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Poe’s Law

without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism

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I did a double-take when I heard a comment attributed to Nevada state assemblyman Francis Xavier Wiget II. The tea party Republican’s remark was so extreme that I thought it was probably a  headline from the online spoof site, The Onion.

Republican Nevada state assemblyman said that he would vote for legislation in favor of slavery if his constituents wanted him to.

Only it was real. The story (and a video of the comment from last August) is being circulated on the Internet and on social networking services. The context of his remark is Wiget’s belief that a representative’s responsibility is to follow the voters’ will, and not to exercise individual judgment.  You can watch the video and read more context and commentary on this story at Raw Story.

The other rather extreme comment I came across is one attributed to Rush Limbaugh and I thought that he had really gone over the edge this time. Here’s the headline version:

Limbaugh advises Muslims and blacks to avoid ObamaCare by committing mass suicide

I found the story at Newslo.com. The article said:

Limbaugh argued that if a person did not owe a tax refund the IRS had no way to access their bank account and impose the penalty, but today he went a step further by suggesting that mass suicide was perhaps the only way out. “The only reasonable response now to the government trying to impose socialized medicine on us is for every American, and especially the blacks and Muslims, to kill themselves en masse,” Limbaugh told his audience. 

I’m not familiar with Newslo.com, so I could not immediately decide whether the preceding comment and a host of other “extreme” remarks attributed to Limbaugh there were true or a parody. (The first time I ever heard Limbaugh on the radio, I thought it was a parody of “talk radio.”) Internet searches for the quotation all point back to Newslo, Newslo, after closer examination , appears to be a parody site, with headlines like:

  • Obama Delays Individual Mandate until Republicans Resume Government Shutdown.
  • Hannity files for unemployment benefits
  • Dozens of admissions officers commit suicide following U.S. News & World Report College Ratings
  • Cumulus Radio to drop Limbaugh, Hannity doe to lack of lesbians

So I add myself to the anecdotal evidence that Poe’s Law is true.

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19 Responses to Poe’s Law

  1. avatar
    Curious George October 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    “….after closer examination , [it] appears to be a parody site, with headlines like:

    •Obama Delays Individual Mandate until Republicans Resume Government Shutdown.
    •Hannity files for unemployment benefits
    •Dozens of admissions officers commit suicide following U.S. News & World Report College Ratings
    •Cumulus Radio to drop Limbaugh, Hannity doe to lack of lesbians

    Add this one…

    * Birfers admit that Obama PDF birth certificate information has been verified. President Obama is the President.

  2. avatar
    Birther Weary October 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I’m finding that I have to be especially careful these days before taking anything written about the right seriously. They’ve gone so far over the edge that it’s becoming damn near impossible to tell parody from fact with careful checking, and a very close reading of any article that seems to be reporting a legitimate story.

    For example: CA GOP major moneyman Charles Munger, Jr. is being attacked by a GOP website for not being sufficiently conservative.

    Turns out that the article is true.

  3. avatar
    Benji Franklin October 30, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Curious George: Add this one…

    * Birfers admit that Obama PDF birth certificate information has been verified. President Obama is the President.

    Oh yeah? How about this one?

    “Identical authentic new Dead Sea Scrolls condemning Obamacare BY NAME, requiring 2 citizen parents for NBC status, and confirming that an Usurper would marry Michelle Obama, only to be thrown out of office on the basis of what Hawaiian election clerk, Tim Adams, claims that ‘everybody knew’, were found today, one in Karl Gall Oops! church basement and the other in a large cavity in a tooth being explored by Mike Zoo Low’s dentist.”

  4. avatar
    jayHG October 30, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    Some are defending him by saying the person should not have asked the question. I posted “He should have simply said NO, of course I would not vote to bring back slavery, that’s ridiculous.” No one would have faulted him for saying that. He would have gotten the same laugh he got by saying yes, albiet it probably not as enthusiastically……I know I heard a belly laugh at him saying that he WOULD vote for it if the people wanted it.

    I guess it could be funny if you know that when he votes for slavery, you yourself won’t be subject to that vote.

  5. avatar
    J.D. Sue October 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    jayHG: Some are defending him by saying the person should not have asked the question. I posted


    Apparently, would you vote for slavery is a “gotcha question”.

  6. avatar
    MattR October 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    jayHG: Some are defending him by saying the person should not have asked the question. I posted “He should have simply said NO, of course I would not vote to bring back slavery, that’s ridiculous.”

    I know this will just prove that I am a lefty elitist, but I completely agree with the speech from an episode of the West Wing wen Martin Sheen argues that representatives should not blindly reflect their constituent wishes. IIRC, his examples had to do with economic policy or nuclear arms treaties – things which the average American does not have the time or education to dig through all the details, fully understand the problem and weigh the pros and cons of various alternatives. I am pretty sure he would have included voting against something that is morally repugnant even if your constituents want it, but Aaron Sorkin probably thought that was obvious enough that it didn’t have to be said.

  7. avatar
    Curious George October 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Benji Franklin: Oh yeah? How about this one?“Identical authentic new Dead Sea Scrolls condemning Obamacare BY NAME, requiring 2 citizen parents for NBC status, and confirming that an Usurper would marry Michelle Obama, only to be thrown out of office on the basis of what Hawaiian election clerk, Tim Adams, claims that ‘everybody knew’, were found today, one in Karl Gall Oops! church basement and the other in a large cavity in a tooth being explored by Mike Zoo Low’s dentist.”

    But…..how many layers did the Dead Sea Scrolls contain? Too funny Benji.

  8. avatar
    Dave October 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    Stop me if I’ve told this one before. When I was a child we moved to Raleigh, NC and my father just loved the way the local news, on WRAL, always ended with this comedian doing an editorial that was a parody of the John Birchers. It was only after a month that he finally figured out that it wasn’t a comedian, and it wasn’t a parody.

    BTW the guy reading those editorials was Jesse Helms. Yes, that Jesse Helms.

  9. avatar
    JPotter October 30, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Dave: the guy reading those editorials was Jesse Helms. Yes, that Jesse Helms.

    Ted Cruz: We Need 100 More Like Jesse Helms In Senate

    The Helms’ tel-editorials get a shout out on Wiki … I was hoping for clips on YouTube, only came up with the above instead.

    Yeesh.

  10. avatar
    Lupin October 31, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    You guys appear vaccinated against teh krazy. You seem to laught about/mock it (which is healthy, I guess) or ignore it. You might shrug, thinking “what can I do about it?” the equivalent of “boys will be boys”

    The problem is, when teh krazy comes out of the mouth of people that the rest of the world would normally consider “serious people” ie: politicians and media personalities, then it scares the rest of us a little.

    This is due to the fact that in the new global media village, foreigners can now watch in horror the American lunatics in a way that they couldn’t in the 50s and 60s. We could only read about McCarthy and knew nothing bout the Birchers, except for a few well-traveled folks (at a trime where air travel was expensive and somewhat elitist). Today, we get Fox on the sky-b satellite here in my little vilage in the South of France.

    The impact is vastly different, and altogether entirely negative.

    I don’t have a solution either, but this is not a laughing matter.

  11. avatar
    The Magic M October 31, 2013 at 5:55 am #

    So I add myself to the anecdotal evidence that Poe’s Law is true.

    Happened to me with this one:

    http://gawker.com/even-the-daily-show-was-shocked-by-this-racist-gop-lead-1451400551

    and bemoaning the fact that black people can use the word “nigger” but he can’t.
    “You know that we can hear you, right?” asks a visibly nonplussed Mandvi.

    At first I thought “this has to be some SNL grade comedy skit”.

  12. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 31, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    There is a theme in Jesse Walker’s book, “The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory,” that bears on this. I’m not making a value judgement here but just noting what he said. In the book he talks about “elite paranoia.” Put crudely, the lower-class right wing nut jobs are paranoid about the government, and the upper-class liberals (academics, media) are paranoid about the right-wing nut jobs. The fear is that (again putting it crudely) that the ignorant, undereducated, right-leaning population is easily manipulated by right-wing propagandists and can be lead to acts of mass violence and insurrection, just like the birthers think Obama has not been “exposed” because of fears of mass rioting by black Americans. Walkers’ thesis is that paranoia is a characteristic or all classes in America since its founding. He believes that most people are practical, compassionate and cooperative.

    My high school civics teacher described politics as a pendulum swinging over the decades between liberal and conservatives sentiment. Opinion reacts to the excesses of a swing to one side or the other. I think today we’re seeing a reaction to the Tea Party’s Congressional train wreck, and the Tea Party was a reaction to the slow recovery from the Bush recession’s laissez faire regulation of the financial industry.

    It is my personal view that Americans are too well off as a whole to embrace the crazy beyond a few isolated cases.

    While I don’t think birthers, racists, Tea Partiers and militia types are funny, I am not overly concerned about them.

    Lupin: You guys appear vaccinated against teh krazy. You seem to laugh about/mock it (which is healthy, I guess) or ignore it. You might shrug, thinking “what can I do about it?” the equivalent of “boys will be boys”

  13. avatar
    JD Reed October 31, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    MattR: I know this will just prove that I am a lefty elitist, but I completely agree with the speech from an episode of the West Wing wen Martin Sheen argues that representatives should not blindly reflect their constituent wishes. IIRC, his examples had to do with economic policy or nuclear arms treaties – things which the average American does not have the time or education to dig through all the details, fully understand the problem and weigh the pros and cons of various alternatives. I am pretty sure he would have included voting against something that is morally repugnant even if your constituents want it, but Aaron Sorkin probably thought that was obvious enough that it didn’t have to be said.

    MattR, a quote from 18th Century British statesman Edmund Burke (A conservative, BTW) hits the nail on the head:

    “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

    If I were king for a day, I would require every elected official in the U.S. who helps set public policy to learn Burke’s law.

  14. avatar
    Lupin October 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: While I don’t think birthers, racists, Tea Partiers and militia types are funny, I am not overly concerned about them.

    You should be, at least when the crazy comes from elected representatives or people that may be perceived outside the US as “serious” and “representative”.

    My point was in the olden days, only a handful of people outside the US knew of Father Coughlin or the John Birch society. They may have had an impact within your country but were safely ignored or dismissed outside.

    Today, your “Reverend” Terry Jones inflamed half of the Muslim world; Michele Bachman and many others like her mouth terrible things which are them heard far and wide.

    In today’s world, being an offensive bigoted lunatic is a luxury, and you can’t afford it anymore.

  15. avatar
    J.D. Sue October 31, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Lupin: When I travel overseas, I see what you are referring to. Personally, I was surprisedI was especially, and see what is broadcast and hear the opinions of In today’s world, being an offensive bigoted lunatic is a luxury, and you can’t afford it anymore.


    I appreciate you sharing your experience/perspective from your part of the world. Heavily financed fascists are nothing to sneeze at, and it must be particularly alarming to see how the US has been having such a hard time keeping them from shutting down the government, putting the US debt not only in doubt–but establishing it as a weapon of mass destruction…. Particularly after having American banking institutions “rip their faces off” in the last decade. It’s no joke.

    I also appreciate your concern that Fox News has established itself as the strongest, and seemingly only, broadcaster of American news internationally. My elderly mother has been living overseas in Israel where Fox is the only American-broadcast news. Over the last several years, Fox has done everything it could to terrify my mother and her peers about Obama being an Arab-Hitler, while marketing Birchers in I-love-Jews-they-hate-Jews clothing.

  16. avatar
    J.D. Sue October 31, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Lupin: In today’s world, being an offensive bigoted lunatic is a luxury, and you can’t afford it anymore.

    —-

    This is the quote I meant to reference in my last comment, but somehow I got it scrambled.

  17. avatar
    Kiwiwriter November 1, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    J.D. Sue: —
    I appreciate you sharing your experience/perspective from your part of the world.Heavily financed fascists are nothing to sneeze at, and it must be particularly alarming to see how the US has been having such a hard time keeping them from shutting down the government, putting the US debt not only in doubt–but establishing it as a weapon of mass destruction…. Particularly after having American banking institutions “rip their faces off” in the last decade. It’s no joke.

    I also appreciate your concern that Fox News has established itself as the strongest, and seemingly only, broadcaster of American news internationally.My elderly mother has been living overseas in Israel where Fox is the only American-broadcast news.Over the last several years, Fox has done everything it could to terrify my mother and her peers about Obama being an Arab-Hitler, while marketing Birchers in I-love-Jews-they-hate-Jews clothing.

    Very concerned and saddened that Fox is the only American news broadcast in Israel….the Israelis are not getting a good picture of America.

  18. avatar
    charo November 1, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Israel and CNN has their differences during the opening years of the latest Palestinian terrorist uprising, when the global news network repeatedly broadcast openly biased reports. But CNN hung on and remained a staple of English-language news consumption in the Jewish state.

    That is about to change. Israeli satellite cable company YES has announced that from December 31, 2012, it will no longer broadcast CNN due to the high licensing cost and low approval ratings among Israeli customers.

    Israel’s other cable company, HOT, already cut CNN last year over a similar contract pricing dispute.

    As in the US and Europe, news networks like Fox News, Sky News and the BBC regularly score higher with Israeli viewers than does CNN. And that is despite the fact that Israelis have to pay extra for Fox as a “premium” channel, whereas CNN was offered with the basic cable packages.

    http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/23396/Default.aspx