Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Festive Cornucopia Of #Occupy Misinformation

Today, NPR featured an interesting (and useful!) piece called "For Thanksgiving, Debunk Your Family's Chain Emails." Fortunately for me, I do not come from a family that would necessitate such an exercise, but it's still handy to note an intriguing detail from the introduction: part of our Message Machine partnership with NPR, [the St. Petersburg Times'] PolitiFact has put together this handy guide to chain emails and other viral messages. Hide it under the green bean casserole and you can pull it out if your uncle brings up the chain emails. 
You should start by telling him that the emails are nearly always wrong. PolitiFact has checked 104 claims from emails and rated 80 percent of them "False" or "Pants on Fire." Only 4 percent of the claims have earned a "True." 
The emails, heavy on exclamation points and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, are typically sent by conservatives who dislike Obama. Lately, though, we have seen a new phenomenon on Facebook, where liberal supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been spreading messages, some of which aren't accurate.

Dealing with this statement from a purely microcosmic level, I can vouch for its accuracy. #OccupySLC has a robust Facebook community - there is a general "discussion forum" open to all posters, and subforums with limited posting rights for non-admins for the Free School, the former Kitchen (and now food) operation, etc.

I have been encouraged slightly by the general atmosphere of #OSLC's online presence. There has been the usual froth of detritus that any online community picks up - the trolls, the weirdos, the semi-literate - but for the most part it has been rowdy, inclusive, and interesting. It surprised me recently to run into two definite and one possible example of the aforementioned FW: FW: FW: OBOWNOW'S AMERIKKKA garbage. Names have been changed to protect the ignorant.

First up: FEMA camps! If you haven't run into this conspiracy theory before, the gist of it is that the US government is building "FEMA evacuation camps" near large civilian centers to use as concentration camps. From the #OccupySLC discussion forum:

The "coffins" bit was a new angle - the special ingredient in that variation seems to be that in addition to camps, the squeaky-clean neatniks in the New World Order have ordered body bags for the would-be victims of their treachery.

One guy pointed out that even if the government were going to kill a bunch of people, it would just dig a mass grave (as is usually the case) instead of dropping $200+ per victim for a fancy polyurethane bag. Another response I liked:

Zing! Actually, the "pay to play" nature of the conspiracy theory itself is a theme we will return to in a moment. Moving on, I happened upon this retrofitted beauty, originally meant to  crank the blood pressure of the anti-Obama / Tea Party crowd:

A more thoroughgoing fraud than whoever wrote this would have removed the wingnut watermarks, such as "Obeyme" and the inexplicable dig at "community organizing." Dealing with the work of a master craftsman or no, the #OSLC crowd jumped on this one pretty quickly:

Bingo: "passing over legitimate outrages for stuff like this just seems petty."

With my last example, we return to the question of paying to even hear the crazy-assed conspiracy in question. In this case, "conspiracy" isn't quite the right word. A while ago, a quasi-cultish organization produced a vile little film called "What The Bleep Do We Know Anyway" -- the latest update, which is being guerrilla marketed and word-of-mouthed to hell in #Occupy circles, is called "Thrive."

Where "What The Bleep" sought to turn physics into new-age pseudo-religion, however, "Thrive" seems* to seek to combine left-liberal economics with life sciences and possibly space aliens in some kind of E. O. Wilson nightmare hybrid.

A quick-witted respondent to a Facebook thread about a screening of "Thrive" noticed the following, however:

"IM OUT" indeed, my friend.

So far, the online community/ies of #OccupySLC seem to be self-regulating fairly well if somewhat chaotically, much like the real-life General Assemblies (one of which is taking place tonight at 5 PM at the One World Cafe, located at 41 S 300 E, SLC).

* - I say "seems" because, full disclosure, I have not seen the entire film yet.

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