Humility makes men like angels; Pride turns angels into devils.
Pride isn’t the sin it used to be. In the 4th Century, Evagrius of Pontus claimed that pride was the primary sin among the seven, and the one from which all others stemmed. By the time of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century, it was seen in a more measured manner—some pride was acceptable, but a surfeit was still a sin. In the 21st century, with the advent of social media, it appears that we more often ask, “Have you no pride?” when confronted with yet more drunken party photos, as if pride is a positive attribute that arbitrates in matters of taste.
These days, the sense in which pride is bad is probably best summed up by the word hubris—arrogance, loss of touch with reality, overestimating one’s capabilities, thinking that you can do no wrong. In the Greek tragedies, hubris leads the hero to pick a fight with the gods and thus be punished with death for his insolence. These days, it’s called overextending your credit.
Of course, the aim in this book isn’t to bemoan the lack of humility in modern society but to see how sites leverage this human weakness.
Harold Camping, the owner of familyradio.com, has been wrong a couple of times in the past. He predicted that the world would end on May 21, 1988—then again on September 7, 1994, and subsequently on May 21, 2011, before settling for October 21, 2011. After the world steadfastly refused to stop turning ...