Total Freedom, Total Servility

Digital Culture’s Transformation of Authority

The night before I left Budapest to come to the 2023 Touchstone conference, someone at a party at my apartment stepped on my dear old laptop, putting it permanently out of its misery. I had to go straight to the Apple store in America the next day to get a replacement. Since I last purchased a laptop, Apple has installed even more gizmos into its machine—all designed, they say, to help me personalize my experience. Using my laptop, like just about every other interaction I have with digital technology, has become an opportunity to empower myself, or so digital culture boasts.

It’s not entirely wrong. Every day and in every way, the “Machine,” as writer Paul Kingsnorth calls it, labors to create a bespoke experience for its users. Digital tech is freeing us to be ourselves, or so its advocates want us to believe. To be fair, sometimes it really does increase my flexibility and autonomy. I can live anywhere in the world and do my job as a writer, thanks not only to my laptop and the internet, but also to the system of media and communication created by the internet.

The New Mark of the Slave

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Rod Dreher is a contributing editor to Touchstone. He is a senior editor and blogger at the American Conservative and author of How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, and Live Not by Lies: A Survival Manual for Christian Dissidents. He is Eastern Orthodox and lives with his wife, Julie, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They have three children.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more on culture from the online archives

34.1—January/February 2021

Fighting for Love

What the World Needs Now It Hardly Knows by Anthony Esolen

32.6—November/December 2019

Listening Up

Historical Truth, Beguiling Stories & Three Kinds of Hearers by Anthony Esolen

29.3—May/June 2016

The Master's Voice

Our Choice Is Obedience or Jesus as Anti-Christ by Anthony Esolen


more from the online archives

6.1—Winter 1993

Civilization Without Religion?

by Russell Kirk

31.1—January/February 2018

Ivy League Advice Worth Repeating

by Robert P. George

22.4—May 2009

Take & Give

on Two Words That Describe the Workings of Love by Bruce Brander

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00