Poe’s Law

The Difference ‘Twixt Republicans and Government

#theUnion | #WhatTheyVotedAgainst

It is so easy to miss these little moments amid the cacophony. Steve Benen brought us this episode, eariler this month:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Apparently, the point is that the Republicans’ proposal, panned by practically everyone who isn’t an elected GOP official, is better – because it’s shorter. This was Spicer’s exact quote to reporters:

“People who have concerns about this, especially on the right, look at the size. This [puts hand on tall pile of paper] is the Democrats’; this [puts hand on short pile of paper] is us. There is, you can’t get any clearer, in terms of this [puts hand on tall pile of paper] is government; this [puts hand on short pile of paper] is not.”

Please note, this wasn’t a joke. Spicer wasn’t kidding around. In 2017, the chief spokesperson for the president of the world’s dominant superpower argued, in all seriousness, that the merit of a national health care plan can be measured in part by page numbers.

There really is something to the idea that the presidency of Donald Trump marks the arrival proper of internet culture in American society; usually this point takes the form of reflections on trolling, flaming, and people who like lulz. This is different. This has something to do with an idea called Poe’s Law, which pertains to the written word and, for instance, emoticons. The idea is that there arises a threshold at which, without some manner of hint or cue, it becomes impossible to discern ‘twixt satire and genuine representation. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer trying to illustrate the difference between the Republican agenda for government and actual government slouches toward this dark and nebulous quarter.

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Image note: White House Press Secretary attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “By pointing to piles of paper, Spicer makes the worst argument of all”. msnbc. 7 March 2017.

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The Donald Trump Show (Somebody Stop Me)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“I don’t know, you tell me. You know what? Why don’t you ask Hillary if she cares that cows can’t digest corn?”

Bill Scheft

You know, it’s a lot funnier to actually attribute it to Donald Trump, but there isn’t really a good way of doing that anymore. There is, to the one, Poe’s Law; there is, to the other, Donald Trump’s easily confused legion.

But it’s the one funny line in the premature flaccidity. Nor ought we blame Mr. Scheft; flaccid is the way of the Trump, and pretty much all caricature of this emblematic strangeness extends into that range, eventually achieving its best expression as metacommentary considering Donald Trump’s seminal lack of viability.

Prematurity? Bravado? Mindbending foolishness? It isn’t so much superstition this time; rather, the fact that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee at all tells us there is enough wrong in the world that vigilance serves us best.

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Image note: Detail of photo by John Locher/AP Photo.

Scheft, Bill. “Donald Trump’s exit interview: ‘I just found out what the job paid. $400,000. You’re kidding, right?'”

A Distasteful Consideration

Perennial loser and professional bigot, Alan Keyes, in uncredited photo.

So I happened to mention Alan Keyes recently, which would seem to be about as big a mistake as you might imagine, but in the end it’s not that it got me to thinking. Rather, there was a reason Mr. Keyes was already on my mind, and that, of course, is about as big a mistake as you might imagine. That is to say, the less reason we have to think of Alan Keyes, the better. Meanwhile, Curtis M. Wong valiantly attempts to explain the latest stupidity for the Huffington Post:

Three-time Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes made a bizarre link between same-sex marriage and climate change in a fiery conference speech last month.

Keyes, who ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008 and also challenged Barack Obama for an Illinois Senate seat in 2004, argued that those in the “‘global climatological change movement,’ or whatever they’re calling it these days” should oppose same-sex marriage.

Like climate change, marriage equality threatens to destroy humanity, he said in statements made at the “Crimes Against Nature and the Constitution: Cultural Marxism and America’s Moral Collapse” event in Washington, D.C. on April 21, Right Wing Watch first reported.

He asked the crowd, “If we all woke up tomorrow morning and decided that our sexual preference is homosexual [and] we shall have nothing to do with the opposite sex, would you like to tell me what would happen to the human race thereafter?”

He then noted that, like climate change, “extinction might still be involved” if everyone were to be gay.

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The #GOP47 (Texas Smarts Edition)

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 24, 2013. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

“I believe we are hearing echoes of history. I believe we are at a moment like Munich in 1938.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Does anyone actually need Godwin’s Law and the relevant corrolary explained?

Next question: Do we really need to rehash the Republican penchant for bawling that President Obama is Hitler?

Last question: Really? After all this, all we get is yet another Hitler analogy from the #GOP47?

Remember, though, as you pass through the myriad faces of your days, that some of your neighbors actually voted for this.

But there is yet undiscovered territory here; so far the #GOP47 have, with this one petulant stunt, tripped over Skitt, Poe, and Godwin. Which raises one more question, and we do apologize for that: Does Ted Cruz have what it takes to faceplant squar’ into Rule #34?

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Image note: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 24, 2013. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

McCabe, David. “Cruz: Iran, US talks like ‘Munich in 1938′”. The Hill. 12 March 2015.

What It Comes To (Burying Hillary Edition)

Republicans attempts to turn the discussion to Hillary Clinton and 2016 are getting silly.

Poe’s Law in effect:

As President Obama enters the uninhibited twilight of his presidency, some of what we are witnessing from him is shocking yet informative. In the past week, Obama’s words and actions have revealed the thought process behind how policy decisions are made in his administration. Some of these recent incidents demand urgent responses from our Republican leaders, who are obligated to oppose the president when he crosses the line. But also, Republicans need to do what they can to pull Hillary Clinton into the fray. She has been getting a pass while Obama lurches to the left and Republicans generate distracting headlines.

Conservative lobbyist Ed Rogers opens with a curious paragraph, the sort of … something, I can’t exactly say what … that at the very least suggests what follows will not be the standard pabulum punditry.

And yet, it is, or, rather, both is and isn’t. It is, in fact, Poe’s Law―the proposition that in written discourse it can become impossible to distinguish between genuine extremism and a parody thereof―in effect.

First, the president’s comments Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast were jaw-dropping.The Washington Post He said, “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Why would the president tell the Islamic State, a terrorist group, that he is keeping its actions in perspective? This is an incredible and alarming statement; Republicans need to voice their strong objections and force Democrats to state whether or not they agree with the president. And as the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Clinton should also let us know where she stands. Does she think today’s actions and sentiments toward the Islamic State should be shaped by the Muslim-Christian battles of more than 900 years ago? Does she also want us to keep those battles in mind, get off our high horse and temper our objections to the Islamic State?

The first thing to note is the weird contextual shift; the second is the odd presentation. As Steve Benen noted of other conservative rhetoric on the issue:

Neither Fleming nor Bolling were kidding. This wasn’t satire intended to make conservatives look foolish; the recordings of both of men make clear they were entirely sincere.

There is a relevant point even in addition to the Poe context.

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#GamerGate: Moving Pictures and Megalomania Mix

Detail of animation by Mark Fiore, via Daily Kos, 31 October 2014.

Hold the Line, against new and different games produced by girls … who are not sufficiently buxom and supportive of your awesome manliness!

Be Brave, good gamer soldiers … and continue your anonymous attacks against these upstart good-for-nothing girls!

Mark Fiore

In a way, it really does seem to come to that. The #GamerGate phenomenon would be entertaining for all of a few seconds, much like we stare at someone we think is attempting spontaneous and nearly-insane comedy right before we realize, to our horror, that we are about to laugh at a spastic disability. In truth, the phenomenon would not even be a one-hit wonder except for a spectacular nexus of bigotry and juvenilia.

Detail of animation by Mark Fiore, via Daily Kos, 31 October 2014.Mark Fiore’s moving (ha!) editorial might sound like open satire, but such an assessment would be somewhat insulting, as it would suggest the artist required some sort of herculean labor to simply run down the checklist of hashtag-GamerGate.

Online, we are supposed to call it Poe’s Law, which is an alpha geek’s attempt to claim originality for pointing out that truth is necessarily stranger than fiction. However, we ought not knock Poe’s Law, because the internet age does raise, by orders of magnitude, the frequency with which the question arises whether we are viewing the real thing or a vicious satire. Evangelical Christianity, the Republican Party, Fall Out Boy, and now #GamerGate.

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