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robertogreco : creationism   7

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
Hopeful Monster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Hopeful Monster is the colloquial term used in evolutionary biology to describe an event of instantaneous speciation, saltation, or systemic mutation, which contributes positively to the production of new major evolutionary groups. The memorable phrase was coined by the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt, who thought that small gradual changes could not bridge the hypothetical divide between microevolution and macroevolution."
biology  evolution  evolutionarybiology  science  hopefulmonsters  darwin  creationism  charlesdarwin 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Creation and Earth History Museum located in California, US | Atlas Obscura | Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations
"Designed and built by the Institute for Creation Research, the Creation and Earth History Museum is "a show case for a literal six day young earth creation model, as well as expanding the emphasis on the incredible design found in that creation," according to its website.

Called "a Walk through History" this museum uses the description in Genesis 1:1 - 1:31 to explain the origins of the Earth and all animals. The museums exhibits help explain away any "confusion" the viewer might have. You see, volcanic eruptions prove that the Earth can change very quickly, and the Tower of Babel exhibit explains the origin of all languages. For skeptics in need of further convincing, they feature a "Hall of Scholars," like Charles Babbage and Michael Faraday, scientists who believed in God. (Though they fail to highlight the fact that simply because a scientist is religious, doesn't in any way conflict with belief in evolution, nor would it compromise the scientific method.)"
sandiego  santee  creationism  religion  museums 
march 2010 by robertogreco
How Christian Were the Founders? - NYTimes.com
"This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper. Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead."

[see also: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com//features/2010/1001.blake.html ]
history  government  religion  2010  controversy  conservatism  christianity  education  politics  science  debate  creationism  textbooks  tcsnmy  texas  california  us  commentary 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Clive Thompson on How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge
"What's going on? Normally, we expect society to progress, amassing deeper scientific understanding and basic facts every year. Knowledge only increases, right?

Robert Proctor doesn't think so. A historian of science at Stanford, Proctor points out that when it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed: Ignorance increases.

He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is "the study of culturally constructed ignorance.""
clivethompson  criticalthinking  creationism  agnotology  corruption  society  culture  information  knowledge  technology  ignorance  facts  fraud  control 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Poe's Law - RationalWiki
"Poe's Law relates to fundamentalism, and the difficulty of identifying actual parodies of it. It suggests that, in general, it is hard to tell fake fundamentalism from the real thing, since they both sound equally ridiculous. The law also works in reverse: real fundamentalism can also be indistinguishable from parody fundamentalism. For example, some conservatives consider noted homophobe Fred Phelps to be so over-the-top that they think he's a "deep cover liberal" trying to discredit more mainstream homophobes."
humor  religion  fundamentalism  creationism  sarcasm  satire  parody  skepticism 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Pharyngula: EXPELLED!
"There is a rich, deep kind of irony that must be shared...I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried … but I was Expelled! "...keep reading
evolution  politics  creationism  religion  humor  richarddawkins  propaganda  censorship  irony 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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