Poe’s Law, Atheist Humor, and “That” Tweet

Two days ago, we learned that Steve Jobs passed away.

Hero though he is, I’m not going to eulogize him. I mention it merely to provide context for the Westboro Baptist Church family member’s tweet:

Westboro will picket his funeral.He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin.MT @: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died at 56.

Dumb, yeah. Surprising, no. The interesting bit is coming up…

The above tweet was posted via an iPhone. Irony alert! When people started pointing out the hypocrisy, Margie Phelps countered:

http://t.co/4Khk7ygv via @Rebels mad cuz I used iPhone to tell you Steve Jobs is in hell.God created iPhone for that purpose! 🙂

Yup. “Rebels mad cuz I used iPhone to tell you Steve Jobs is in hell. God created iPhone for that purpose!

I don’t need to tell you this is ridiculous, that Jobs’ company created the iPhone, etc.

What I would like to share is the eminent applicability of Poe’s Law.

Poe’s Law

Coined in a forum post, well-liked on Urban Dictionary, and even apparently the subject of academic research, Poe’s Law in the general form is:

> 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.

Ironically and desperately, Conservapedia unintentionally provides a great example:

> Poe’s law is a symptom of liberals [sic] illogical and superstitious thinking.

Right now, you may be thinking, surely Mr. Atheist made up that quote, or took it out of context. It’s so absurd on the face it. Surely no one really believes that?

But as far as I know, the inmates running the asylum that is Conservapedia are very serious, and the above quote is genuine.

But what does this have to do with the Phelps tweet?

My Kind of Humor

Every so often, I make a casual and dry sort of joke, in situations where a man-made tool or option is being overlooked.

For example: Someone near me is frustrated with their computer.

Them: “Why won’t this work? I even tried Control-Alt-Delete.”

Me: “Well, that’s why God gave us a restart button.”

It’s an easy joke. Not terribly funny, perhaps, but it amuses me to imagine someone actually believing God had anything to do with a restart button, or other man-made implements. Heck, even a creationist who believes in free will, a concept so fundamental to Christian theology, should agree God didn’t give us a restart button, or the Buick they drive, or nukes.

Fool Circle

So now it should be clear why I love this tweet. An extreme fundamentalist group member, making the same joke I do, but seriously.

Poe’s Law at its finest.

This is exactly why the hateful things coming out of Westboro do not bother me at all. They’re so far out there, so self-mockingly dense and reactionary and hateful and polemic, that I have to trust the general populace to react with scorn and rejection.

And I hope that that rejection leads some of them to further distrust religion, superstition, and illogic.

An update, years later

Margie’s younger sister was de-converted from the hateful Westboro Baptist cult via Twitter. Read more.

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