Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poe's law

Now here is another one under the category of “you are never too old to learn new stuff”, although I am sure any twenty-something year-olds reading this will laugh their heads off. I am comforted in the fact that I don’t believe my blog is likely read by that demographic.

A few days ago I read a column in the Toronto Sun by broadcaster and journalist, Michael Coren, in which he made the monumentally stupid observation (he is prone to such pronouncements) that, without exception, all the atheists he has debated are unhappy people. I know of only one atheist that he has repeatedly debated, and since I work with the guy, I know he is not unhappy. But, even if he were, what does that mean?

A short time later, while surfing the Internet, I came across the cartoon at the top of this page. The coincidence was too much and I thought, “Ha. That is a message that I should blog about the relative happiness and unhappiness of atheists.”

However, I began to read the comments of the viewers of that website and somebody said: “Poe’s law”. Being a curious sort, and never having heard of Poe’s law, I decided to run that one down.

Poe’s Law, named after Nathan Poe, who wrote on a Christian website, “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.” It has become an Internet phenomenon. When people are debating on-line some piece of writing, the first one to determine that it is not genuine and is a satire calls “Poe’s Law” and gets bragging rights for unearthing the deception. It’s a contest.

So the question remains, is the cartoon above a genuine religious cartoon or an instance of Poe’s Law?

To see other examples, go to this site.

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