Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Meat Puppets

Before I started this blog (in fact in the events that directly caused it), my major internet hangout was Wikipedia. My main project for the short time I was there was turning the Telepathy article from a piece of wooish propaganda and something respectably neutral. I've since become a bit disillusioned with Wikipedia's insistence on being neutral over everything, even reality, but that's another story.

Anyways, on Wikipedia as with everything that reaches a certain level of popularity, there were trolls, vandals, and ideologues. Most of them got banned sooner or later, and then most of them created a new account to try to circumvent the ban. Some of them would create multiple accounts in order to give a false appearance that their opinion was more popular. Either of these types of new accounts became known as a Sock Puppet (a term also used in various other places on the net).

But it turned out that not all of the accounts that appeared to be sock puppets actually were, even when they acted just like sock puppets. These accounts turned out to be piloted by people who were recruited by the suspected sock puppeteer for the sole purpose of supporting their view. These accounts became known as "Meat Puppets," as they were essentially people turning themselves into puppets for someone else to act through. Wikipedia eventually came up with a policy regarding meat puppets, which essentially amounts to treating them exactly as sock puppets. They may be piloted by an actual person, but that person isn't bringing their own views to the table; just parroting another's. This way, meat puppets get no votes.

Unfortunately, modern democracy hasn't recognized this problem, and would likely be hesitant to do anything about it even if it did. You can see meat puppetry on the small scale where people recruit friends or family who wouldn't otherwise vote to vote their way. The vote they cast isn't an informed vote, but it's treated as such by the system. Not too long along, I was pressured by one of my friends to do just such a thing and vote for her preferred candidate in a university election. Deciding to avoid looking like a jerk, I evaded the issue, implying that I would do so. It's hard to resist the pressure, but I feel it's important.

Sometimes, though, it gets even worse, and there are full-scale campaigns for meat puppetry. Ever heard of Revenge of the Cradle? It's a political tactic that involves a minority group having significantly higher birthrates than the majority group in order to eventually become the majority. The term was first used by the French Canadians in Quebec as the name for their tactic to gain a majority. You can see the results today, with French-Canadian families commonly having 10-15 children.

The tactic goes back even further than this though. It has been used both by Christian and Islamic groups as a tactic to gain a majority of the population in many areas. They don't come out and say that's what they're doing, but it's the result of their religious commands to "Go forth and procreate" which are reinforced by the religious leaders. (Note that nowadays it's going on much more in the Muslim world. Their birth rates are significantly higher than those of other groups in many mixed areas.) Natural selection acting on societies has led to the societies that produce more children being more survivable and common, so even without intending it in the first place, their procreation has become a political tool.

I'll make no bones about it, this practice is despicable. Imagine a child in a French-Canadian Revenge-of-the-Cradle family. She's young and naive, and she asks her mother about the meaning of life and her purpose in it. What's the mother to say? The child's entire purpose in life, the reason that she was born, was so that when she reached the age of majority, she'd vote French. She's not allowed to think for herself; she's only meant to vote the way her parents intended her to. And they say atheists don't have respect for life.


Nes said...

No mention of the Quiverfull movement? Granted, Christians as a whole already have the majority in the U.S.A., but I believe this is a minority sect of Christianity that's trying to become a majority.

TheBrummell said...

Unfortunately, modern democracy hasn't recognized [meat puppetry], and would likely be hesitant to do anything about it even if it did.

There's a horrible detection / diagnosis problem there. If you ask someone why they voted for candidate X, how do you determine if they cast that vote for "acceptable" reasons? If they say "because I agree with X's policies", is that sufficient justification for their vote to count? What if you think X's policies are looney - can you just throw away any votes for X? Why allow X to run in the first place, then? What if you think that our interviewed voter is lying, and really voted for X because their relatives told them to? How do you find out?

Finally, how do you distinguish between foolish coersion, as in a person convincing someone else to vote for X through lies or spin, and someone deciding to vote for X based on a reasonable argument presented by a person coincidentally in some position of social power over our interviewed voter? If my boss tells me a good reason to vote for X, does his authority over me invalidate my vote?

They don't come out and say that's [high birth rate] what they're doing, but it's the result of their religious commands to "Go forth and procreate" which are reinforced by the religious leaders.

There are a great many confounding variables here. Yes, groups like Quiverfull, mentioned above, do explicitely state "we're gonna breed us an army!". And I am quite certain there are other groups that either hide this goal from outsiders or hide it from the majority of their 'flock', all while plotting their own eventual domination of the current complacent majority.

However, human fecundity rates are strongly impacted by many more variables than "pastor said so". Poverty and especially low education for women are very strongly correlated with large family sizes. Causality has been proposed, citing such additional factors as agricultural labour, sanitation, and the presence of a frontier into which to expand, as well as non-religious cultural factors like the 'macho effect' associated with a man being demonstrably 'virile', or the tendency of children of large families to produce many children of their own, because they believe children in small families are less happy (lonely, spoiled, whatever) than their own childhood experiences were.

Sorry, that was a nasty long run-on sentence. I understand your point that anyone breeding children (humans! these are people!) for the express or primary (or heck, secondary or tertiary) purpose of expanding a political group is essentially committing a crime against their own children, by denying their children any capacity for free choice.

The irony here is the correlation between these groups and the arguments they use in opposition to abortion - respect life, because it's a convenient commodity in service of our ideology. And they accuse the rest of us of "cheapening human life".

Infophile said...

Ah yes, Quiverfull had just slipped my mind as I was writing this. That one's a good example, too.

And yeah, TheBrummell raises a good point about how it would unfeasible to do anything about this practice. There's just no way to fairly judge the situation.

Now, there may, on the other hand, be a round-about way to handle those who breed children for votes. What we could do here is to put limits on the number of children people can have, or at the least stop giving out tax benefits after a certain number. I'm not saying we should limit it at one like China, but a limit of, for instance, four children per family would inconvenience almost no one except those trying to breed meat puppets. It also has the benefit of somewhat curbing population growth. Face it, we're over carrying capacity for the planet, or we're at least going to hit it soon.

JanieBelle said...


Not all sock puppets are bad! I am deeply hurt that there has been no caveat to differentiate me from that crowd of dirtbags.


And here I just put you on my Wall Of Honor, too.


Kisses Infophile.

Dikkii said...

Whenever I hear the word sock puppet, I'm reminded of a rather crass story from my first year at university.

I met this girl in a pub who claimed to have slept with George Michael.

Bear in mind that this was before everyone had internet access, and well before Michael came out.

She claimed that he rather liked her to do it in the "reverse cowgirl" position, and particularly liked it when she would scream "I'm your sock puppet, baby!"

I had my doubts about the legitimacy of this story then and, of course, still do now, and I don't know why, but I thought I'd share it with you.

Incidentally, we get around the meat puppet issue in Australia through compulsory voting legislation.

Infophile said...

Sorry about that, Janie. When I think about sock puppets, a couple of properties come to mind that you don't fit:

1) Generally not admitted to be a sock puppet.

2) Used to vote or make it appear a certain position has more support than it does.

Now, if we generalize it to "fictionalized personas," then of course there are plenty created for benign reasons, and I have no problem with them. Besides, this post was mainly about meat puppets; I just mentioned sock puppets to explain where the term comes from.

JanieBelle said...

I know, I was just yanking your...



Oh, and I wanted to mention the Wall Of Honor, too.


JanieBelle said...

Would this be a good place for me to bitch about some meat sack at WordPress who suddenly decided that Kate and I write stuff too naughty for the general public?

We've just been de-listed, which means our posts can no longer be seen in the category pages, the tag surfer, or the friend surfer at WordPress.

He said we had "adult material" and that people don't want to read that stuff.

Um... Then why exactly is there a sex tag? Maybe one post in ten with that tag is about HIV or science or something. The rest is people talking about their sex lives.

I'm so pissed that it's so secret and arbitrary.


I just need to bitch everywhere I can about it, and hope enough people scream at WordPress that they decide it's not worth censoring blogs any more.


Kisses to you from bo'fus.

JanieBelle said...

Oh, and no offense about that "meat sack" comment.

I'm just pissed.