Internet

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Body Double: Trump's Other Memphis Connection

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 5:11 PM

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Of course, we all remember the time Donald Trump cost 2,500 Memphians their jobs. Don't we? You know, that time when the POTUS of today totally went after Holiday Inn like it was NATO? No? Well, it happened, and here's a link. That inglorious moment isn't Trump's only Memphis connection either. It's certainly not the weirdest. That distinction may belong to this little gem right here. It's not new information, but it's new to us and exactly the kind of thing we here at Fly on the Wall like to pass along.

There's no giving this devil his due here. The Donald in Chief says "fake news," when he means, "news I don't like." But way out there on the fringes of this textbook B.S. there is — as there always is with presidents and other public figures — plenty of grotesque caricature, propaganda, and general misrepresentation; all magnified in a politically polarized, social media environment.The modern myth-busters at Snopes.com have compiled a list of photo-manipulations that have been widely shared on the W.W. web. Some of them impossibly flattering, some not so flattering. In the latter category, among the most recognizable is an image that's been used to make the golf and fast food-loving POTUS appear even more bloated and slovenly than he is in real life. Turns out, in this instance, Trump's nearly crimson face has been pasted onto the body of Memphis' infamous bad-boy pro golfer, John Daly. And yeah, in the original Big John's teeing off while puffing on a cigarette. Like you do. If you're John Fucking Daly.
John Fucking Daly
  • John Fucking Daly
This isn't the first time internet artists have recognized Daly's viral potential. It all began when somebody unearthed this photo, which is basically a Renaissance painting.
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Friday, June 29, 2018

Forcing Cards — How to Identify Divisive Internet Propaganda Before Sharing

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 3:58 PM

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We’ve all seen magicians manipulate cards in ways that make them appear to have astonishing gifts and the power to know things no ordinary mortal could possibly know. But all they really know is how to force a card — to present you with a choice that's no real choice at all, all the while letting you believe you’re the clever little monkey queering the illusionist's game via the exertion of  free will. Our sense of self-determination is what gives the trick its tension and makes it fun. But there's also usually cautionary lesson or two embedded in the trickster's marvels.

Good propaganda is like a card trick. It appeals to the vanities of self-awareness and control. Good propaganda campaigns are like a Vegas act, replete with sexy assistants, ordinary misdirection, and lots of good old fashioned bait and switch. Great campaigns play all sides to the user’s advantage.

Internet memes create a spectacular opportunity for card forcing, and for injecting divisive, peer-to-peer-spreading viruses into our daily political dialogues. These memes won't look like propaganda, what would be the point? The worst will look like every right-thinking person’s heart’s desire or some piece of apparently unassailable conventional wisdom. It will also be framed in a way that ensures a healthy mix of reflexive consensus and bitter rejection. I noticed an elegant and completely insidious meme making its way around Facebook this week and thought it would make a great study example. I thought I'd share it with the aim of developing better conversations, and maybe a good set of questions for determining whether or not the content we’re sharing online will have a positive or negative impact.

Here's the meme:

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While making a number of valid-seeming points, the ultimate message here is one of uncritical surrender to... well... whatever. There's also a healthy serving of Trumpian, “Get over it,” tacked on at the end. But to what or whom exactly are we all supposed to be surrendering and submitting? What kinds of imperfections are we supposed to start getting over in advance of discovery? Who’s going to have to wait (again!) for a place at the table? Which children will we open our hearts to and which ones will our drones open up on? Does the former hinge on a corrupt bargain requiring the latter? The decisions we make at the polls aren’t light ones. They should never be myopic, reactionary, or strictly self-serving. And whether you’re a Hill shill or a Bernie bro, finger-wagging at voters charged with the confusing task of group self-determination is always a poor community-building strategy.

I’m sure a lot of Trump-fatigued people can’t see a thing wrong with this meme — That’s what makes it genius. Whether it was developed by a Russian troll farm, or by a DNC troll farm doing the Russian troll farms' work for them, or by some doof on the internet doing work the DNC might otherwise do for the Russians, whoever created this black and white text-only marvel deserves all the rubles. With almost zero actual content, it has the magical ability to start fights and make people who agree about current POTUS being a nightmare, yell mean things at one another before they even have a candidate to back. That’s a tell if I’ve ever seen one.

Here’s a list of questions that might help us  separate constructive content from memes that make ol' Vlad Putin dance the merengue. I'm not a propaganda expert, so I know this is not a perfect list. Corrections, suggestions, and contributions are all welcome. My objective here isn't to be right — I'm not invested in that at all. Instead of competing for that distinction, how about we start some critical thinking about critical thinking, and how the content we share actually functions on the internet versus how we feel about it? 

1. Can any part of the meme’s overall content be reasonably interpreted, “fall in line or else”?

If so — and that’s completely evident in our sample — chances are good that the message you are about to share is divisive propaganda using fear and longstanding grudges to motivate. It’s the kind of meme that results in people who need to be in active negotiation with one another typing, “PIGFUCKER,” in all caps at 2 a.m. instead.
Of course, there’s truth at the core of this message: When people don’t unite they tend to lose. That attractive and real fact is like a wad of top shelf peanut butter in the mousetrap of political discourse.

2. Is the message specific or vague? Also, is it active or reactive?

So you’re thinking about sharing a message you agree with. But is it addressing actual candidates, policy proposals, and goals, or is it making vague but nevertheless scary boogie-men? As we move closer to the midterm elections and to 2020, propaganda will personalize and get more specific, honing in on a handful of broad hot-button issues designed to provoke emotional and tribal response rather than critical analysis. But the most corrosive messages are sometimes the ones that keep us agitated, prevent old fissures from healing, and keep us squabbling over the past instead of plotting a course for the future. Our sample meme is exactly that kind of meme. When I shared it on Facebook with a cautionary message, people were arguing Bernie versus Hillary in a matter of seconds while trying to defend against my one and only point that this is purely divisive rhetoric with no tangible social value. Ralph Nader’s name made an appearance within the first hour, along with a few of the the usual odes to compromise and pragmatism that might also be reasonably translated, “Give up.” Absent any real objectives that might be debated or fine tuned, or named candidates with records and platforms to be parsed, vague memes create a perfect black mirror and purely reactionary environment. The latter of which is essential to herding.

3. Does the meme appeal to emotion or intellect?

We’ve all been exposed to some emotionally charged imagery lately. Mass shootings, children being separated from their families — it’s served up daily alongside a sampler platter of daily outrages. Emotional appeals aren’t intrinsically bad, but when a stated aim is to subvert rather than answer or engage critical analysis, chances are you might want to step back and take a second look.

4. Inclusive or alienating?

If your awesome meme’s goal is to recruit voters who must stand together to defeat a monstrously evil candidate that a good third of the country will enthusiastically support based entirely on racism and pissing off liberals, you probably want to build a big, strong coalition that includes a lot of the folks who didn’t, and still probably wouldn’t, vote for [insert your favorite 2016 here], regardless of your feelings for said candidate, their feelings about Trump, or any number of grievances regarding dirty politics, rigged systems, Russian trolls, or any other extenuating circumstance. Re-fighting this long lost campaign or even thinking about recreating it actually or by proxy in 2020, is insane by definition.

Our sample meme truthfully addresses the fact that no candidate will be perfect or pure, which is an obvious statement but with no evident value — like the attractive verities Shakespeare wrote about when he noted that, “Oftentimes, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence.”

It’s been said that folks who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, and it sounds really good. But maybe that old axiom's not complete. Folks who don’t let go of history get stuck fighting the same battles with the same eventual results. But the topsy-turvy looking glass result of 2016 presidential election is drifting further into the past and and there are real opportunities to learn from past mistakes and not fall for the same tricks. When you're up against homogeneity, the most inclusive messaging is always going to be the most desirable. If the message demands unity but offers no unifying principle beyond "or else," beware.

That's all I've got. Now it's your turn. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wikipedia edit trolls the Tennessee House of Representatives

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 2:40 PM

Klandy Holt
  • Klandy Holt
It's not hard to troll ol' Klandy Holt and a Tennessee legislature that can't quite bring itself to denounce white supremacy, but can always rise to the occasion of punishing a majority African-American city for removing the public statue of a slave trader, Grand Wizard, and Confederate general. How can it be so richly satisfying?

Hats off to the author of this edit. Though Wikipedia has removed your fine work, let it always be remembered. 
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

WalletHub Knows Nothing About Memphis, Halloween, Study Shows

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 1:03 PM

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The click-listical compilers at WalletHub ranked Memphis low on a survey of fun places to celebrate Halloween because of our high crime rate.
Source: WalletHub
Or does that make us the best place to celebrate Halloween, WalletHub? Muhahahahahaha!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nobody's Banned "Gone With The Wind" in Memphis — Even if the Commercial Appeal Says So

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:21 PM

Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
  • Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
Let's talk about the B-word. No. Let's talk about the C-word.

No.

Let's talk about the fact that there's an armed guard in front of the Orpheum protecting folks with families who spend their days booking Broadway shows, coordinating the High School Musical Awards, developing concert programs, planning summer camps and curating a popular film series. That's a dangerous job now, apparently, and media — local and otherwise — only add fuel to the fire by misrepresenting what happened there this week when it was announced that, after a good, 34-year run, the Downtown playhouse would drop Gone With the Wind from its popular Summer film series. No matter what you may have read at The Commercial Appeal's website this week, nothing has been banned in Memphis. Not Gone With the Wind or anything else. The word "banned" implies a kind of authority the good folks at the Orpheum just don't have over the distribution and screening of media in Memphis. Any mainstream media that uses that word chooses to pour fuel on a fire that, judging from the presence of the guard out front, may get somebody —probably not the author or editor — burned.
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The Orpheum did what every cultural institution in the country does every single day. The staff made a curatorial decision — a decision that would be valid even if Gone With the Wind wasn't controversial. Why should Gone With the Wind be a tradition and not Selma? Or Bambi or The Big Lebowski for that matter? Why should there always be room for Gone With the Wind and never room for Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust, which is more regionally appropriate, and tells a different and more vital story of the American South than the blazing, over-the-top romance of Gone With the Wind.

Never heard of Intruder in the Dust you say? This is why we curate. We also curate because culture shifts, what's relevant now may not be relevant 5-minutes from now. And relevant or not, a 4-hour film like GWTW is ultimately a less valuable  investment for theaters like the Orpheum than a 90-minute flick that also sells out. Mad Max: Fury Road, for example, would save the Orpheum two full hours-worth of overhead on everything from labor to utilities.


So many popular films have been made since 1939, and there are only so many slots on the Orpheum's Summer series. While there's nothing wrong with reviving  popular films, there are too many great films to choose from to guarantee any one a permanent spot on any lineup. Unless, of course, that film somehow speaks  to a community's identity and has a renewing effect for those who attend. If Gone With the Wind is that film, what does it say about our community?
What fresh bullshit is this?
  • What fresh bullshit is this?
Let's also take a minute to talk about propaganda like this article that begins with an admission by the author that, in 2014, he warned everybody that the Left would ban Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles — a paranoid fantasy that hasn't, and isn't likely to come to pass anytime soon. His proof: OMG Look what happened to Disney's Song of the South!

The stat, referenced by Alt-Right-friendly Breitbart, comes from a 75th-Anniversary survey by YouGov.com, a digital polling site described here as, "An online global community of people who like to share their views and opinions on life... marketed more towards individuals who wish to express their opinions about current events and controversial topics." It's an "opinions for prizes" shop so we're looking at a self-selecting sample in a celebratory context, and maybe not an accurate, contextualized example of community opinion.  The money quote:

"If there is one last bastion of racism still accepted in America, it is the racial condescension we always see from the left, this constant treating of minorities, especially blacks, as children who are unable to deal with a statue or a word or a movie."

The problem here is pretty basic — and ironic. Unlike the practically homogenous Right, fighting to uphold this film and its paternalistic race narratives — the Left is made of minorities as sure as Soylent Green (another slot-worthy film) is made of people.

There's an even bigger problem with this kind of hysterical, and historically unsupported crankmongering. Let's forget how easily this rhetoric comes apart by inserting nouns like Watermelon and Fried Chicken in place of Gone With the Wind in the headline, and for the sake of argument, let's accept Breitbart's highly questionable stats at face value. Let's allow that 73% of African-Americans do, in fact, love Gone With the Wind so much they want to marry it and have its babies, whether they know anything about birthing or not. So what? That stat doesn't mean the film's cultural value merits a guaranteed slot on any Summer film series any more than any other classic or popular film. It's a meaningless number used in the service of specious rhetoric.

Did I mention that there's an armed security guard in front of the Orpheum? Because there is. Because the folks over there made what should be the kind of uncontroversial curatorial decision that is 100% their's to make. Whether it's in light of the tragedy in Charlottesville, or just because it's Tuesday. Now people feel endangered because this vintage playhouse — a true Southern cultural treasure — wants to mix things up, expanding its offerings and its audience in the process. It's bad enough that propaganda organs like Breitbart have become so influential. But it's shameful when local media turns up the pressure by reenforcing false narratives with badly chosen language.



UPDATE: To be fair as I can be the CA's John Beifuss has done great work all around. The CA's issues stem from Gannett and a culture defined by consolidation not community.







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Monday, August 28, 2017

Real Gone: The Orpheum vs. Gone With the Wind, Social Media Roundup

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 11:34 AM

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Shelby Co. D.A. Has Twitter Meltdown, Internet Watches

Posted By on Fri, Aug 4, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

All Buttholes Considered: The Imagine Cafe Story in Tweets

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Lifted from Imagine Butthole Cafe
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

John Daly Seen as a Renaissance Painting

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 10:24 AM

The best thing that happened on Twitter yesterday involved a vintage photograph of Memphis golfer John Daly (Yes, he's still alive), and a streaker with the word "HOLE" painted over his bum. The shot's from the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews.

It started with this which, as the tweet suggests, is basically a Renaissance painting.
Discussion commenced. Convincing proofs offered.
Filters were added.
Oh brave new world that has such people in it... 
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Drax the Destroyer Guest Tweets for MLGW?

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 1:40 PM

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Judging by a recent round of defensive, hyper-literal tweets from the official MLGW account, it would appear that Memphis' public utility has hired in Drax the Destroyer to man social media during this period of post-storm crisis. Drax, the blunt alien powerhouse who struggles to understand metaphor and most figurative language, responded negatively to a tweet by Memphis newsie Joyce Peterson. When Peterson accurately explained how "45,000 customers without power" means more than 45,000 people remain in the dark, Drax answered back sharply:  "This tweet is unequivocally wrong and malicious."
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After a number of Twitter uses invited Drax to munch a chill pill MLGW's guest tweeter doubled down on his initial pronouncement: "Our customer is not a house or an apartment building. Our customers of record are people who have families, employees, and customers."
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While it's cool of MLGW to bring in such a big celebrity and card-carrying Guardian of the Galaxy, the PR gig may not be a good fit for Drax's skill set, which is basically destroying things.

Insert your own "covfefe" joke here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

MAF Has a New Meaning: Memphis Ass Farm

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:04 PM

EMILY YELLIN
  • Emily Yellin
Sometimes captioning goes wrong. Sometimes a line like, "Hotter than Memphis Asphalt," becomes, "Hotter than Memphis Ass Farm." Okay, that only happened once, on an episode of Sun Records. Of course the Internet caught it right away. Thanks Internet

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pooping With WMC's Andy Wise

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 1:09 PM

Look how they follow you.
  • Look how they follow you.
WMC consumer investigator Andy Wise is many things — a survivor; a humanitarian; and a Christian martyr.  In addition to all of that, he's also an office pooper who knows how to deliver the "ew."

At least, in another tweet, Mr. "On your side," finally answered a question I've been asking for a long time — What kind of crime won't WMC over-report and sensationalize? Unless, you know, he IS the Riddler...

via GIPHY


Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Strange Case of Marsha Blackburn and the Exploding Cigar

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 1:54 PM

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Evil scientist Marsha Blackburn lit up a fat cat Twitter cigar yesterday and BAM! Right in the face.

Obviously, it's not hard to troll online polls and Democrats are motivated. But, as previously uninsured folks stare down the very real chance of losing their recently insured status, it's hard to say the soot and tobacco all over Blackburn's pinched, bitter face is completely devoid of meaning.

How can it be that Republicans, after opposing the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail for six years, haven't got an alternative? I mean, aside from the obvious fact that none of them care if Uncle Phil gets his medicine or not because he should have worked harder when he was healthy. Duh.

It's because Obamacare was the workable Republican plan, they only hated it because — Obama. And no matter how hard the kleptocracy scrambles, they can't come up with something just as conflicted and industry forward that looks completely different to consumers who'll experience zero value from less Medicaid or potentially disastrous tort reform.

So, as the great unraveling gets underway, let's all have a good laugh at Marsha's exploding cigar. It'll be her turn to laugh when we're all crawling with something expensive and incurable.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Tony Allen's Big D Beats Stiff Competition

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 11:39 AM

via GIPHY

Sometimes tweets have two meanings.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

A Useful GIF of Andy Wise Saying, "We're Here."

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 1:02 PM

WMC's consumer investigator Andy Wise got an IKEA preview last week. Wise previewed that preview by tweeting this GIF, which really deserves an afterlife. Share it Memphis. Use it well.
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