Quick Memes, Part 2

Last August I wrote a post called “Quick Memes“, in which I discussed a few memes that didn’t merit an entire post.  It was a smashing success moderate success thing I did, so I’ve decided to do it again!  Here is another round of memes that are irritating, but not irritating enough to spend at least 500 words ranting about.

Pepper Bumps

This Internet myth has been debunked numerous times; nevertheless, I see this meme being passed around incautiously.  I figured I would add my voice to the dissenting mix.  All peppers – including the bell variety – belong to the Nightshade family, Solanaceae, a family that includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.  One characteristic of all nightshades is that they produce perfect flowers.  A perfect flower has both female parts (pistils) and male parts (stamens); in other words, it is hermaphroditic.  Consequently, the fruits that arise from those flowers are neither male nor female.

Some plants do have distinct male and female flowers – sometimes on the same plant, sometimes on different plants.  It is possible for some plants to produce gendered fruits, but peppers do not.  The number of lobes on a pepper, its taste, and its seed content are due to environmental and genetic factors, but not to gender.

Verbal and Physical Abuse

A couple of things: there’s a distinct difference between cursing and verbal abuse.  If you drop an F-bomb after stubbing your toe, I doubt very many people would consider it abusive.  Also, you can be verbally abusive to somebody without ever uttering a single swear word.

The best advice is not to be abusive at all – verbally or physically.  If you’re not beating somebody up, good for you.  It still doesn’t excuse your verbal abuse.

Conspiracy Theorist

Do you believe that they’e discovered a simple, cheap cure for cancer and/or AIDS, but Big Pharma is suppressing it so they can continue to make billions by pushing pills?  Do you think the Moon landings were faked on a sound stage so the United States could beat the Soviet Union in the space race?  Do you think that President John F. Kennedy was actually assassinated by the CIA, the FBI, Vice President Johnson, or anybody other than Lee Harvey Oswald?  Do you think the government is spraying poisonous chemicals as chemtrails for the purpose of population control?  Do you think that vaccines cause autism?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are probably a conspiracy theorist.  In that case, the rest of this section is going to make you angry.  Sorry.

The problem with conspiracy theorists is that their starting position – their baseline for evaluating the world – is cynical distrust of authority.  From there, they evaluate everything they see with a severe confirmation bias.  The only evidence they accept is that which can be contorted into supporting their viewpoint; they reject as “bullshit” anything that disproves their ideas.  They fancy themselves experts because they have read the slanted testimony of other conspiracy theorists, but what happens when somebody – perhaps a real expert – weighs in with contradictory evidence?  Conspiracy theorists view these experts as being bought and paid for by the Forces of Darkness.

The mindset of many conspiracy theorists disallows contradictory viewpoints, which is a shame.  I’ve had a few discussions with conspiracy theorists, and I know that asking a conspiracy theorist to consider alternate viewpoints is like asking a river to flow up a steep incline.  Evidence is entirely useless; conspiracy theorists seem to be enamored with the idea that all evidence can be faked; yet they fail to apply that logic to the “evidence” that seemingly supports their own conclusions.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not some naive Pollyanna who thinks that the world is hunky-dory and everything the government says is true.  I like to think that before I put an authority figure or organization on blast for hideous crimes against humanity, I have honestly evaluated the evidence in my corner.

If you believe that conspiracy theories are pretty convincing, ask yourself why.  Then ask yourself if the evidence could be wrong.  Ask yourself if there’s any way your theories could be disproved.  If there isn’t, then your ideas do not fit the scientific definition of the word theory.  If you cannot be reasoned out of an idea…did you really use reason to get into it?

Also…I’m pretty sure the “chains” on the person’s wrists in this image are made of paper loops.

Lover or Lesbian

Here’s another nugget of wisdom from Justin “Master Chim” Garcia, that visionary who taught us how to avoid police brutality (while neglecting to admonish the police not to use brutality).  This time around, Master Chim deploys his world-famous sensitivity to determine whether you are a real man or a lesbian.  According to Master Chim, the Casanova of our age, real men shouldn’t do all that romantic girly stuff that women seem to like, such as spending time with them, or being helpful around the house, or, you know, thinking about them.  A real man, Master Chim might say, is neglectful to his female companion.  He goes out with his buddies when he wants to, regardless of her plans or wishes, and he never lifts a finger to help around the house.  Shared responsibility is for wusses, he might continue.  If you go all out to make your woman feel special, then you might as well be a woman yourself, right?

Now I’m not saying you have to do all the things on this list; that’s between you and your lady friend (and besides, flowers can get expensive!)  I’m just saying that if you do these things, you shouldn’t be cowed by men like Master Chim.  Justin “Master Chim” Garcia is not the authority on manliness that he purports to be.  Each man (and woman) must decide what is appropriate for him (or her) to do.  The last thing this world needs is more men trying to emulate Master Chim’s example.

ISIS Green Screen

I…really don’t know what to do with this.  What exactly is the meme saying – that ISIS doesn’t exist?  That ISIS has never executed prisoners on a beach?  That ISIS doesn’t execute prisoners at all?  If the meme’s author believes that ISIS fakes its executions in front of a green screen, why use this image as “evidence”?  There are no active executions being depicted, and the image doesn’t strike me as one that is clearly fake.

So yeah, there’s something vaguely conspiracy-theoristy about this meme, but it doesn’t do a good job of indicating what it’s real message is.  In failing to make its point clear, the meme fails at the only function a meme has: to express an opinion or idea in a pithy, easily digestible manner.  If I have to guess what claim the meme is making, then not only is the meme Stupid and Bad…but Pointless as well.

WhatIsAGoodWoman

Who the hell thinks that a good woman doesn’t get angry?  Does anybody make that claim about men?  Seriously, this meme reeks of Stupidity.  Here’s another meme expressing the worn-out idea that a woman must be emotionally tough at all times, and she shouldn’t let anything upset her.  Seriously, I don’t know anybody, good or otherwise, who doesn’t get angry from time to time.

Dress vs Building

This meme gets one thing right: people should be very concerned about the alleged off-the-books “black sites” used by the Chicago Police Department to interrogate suspects without due process or public record.  Very concerned.

But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t talk about anything else.  As one of my Facebook friends pointed out, memes like this assume that people cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.  That stupid dress may have caught the public’s attention, seemingly drowning out any other discussions, but it will fade from memory soon enough.  In the meantime, if you want to draw attention to a troubling news story, there are ways to do it without painting your friends as out-of-touch shallow idiots.

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Wag the Ebola Dog

Ebola Distraction

I realize that facts are anathema to most conspiracy theorists, but let’s inspect them anyway, just in case this meme is…you know…incredibly stupid.

First, Mr Contemplative Chimp: Ebola did not just “up and vanish”.  As of December 9, 2014, Ebola is an ongoing threat in West Africa.  To date, nearly 18,000 people have been infected and more than 6,600 have died in the most widespread Ebola outbreak in history.  I’m sure the people of Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia would be thrilled if Ebola “up and vanished”, but that hasn’t happened.

I suppose you mean that Ebola “up and vanished” in the United States, but that’s not accurate either.  Despite peoples’ concerns, Ebola was never a major threat in the United States.  There were four patients diagnosed with Ebola in the United States at the height of the US “outbreak”, one of whom passed away from the disease.  And Ebola didn’t vanish; healthcare officials aggressively attacked the virus and contained its spread; subsequently, the remaining three patients recovered.  Their cases have been well-documented; it’s not as if they were just swept under the rug, never to be heard from again.

Now I think the US public’s reaction to Ebola was vastly overblown.  There was no need for the 1980’s-AIDS-like panic that sprang up around a very small number of cases, and yes, the media did their part in fanning the flames of unease.  But just because we blew this all out of proportion, that doesn’t mean Ebola was a “Wag the Dog” distraction from some deeper evil.  Sometimes, bad things just happen, and they can happen without government assistance or complicity.

But just for the sake of examining this issue thoroughly – and I know I’ll regret asking this – prithee tell: from what was the Ebola scare meant to distract us?

Mike Shepard contends in an opinion piece written for DC Gazette that Ebola’s foray onto American soil was entirely manufactured.  What evidence does he present in support of this audacious claim, you may justifiably ask?  He claims that if Thomas Duncan had really been carrying Ebola when he boarded a plane in Liberia bound for Dallas, Texas, then all of his traveling companions should have been infected.  After all, Shepard says, airplane passengers breathe recycled air.  One person’s disease is everybody’s disease on an airliner.

Of course Shepard completely ignores the well-established fact that Ebola is not an airborne virus, nor is it possible for a patient to spread the virus until he becomes symptomatic.  Duncan was not yet symptomatic when he boarded the plane to Texas; therefore, it would be extremely unlikely for anybody to catch the virus from him at that time.  The fact that the passengers of Duncan’s flight did not contract Ebola does not diminish the reality of Duncan’s unfortunate demise from that disease.

But Shepard is not content to spew just one egregious piece of misinformation.  Later, he asserts – naturally, without a shred of evidence – that the pseudo-Ebola scare was cooked up by none other than…ominous chord, please…President Barack Obama himself.  In Shepard’s paranoid fever dream, President Obama is plotting a major jihadist war against America.  What was Ebola’s role in all of this?  It was meant to distract the public while Obama sent his lackey John Kerry to smuggle ISIS operatives across our border.

I would understand if you thought I was making this up.  Nobody can be that paranoid, can they?  Nobody can be that blinded by their irrational hatred of President Obama, can they?  Well, read Shepard’s piece and judge for yourself: he really seems to believe his paranoid claptrap.

Okay, Shepard is a nutjob.  Is there anybody more rational that can show how Ebola was a manufactured distraction?

Ingri Cassel, the Director of Vaccination Liberation, thinks she can.  According to a flyer written by Cassel, Ebola isn’t even a naturally-occurring disease.  Cassel believes that the United States invented Ebola, and she has a patent application as “proof”.  (In fact, the CDC holds patents for several microorganisms and viruses, as Snopes explains, but not because it invented them.  The patents are meant to prevent for-profit organizations from patenting the organisms and extorting money from governments for research rights.)  Cassel charges that the government’s intention was to cause an epidemic and then to profit enormously from vaccine sales.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that the director of an organization called Vaccine Liberation takes a dim (and hopelessly misguided) view of all things vaccine-related.  No wonder, then, that Cassel has fallen into the conspiracy-thinking trap.  Anything she doesn’t understand, she adopts as “evidence” for that which she already believes.

Cassel’s contemptible claims do not end there.  She thinks that the ersatz Ebola outbreak is actually a vaccine-implemented sickness being used as an excuse to move troops into West Africa.  And why should the United States or any other country want an excuse to move troops into West Africa?  Why, to steal the region’s newly discovered oil reserves, of course.  It all makes sense, as long as you don’t let pesky things like facts get in your way.

Cassel’s ill-informed paranoid conspiracy theory goes on for almost two pages and draws heavily from the work of other conspiracy theorists.  After reading her flyer, one is filled with sadness – not because we actually live in the bizarro conspiracy-ridden world she suggests, but because she feels compelled to grasp at nonsensical straws to support her dangerous ideology.

I found a few more pages attempting to explain why Ebola is a distraction from something far more sinister, but the opinions of their authors seemed to fall along similar lines.  I haven’t the energy to recap each one, so I’ll conclude by saying this:  The Truth is out there, conspiracy theorists, but you cannot see it unless you’re willing to suspend your pre-formed beliefs.  You think that everybody else is blinded by complacency; I submit that you are blinded by your inflexibility.