Just got back from a short vacation, and so am still in the process of catching up and getting back into the game. But I was pleased to see this report from Adam Weinstein of Gawker about a hilarious Twitter smackdown of one of those nauseating and half-literate right wing memes that go around on the email and social media of wingnuts. Forwarding urban legends crafted to assure reactionaries that liberals are crazy and God is on their side sometimes seems like 75% of intra-conservative online communications. This one was particularly bad because it endorsed using violence to shut down those scary atheists that might make you do something uncomfortable like think for a moment.
To be clear, professors who try to shame their students about not being atheists by taking classroom time away from teaching to perform stunts are not real. They exist solely in the imagination of right wingers who can’t really quite picture what goes on in college classrooms (even though many of them, you know, went to college), and don’t even stop to consider that professors teach things like “calculus” or “English literature”. There is no university in the country that has a course called Daring God To Kill Me 101. Really, the “professors” in these kinds of stories are symbolic, probably of the nagging doubts in a believer’s head. Doubts you are apparently supposed to punch out, instead of explore. Because thinking is dangerous.
But of course, the story literally suggests that you punch atheists in the head rather than let them speak their point, lest you might actually start finding their arguments compelling. That is pretty alarming, I’d say. The fact that this meme is so popular, when the “joke” is how fun it is to suppress speech through violence, is quite telling.
The heroes of Twitter decided to tell their own versions of this story, as Adam chronicles. This might be my favorite:
— J Crowley (@jdcrowley) March 27, 2014
A perfect encapsulation of the various anxieties that drive these kinds of memes. So perfect, in fact, that I will not be surprised if it starts being passed along like it’s the real thing in right wing circles. If anyone has a way to work that in, I would highly recommend it.
What all this highlights, by the way, is the major urban legend gap between the right and the left. Much of the right wing worldview is bolstered by urban legends, whereas very little of what gets passed around in liberal circles qualifies. (Of course, some urban legends get treated by Fox News—and, on occasion, more mainstream media outlets—as real stories, blurring this distinction a little.) It’s hard to tell how much people who pass these stories along understand that they are, in fact, bullshit. I suspect a high percentage don’t really care, but just want to keep justifying a worldview that has little in the way of reality-based evidence to justify it.