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When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

June 25, 2004

Porn for the True Believer

Bravo Romeo Delta

Many of you may be familiar with the moonbat farm that is the Democratic Underground comments forum, or the wingnut ranch that is the comments section at the Free Republic. These two fora, while the most well-known of the lunatic ranches, are by no means the entire gamut of utterly bizarre nonsense, hysterical hyperbole, and specious asshattedness [Ed: believe you me, that last link is pretty asshatted, indeed].

Like all internet phenomena, this first pass glance at why something works the way it does. The internet is a fantastically good tool for something the Polic Sci wonks call "interest aggregation." Essentially, the argument is that weirdoes find it really easy to meet other weirdoes and think bizarre things together.

And like much else on the internet, a more complex and subtle argument is also possible.

Ok, first you have to note that pornography is the killer app for the internet. One can argue, in fact, that guys hankering for pictures of nipples has been one of the most robust engines for the development of communications technology.

Now, Daniel Pipes makes the argument that conspiracy theories and pornography exhibit many similarities, except, of course, for the whole nipple thing:

...a quite literal form of pornography (though political rather than sexual). The two genres became popular about the same time, in the 1740s. Both are backstairs literatures that often have to be semi-clandestinely distributed, then read with the shades drawn. Elders seek to protect youth from their depredations. Scholars studying them try to discuss them without propagating their contents: [with] asterisks and dashes in the first case and short extracts in the second. Recreational conspiracism titillates sophisticates much as does recreational sex.

Now, if we're willing to take the assertion that there are similarities between pornography and conspiracy theories, and the notion that prurient interests are an engine behind the explosive growth of the impact of the internet, then we end up with conspiracy theories not being a byproduct but rather a cause of the pervasive spread of the internet.

Now, where (possibly horribly inaccurate) interesting parallels may exist is how these things tie together in the Arab world. For starters, there is an assertion running about that part of the reason that terrorism is so pervasive in the Arab world is tied to the generic sexual repression found over yonder. I'm not really sure I buy this link in particular, for a couple reasons - one is that I don't see nuns or Buddhist monks running around blowing up nightclubs (even though nuns don't get none). On the other hand, though, there ain't a whole lot of denying that the Arab world is not on the same page as the west vis a vis bumping uglies.

That said, however, there is also a deep fascination with conspiracy theories in the Middle East.

So, just on a whim, we might say that perhaps pornography in and of itself is not the big engine for internet growth, but rather, rather the whole notion of secret sort-of-suppressed material is the key thing on the internet. On the plus side, it means that in truly totalitarian societies, the internet is going to make it really difficult to maintain the kind of thought discipline we see in historical totalitarian regimes. This is somewhat evident in the blogging revolution of Iran and China (and a lesser extent in pre-war Iraq).

So, what's the underlying scoop - is that based on the relationship of the internet and both pornography and conspiracy theories, it can be argued that both types of entertainment both provide similar benefits to their target audiences. On the one hand, the porn-watching guy gets the eyecandy necessary to a utopian sexual experience that doesn't involve actually having to date anyone or put forth significant emotional effort. For the conspiracist, the conspiracy theory allows the true believer to indulge themselves in the conceptual framework of a utopian dream world without any of the troublesome baggage of logic or hard work.

It would then follow that both are essentially entertainment for those who are either unwilling or unable to go forth and do something as difficult as actually affecting their world to meet their own desires, and who choose to take this as a short cut.

And for those of you who have run out of saltpeter for your food, just think - this makes Mike Moore a porno film director.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at June 25, 2004 11:47 PM
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Retaliatiory Launches

I think we might better understand conspiracy theories by thinking of them in the same way as atheists or agnostics do about religion. However preposterous, illogical, self-contradictory, and simplistic conspiracy theories may seem to the average Joe, so religion seems to those who have either not been conditioned into any particular religion, or have somehow broken their conditioning. In fact, I would guess that in the minds of many who don't believe in God, conspiracy theories can serve as a substitute all-powerful-but-unproveable entity. I don't wish to imply that all atheists or hardcore agnostics also believe in conspiracy theories, but this seems like a logical connection. I recognize the facetious intent of this post, but the level of derision contained therein appears fairly representative of the general view of conspiracy theories and their adherents, or at the very least of left-wing conspiracy theories among those on the right (I have read countless posts by bloggers who heap scorn on Michael Moore, and then accuse the Democrats and/or the mainstream media of conspiring to "help the terrorists").

Posted by: Mike at July 13, 2004 09:44 PM

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