"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 May 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Deus In Machina


[Jesus Called]

The only thing that might

possibly be stronger than the

profit motive is the motivation

of religious fanatics. OK, it

probably isn't.



Nonetheless, that old-time

religion has gotten a taste of

way new journalism and the

spirit has descended upon the people

and moved them to action, which

in 1996 is spelled B-B-E-d-i-t.

Persuading others to adopt your

particular sect's beliefs is the

oldest sell in the book - in

fact, the oldest sell in The

Book - and like any other

business or social transaction

(there's a difference?), it's

finding a home online.



One of the hottest rear-view-

mirror trends in Web development

is to conceive of sites as

"channels" to be filled with

"programming," kind of like, uh,

well, like television, come to

think of it. Evangelicals are,

as usual, exploiting the medium

with this most up-to-date

strategy. The #Jesus! Channel,

for example, is more than just a

typographical curiosity - it's

"a database of firepower." The

#Jesus! Channel is made up of

can't-fail educational

programming specializing in the

miraculous: how to hear the

voice of God, how to speak in

tongues, how to build a Web

page. Like so many sites,

though, T#C overpromises,

providing no .au files in the

first, and no frames syntax in

the latter.



Speaking of Latter, Mormons,

those proselytizing little

devils, are right on top of the

interactive tip. Email your

entirely sincere question via

the charmingly-named Answer

Man! page and, if your

experience is anything like

ours, you'll receive no answer

whatsoever within 48 hours of

your inquiry.



What the Answer Man crew needs is

a lesson in customer service,

and there's no better source

than the Hasidic Jews who run

Chabad Online. Though it may

come as a shock to anyone who's

ever shopped at 47th St. Photo,

these guys (it's fairly safe to

assume they're guys) have

learned the key to net commerce:

service, service, service. Send

'em a question and you get a

diatribe from the writings of

the Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson

by email within hours. Now

that's customer satisfaction.


Of course, neither the Chabadniks

nor any of their counterparts

know how many actual conversions

they're causing - like everyone

else they have to measure site

success in hard numbers. Hit

counts. Impressions.



This is where bona-fide cults, if

they could get their marketing act

together, could make a killing.

(So to speak.) True cults have

nothing if not a devoted

audience base, one that can be

directed, say, to visit the East

Village twice a week and on

festival days, with a high

degree of confidence that

they'll follow through. 10,000

krishnas at an average of five

pages served per krishna per

week ...well, that's a hit count

a sales rep could work with.

Easily worth a trade ad linked

to KrishNet. And, assuming a

commitment of resources here,

some fancy multimedia Java

applets could be much more

persuasive than old-school

pamphlets and drumming. If cult

sites play their cards right

it'll be their C programmers vs.

the Deprogrammers. We'll take

the bald engineers and give the



[Jesus Explosion!]

While the blessed net does make

agit-pros info available, it

just can't replace the grand old

aggressive traditions of

shouting in public squares or

shoving flyers at pedestrians.

Instead, many sites are used as

backups, something to refer you

to once you've read the flyer

and decided you're interested in

knowing more - uploading to the



[You Can Change Your World]

Campus Crusade for Christ is

using the Web as a way of

spreading the word. You can't

get any special info that

isn't on campus, but it is very

convenient if you find yourself

in a study carrel next to an

unsaved person - surf for Jesus

to these quick pointers and

witness away.


[Seth Speaks]

"He's an energy essence

personality no longer focused in

physical reality. You might

think of him as an intelligence

residing outside time and

space." William Colby? Steve

Wozniak? Nope. It's Seth, a

being whose accomplishments

include inducing one of his

leading followers to make big

changes in his life: the

disciple of Seth was so

empowered that he left a

marketing gig at Apple and "then

went on and made a lot of

money." Now we're talking.



To say that the Web's an exercise

in faith understates the case -

if you think you can profit by

starting up a site, you clearly

do believe in some transcendent

power. Nevertheless, the

god/mammon loop gets pretty

tight; just as ostensibly

objective record reviews somehow

get linked to CDs-R-Us, a

bible-thumping net sermon can

lead straight to a bible-hawking

net sales pitch.


[Al Karavan]

The savvy surfer will be

unsurprised to learn that

Yahoo's Business_and_Economy/

Companies/Religion/ index lists

over... well, a lot of sites,

if we were to count them, and a

number which is undoubtedly

growing daily. The sheer variety

is daunting, from Muslim haj

package tours to Mecca to Baha'i

screensaver and calendar

software (Windows only - so much

for B'hai ecumenicalism.)



Naturally, the beliefs of some

folks transcend an interest in mere

material wealth; these committed

few will go to hell and back

just to put up a site. And the

Netscape icon at the bottom of

the page? Maybe that's how you

get listed on the "What's Cool"

page, a sure sign of godliness

if we've ever seen one.

courtesy of Johnny Cache