Who's responsible for web's unregulated side?

A recent verdict in Italy against executives of Google raises concerns for online media operations around the world. A Milan court convicted three Google Inc. executives Feb. 24 for violating the privacy of an Italian boy with Down’s Syndrome by letting a video of him being bullied be posted on the site in 2006.

Google will appeal the six-month suspended jail terms and said the verdict “poses a crucial question for the freedom on which the Internet is built,” since none of the three employees found guilty had anything to do with the offending video.

    In Christ we can overcome the world

    In the developed industrial societies of the West, superficiality is among the great scourges of the age. Our prosperity and freedom, and the best values we have inherited from the past, are blighted by a mass culture that trivializes everything, from politics and entertainment to sexuality and social morality.

    Movies, TV and advertising constantly reinforce the notions, for example, that sexual licence is just a normal part of growing up, that living together outside the exclusive terms of marriage is even desirable in the circumstances of our era. The bombardment of highly eroticized entertainment hollows out the personal depth and resonance that can come with sexual commitment.

      Free speech, respect for others must be encouraged

      If there is one subject that provokes more complaints of media bias than religion, it would probably be abortion. From the time of the legalization debates in the 1960s, most pro-life groups have believed their message has been suppressed or misrepresented, and I would not be surprised if some pro-choice groups have felt the same way.

      But one thing about the debate that has changed is the addition of a free-speech component to the moral and religious issues.

        Avatar's sappy, 'dumbed down' spirituality

        Hardly a week into its inaugural run, Hollywood’s big Christmas release, Avatar, evolved from just another holiday blockbuster into a full-scale cultural phenomenon. It skipped past $1 billion in box office receipts faster than any film in history and by the end of January it had become the first movie ever to gross more than $2 billion.

        Millions have seen Avatar, critics have heaped praise on it and it’s currently up for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (James Cameron.)

          Important Canadian periodicals feel government's wrath

          The economic downturns in North America over the last 100 years, paradoxically, have often been times of strong creative upsurge in the arts. American painting, poetry, theatre and music flourished in the 1930s, despite the crushing Great Depression. In the midst of financial turmoil in the 1970s, the Canadian non-profit parallel gallery movement covered the country with incubators for visual artists who would later go on to national and international careers.

          Such innovation in difficult moments has traditionally been made possible by active public-sector investment, without which the many small-scale artistic enterprises that dot the cultural landscape would languish. Since the Second World War, Canada has believed that this public investment in new art, film, theatre, music and the other arts is an important contribution to building a national artistic fibre strong enough to resist the powerful cultural influence of the United States. But this long-standing conviction has become old hat in the Harper government’s ruling circles, if Ottawa’s recent changes in magazine funding policy are anything to go on.

            The daring and beautiful belongs in God's church

            {mosimage}For centuries of Western history, Christian churches were the outstanding expressions of the architect’s art and craft. There are many reasons why this is no longer the case. Among them is the widespread decline of church-going and revenues, and the opinion that churches should occupy a more low-profile place in the urban fabric, and, not least important, an attitude of alienation (if not hostility) on the part of the church-going public toward the accomplishments of modern architecture.

            But as long as new churches continue to be built, the opportunity of making them excellent and beautiful remains open. Catholics surely should not settle for second-rate church buildings in the Toronto archdiocese.

              Trying times continue for charities

              Natural disasters that inflict heart-wrenching human suffering, such as we’ve seen in the Haitian earthquake, show us the best and the worst of the changes we’ve witnessed in recent years, particularly in the media.

              Through the immediate spread of eyewitness accounts, often through the use of social networking tools such as Twitter and cellphone videos, we learn of the devastation almost as it happens. As a result, faster ways to send help to crisis areas and faster ways to donate money have developed very quickly.   

                Discovering Jesus in the sounds of the Deep South

                I first heard black gospel singing in the fields of my father’s cotton farm, deep in the American South. No sound was more Southern: slow, serious and melancholy, like the lives of those hard-up blacks who worked in the cotton patch.

                In one sense, this sad, unforgettable music was foreign to a white child spending the day with his father in the fields. Yet in another, it was close, familiar: for Southern rural religion in those days, whether black or white, was very much a matter of supplicating the beloved Jesus for deliverance from the sorrows and tribulations of life. It probably wasn’t exactly orthodox, this near-exclusive adoration of Jesus and corresponding neglect of the remote Father and ungraspable Spirit. But such religion sprang from a true place in the heart, especially the hearts of rural black Southerners, and found expression in their sincere and devout melodies.

                  Blair's non-Catholic approach in Iraq

                  The year comes to an end with what may well be one of the most significant political admissions in recent history. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that even if he had known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction he would still have declared war on Iraq. In other words, the WMD casus belli is, as many of us assumed, utterly bogus. It also seems likely that Blair never believed that there were any such weapons and that intelligence experts had told him and U.S. President George W. Bush this for months before the invasion.

                  It’s particularly important in the case of Blair because, unlike Bush, he still enjoys enormous international prestige, has a thriving political career and is known to be a highly sophisticated man. He was also received into the Roman Catholic Church with little scrutiny or apparent formation by a notably liberal British hierarchy. He had led Britain through a period of infamously anti-family, anti-marriage and anti-Catholic legislation and has never shown any contrition for his failings.

                    Obama upsets Catholic right - again

                    {mosimage}Whatever you think of the current U.S. president, one thing is beyond dispute: Barack Obama certainly makes life interesting for the Catholic right.

                    The latest kafuffle started with the appearance in early December of a New York Times profile of White House social secretary Desirée Rogers. In this piece, we learned that the Obama family had toyed with the idea of breaking with White House tradition and not putting up an antique manger scene in the East Room of the executive mansion. (A White House official later confirmed that there had indeed been a discussion of whether to make Christmas more “inclusive” — apparently by excluding the crèche.)

                      Most understand Christmas is the season

                      Most of the advertising media and much of our public space at this time of year is devoted to Christmas. While creches, angels and peace candles are often part of the mix, there is no doubt that most messages are concerned with the cultural holiday, not the religious one.

                      It’s no wonder that Christians have been expressing concerns for half a century or more that Christmas has become too commercialized and that religion has been pushed to the back of the line, if not out of the public space altogether. Since much of the grumbling seems to concern exchanges in shops and restaurants, I suspect merchants aren’t the only ones who regard the season as a business event. We’re all part of it.