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


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.

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