Fake It Till You Break It
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woohooligan Dec 8, 2016
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Marvel Clambake, everybody!

Cow tipping is not a thing. It's shocking I know, but a full-grown cow requires a massive amount of force to knock over, so it's hard to imagine why rednecks would even choose to tip cows when there are probably plenty of drunks to tip in their town. Think about it... being rednecks doesn't make them dumb. And somehow the myth of cow-tipping endures... and so does the snipe hunt, which has recently moved to the internet.

In case you haven't heard about it, Pizzagate is a conspiracy theory. Do I need to say any more? In the long-run it lead to a one man army bursting into a DC pizzeria like the Terminator, mowing down dozens of... see? See how easy it is? Yes, the owners of the Comet pizzeria in DC received harassment online, even death threats, and yes, a man burst into their restaurant with an AR-15 assault rifle and fired one or more shots. Thankfully no one was hurt. A shooting like that is horrible and it's an ongoing issue we need to work on in our country... but not right now. Right now I want to talk about the Snipe hunt of fake news.

During the recent presidential election there were a bunch of people creating fake news websites. They post some bogus story about Hillary Clinton supposedly murdering someone or whatever, just to get gullible people like the Pizzagate shooter to share it online, because that kind of fear and paranoia is like a fast-track to going viral. It works a lot like the traditional Snipe hunt -- some older boys take some rubes out into the woods on a moonless night to hunt for a small bird called the Snipe. There is of course no such thing as a Snipe -- the point isn't to catch birds, it's to trick the younger boys into thinking they've seen them and trying to catch them. The payout at the end is embarrassing the rubes by telling them they were duped and getting a laugh. It's just a prank or practical joke, like an April Fools joke.

Like the Snipe hunt, fake news works by getting the rubes to do your work for you, however in this case the payout at the end is ad revenue on your fake news site that pours into your bank account thanks to the gullibility of fake news readers on Facebook... and big-time media people who are also rubes like Alex Jones of Info Wars. Just think of the most horrifying thing you can imagine, post it to Facebook or Reddit, and in no time you've got dozens or hundreds of people connecting imaginary dots for you to explain how your lie is true.

Oh no! What is this horrible new monster the internet has created?! Well it may be a monster, but it's certainly not new. I'm a little disappointed in some of my favorite TV shows right now for covering fake news and Pizzagate like it's a brand-new thing that's sprang spontaneously from the void, with no precedent. Worse, I hear people saying they think fake news handed the election to Donald Trump. Neither of those are true. Look, I understand the desire to string up these fake news guys by their testicles, that's normal. Spreading lies like this is a douchey and juvenile thing to do, and dealing with the people who believe their bullshit is frustrating, but not having the fake news sites wouldn't make the DaVinci Chodes who fall for their bullshit different people.

Let's start with the Pizzagate vigilante... Here's a guy who reads a story on a conspiracy-heavy website that there's a child-sex ring in his local pizzeria, run by some high-ranking politicians, and decides the best course of action is to run in by himself with guns blazing. Obviously this guy's no Sherlock Holmes. Given the options of contacting authorities or even simply staking out the place, Rambo here decides GUNS are the best way to "investigate" the story. Should we really believe that he would have been fine and stayed home, drank a few beers and watched Wheel Of Fortune if it weren't for those fake news websites?

It's pretty obvious that this was an unhinged guy who was looking for an excuse to shoot at someone. And what if he'd succeeded? Was he okay with going to jail if he'd wrongfully killed someone? What if he was right, and there was a global conspiracy around Hillary Clinton and other high-ranking democrats? He thinks this is a movie like Die Hard? When he's done mowing down the bad guys, he's going to walk out of the building in front of a giant explosion and the cops are going to pat him on the back and say "good job!" Because despite the grand global scope of this conspiracy, they somehow haven't figured out how to deal with local police, or local vigilantes willing to shoot-up neighborhood restaurants on the word of any random website.

Then there's the election... Do we really think the people who believed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory decided either not to vote for Clinton or to actively vote for Trump because of it? Trump did poorly at the polls. At the end of the election he didn't really have more votes than either Romney or McCain in the previous two elections. What did change is that Clinton got a lot fewer votes than Obama. So whatever Pizzagate inspired, it wasn't votes FOR Donald Trump. Did people not vote for Clinton because of Pizzagate? Some fake news mogul says "Anthony Wiener recommend a pizza place to Podesta, so it can only mean 'pizza' is code for pedophilia!"... and a whole bunch of rational, moderate voters took one look at this story and said, "seems legit."

I think probably anyone who believed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory was an immovable-republican object, who was going to vote for Trump no matter what anyone said, because they always vote Republican and are always on the lookout for some new conspiracy theory about Democrats. A casual look at the continual hollering about Benghazi and private email servers clues most of us into the fact that some smoking gun that will end the Democratic party is kind of like their Bigfoot. And certainly liberals and Democrats aren't immune -- I've seen my fair share of people sharing the "Trump said Republicans are dumb" meme. We have all this video of Trump saying the stupidest crap like calling Mexicans rapists, advocating war crimes and punitive torture, and somehow after all that, the only thing he bothers to cover up is a video of him saying "Republicans are dumb" in 1998, because there's no way he could possibly say that was a sarcastic joke.

"But Sam," you say, "these sites are pushing FAKE NEWS! And it's on the internet now! And Trump's proposed National Security Advisor (and son) promoted it! It's never been like this!" It's always been like this. Yeah, sure, it's true that loads of people have debunked this story, hell even Fox News debunked it! And the "truthers" still won't let it go, like a dog with a bone... but to believe that this is new, you'd have to believe that people don't just accept rumors they hear in church and that they haven't been doing that for hundreds, even thousands of years. Conspiracy theories, urban legends, it's all the same thing. And the people who start them have had a disturbing amount of social influence for probably just as long.

As a comic artist, I have to go back to 1954 and a man named Dr. Fredrick Wertham. See, Freddy was a putz... but not just any putz. It might surprise some to discover that putzes have existed all over the world in every walk of life and every economic class, from peasants to kings. Freddy in particular was a psychiatrist who had a particular problem with pedophilia. Wait... there's that word again... where have I heard that recently? Pedo... pedo... oh well, I'm sure it will come to me. In any event, Freddy was convinced that comic books were turning our kids gay! So he wrote a little book about it called Seduction of the Innocent, and by 1954 he convinced the US senate to convene the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. You can hear some audio from these hearings on the Comics Beat. Pretty well overnight, careers were destroyed and the entire comics industry was reinvented because those who hadn't been destroyed by the lies adopted the Comics Code out of fear that they would suffer the same fate. It's not so relevant now, but I remember all the comics I read growing up in the 80s still had to be stamped with that CCA logo. So yeah, there's a family-run pizza joint that's having a really rough time right now, and that sucks and I feel for them. We should do something to help them out, cheer them up... maybe a pepperoni reach-around, I don't know.

The point is, it's not new, and it's not even new in the highest levels of government or from reputable sources like scientist and doctors and newspapers. How about one of my other hobbies? How many people got hooked by the Chick Tract, Dark Dungeons and believed, as Patricia Pulling did, that Dungeons and Dragons and other roleplaying games were all satanic cults? How many people bought the idea that video games cause violence? Long before the Goldman Sachs senate hearings, the entire extended warranty industry only exists by bullshitting people into buying shitty deals and calling it a "service".

It's not just the obvious bullshit, there's a long history of well-documented bullshit coming from reputable sources like the New York Times or the American Psychiatric Association who listed homosexuality as a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders in 1952, just a couple years before Wertham's Senate hearing. And it stayed in the DSM that way until a year before I was born in 1973. Around that time doctors were still recommending cigarettes and the greedy lead-industry fuckos were pushing their pseudoscience in papers, preventing us from banning lead in the US until 1978 (I was 4), leading to the massive clusterfuck we have in the US now, fixing cities like Flynt Michigan all over the country, who have entire water infrastructures built with lead. This kind of dangerous bullshit in our news media dates all the way back to the very beginning of the newspaper industry in the late 1800s, it was called yellow journalism, and that's how we got the magical snake-oil story, the negro cocaine fiend. All these lying fucking liars have caused a lot of pain for everyone for centuries. As two people I admire, Jon Stewart and George Carlin have pointed out, bullshit is everywhere!

But this story has a happy ending! I know it's easy to get hung up on all the problems these assholes create, to get despondent, curl-up into a tequila coma and die. But as enticing as the sweet embrace of death may be at this moment, fake news is a testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity. This isn't a reason to sulk or be pissed off, it's a reason to rejoice! (Although if you can castrate a fake-news guy first, that's a bonus.) We've had all this bullshit forever and we still sent people to the moon! We're still on the verge of self-driving cars and sex-bots everywhere, just like the Jetsons! The thing is, yes, bullshit is a problem, it's always been a problem for centuries and we just shovel it out into the field to fertilize our crops like we always have. It's not a new, scary monster; it's an old douchey friend; a devil we know. Now for something else you know how to deal with, go give yourself that happy ending.

Here's something that's not bullshit: comedians still have to eat. It's shocking, I know, but somehow having a quick wit doesn't make us immortal. So as always, if you enjoyed this, if you laughed and you'd like to see more comedy from me, you can make sure these laughs keep coming and get other patron-only bonuses with a pledge of as little as a dollar a month on our Patreon! And I want to say thank you again to all the wonderful folks currently making this possible by pledging $87.90/mo which is a little over half what I spend on advertising. Yay! In personal news, I had my latest oncologist checkup and my annual physical the past two days. Both went great! Also going well, I hired Beau Brooks a few weeks ago to help us with marketing for Woohooligan. We've had a ton of new likes on our Facebook page, way more than we were getting before, and we set up an Instagram he's been managing and that's been taking off! And then our washing machine died and we had to replace it... »sigh« Because our finances have been shot the past few months, we weren't able to have Halloween this year and we almost didn't get to do Thanksgiving or Christmas except we got some help from a local church charity. So now's a fantastic time for you to help us out with that dollar pledge! :D

Happy Holidays!
Sam





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