Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve written a handful of blog posts that are based primarily on the local news in the Twin Cities or Minnesota. Either we have stranger news than other places (which I think is true), we are going through a strange period (which I think is true) or I’ve got some sort of strange personal psychotic thing going on so that whenever I see a news story like “Combine runs over, kills black bear” or a web site that says “Help us Decide, Should we Have an Abortion or Not” I think it’s odd (which I do).


The “Do we have an abortion?” web site, representing the situation of a Twin Cities couple Pete and Alisha Arnold who are now pregnant and trying to make a choice, is not a poll to see what people’s opinion is about having an abortion (generally or for the specific couple involved). No. The poll is specifically to make the decision for them. They claim that if he majority of votes say “yes” then they will have an abortion. If the majority of votes say “no” they won’t.

An interesting and rather disturbing complication is this: PZ Myers has pharyngulated the poll. For those of you who don’t know, this means that PZ has mentioned the poll on his blog and now thousands of his loyal readers, the Pharyngulistas, will now go there and vote. Usually polls that receive this treatment are about religion, evolution, or related topics, set up in right wing environments where the assumption is that the results will end up saying something like this:

Is there a god?

Yes 88% (1645 votes)
No 12% (244 votes)

But then PZ pharyngulates the poll and instead you get this:

Yes 12% (1645 votes)
No 88% (14450 votes)

PZ has made some interesting points about the poll and I think he is essentially right: These people are nuts to have asked everyone who happens to bump into their site on to make an important decision for them. PZ has concluded that they should probably not be raising kids and expressed the opinion that yeah, they should probably abort.

But what is disturbing is this: What is quite possibly going to happen now is that the Pharyngulistas will flock to the poll, which currently leans heavily to “give birth” and throw it over to the “abort” side, they will have the abortion as promised, and a battalion of nut bags will blame PZ for killing a human child and he’ll be on the hit list along with the abortion doctors slated for assassination but without the usual protections such doctors get.

So PZ, I love you and all, and imma let you be as harsh as you want on religion, but this may have been a dumb-ass thing to do. Very little benefit for you or the relevant causes, but depending on how the vote goes and how strong the Pharyngulista footprint appears to be, you may be in serious trouble. After all, I hear tell you can see both South and North Dakota from your living room window.

At the very least, Bill Donohue is going to cream in his jeans over this one. I can already hear him tittering. See how he reacts may be worth the risks, actually.

In the end it may not matter. The numbers on this poll are huge, and it may be that the Cathoics and the Fundies are going to hit this one hard and force these people to have the baby, assuming they are serious about doing whatever they are told to do by the widget they installed on their web page. There simply may not be enough pharyngulistas to make a difference.

On the other hand, with numbers that big, it also could be the case that the hapless couple are rigging them. I am of the opinion that they are faking this at some level, trying to make a point. In fact, I have a hunch they are not really pregnant at all.

In the end, I don’t know what I want to see happen. All choices are bad. Ultimately the most important thing may be that Pete and Alisha are humiliated for being such idiots. I checked their facebook pages (here and here) and noted that we have no overlapping friends, which makes them very uncool. I mean, you don’t have to be my friend to be cool on facebook of course, but you do have to be somebody‘s friend to be cool (somebody cool, that is). Like the mayor (he’s pretty cool) or Gary Schiff or Al Franken, for instance. These people’s friends look like a NASCAR convention with all the white faces, the confederate flags, and the cars. That tells me something.

Uffda. This may get interesting.

Comments

  1. #1 justlurking
    November 20, 2010
  2. #2 MadScientist
    November 20, 2010

    (1) It’s not even an honest poll
    (2) The bots beat the pharyngulites

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    November 20, 2010

    Yeah, that’s a pretty good analysis. However, it is NOT an internet prank. If ModLeft is right, it is politically motivated dishonest trolling (as I suggested in my post). I suppose “prank” is not a clearly defined term, but I think of it this way:

    Prank: Put dog poop in paper bag, on neighbor’s doorstep, light bag on fire, ring doorbell, run away. Neighbor comes out and stops out the fire and get dog poop on his shoe.

    Nefarious politically motivated hate activity: Light neighbor on fire.

    This is the latter.

  4. #4 David N. Brown
    November 20, 2010

    I think “satire” is a better description of this than “prank”. It strikes me as a “loaded question” for both sides: “Pro-lifers” (like myself) who vote “no” would appear to be accepting abortion as an option, while “pro-choice” people who vote “yes” would appear to be assuming that they can make a choice for the parent(s).

    Whatever one’s view, I think the only reasonable and conscientious thing to do is not vote at all.

  5. #5 Mike Haubrich
    November 20, 2010

    I think, technically, he can only see South Dakota from his living room. Or maybe from the top of the wind generator down the street. I don’t think you can see North Dakota from there.

    I could see North Dakota from my bedroom when I was growing up. Not much to see, frankly.

    I am with David N. Brown and not voting.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    November 20, 2010

    David, I hacked the poll and voted several times to abort. Why? Because the ONLY reasonable and conscientious thing to do is to meet these over the top anti-choice activists with the same level of disdain for life and cynicism about humanity with which they have come to us. Any other decision is wrong, that is the only choice.

    Or not vote because “who cares?” Not voting as a symbolic act is actually not an option (WADR, Mike). It might feel that way but it is actually the same exact thing someone who is unaware of this is currently doing. Billions of people are doing that. Might as well be an Oxygen molecule in the astrodome. Like writing a letter to the editor using disappearing ink on flash paper and lighting it on fire instead of mailing it. That is only symbolic in the delusional world of the most extreme post modernist.

  7. #7 ema
    November 20, 2010

    What is quite possibly going to happen now is that the Pharyngulistas will flock to the poll, which currently leans heavily to “give birth” and throw it over to the “abort” side, they will have the abortion as promised….

    No need to worry, this fantasy abortion will never happen in real life.

    First, no competent professional would consent a walk-in patient who deliberately increases her M&M risk just for show for an elective 19w6d termination.

    Second, they’ll close the vote on Dec. 7, two days before Dec. 9, the last day we could legally get an abortion in our state. Except, in Minnesota there’s a 24 hr mandatory waiting period, the procedure takes 2 days, and, as customary (and confirmed by a quick online search of the 2 clinics where 2nd trim abxs are performed) the procedure is only performed M-T in the AM.

    I have to say, as hoaxes go, this wasn’t a particularly challenging one.

  8. #8 denature
    November 20, 2010

    South Dakotans have twice voted not to ban abortions. The state ranks around 47th for violent crimes. Minnesota has around 5 times the number of murders and more violence per capita.

    By sheer numbers, there are more wackaloons in Minnesota than in the Dakotas. There would be no need to import nutbaggery.

  9. #9 Daniel J. Andrews
    November 20, 2010

    If real, it may be the coin flip decision psychological trick. You have an important decision, can’t make up your mind, you flip the coin and find yourself hoping for a specified outcome. In which case, you ignore the actual outcome and go with the outcome you hoped for.

    So perhaps regardless of the outcome of the poll, they’ll go with the decision they’ve unconsciously decided upon already. If this is real.

    btw, your recent posts have persuaded me to avoid by a large geographical margin the Twin City area (i.e. the whole loopy state).

  10. #10 Janice in Toronto
    November 20, 2010

    He didn’t tell anyone how to vote. He’s off the hook…

  11. #11 steve
    November 20, 2010

    The worry in this post raises an interesting question. Would PZ ever hold back for his own safety? I just can’t picture it.

  12. #12 ema
    November 20, 2010

    If real, it may be the coin flip decision psychological trick.

    As I mentioned in my previous comment, it’s not real. It is a hoax.

  13. #13 Azkyroth
    November 20, 2010

    He didn’t tell anyone how to vote. He’s off the hook…

    That’s a rational argument. If anti-choicers were rational, they wouldn’t be anti-choicers.

  14. #14 ema
    November 20, 2010

    Oops, just noticed my first comment didn’t make it. Here it is:

    What is quite possibly going to happen now is that the Pharyngulistas will flock to the poll, which currently leans heavily to “give birth” and throw it over to the “abort” side, they will have the abortion as promised….

    No need to worry, this fantasy abortion will never happen in real life.

    First, no competent professional would consent a walk-in patient who deliberately increased her M&M risk just for show for an elective 19w6d termination.

    Second, they’ll close the vote on Dec. 7, two days before Dec. 9, the last day we could legally get an abortion in our state. Except, in Minnesota there’s a 24 hr mandatory waiting period, the procedure takes 2 days, and, as customary (and confirmed by a quick online search of the 2 clinics where 2nd trim abxs are performed) the procedure is only performed M-T in the AM.

    I have to say, as hoaxes go, this wasn’t a particularly challenging one.

  15. #15 Melkor
    November 20, 2010

    Eh, well it’s already been on 4Chan twice, I don’t think the pharyngulites have made much of an impact compared to the /b/arbarian hordes and their bot networks. /b/ voted unanimously to abort, as I recall ;)

  16. #16 Samantha Vimes
    November 20, 2010

    The thing’s a fraud, the Minions have talked about it as a fraud, many of us are not voting on it because we know it’s a set-up to make the right to choose look bad.

  17. #17 =^skeptic cat^=
    November 20, 2010

    I don’t know that I could ever get involved an issue like this. I’ve never been in a position to father children (cuz like anyone would ever want me sheesh) and it’s not a matter of whether this particular poll is on the up-and-up (I’m pretty sure it isn’t) but I do think it is well beyond time to bring this whole “poll-crashing” business to an end as its’ humor/entertainment value went the way of “why did the chicken cross the road” quite some time ago and if I were to guess at PZ’s motives for making such a provocative post (admittedly not knowing him all that well) I would say that it was something along those lines which he would also turn into an opportunity to “teach us all a lesson” about letting people think for themselves as well as learning to think for outselves etc, et..al, ad nauseum ….

  18. #18 gwen
    November 20, 2010

    Anyone so immature as to base a decision to keep or abort a pregnancy based on an internet poll of perfect strangers, is far too immature to raise a child. Will they poll when or whether they should; breastfeed, potty train, circumcise, female mutilation, give their 6 year old a boob job? The whole premise of the poll is absurd.

  19. #19 spyder
    November 20, 2010

    I was saddened that the most logical third alternative was not presented. Have the baby and immediately drive to Nebraska to get rid of it. This would have opened the door for pro-lifers to truly express their disgust of living beings, while adoring and honoring the unborn.

  20. #20 anthrosciguy
    November 20, 2010

    Anyone who actually believes these people are going to follow through on the results of the poll isn’t thinking straight.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    November 20, 2010

    This is shit, it is offensive, it is politically motivated and nefarious. It can’t qualify as a hoax. Hoax just doesn’t work as a term here. Yes, they are not really asking people’s decisions, and I’m convinced the poll itself is being hacked by the pollsters themselves.

    Crying “fire” in a crowded theater and watching people get crushed would be a bad thing to do. But the fact that there is no fire does not make the act a hoax.

    The bigfoot in the freezer … that was a hoax.

  22. #22 JohnnieCanuck
    November 21, 2010

    It has been noted that the site was registered before the claimed date of the conception.

    Now that’s what I call a carefully planned pregnancy.

    So Greg, first you express concern for PZ’s well being, should the Pharyngulites skew the poll towards ‘abort’ and second you admit to hacking the poll in that direction? Nasty.

    I’m going to go with you having your tongue firmly in your cheek.

  23. #23 ppnl
    November 21, 2010

    I’m not sure why the fact that something is dangerous, stupid, maliciously motivated and mean disqualifies it as a hoax. Most hoaxes have many of these attributes to varying degrees.

    However it is reasonable to question the wisdom of getting involved in such a thing.

  24. #24 Ben
    November 21, 2010

    if I were to guess at PZ’s motives for making such a provocative post (admittedly not knowing him all that well) I would say that it was something along those lines which he would also turn into an opportunity to “teach us all a lesson” about letting people think for themselves as well as learning to think for ourselves

    Actually the point of crashing online polls, while partly for entertainment, is to highlight that online polls are inherently useless. No valuable information is created by them simply because, as the practice of Pharyngulation goes to prove, they are far too easy to stack … amongst other glaring issues.

    The practice of crashing online polls doesn’t need to stop, the practice of posting the polls in the first place and then treating the results they provide as anything other than utter dross needs to stop.

  25. #25 MadScientist
    November 21, 2010

    @David N.: Satire has nothing to do with it – it’s plain ol’ internet trolling by fundamentalist jesus death cult trolls.

  26. #26 David Marjanović
    November 21, 2010

    Half a day ago, IIRC even before you posted this post, PZ added an update to the bottom of his post, confirming the first few comments which said it’s a hoax by anti-choice glibertarians. There is no pregnancy.

    So I didn’t vote.

    (Yeeeees, of course “anti-choice” would appear to contradict “libertarian”. But so what? Ron Paul is that crazy, too.)

    But then PZ pharyngulates the poll and instead you get this:

    No. Almost always, we go beyond 95 %. Sometimes we surpass 99.5 %.

  27. #27 P Smith
    November 21, 2010

    ” a battalion of nut bags will blame PZ for killing a human child and he’ll be on the hit list along with the abortion doctors slated for assassination but without the usual protections such doctors get.”

    That statement makes a ridiculous assumption, that atheists would go out and tell someone they don’t know to have an abortion. Just because someone is pro-choice doesn’t mean they like abortion; that’s true of even the most staunch defenders of a woman’s right to choose.

    The idea that atheists would go out and tell someone to do that is facile, patently false and insulting.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    November 21, 2010

    “…second you admit to hacking the poll in that direction? Nasty. ”

    I thought that was funny.

    ppnl: The reason I don’t like “hoax” is that I have the sense that a hoax is something that fools people, then when discovered, deflates like a balloon. This is not going to deflate. There is a next stage to all this that has been planned. The fact that they are faking it is not central, in that plan… how people reacted to it central, and it will be the theme of their screeching at people, their climb to the fabricated oral high ground, their planting of a bloody flag (with a photo of a dismembered fetus on it) on new territory of anti-choice offensiveness. For a simple hoax, the finding out of the ruse is the end. For this, it is the beginning.

    So yes, there is a hoax-like aspect to it but it is not to be written of as a hoax or called “merely a hoax” or “just a hoax.” this is step one in a conspiracy.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    November 21, 2010

    Half a day ago, IIRC even before you posted this post, PZ added an update to the bottom of his post,

    No. I read his post, posted my post, there was no such update. The update does not say that there is no pregnancy. Let’s please not add inaccuracies to what is already a mess, unless the inaccuracies are especially funny or damaging.

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    November 21, 2010

    That statement makes a ridiculous assumption, that atheists would go out and tell someone they don’t know to have an abortion.

    Are you claiming that I a making a ridiculous assumption by suggesting that there are people in the anti-choice movement who are morons, or are you simply not getting that this is one level meta beyond the candy in the box trick?

  31. #31 mad the swine
    November 21, 2010

    Or not vote because “who cares?” Not voting as a symbolic act is actually not an option (WADR, Mike).

    Has PZ Myers stopped beating his wife?
    (1) yes
    (2) no

    Not voting is not an option!

  32. #32 Jason Arnold
    November 21, 2010

    This is a b.s. site, run by neo-conservative, Glenn Beck-watching, global warming-denying losers.

    Report can be found here: http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2010/11/18/birth-or-not-busted-site-linked-to-climate-change-denier-site/

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    November 21, 2010

    THE SCALES HAVE TIPPED!!! Abort is winning. Suddenly, and once again, looking like they makers of the pole have hacked it (poll numbers just do not move this way)

  34. #34 Camille
    November 22, 2010

    @spyder – they don’t need to drive to Nebraska (and I’m pretty sure Nebraska doesn’t want the kinds of nuts that Minnesota has been producing lately even crossing the border). Minnesota has a “Safe Place for Newborns” law – they could deliver and publically leave the baby at the hospital where it could be cared for until adopted by someone a litle more stable than the people who conceived it.

  35. #35 bonefish
    November 22, 2010

    This is interesting:

    http://moderateleft.com/?p=6598

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2010

    If you read the latest blog entry at birthornot, they are already covering their asses.

    The original intent of these frauds was to demonstrate an overwhelming outpouring of “don’t abort” to make a point. Later, the woman who is not really pregnant will have one of her miscarriages (she’s had several so they will pretend it is not a surprise). But much to their surprise and embarrassment, even though they rigged the poll to begin with, the tide has turned and now they have 320K votes to “birth” and 760K votes to abort. They promised to do what the vote said.

    One lie, then another lie, then another lie, then another lie. Typical anti-choicer. I feel like looking these losers up and having a talk with them.

  37. #37 Stephanie Z
    November 23, 2010

    If you try it, you’ll get to talk to their spokesman, who is entertaining mostly in that being anti-choice is not the only thing he shares with Tom Emmer. http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2010/11/john_kalal_mugshot.php

  38. #38 travc
    November 24, 2010

    Wouldn’t the clever approach be to have the hoards (or a bot) vote to keep the poll evenly spread 50/50?

  39. #39 Jinx McHue
    November 26, 2010

    Picking up from email…

    Greg, you would be far, far more likely to find people who want to harm PZ for his treatment of the Koran than for his remarks about some silly online poll. In fact, I am not afraid to say that there are exactly ZERO people who would want to harm PZ due to this poll.

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    November 26, 2010

    Jinx, pro-choice people have been assaulted by anti-choice people many many times, and abortion providers have been hunted down and murdered in this country far more often than any Islamic activist has attacked a Qur’an burner. There is no evidence whatsoever that crazy right wing Christians are not dangerous.

  41. #41 Jinx McHue
    November 26, 2010

    The violent acts against pro-life people has equaled if not far, far outnumbered those against anti-life people. You just don’t hear about it because the left-stream media is on the anti-life side and they “fail to report” (i.e. bury and cover up) inconvenient truths. So don’t talk to me as if your side is nothing but a group of peaceful little angels.

    “There is no evidence whatsoever that crazy right wing Christians are not dangerous.”

    Do you ever think about what you are writing before you post it? Do you ever ask yourself, “Will this make me look really foolish or insane?” I ask these questions because they apply to what that very statement does. Honestly, the statement is so bizarre, irrational, unrealistic, inflammatory and hateful that it is just plain laughable. I guess you’re just another fine example (along with PZ) that having a PhD doesn’t mean someone can’t be a ranting, unhinged demagogue.

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    November 27, 2010

    Jinx, you are a paranoid liar and an obnoxious moron.