Poe’s Law

Serious fundie watchers are familiar with Poe’s Law. But like any concept that is mostly internet based, you may encounter it many times before finally finding out what it is. Leareth alluded to this in a recent comment. Urban Dictionary probably gives the best definition:

Similar to Murphy’s Law, Poe’s Law concerns internet debates, particularly regarding religion or politics.

“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.”

In other words, No matter how bizarre, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, having seen similar REAL ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists. [emphasis added]

I bolded that last phrase, because that’s an important part. Another way of phrasing this is to say that some fundies are so absurd as to be self parodies.

We need that perspective on the definition to truly appreciate the almost Poe-worthy description over at Conservapedia. As we all know, Conservapedia is so ridiculous that it frequently is a self parody.

Here is the important thing that Conservapedia wants us to know about Poe’s Law:

Poe’s law is often used to mock conservatives and fundamentalists, based on its implicit assertion that fundamentalists and conservatives are so absurd as to be indistinguishable from parody. However, there is a fundamental flaw in this assertion. One might as well argue that genuine works of art are indistinguishable from cheap knockoffs, because some people are unable to distinguish between the two. Clearly, the cause of the mistake is not that the genuine article is no better than a mockery; rather, the cause of the mistake is that some people lack the critical thinking skills and/or experience to differentiate the two — particularly in cases when an artist (or a parodist) goes to special efforts to emulate the genuine article. [emphasis added]

I just love it every time fundies talk about critical thinking!

Their main point here, though, is flawed. They’re claiming that there are large differences between parodies and the genuine article and that anybody with sufficient knowledge would be able to tell the difference. That assumes that the genuine articles are themselves credible.

Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali were master artists. That makes it easy for anybody with a passing knowledge of art to see that these images are obvious parodies:

Peanuts by Picasso

Simpsons by Dali

(by Matt Groening)

Then there are “artists” like John and Patsy Rule. They produce drek like this:

I don't know what this is, but it isn't art

I defy you to produce a parody of their art that even one of their fans could distinguish from the genuine article (You should look at their archive before you get smug.). (I also defy you to produce one of their fans.)

So to Conservapedia, I ask: Where are your Picassos? Your Dalis? Your da Vincis? All I see are your Hovinds. Your Hams. Your Donohues. And this guy:

Are we SURE this guy isn't a Poe?

(Comic by Cectic)

19 Responses to “Poe’s Law”

  1. Magnus Bergmark Says:

    What does this even mean?

    Darwin was guessing!

    Most of these comics “reads” (looks) like random gibberish spoken from someone who should be given some proper care.

  2. Ron Britton Says:


    I discussed that one here. Actually, I avoided discussing it. That one was so bad it defied commentary.

    He’s painting the target around where the arrow actually hit, so it means that everywhere you look, you find evidence of evolution! Simple, really. It’s impossible to study the natural world without uncovering more proof of evolution. This comic agrees with us. There’s no other logical interpretation.

  3. Magnus Bergmark Says:

    Ron: Oh, I see. Hadn’t read that post before. The sad thing is, there are some comics there that are even worse.

    Thanks for fixing my markup, by the way. It doesn’t say anything about markup next to the comment box, so I assumed plain-text only. 🙂

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    Magnus: You can use simple HTML for italics, links, etc. Only the admin can embed images into comments, though.

  5. stone1343 Says:

    Somewhat related, did you see the Onion parody/satire/whatever that Neil Armstrong had admitted, from watching internet videos, that the moon landings had been faked? Two newspapaers in Bangladesh ran the story because they weren’t aware the Onion News Network was satire!

  6. dvsrat Says:

    Edward Current’s Youtube videos are often mistaken for actual fundie rants. He does receive hatemail from atheists who think he is serious. To me the sarcasm is obvious. When Jerry Falwell claimed that one of the Teletubies is gay — I concluded that Falwell would be impossible to parody. When I first saw the Comfort-banana video I mistook it for a parody.

  7. dvsrat Says:

    If you have not seen Mack Quigley’s Youtube videos you can check them out as an example of someone who would be impossible to parody:


    There are those who have made response videos but I think that this guy is so profoundly fucked up there is no point in launching a criticism — he does the best job of discrediting himself.

  8. Another Steve Says:

    Ron and Magnus;

    Looking at that cartoon, it seems to me that the fundies are trying to say that evolution (Darwin) is counting the hits and ignoring the misses. Or some variant on this theme.

    It might also be something like the “Texas Sharp Shooter” fallacy.

    In case you (or one of your readers) has never seen this one: The would be sharp shooter takes his weapon out to a barn and fires multiple rounds into a feature less barn wall. After he’s done, he looks at the various groupings on the side of the barn and draws a target centered on the largest grouping. He then reports his results as skillful marksmanship.

    A third meaning of the cartoon may be the often heard claim that evolution by way of “survival of the fittest” is a tautology.

    At this point, I feel compelled to offer up my favorite disclaimer: I do not read minds especially little ones.

    Exactly what (or indeed IF) the fundies are thinking remains beyond my ability to discern.

    One final word: Edward Currents Youtube videos rock!

    “Checkmate atheists” I love it!

  9. Ron Britton Says:

    Another Steve:

    It’s clearly the Texas Sharp Shooter fallacy. I was just trying to hijack it. But honestly, I can’t figure out what those misses are the cartoonist is referring to.

  10. Jeff Eyges Says:

    That Darwin cartoon slays me. It’s what they do, with Biblical “prophecy”, all the time. I’ve never seen a group of people so prone to projection.

    I’ve said this here before – their minds lack subtlety. Their collective sense of humor is like that of a six year-old – viz., the cartoons above.

  11. Ron Britton Says:


    That Darwin cartoon slays me. It’s what they do, with Biblical “prophecy”, all the time. I’ve never seen a group of people so prone to projection.

    What’s so ironic (What? Fundie irony? Impossible!) is that those cartoons are from Hal Lindsey’s website, the grand daddy of Bible faux-prophets.

    …their minds lack subtlety.

    Who needs subtlety when you live in a world of moral absolutes? So that raises the interesting question: Do they lack subtlety because that’s a trait they’ve never needed to develop (because of their absolutist doctrine), or are they drawn to absolutist doctrine, because their minds can’t process subtlety?

    I’m convinced it’s the latter. I’ve been meaning to write an article on that for several years now.

  12. Another Steve Says:

    Wow! I finally got around to going over to the oneimage.org web site. What a mess. I looked at a bunch of their comics…Most of them don’t make any sense at all. There are a bunch of images that show gay marriage in a negative context. That’s easy to “understand”. The fundiots have had their undies in a bunch about that for a long time. Most of the rest of those cartoons just don’t make any point. Did I miss something?

  13. Ron Britton Says:

    Another Steve:

    Most of the rest of those cartoons just don’t make any point. Did I miss something?

    No, I think you understand it as well as anybody. Fundies this extreme (the ones who orgasm over the thought that nuclear armageddon is right around the corner) are mentally ill. They suffer from distorted thinking.

    Just as John Hinckley somehow thought that killing Ronald Reagan would make Jodie Foster love him, these fundies think that starting WWIII and killing seven billion people will make God love them.

    The thoughts of a diseased brain make sense only to the sufferers themselves. To outside observers, it’s all gibberish.

  14. Modusoperandi Says:

    Another Steve “Just as John Hinckley somehow thought that killing Ronald Reagan would make Jodie Foster love him…”

    He was way off. If Hinckley had killed Reagan, that would’ve made Jodie love me. Obviously.

  15. ericsan Says:

    This parody was interesting in light of the topic and also considering the recent hoopla in the news about that fundie nutter Steven Anderson and the morons from his strip mall church going to Obama speeches carrying loaded assault weapons.

    Oh, and about John Hinkley, you’d think that if he knew Jodie Foster so well he would have had a clue she was a lesbian…

  16. Jeff Eyges Says:

    or are they drawn to absolutist doctrine, because their minds can’t process subtlety? …I’m convinced it’s the latter.

    I agree with you completely. There’s a profound incapacity in evidence for processing objective reality, even among those (like that fellow I wrote about who gave the creationist lecture) who manage to finesse degrees out of Ivy League universities. As I keep saying, I’m convinced it’s neurological – and as I also keep saying, this is why they should be treated as adult children, to the extent of limiting what we’ve come to regard as rights.

  17. Arkonbey Says:

    Because I am a stickler for relatively useless things, the artist who painted the Mona Lisa should be referred to as “Leonardo”. Much the same way that we refer to “Rembrandt” as opposed to “van Rijn”.

    All that aside, religious art has suffered greatly over the past half-century or so. Not since Dali’s masterful Last Supper (which exudes a sort of power even for me) have there been any notable Xtian works.

    Instead of Micheangelo or Carravagio or the Ghent altarpiece, we get schlock like Danny Hahlbohm and Thomas Kinkaid

    Perhaps this is a good thing! Maybe the best of us are now no longer swayed by the need for belief in a god and therefor no longer create powerful artwork in worship.

    (btw, I don’t think Dali was a Xtian, but he could still put more power in a “worshipful” painting than the current crop of believing painters)

  18. Parrotlover77 Says:

    White Jesus is everywhere in art! Agh!

  19. Ron Britton Says:

    White Jesus loves you. Black Jesus? Not so much.

    Middle Eastern Jesus, of course, must be a terrorist.