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robertogreco : conspiracy   13

Poe’s law explains why 2016 was so terrible.
"We will all remember 2016’s political theater for many reasons: for its exhausting, divisive election, for its memes both dank and dark, for the fact that the country’s first female presidential candidate won the popular vote by a margin of 2.8 million and still lost the election to an actual reality show villain.

But 2016 was also marked—besieged, even—by Poe’s law, a decade-old internet adage articulated by Nathan Poe, a commentator on a creationism discussion thread. Building on the observation that “real” creationists posting to the forum were often difficult to parse from those posing as creationists, Poe’s law stipulates that online, sincere expressions of extremism are often indistinguishable from satirical expressions of extremism.

A prominent example of Poe’s law in action is the March 2016 contest to name a British research vessel that cost almost $300 million. Participants railed—perhaps earnestly, perhaps jokingly—against the National Environment Research Council’s decision to reject the public’s overwhelming support for the name “Boaty McBoatface.” So too is the April spread of the “Trump Effect” Mass Effect 2 remix video, which resulted in then-candidate Donald Trump retweeting a video that may or may not have been a satirical effort to frame him as a xenophobic, fascist villain. June’s popular Harambe meme, in which a gorilla shot dead at the Cincinnati Zoo was embraced in the service of animal rights advocacy alongside Dadaist absurdity and straight-up racism, is another. In each case, earnest participation bled into playful participation, making it difficult to know exactly what was happening. A ridiculous joke? A pointed attack? A deliberate argument? Maybe all of the above?

The rise of the so-called alt-right—a loose amalgamation of white nationalists, misogynists, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes—provides a more sobering example of Poe’s law. White nationalist sentiments have metastasized into unequivocal expressions of hate in the wake of Trump’s electoral victory, but in the early days of the group, it was harder to tell. Participants even provided Poe’s law justifications when describing their behavior. A March 2016 Breitbart piece claimed the racism espoused by the “young meme brigades” swarming 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter was ironic play, nothing more, deployed solely to shock the “older generations” that encountered it. According to Breitbart, those propagating hate were no more genuinely bigoted than 1980s heavy metal fans genuinely worshiped Satan. The implication: First of all, shut up, everyone is overreacting, and simultaneously, do keep talking about us, because overreaction is precisely what we’re going for.

Perhaps the best illustration of this tension is Pepe the Frog, the anti-Semitic cartoon mascot of “hipster Nazi” white nationalism. The meme was ostensibly harnessed in an effort to create “meme magic” through pro-Trump “shitposting” (that is, to ensure a Trump victory by dredging up as much chaos and confusion as possible). But it communicated a very clear white supremacist message. The entire point was for it to be taken seriously as a hate symbol, even if the posters were, as they insisted, “just trolling”—a distinction we argue is ultimately irrelevant, since regardless of motivations, such messages communicate, amplify, and normalize bigotry. And normalized bigotry emboldens further bigotry, as Trump’s electoral victory has made painfully clear.

Poe’s law also played a prominent role in Facebook’s fake news problem, particularly in the spread of articles written with the cynical intention of duping Trump supporters through fabrication and misinformation. Readers may have passed these articles along as gospel because they really did believe, for example, that an FBI agent investigating Hillary Clinton’s private email server died mysteriously. Or maybe they didn’t believe it but wanted to perpetuate the falsehood for a laugh, out of boredom, or simply to watch the world burn. Each motive equally possible, each equally unverifiable, and each normalizing and incentivizing the spread of outright lies.

Hence the year’s plethora of outrageous election conspiracy theories—including the very false claim that Clinton was running a child sex trafficking ring out of Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. Pizzagate, as the story came to be known, like so many of the stories animating this weirdest of all possible elections, has a direct link both to 4chan and r/The_Donald, another hotbed of highly ambivalent pro-Trump activity. It is therefore very likely that the conspiracy is yet another instance of pro-Trump shitposting. But even if some participants are “just trolling,” other participants may approach the story with deadly seriousness—seriousness that precipitated one Pizzagate crusader to travel from his home in North Carolina to Comet Ping Pong with an assault rifle in order to conduct his own investigation, by opening fire in the restaurant.

And then there was Trump himself, whose incessant provocations, insults, self-congratulations and straight-up, demonstrable lies have brought Poe’s law to the highest office of the land.

Take, for example, Trump’s incensed reactions to the casts of Hamilton and Saturday Night Live, his baseless assertion of widespread voter fraud (in an election he won), and his unconstitutional claim that flag-burners should be denaturalized or imprisoned. Are these outbursts designed to distract the press from his almost incomprehensibly tangled economic conflicts of interest? Is he just using Twitter to yell at the TV? Is he simply that unfamiliar with well-established constitutional precedent? Is he, and we say this with contempt, “just trolling”?

The same kinds of questions apply to Trump’s entrée into foreign policy issues. Did he honestly think the call he took from the president of Taiwan was nothing more than pleasantries? (His advisers certainly didn’t think so.) Does he sincerely not remember all the times Russian hacking was discussed—all the times he himself discussed the hacks—before the election? Does he truly believe the Russian hacking story is little more than a pro-Clinton conspiracy?

It’s unclear what the most distressing answers to these questions might be.

Poe’s law helps explain why “fuck 2016” is, at least according to the A.V. Club, this year’s “definitive meme.” Content subsumed by Poe’s law is inherently disorienting, not unlike trying to have an intense emotional conversation with someone wearing dark sunglasses. Not knowing exactly what you’re looking at, and therefore what to look out for, obscures how best to respond in a given moment. More vexingly, it obscures what the implications of that response might be.

Take Pizzagate. If proponents of the theory genuinely believe that Clinton is running an underage sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza shop, it makes absolute sense to debunk the rumor, as often and as loudly as possible. On the other hand, if the story is a shitpost joke, even to just some of those perpetuating it, then amplification might ultimately benefit the instigators and further harm those caught in their crosshairs (in this case both literally and figuratively).

Further complicating this picture, each new instance of amplification online, regardless of who is doing the sharing, and regardless of what posters’ motivations might be, risks attracting a new wave of participants to a given story. Each of these participants will, in turn, have similarly inscrutable motives and through commenting on, remixing, or simply repeating a story might continue its spread in who knows what directions, to who knows what consequences.

As the above examples illustrate, the things people say and do online have indelible, flesh-and-blood implications (looking at you, Paul Ryan). Heading into 2017, it is critical to strategize ways of navigating a Poe’s law–riddled internet—particularly as PEOTUS mutates into POTUS.

One approach available to everyone is to forcefully reject the “just trolling,” “just joking,” and “just saying words” excuses so endemic in 2016. In a given context, you may be “just trolling,” “just joking,” or “just saying whatever,” because you have the profound luxury of dismissing the embodied impact of your words. It may also be the case that the people in your immediate circle might get the troll, or joke, or words, because they share your sense of humor and overall worldview.

But even if you and your immediate circle can decode your comments, your troll or joke or words can be swept into the service of something else entirely, for audiences who know nothing of the context and who have exactly zero interest in both your sense of humor and overall worldview.

In short, regardless of anyone’s self-satisfied “don’t blame me, I was just X-ing,” all actions online have consequences—at least the potential for consequences, intended or otherwise. So for god’s sake, take your own words seriously."
whitnetphillips  ryanmilner  fakenews  media  facebooks  google  extremism  nathanpoe  poe'slaw  creationism  satire  sarcasm  internet  memes  shitpoting  pepethefrog  conspiracytheories  conspiracy  discourse  twitter  socialmedia  news  newscycle  donaldtrump  2016 
january 2017 by robertogreco
99% Invisible • Episode 70- The Great Red Car Conspiracy
"When Eric Molinsky lived in Los Angeles, he kept hearing this story about a bygone transportation system called the Red Car. The Red Car, he was told, had been this amazing network of streetcars that connected the city—until a car company bought it, dismantled it, and forced a dependency on freeways.

If this sounds familiar, it might be because it was the evil scheme revealed at the end of the Robert Zemeckis’s 1988 movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

But like most legends, the one that Eric heard about the Red Car is not entirely accurate. It’s true that Los Angeles did have an extensive mass transit system called the Red Car, which at one time ran on 1,100 miles of track—about 25 percent more more track mileage than New York City has today, a century later.  

But the Red Car wasn’t the victim of a conspiracy. The Red Car was the conspiracy. 

Our reporter Eric Molinsky spoke with historian Bill Friedricks, who says that to understand the Red Car, you first need to know about Henry Huntington, one of the major power brokers of Los Angeles. If you’ve ever heard of Huntington Beach, Huntington Park, or the Huntington Library, this is that Huntington."

[On Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/roman-mars/70-the-great-red-car ]
losangeles  history  redcar  redcarconspiracy  conspiracy  2013  podcasts  transportation  ericmolinsky  billfriedricks  henryhuntington  whoframedrogerrabbit?  robertzemeckis 
february 2013 by robertogreco
steelweaver - Reality as failed state - tl;dr version (I like doing this)
"I believe part of the meta-problem is this: people no longer inhabit a single reality.

Collectively, there is no longer a single cultural arena of dialogue…

The point, for the climate denier, is not that the truth should be sought with open-minded sincerity – it is that he has declared the independence of his corner of reality from control by the overarching, techno-scientific consensus reality. He has withdrawn from the reality forced upon him & has retreated to a more comfortable, human-sized bubble.

…denier’s retreat from consensus reality approximates role of the cellular insurgents in Afghanistan vis-a-vis the American occupying force: this overarching behemoth I rebel against may well represent something larger, more free, more wealthy, more democratic, or more in touch with objective reality, but it has been imposed upon me…so I am going to withdraw from it into illogic, emotion & superstition & from there I am going to declare war upon it."
reality  climatechange  climatechangedeniers  alternatereality  philosophy  mind  conspiracy  afghanistan  dialogue  environment  environmentalism  2011  awareness  conviviality  sharedhumanpresence  change  division  staugustine  truth  politics  policy  voting  politicalprocess  conflict  control  freedom  agency  technocrats  science  scientists  consensus  intuition  intuitivethinking  thinking  myths  narrative  meaning  meaningmaking  understanding  psychology  birthers  teaparty  realityinsurgents  dialog 
july 2011 by robertogreco
The Cultivation of Conspiracy
"A translated, edited and expanded version of an address given by Ivan Illich at the Villa Ichon in Bremen, Germany, on the occasion of receiving the Culture and Peace Prize of Bremen, March 14, 1998."
deschooling  corruption  anarchism  conspiracy  ivanillich  society  lcproject  unschooling  the2837university  agitpropproject  filetype:pdf  media:document 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Truth Telling and the End of Democracy | Dailycensored.com [via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/2374656637]
"The vast majority of the information Wikileaks shared with the world, however, was misclassified as secret. … Many of these documents should have been releasable into the public domain in compliance with the federal Freedom of Information Act, … “Secret” classifications are supposed to be used for data whose release would cause “grave damage” to national security—not for documents whose release would cause grave embarrassment to individuals in the government …Misclassifying documents, in order to keep them out of the public domain, is a form of censorship…<br />
<br />
Lost in the hullabaloo over Wikitreason is any outrage in the fact that the leaked documents evidence a disturbing pattern of government officials knowingly and purposefully lying to the American people and press about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.<br />
<br />
The attempted criminalization of dissent."
wikileaks  dissent  julianassange  2010  afghanistan  iraq  government  freedomofinformationact  freedom  secrecy  conspiracy  nationalsecurity 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Truth Telling and the End of Democracy | Dailycensored.com [via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/2374656637]
"The vast majority of the information Wikileaks shared with the world, however, was misclassified as secret. … Many of these documents should have been releasable into the public domain in compliance with the federal Freedom of Information Act, … “Secret” classifications are supposed to be used for data whose release would cause “grave damage” to national security—not for documents whose release would cause grave embarrassment to individuals in the government …Misclassifying documents, in order to keep them out of the public domain, is a form of censorship…

Lost in the hullabaloo over Wikitreason is any outrage in the fact that the leaked documents evidence a disturbing pattern of government officials knowingly and purposefully lying to the American people and press about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The attempted criminalization of dissent."
wikileaks  dissent  julianassange  2010  afghanistan  iraq  government  freedomofinformationact  freedom  secrecy  conspiracy  nationalsecurity 
december 2010 by robertogreco
The Chicago Conspiracy | Subversive Action Films
"The Chicago Conspiracy is a documentary three years in the making. The project was filmed in Chile, and the story extends into the Mapuche indigenous lands of Wallmapu. The concept for the film was born with the death of a former military dictator. We celebrated in the streets of Santiago with thousands of people after hearing the news: General Augusto Pinochet was dead. His regime murdered thousands and tortured tens of thousands after the military coup on September 11, 1973. We celebrated both his death and the implication that the political and economic system which put him in power might itself be mortal. We began this documentary with the death of a dictator, but we continue with the legacy of a dictatorship." [via: http://thefreeskool.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/hello-world/]
economics  anarchism  anarchy  mapuche  chile  film  documentary  conspiracy  chicagoboys  pinochet 
june 2010 by robertogreco
An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All | Magazine
"Ah, risk. It is the idea that fuels the anti-vaccine movement — that parents should be allowed to opt out, because it is their right to evaluate risk for their own children. It is also the idea that underlies the CDC’s vaccination schedule — that the risk to public health is too great to allow individuals, one by one, to make decisions that will impact their communities. (The concept of herd immunity is key here: It holds that, in diseases passed from person to person, it is more difficult to maintain a chain of infection when large numbers of a population are immune.)"

[more at: http://kottke.org/09/10/killer-vaccines-and-the-killers-who-kill-with-them ]
culture  children  healthcare  publichealth  pandemic  drugs  politics  autism  conspiracy  safety  medicine  fear  reading  health  parenting  science  vaccinations  vaccines  antivax  epidemics 
october 2009 by robertogreco
North Korea ‘uses doubles to hide death of Kim’ - Times Online
"Is Kim Jong-il for real? The question has baffled foreign intelligence agencies for years but now a veteran Japanese expert on North Korea says the “dear leader” is actually dead – and his role is played by a double.
intelligence  korea  conspiracy  politics  northkorea  kimjong-il 
september 2008 by robertogreco
Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com [follow-up here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/03/journalism/index.html AND http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2008/08/04/abcnews_qs.html]
"It was anthrax...that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism...people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood."
abcnews  anthrax  history  politics  us  conspiracy  media  tv  war  iraq  georgewbush  terrorism  corruption  2008  9/11  glenngreenwald  salon  propaganda  journalism 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Rennes-le-Château - Studi - ARG as a new model for Rennes-le-Château phenomenon: Alternate Reality Game and the theories about the treasure of Bérenger Saunière
In this short paper I will offer a new point of view from which to analyse the Rennes-le-Château phenomenon (1): I'm suggesting that many modern approaches to the matter can be better interpreted as complex ARGs, created for economical purposes and/or pe
arg  culture  games  gaming  treasure  storytelling  reality  conspiracy  france  fraud  myth 
june 2008 by robertogreco

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