Thursday, September 20, 2012

Recent links of general interest

• The emoticon turned 30 yesterday. Read about it at the Atlantic (by Megan Garber).
What I find interesting, in a meta way, is that although we can apparently trace the emoticon itself
to a specific date and person, there does not appear to the same kind of clarity about
the word emoticon.

• Thoughtful article by Erik Bleich at Al Jazeera English: "How much free speech do we need?" For me it brought to mind an argument put forward by Michael Ignatieff in Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry: that rights are best thought of in instrumental terms, not as absolutes to be put on a pedestal. This is a difficult insight to translate into any practical prescription, but an important one to keep in mind nonetheless. (Note: Erik also has a very good book, published last year, on this and related issues: The Freedom to Be Racist?)

Ezra Klein points out that Romney really just doesn't understand what responsibility means. And Dante Chinni points out that the people Romney so blithely dismisses are disproportionately likely to be hid voters. Oops! Fortunately for him, they are probably also disproportionately unlikely to be swayed by Romney's now-notorious speech.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Poe's law

Today I discovered that there is an internet "law" about the similarities between parody and fundamentalism (of any sort): Poe's law. I had to look it up (here) because I couldn't quite figure out from the context what it meant. My main problem was that I was thinking in terms of Edgar Allan Poe, but that turns out not to be the right Poe. :-)

Anyway, here is the law:

"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."

The opposite effect is known as Poe's corollary (although it is generally just subsumed under the broad mantle of Poe's law):

It is impossible for an act of Fundamentalism to be made that someone won't mistake for a parody.

Some conservative reactions to the Colbert Show illustrate Poe's Law in action; some of the current proposals for the United States return to the gold standard (or even gold coinage) fall under the corollary.