological scale of ‘very liberal’ through to ‘very conservative’? Of course you do! There was also a sexual topic which came up in an interview and which really riled people. This whole episode also gave us the memorable image of Jim West ‘positively slobber[ing] all over a flaming pervert’.
But put bluntly: why does the sexual issue provoke all the debate and the big political one not?
For those interested in source criticism, an early form of this second case study is to be found here.