Friday, May 29, 2009

I Am...

If you type those words into Google, it will suggest some possible sentence completions for you, based on one of its magic algorithms.

For some reason, the one that comes up first is "I am extremely terrified of Chinese people."

Google Suggest return showing I am extremely terrified of Chinese People as the first choice
Wondering why in the world Google would have hooked onto such a phrase (as opposed to the oh-so-normal "I am omega" or "I am sasha fierce track list," whatever that means), I followed the path to see what types of sites were using the phrase.

This led me to AngryAsianMan who posited it had come from either PostSecret or, which used the image from PostSecret in combination with a disturbing rant against the Chinese. (However, the dates on the various posts would seem to make it impossible for the ChristWire post to be the original source, since it is dated February 5, 2009, while the original AngryAsianMan post was from December 3, 2008. So the PostSecret entry was clearly first.)

AngryAsianMan noted that it's possible the ChristWire site is a parody. So I started Googling the term ChristWire to see what people were saying about it, and saw several pages that were sure it was a parody, and just as many that were sure it wasn't.

Then I came across a forum discussing ChristWire on, referring to something called Poe's Law, and linking to this page on the Wikipedia. The basic idea of Poe's law is:

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist [or other fundamentalist] in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article.
It reminds me of something I read on the Huffington Post a month or so ago: when the anti-gay-marriage ads done by the National Organization for Marriage were shown on The Colbert Report, and then satirized pretty extremely by Colbert, the NOM people were overjoyed and didn't even realize they were being satirized.

A recent study quantified this type of unexpected outcome (quoting the Wikipedia entry on Poe's Law):
Investigators at The Ohio State University School of Communication found evidence supporting Poe's Law in a study published in 2009. They measured the relative political conservatism and liberalism of 332 individuals. The study participants then viewed clips from The Colbert Report, a television show that is a parody of conservative news commentary shows such as The O'Reilly Factor and broadcast on the Comedy Central cable network. The researchers found that the relatively conservative people in their study reported that the star of the show, Stephen Colbert, was actually showing disregard for liberals and his true conservative attitude about the matter at hand. Liberals viewing the show tended to recognize the parody and not view Mr. Colbert as presenting his true political views. Curiously, the liberal and conservative viewers in the study found Mr. Colbert similarly humorous (a non-statistically significant difference). While not a direct or intentional test of Poe's Law, the results fit well the predictions it makes.
This is well-known in the field of communication research (where I learned about it as the Archie Bunker Effect) -- I guess now we'll have to update its name to the Colbert Effect.

I've just returned to the ChristWire site, and I'm starting to think that, yes, it is a parody site. Several sites I found via Google said the site is done by The Onion, and in looking at the home page, it could be true. Check out this empty feed area from the bottom of the page:

Moral Alert box with notice reading Currently praying to decide who needs boycotting. Check back soon.
That's too over-the-top even for a bunch of fundamentalists.

Then there's this post from a site called impoliteconversation, which quotes the ChristWire 404/page not found message: "Our holy servers are currently experiencing miraculous amounts of high traffic and atheistic evils." Again, that's just too much hyperbole to be serious.

I guess I am trapped in an Internet meme. Oh dear.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

Wow,gal. You are the consummate researcher. I am in awe! I love the way you tracked down the origin of ChristWire. Keep up the good work and keep the information coming. (I sure hope you're being published somewhere!)