The Flat Earth Society’s site — which posits that the idea of a round Earth is somehow related to the faking of the Moon landing — is remarkably well-designed and professional-looking, eliminating some of the old hallmarks of disinformation on the internet. The ease of creating a website as clean as this one is a problem that has been well-documented by information scientists. As recently as five years ago, high schools were teaching that you could identify a disreputable source by its cheap-looking site, bad design, and messy URL. That no longer holds.
Digital newsrooms churn out coverage of flat Earth truthers using tools that make it easy to find stories bubbling up from the depths of Reddit. Here’s how it works: conspiracy theories get people fired up enough to comment promiscuously, bringing them to the front of Reddit where journalists see them, says The Verge’s editorial director Helen Havlak. When a reporter writes an explainer of a new oddball conspiracy theory, the sharing and hate commenting that drove the theory to the top of Reddit reoccurs on Facebook. And, if the post is coming from a generally reputable outlet or involves a celebrity (e.g., B.o.B. or Kyrie Irving) or a major news event (e.g., a presidential election), it can also get a boost into the Top Stories slot on Google News. “Newsrooms watch each other’s highest-performing stories,” Havlak says. It’s common practice to use a tool that lets newsrooms make lists of their competitors and monitor the popularity of their posts (on services like CrowdTangle, for example) to see what’s doing well for other outlets, and what might be a sure traffic bet if they could find a fresh angle or a reason to weigh in. “People see all the traffic to be had, and look for the next thing trickling up from Reddit,” she says. “Cycle repeats.”
It is perhaps belaboring the obvious to note that counting visitors to a loony-tunes web doesn’t necessarily translate to those people believing in whatever brand of nutballery the site espouses. However – the fact that a site exists is a pretty good indicator that the people who put the site up believe in that nutballery (parody and satire sites like the Landover Baptist Church aside).
And in this case, that’s just stupid and pathetic.
Seriously, folks – Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculated the circumference of the planet thirty-four freakin’ centuries ago. This is hardly new stuff. Still – there are people about who believe all manner of stupid shit. When I was writing Misplaced Compassion, I was frequenting all sorts of Usenet (remember Usenet?) animal rights forums, and once encountered a nutbar who claimed to believe that there was a city of superhuman aliens hidden inside a dormant volcano in (where else?) California.
This is precisely as stupid as believing the Earth is flat. It’s funny and sad all at the same time.
An early flight back to (ugh) San Francisco beckons, so I’ll be brief. Yesterday, while surfing a few news sites, I stumbled on one of the better pieces of anti-gunner trolling that I’ve encountered in some time.
I apologize in advance for linking to, sending you to or in any way drawing any attention to Derpbook, but that’s where this is found. Enjoy.
This is definitely a case of “ahead Troll Factor Nine!”
This is one of those cases where it wouldn’t really matter who this asshole was protesting; in any case, the behavior of “antifa” fascists is out of control. A few generations ago, they would have been dispersed at bayonet-point; in recent events (Berkeley) they have been emboldened by a general lack of police response.
Not in Phoenix, though.
In spite of some of the headlines on this incident (including mine) this dickhead wasn’t actually hit by a rubber bullet:
According to Sgt. Howard with Phoenix police, some people in the crowd began to throw rocks, bottles and other projectiles at police and someone in the crowd dispersed tear gas in the area.
After the crowd was given a warning to disperse, police used smoke, pepper balls, pepper spray, tear gas and flash bangs to make them disperse. Howard said that no rubber bullets were used by police.
Police did make four arrests, three pertaining the protests and one on an unrelated warrant. The three arrested in relation to the protests were 28-year-old Daireus Stokes, 25-year-old Pamela Robertson and 34-year-old Derrick Pacheco.
So, that means that the jackwagon in the video was hit by something else – probably, judging from the video, a smoke grenade, most likely fired from a launcher.
The internet has changed all of our lives – at least those of us who are old enough to remember the pre-Internet world. It has revolutionized business, socialization, culture and politics.
But there’s a dark side.
Ever read the comments on a blog post, a YouTube video, or a news story? It can be disheartening. But, dedicated observer of cultural phenomena that I am, I have taken it upon myself to visit such comments sections and compile a set of three rules, which shall henceforth be known as Animal’s Rules of Internet Commentary, and will now present them here for the edification of True Believers everywhere.
The Facebook rule. Facebook itself is bad enough; it has without a doubt the worst noise-to-signal ratio on the internet (and that’s really saying something) but it’s also easily ignored. Not so when a blog or news site uses the Facebook commentary plugin. The Facebook rule states that the use of the Facebook commenting plugin reduces the average IQ of commenters by 36%.
The YouTube rule. Bad as Facebook is, YouTube commenters are worse. But there’s a bright side; there is no YouTube comment plugin. But a few moments spent reading comments on any YouTube video upload – go ahead, choose one at random and see for yourself – and observe the stupidity for yourself. But be careful: The YouTube rule states that even reading YouTube comments can cause temporary or, in some cases, even permanent brain damage.
The Left-Wing Site rule. The reasons for this are the matter of some speculation, but the facts of it are well-documented; left-leaning web sites are far less tolerant of dissent than right-leaning sites. So much for the vaunted ‘tolerance’ of the Left; try posting dissenting opinions at HuffPo or Daily Kos, and see how long your posts/accounts last. The Left-Wing Site rule states that you are 98.723% more likely to be banned for dissent from a left-leaning blog or site than from a right-leaning one.
Many hours of study went into these observations, and a considerable amount of income went into the purchase of draft beers and Scotch to help erase the effects of reading Facebook posts and YouTube comments.
But that’s all right. I did it for you, True Believers; I did it for you.
The Donald is running for President (yes, really) and claims he will be the “Greatest Jobs President God Ever Created.” Uh huh. It remains unconfirmed whether Trump will place his hair into nomination for Vice President. Note: I’ll write something on Trump’s candidacy when I can manage to stop facepalming so repeatedly that it sounds like a round of applause at the Royal Albert Hall.