Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Be pwned

I was pwned and that led me, for the first time I can remember, to remove a post (I removed another post for different reasons this past weekend). After a lot of thought, I decided it was the best thing to do (more about that later).

Yesterday, I posted about a young woman who made a YouTube video thanking god for the Japan earthquake as part of a war on atheists. While I mentioned Poe’s Law in that post, I was convinced the video was real (after watching several of her videos). I should’ve trusted my initial instincts, as she’s now admitted she was making troll videos all along.

Poe’s Law is at the very heart of this. It states that there’s no parody or satire of religious fundamentalism that’s so outrageous, “out there” or even offensive that it can be easily distinguished from real fundamentalist expression. Its corollary states that it’s impossible for an expression of fundamentalism to be made without someone mistaking it for parody.

This can be, and is, also applied to far right political thought, but right now I’m focusing on the religious version. I detest this sort of behaviour. There’s a parody site called “Christwire”, a fake fundamentalist “Christian” news site, that constantly fools people—including fundamentalist “Christians”—into believing it’s real. The videos were in a similar vein.

However, I see nothing to be gained or achieved, by doing such “deep cover parody”. Sites like “Christwire” and the girl’s videos preach to a choir of believers and rile up people who disagree, all for no legitimate end whatsoever (the amusement of the pranksters is not a valid excuse). In my opinion, putting out inflammatory rhetoric that fuels bigotry and prejudice, even as a prank, is no different from putting it out there for real because it pollutes society.

Also, if deliberately riling up those who are offended is part of the pranksters’ goals, maybe as a way to laugh at both sides, how on earth does that contribute anything useful to public debate? All it does is throw salt into the open wounds of the deep political divide in the US and does nothing to heal them.

Which brings me back to the girl and her videos. She deleted her YouTube channel because of death threats and milder harassment (like dozens of pizzas delivered to her). Not even posting a video admitting she was making troll videos calmed the riled masses. I have no sympathy for her: In a society as deeply polarised as that of the US, what the hell did she expect? Flowers?

As for me, I originally thought the video was deep cover parody because it had to be. But Poe’s Law is right, and one should never assume such an outrageous video is parody: I’ve seen plenty of truly vile videos from religious fundamentalists that are unquestionably authentic. My initial suspicions were allayed, quite frankly, by the girl’s acting ability: She was utterly convincing (I also watched her other videos and, apart from one, they all seemed legitimate). I think this is similar to people being taken in by the “LonelyGirl15” videos in 2007.

Nevertheless, my point wasn’t about that video, but the larger point about the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of religious fundamentalists seeking to exploit the earthquake in Japan. That’s still true, even if the video I quoted from wasn’t. In fact, just today Right Wing Watch exposed some fundamentalists who are exploiting the disaster for real, in the same way as the fake video was doing (proving, once again, the truth of Poe’s Law). In fact, I could’ve built the post around that story and the larger points in my post would’ve been exactly the same.

I thought about updating yesterday’s post, maybe replacing the original text with what became this post. The comments to yesterday’s post promised to lead to an interesting discussion, but if I altered the post, those comments would’ve been divorced from the original context and would’ve made no sense. So, after weighing all that, I decided to remove that post.

I’ve updated posts to reflect new information, even when it contradicted something I said, so this isn’t about embarrassment (I’m exasperated, not embarrassed). Instead, I feel bad that my being taken in led others to react to what I offered, believing it was true (because I did), and I am truly sorry about that.

I’ll be fooled by a prankster again, sooner or later. There’s nothing much I can do about that, though I’m likely to be gun shy for a time, doubting too much, too often. Even so. I won’t pull my punches because I try to remain true to myself and my convictions, even if falsehood sometimes gets in the way. All I can do is be honest and hope that most others are, too, or, failing that, that I’ll more quickly and easily find the truth.

Update: I restored the deleted post about the faked video. Many of the points are still valid, as I mentioned above, and with the troll’s YouTube Channel deleted, my post was one of the few records of what was in that video.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I've now altered today's blogpost three separate times. It was initiated by that faux video - which I saw on my Twitter feed.

Oh, and you are mentioned. Twice.