meme

A Tragic Tale of Tools

#lulz | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

Trying to explain #pizzagate reminds of an old lyricα: “Baring your soul was the in thing to do. It’s fun and it’s easy for an empty-headed fool.” And it’s true, those recalling the period closely―and thus painfully―enough, yes, the line works well enough. Indeed, we might cringe recalling Iron John and the mythic Fire in the Belly, but the vinyl memory also brings to mind a trend of men exploring their feelings, shedding fear about shedding tears, and, of course, reinforcing the stereotypes they would ostensibly otherwise break by pursuing their feminine sides. It is then, merely coincidental―or, you know, not, given how the interconnectedness of all things is most affecting of our lives when asserting through the historical record―that scattershot assertions of traditional masculinity find themselves so close to an invented scandal asserting child sexual exploitation by one group while relying on an opposing group wallowing in child rape fantasies.

Never mind. Andrew Breiner takes his turn for Salon:

But a small number of people on message boards like 4chan and Reddit were more interested in seemingly mundane emails about small social gatherings and parties hosted by Podesta and his friends. Specifically, they noticed that these emails mentioned pizza a few times.

Boldly disregarding the simple explanation that the emailers, like most Americans, eat pizza regularly and find it to be an easy food to serve and eat while socializing, self-appointed Internet detectives decided that “pizza” was a complex code for pedophilia. Using this code, Pizzagaters claim, Podesta and his well-heeled pals could brazenly discuss their plans for throwing disgusting sex parties exploiting enslaved children, in between exchanges about Clinton’s campaign strategy and setting up conference calls.

It’s important to note that since the theories that would become Pizzagate began on 4chan and Reddit, sites known for trolling people with cruel, complicated pranks, it’s likely that many of the conspiracy theory’s originators were joking―coming up with absurdities to entertain themselves.

But it took a very short time for /r/Pizzagate, the now-closed Pizzagate-focused Reddit subforum, or subreddit, to fill with people who appeared to be true believers. The theory also became popular on Reddit’s “The Donald,” a hub for Trump supporters. From there, Pizzagate caught the attention of conservative fake news sites, minor white supremacist celebrities, and supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It’s been amplified for unknown reasons by Twitter bots traced to the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Vietnam.

To the one, we can only reiterate the question of whether or not Trump supporters are complaisant assets to the machinations of international interests, but perhaps more importantly we should note, to the other, the question of lulz.

That is to say, we might recall Brendan Gauthier’s report for Salon in September:

Perhaps the most noteworthy admission came from a 4chan user who openly acknowledged the big scary alt-right’s satirical (and inflammatory) edge: “CTR shills still not realising that pol is a board of satire and our only mission is to meme the retarded manchild to the white house for the lulz.”

This is one of those weird facets we might wish to pay some attention to. Overseas twitterbots are sufficient to move a soft-headed religious fanatic to terrorize a pizzeria as a means of taking up arms against Hillary Clinton; the lulzaholics ought to be proud, but what about the rest of Donald Trump’s supporters?

In the end, it’s all the same. They get played by Russian trolls, international misinformation bloggers, and botnets around the world because they want to.

It is easy enough to remind that it always has been about supremacism and lulz; as the excuses fall away, what else will be left?

____________________

α Memory insists it comes from a Seattle band from the late eighties into the early nineties called Chemistry Set, but that vinyl echo is really dusty.

Image note: Naota gets screwed. (Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, “Fire Starter”.)

Breiner, Andrew. “Pizzagate, explained: Everything you want to know about the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria conspiracy theory but are too afraid to search for on Reddit”. Salon. 10 Deceember 2016.

Gauthier, Brendan. “Pepe’s post-debate identity crisis: Online alt-right turns on Donald Trump after his presidential debate fiasco”. Salon. 27 September 2016.

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A Reminder: There’s a War On

Barack Obama

Damn it.

Okay, look, it’s a standard local Republican comedy of the macabre: State senator posts stupid, racist meme on Facebook, deletes it, apologizes, acknowledges “error in judgment”.

Steve Mistler offers the detail for the Portland Press Herald:

State Sen. Michael Willette apologized Monday for sharing a Facebook post criticizing President Obama’s handling of the terrorist group ISIS and suggesting that its members are family members of the president.

Maine State Sen. Michael Willette (R-Presque Isle).Willette, a Republican from Presque Isle, posted a photo from Conservative News Daily that depicted Obama with the caption, “Why haven’t I done anything about ISIS? Because I’ll deal with them at the family reunion.” The post is designed to be humorous, but stokes long-harbored suspicions among some conservatives that the president is a Muslim extremist and not born in America. It also implies that the president and his family are kin with the same terrorist organizations known for beheading foreign aid workers and journalists ....

.... When asked to explain the rationale for the post, Willette issued a written statement in which he apologized for sharing the photo publicly. However, he did not apologize for the message the post conveyed.

“I apologize for posting this on Facebook. Like too many people these days, I fell into the trap of posting something first and then thinking later. It was an error in judgment,” he said.

Sounds about right. No, really, how outraged are we going to get this time?

Because, you know, what’s all this about not doing anything about Daa’ish?

There’s a war on, after all, or hadn’t you heard?

Twenty-two hundred airstrikes? Over 2,800 personnel in the theatre?

Oh, right: It’s not a big enough war.

No, seriously, what’s all this about not doing anything?

Syria? Iraq? Iran? Just how big a war are Republicans after?

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Mistler, Steve. “Maine state Senator apologizes for Facebook post saying Obama’s family tied to ISIS”. Portland Press Herald. 9 March 2015.

Not Quite the Paradox of Watching Smart People Being Stupid

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 2 March 2015.Maybe fifteen years ago, geek friends were all chattering excitedly about an idea, kind of a memory and gene and idea and all that, and therein we find the idea of a meme, and, yes, I know what you’re thinking, or at least that it has to do with cheeseburgers or puddin’ pops.

The thing is that a bunch of really smart tech people suddenly started playing around with ideas having to do with psychology, but as with many people who have no foundation in the disciplines they dabble, tried to start from the ground up. They thought they were breaking ground, defining new insight to the human mind. What they ended up with was a bunch of badly-spelled jokes printed in white block-capitals on stupid pictures.

Shit happens.

The present reminder of what happens when smart people dabble outside their expertise comes courtesy of the inimitable Zach Weiner.

Learn the lesson. The one salvation with the meme disaster is that so many people were in on it, we probably can’t figure out which one person to blame. Okay, there’s the other salvation, which is watching celebrities meme themselves to infamy.

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Weiner, Zach. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 2 March 2015.

What it Comes To: Icky Girls and Terrorism Edition

Gamers .... (via South Park)

It is not necessarily the normal course for a stereotype. You know the one, about gamers and tech-heads being zit-faced, overweight, lonely guys in their mothers’ basements, and all that.

That is to say, normally such people work to overcome those stereotypes. And often it is difficult. Even Bill Cosby will tell black people to whiten up.

And then there is GamerGate, a situation we referred to last month as (ahem!) “a pretty minor scandal”.

About that … er … um … yeah.

Now just work with me here, for a moment. Please.

This is a purely behavioral phenomenon. That is to say, we might recall those who would combat racism or sexism by undertaking racist and sexist rhetoric. You know, the old argument about how there are women, and then there are bitches; or there are black people, and then there are niggers. And it is tempting to tell people to not live down to bad stereotypes, but that’s the point. Bad behavior is bad behavior, and it really shouldn’t matter what color one’s skin is or what they have between their legs.

But this? Gaming is not quite the same as being black or female.

All of which is our own little preface; the real point here is that Brianna Wu has responded to threats against her life and the lives of her family:

They’ve taken down women I care about one by one. Now, the vicious mob of the Gamergate movement is coming after me. They’ve threatened to rape me. They’ve threatened to make me choke to death on my husband’s severed genitals. They’ve threatened to murder any children I might have.The police just came by. Husband and I are going somewhere safe. Remember, #gamergate isn't about attacking women. (Brianna Wu, 10 October 2014)

This angry horde has been allowed to wage its misogynistic war without penalty for too long. It’s time for the video game industry to stop them.

Gamergate is ostensibly about journalistic ethics. Supporters say they want to address conflicts of interest between the people that make games and the people that support them. In reality, Gamergate is a group of gamers that are willing to destroy the women who have invaded their clubhouse.

The movement is not new. Two years ago, when Anita Sarkeesian tried to crowdfund a series of videos critiquing the hypersexualized female characters of video games, they threatened to kill and rape her. The movement reached fever pitch – and got its name — when a jilted former lover of indie game developer Zoe Quinn published transcripts of her life online. Gamers who were outraged over charges that Quinn’s game Depression Quest had received favorable reviews due to an alleged romantic relationship with a journalist, seized the opportunity to shame and terrify her into hiding. Now, Gamergate is a wildfire that threatens to consume the entire games industry.

Yes. Really.

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