Quick Memes, Part 3

It’s time to take a look at a few memes that are Stupid and Bad, but which don’t warrant an entire post.  Enjoy! (Here are parts 1 and 2, if you missed them.)

is it legal

The mind of a smart man asks “Is it legal and right, and if it’s not legal, does the rightness of it outweigh the possible legal ramifications?  Is right for me the same as right for everybody else?  Is my right more important than other folks’ right?  If I think that something illegal is nevertheless right, should I try to reform the laws concerning that thing, or should I just do as I wish and damn the consequences?”  And then the smart man starts to realize that ethical decisions are far more complicated than the simple dichotomy suggested by this meme.

Be aware: if anybody has ever called you a slave because you concerned yourself with questions of legality, that person is a fool, and he’s no friend to you.  A real friend would not offer a false dilemma like this one in order to goad you into making potentially life-altering decisions.  A friend would encourage you to consider all aspects of an ethical decision – legality, fairness, long-term consequences, and so on – before making an informed decision.  And if, in the end, you decide that the rightness of an act is more important than its legality (or lack thereof), then so be it.  But at least you’ll have considered all the relevant details and will have made your decision accordingly, and you’ll know that you’ve made your decision not just as a free person, but as a wise person.


Several things wrong here:

  • Just because some “rednecks” enjoy watching NASCAR doesn’t mean that rednecks contracted, designed, or built the fences the surround NASCAR tracks.
  • Even if they did, there’s a huge difference between building a fence that will stop a 190-mile-per-hour stock car (and the flying debris inevitably associated with it) and building a fence that will stop a nimble person determined to get past it.  People trying to cross the United States-Mexico border – let’s be honest…when you said illegal aliens, you weren’t talking about Canadians, were you? – are seldom (probably never) driving 190-mile-per-hour stock cars.
  • There is currently a “wall” along the United States’ southern border, but it’s an incomplete hodgepodge of various fence types.  There have been political pushes to complete it – especially during election years – but the price tag for this project is uncertain and unpredictable.

So, yeah.  Building a 2000-mile-long fence across various types of terrain is altogether a different task than building a 2-mile-long fence around a NASCAR track.  This meme’s author is trying to compare apples to oranges, and probably feels terribly clever for doing so.  To the author:  Stop it.  You’re not clever.

Also, stop calling them illegal aliens, you racist prick.


This is a personal quibble and I understand if you disagree, but I hate these little “math” puzzles posing as intelligence tests.  It’s not that I don’t get it.  I get it.  I see the pattern, and given any pair of numbers, I could generate the expected “solution”.  For example:

55,500,000 + 55,611,111 = 111,111,111,111,111


228,333 + 228,456 = 123,456,789

Now that’s clever.  But I digress.  The problem with these “math” puzzles, besides the fact that they use non-standard definitions for the plus and equal signs, is that they aren’t intelligence tests at all.  They’re nothing but sharebait.  The “puzzles” presented in these memes are generally trivial in order to maximize the number of people who solve them and pass them along.  Why?  Because a challenging puzzle – a puzzle that really makes you work for that shot of self-satisfaction when you solve it – would hardly get any exposure at all.  These stupid math puzzles give you the impression that you’ve done something smart, when all you’ve done is cleared the minimum hurdle necessary to share somebody else’s meme.

Gays and Guns

Capital idea!   Our approach to gun ownership should exactly mirror our approach to marriage: it’s only legal with the state’s consent and it must be thoroughly documented!

Or would you rather just acknowledge that marriage rights and gun rights are separate issues, and that supporting one doesn’t obligate you to support the other?

Your call.

Privileged Earned

I’d say you’re wrong, Morpheus.  You might be successful because of your education and hard work, but you’re privileged because of the station into which you were born, and because of society’s reaction to that station.  Ignoring privilege doesn’t make it go away.

Facebook Feeds The Hungry

No it doesn’t.  Facebook’s charitable donations are not affected by the number of people that share a meme.  Just like the math puzzle above, this is sharebait.  Its only purpose is to reward you with a false sense of self-satisfaction in exchange for a minimum amount of effort.

If you want to make a real difference, donate real money to real organizations that are working to alleviate hunger and sickness in developing nations.  If you’re a genuine activist, leave the comfort of your home and nation to volunteer in the regions struck by famine, war, and poverty.  Real change takes real effort; clicking “Share” on Facebook isn’t going to do it.

Stand Up and Be Men

Did you ever read something so blatantly sexist that you have to read it twice because you’re certain you misread it the first time?  For me, that’s this meme.  Yowza, what a load of sexist bullshit!  I didn’t even realize they had memes back in the 1950s!

Pennies from Heaven

“When an angel misses you”?  Are you operating under the misconception that angels are the departed souls of our loved ones?  Because if you are, I have to tell you: that flies contrary to your own religious dogma.  I researched the topic briefly, and here’s the theological consensus, as best as I can tell: angels are not humans, nor have they ever been.  According to most religious scholars, angels were created by God specifically to be his right hand not-men; humans, on the other hand, are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  Death is not some kind of graduation from human to angel; it’s merely a passage from physical human to non-physical human.  Or so the Scripture goes.

I’m not trying to tell you what to believe, but those who are telling you what to believe say that people don’t become angels when they die.

If we take this meme at face value, it raises all sorts of interesting questions:

  • Do angels materialize pennies themselves, or do they take already-minted pennies from somewhere else?
  • If they create coins ex nihilo, could they destabilize the economy by injecting enough money into the system?  Do angels have to be careful about that, keeping close tabs on how much money they’ve given away?
  • If angels get their coins from somewhere else on Earth, where?  A fountain, perhaps?  Do angels routinely search between peoples’ couch cushions for loose change, which they redistribute to people who are feeling glum?
  • If angels are the messengers of God, does God direct them to drop pennies?  How do they decide who gets a penny and who doesn’t?
  • Is there a way for people who are really upset to get larger values of money – say, quarters?
  • Do angels deliver pennies only to Christians, or can people of other faiths – and atheists – benefit as well?
  • Do people living in other countries also get US pennies, or do they get coins from their own currency?  Given the abysmal buying power of a single penny, it wouldn’t seem to matter much.  But still, if I lived in Uruguay, being given a useless US penny by an angel would almost seem like an insult.

I eagerly await the advisement of learned theologians on these queries.

Another Gas “Buycott”

Gas Buycott

I know, I missed the date. Not to worry, though: something like this is guaranteed to come along again.

Even before there were memes (or social media sites on which to share them), you could count on an e-mail message about once a year from a well-meaning friend or relative advertising another “gas buycott”. A buycott is a bold plan to stick it to the gasoline companies by refusing to buy gas for one whole day. According to the proponents of this plan, the sudden drop in demand will activate market forces and send prices plummeting.

Do you remember that time when gasoline prices plunged because everybody agreed not to buy gasoline for one day? No you don’t, because it never happened. All previous calls for “gas buycotts” have been met with astonishingly low participation, and the price of gasoline has never dropped as much as a penny in response to such a protest. “Ah,” you say, “but if we could just motivate people to participate, surely that would put a giant hurt on the pocketbooks of oil company CEOs, right?” Wrong. Even if everybody in the United States refused to buy gasoline for one day, it would have almost zero impact on gas prices.

Allow me to pump some logic into your common sense tank. As long as we continue to drive our vehicles as much as we do, we’re going to consume gasoline at pretty much the same rate. It doesn’t matter when we buy it; the point is that we buy it. If you filled up your tank on June 13 in anticipation of not buying gasoline on June 14, you’ve just given the gasoline companies the money you would have spent on June 14, one day in advance. The extra money you spent on the 13th will simply roll right over to prop up the companies’ June 14 profits.

Here’s an analogy: suppose you buy lunch every day from the same restaurant, but you’re worried because their prices have been creeping steadily upward. As a means of protest, you encourage your lunch companions to avoid buying lunch from the restaurant on Friday. But you’ll still have to eat something on Friday, so you all buy two lunches on Thursday and put one of them in the refrigerator. Surely you see the logical error here, right?

“But it can’t hurt to try, can it?” Actually, it can. Independently-owned service stations sell gasoline at a thin sliver of a profit, and have almost no control over its price. While the major gasoline companies would feel nothing from a day-long nationwide gas buycott, many mom-and-pop gas stations would suffer greatly. They still have to pay for the gas they’re selling, even if nobody pays them.

Gasoline buycotts, like so many other armchair protests, are doomed to failure because the ostensible protestors don’t actually want to inconvenience themselves in pursuit of their goals. Want to know how to really bring down gas prices? Stop driving so much. Trade in your gas-guzzling SUV for a hybrid or economy car. Carpool or use public transportation whenever possible. In other words, for most people, the only way to reduce gasoline prices is to make a major lifestyle change. As I’ve said before: real change hurts. The bigger the change, the more it hurts.

Gas prices are just one of many issues that people get upset about, but not upset enough to do anything meaningful. For the sake of armchair activists everywhere, I’ve included this flowchart. I hope you find it helpful.


An Unexpected Journey

I am going to Miami for 8 months!

But wait, don’t wish me bon voyage just yet. See, I’m not actually going anywhere. That was just my cutesy way of raising awareness of breast cancer. Now any sane person should be asking themselves: What the Hell, Michegan, does a fictitious trip to Miami have to do with breast cancer awareness?

My answer is: I have no idea.

If you have a Y chromosome you probably didn’t get the following email:

Ok pretty ladies, it is that time of year again…support of breast cancer So we all remember last year’s game of writing your bra color as your status? Or the way we like to have our handbag handy? Last year, so many people took part that it made national news… and the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we’re doing this and helped raise awareness! Do NOT tell any males what the status means…keep them guessing!! And please copy and paste this in a message to all your female friends.The idea is to choose the month you were born and the day you were born. Pass this on to the GIRLS ONLY and let’s see how far it reaches around. The last one about the bra went around all over the world. YOUR STATUS SHOULD SAY: “I am going to Mexico for 21 months.” The month you were born is the Place you are going, and the day you were born should be how many months you are gone….
January – Mexico
February – London
March – Miami
April – Dominican Republic
May – Paris, France
June – Rome
July – Hawaii
August – California
September – New York
October – Puerto Rico
November – Las Vegas
December – Australia
Please do it, don’t be a spoil sport…show your awareness for Breast Cancer! Don’t forget to pass it on!

If you didn’t get the email, you had to go online to find out why all of your female friends were suddenly and inexplicably talking about traveling abroad for a year or two. So there it is: they’re raising breast cancer awareness. Aren’t you more aware now?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with breast cancer awareness. Women need to be aware that regular mammograms and clinical breast exams (CBEs) are critical for detecting potential tumors in their early stages. As with any type of cancer, early detection is important for a successful treatment.

I guess my problem is that this meme does absolutely nothing to raise awareness. In fact, the email specifically instructs women to obfuscate the purpose of the game for men, as if men don’t need to be aware of breast cancer. Men get breast cancer too, you know. Why shouldn’t men be made aware?

This type of tomfoolery is essentially harmless, but it’s also pointless. If you want to make a difference, stop the slacktivism and start writing checks. It’s okay to have an inside joke going, but don’t pretend you’re helping anybody.