Monday, December 01, 2008

Poe’s Law






During the recent, epic argument between PG and Bob, the likes of which have not been seen since Bob and I used to clear out the lunchroom at SourceGear, PG uncovered a disturbing Christian cartoon called The Last Generation, available here.


The worldview of this cartoon is one where:

  • In the near future, a world government will start executing people who claim Jesus in the only way to God.

  • Christians are excited about world misery and natural disasters, because it shows the end times are near.

  • School teachers are witches who teach kids to sacrifice puppies and kittens.

  • Children are indoctrinated by the state to turn in heretics (that is, Christians who believe in Jesus), who are then tortured to renounce their beliefs.

PG identified this as a perfect example of Poe’s Law, where one can’t distinguish between a fundamentalist’s actual beliefs and a parody of the same. This one seemed like a parody to me, if only because it would be impossible to make a parody of it, but it wasn't.

Bob brought up the idea that Poe’s Law should apply to wacky leftists too. I think there’s probably some truth to that (like blaming capitalism or the US for every problem in the world). I would guess it would be easier to identify wacky leftist ideology from parody, but that’s probably just my bias. If you find any, let me know.

Mostly, I take heart that, as of Jan 20th, Christians with persecution complexes and world death wishes will no longer have access to the guy with his finger on our nuclear arsenal.

17 comments:

brownie said...

I found an example for you. It was on the obscure website Musings of a Minor Mennonite:

"Mostly, I take heart that, as of Jan 20th, Christians with persecution complexes and world death wishes will no longer have access to the guy with his finger on our nuclear arsenal."

I can't tell if this is parody or not. If it is, then no biggie. If not, then it appears to me that you're quite happy that a large portion of Americans will not have access to their president. Tsk, Tsk.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Well, Poe's law has been regularly demonstrated to apply to right-wing
nut jobs for the last 8 years, I thought few politicians could be such an embodiment of a living parody as GWB until the advent of Ms Alaska.

Dan S said...

Nice, Brownie :)

But I take exception. Parody is saying ridiculous things that are exaggerations of the actual thing.

You may believe that it is ridiculous to not have a president beholden to the religious right, but I for one and am glad we get at least 4 year break from it.

Robert J. Day said...

This is a good example of my comments in “Shut Up and Salute.” There is more Ideology prejudice today than racial bigotry.

It seems to me that Poe’s Law suffers under the law of relativity. If the fundamentalist thought that what s/he was saying was “ridiculous” s/he would not say it. More importantly, s/he would not hold to the ideology behind the words. Sane persons do not purposely live in the ridiculous. So, Poe’s Law depends on where one is standing.

I often get angry at the liberal media because they assume their worldview in which they filter the news is the only correct way of understanding anything. Therefore, anything else (i.e. conservative viewpoint) is “ridiculous”.

As for parody of leftist ideologues, one just needs to review World War II political cartoons of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. Other leftist that could be parodied as “ridiculous” are Stalin, Moa, and William Ayers.

Don’t forget that it is extremists on both ends of the ideological spectrum that are dangerous. History is longer and broader than just the last eight years in the US. Bush is certainly on the right (as opposed to the left) side of the spectrum but he has been a war with those much further to the right. If you think that the Islamic Fundamentalist are going to give the new Liberals in Washington a break and live in peace, than that is the most “ridiculous” thing I have ever heard.

Here is a good gage for determining if you are properly moderate – or in the middle. If your views are attacked by only one side of the spectrum, than you’re not a moderate.

brownie said...

No, you missed my point. I think its ridiculous that you think it's okay that a segment of America is now out of the loop. As a centrist, and realist, I think We should all be in the loop, even those You disagree with. Hence my statement that I couldn't tell if you were parodying or not.

Still can't tell.

Dan S said...

Yea, I guess "ridiculous" always has a world view associated with it. Hitler's problem wasn't that he was irrational, but that he was highly racist and wholly committed to using violence to gain power. He rationally followed his worldview, which lead him to do ridiculously cruel and evil things. Same with Americans historically in relation to slaves and Native Americans.

And yet, I would arge that some world views are ridiculous when compared against basic decency. Looking forward to God's devasation would qualify in my book.

That's a good point Robert about Bush being at war against those further to his right. But, he hasn't limited himself to that. He has put himself at war with those on the right and left of him with his right/wrong black/white thinking.

Brownie, it wasn't parody. I'm reacting to the reality that only a very limited number of people have access to the president. I don't want the KKK to have a place at that table, nor do I want those who look forward to mideast war for religious reasons to have a place there either.

David Wright said...

Some evangelicals can parody themselves. Two of my favorites are The Door (been around since the 70s or early 80s) and Landover Baptist.

Dan S said...

The Landover Baptist site is an interesting case. It was one of the one's cited by Poe's law, but when I read it, it seemed obvious it was parody. It also seemed kind of mean to me, since I assumed it was non-religous people behind it.

But, reading it again as being from evangelicals makes it a lot funnier. It's funny how that works - Jeff Foxworthy can tell good rednecks jokes and Chris Rock can make fun of the ghetto, but if someone outside the culture were to do it, it would just be mean or inappropriate. I guess it's laughing with vs laughing at.

Robert J. Day said...

Dan, You are correct. Hitler never saw himself as “ridiculous” but rather zealous and consistent toward his worldview. For him, we are the ridiculous ones for not seeing what he thought was the obvious. Is it possible that he was right and we are wrong? Well, that’s a ridiculous question. But how do we know? Perhaps history, another hundred years from now will show him right and us wrong.

The point of what I am trying to say is that there must be a solid source beyond our own selves for judging various ideologies or we will always be prey to the prevailing winds of group-think. The Germans, who provided that early Mennonite stock, bought into Hitler’s worldview to the bitter end.

The problem is relativism. Despite what relativism claims, not all ideas are equal. As I a learn to live with people of varying view points and opposing worldviews, I also have to remain true to myself and my own schema of rights and wrongs. There are some ideas I can not live with nor tolerate, even in my desire to be more tolerate. But how shall I determine when and where to draw that line of intolerance? I would like to hear what your readers have to say about it.

Robert J. Day said...

Here is a humorous look at how various worldviews and political experience might answer the same question. Why did the chicken cross the road?

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/12/why_did_the_chicken_cross_the.html

Dan S said...

I enjoyed that Robert -- my favorite was Bill Clinton's:

I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

Dan S said...

Despite what relativism claims, not all ideas are equal. As I a learn to live with people of varying view points and opposing worldviews, I also have to remain true to myself and my own schema of rights and wrongs. There are some ideas I can not live with nor tolerate, even in my desire to be more tolerate.

Very true. Especially that not all ideas are equal and we need not personally tolerate them all. For instance, racsim, or sexism or allowance of suffering are all things that I'm pretty intolerant of.

But how to determine right from wrong? That's a hard question. The easy way out is to say the Bible or some other religious text, but that doesn't help nearly as much one would hope, because it's all subject to interpretation and cultural biases. It just shifts the argument to how to intepret the Bible and which parts are cultural and which parts are eternal wisdom.

I don't believe there is a good answer that doesn't come with cultural biases. God may be steadfast and true, but our access to God is incomplete and often broken, so we have to follow God as best we can, knowing we can't really be sure 100% sure of God's intentions. It's not a very satisfying answer.

brownie said...

Dan, you've illustrated my point beautifully then, since it is not parody.

"And yet, I would arge that some world views are ridiculous when compared against basic decency"

What if their world view is right? What if God is the one who lacks (your interpretation of) "basic decency"? And really wants us all (except the raptured) to be blown to smithereens? Does that mean you were wrong about God? Or that God is wrong?

Fingtree said...

The chosen people are the; "smithereens". Everyone else is wrong.

Robert J. Day said...

Dan Says,

"The easy way out is to say the Bible or some other religious text, but that doesn't help nearly as much one would hope, because it's all subject to interpretation and cultural biases. It just shifts the argument to how to interpret the Bible and which parts are cultural and which parts are eternal wisdom".

I both agree and disagree. I personally believe that the way out of the crisis of relativism is the Bible, but it is not an easy way out by any means, exactly for all the reasons you listed.

Yes, the Bible is subject to interpretation that is both cultural and historically biased as well as understood through the filter of varied personal life experiences. But where else do we turn? The Bible is the “eternal wisdom” you speak of but we must be actively willing, as much as it is in our power, to lay down all those impediments you point out.

Christians of all persuasion must be willing to at least start with the Bible or else we are just a bunch of sheep without a Shepard. Then add to the Bible, the wisdom of Church history, the collective wisdom of the Church Fathers, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the community of trusted believers, and - yes – “basic decency”. And may I add, the wisdom of common sense.

The truth, that is to say, God’s Truth, is what is required to draw the line of what is acceptable and what is not. Error, however, always comes in pairs of opposites. One may err to the right or to the left of Truth. The further one travels in either direction from the central Truth the more that person is deluded and thus, the more dangerous they become to others. It is these “extremist” that cannot be tolerated.

PG said...

Take the example of Jesus -- lawless, sacrificial, a life lived. Do that.

Forget everything else, all dogma, all party spirit, all "right" and "wrong," all blame, all ownership.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 1:
1
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.

The unnameable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the
manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

Dan S said...

Then add to the Bible, the wisdom of Church history, the collective wisdom of the Church Fathers, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the community of trusted believers, and - yes – “basic decency”. And may I add, the wisdom of common sense

Yep. The problem is that these sources are often in conflict with each other. I guess we do the best we can, trying to be faithful to what God puts in our heart, checked against all these other sources.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.

Yep too.