Settle down kids, it’s time to go back to skeptic school. Today’s lesson: confirmation bias. Today’s example: this ridiculously stupid tweet and it’s ridiculously stupid replies.
“A Nunnery” writes, “Well, this makes me absolutely sick, but the bizarre #feralhogs tweet is fascist dogwhistle bait. Add the oddly specific quantities in the feral hogs tweet:
30+50 = 80
3+5 = 8
and the idea presented of invading pigs threatening his children, and protection by violence.”
That probably makes no sense to you if you have a life outside of Twitter, so let me explain: earlier this week after one of America’s many mass shootings, a man on Twitter attempted to justify not banning assault weapons like so:
“Legit question for rural Americans – How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 minutes while my small kids play?”
This is obviously hilarious and stupid, so Twitter quickly made this man into its daily punching bag. We all had fun.
But you can’t have fun on Twitter, because eventually someone will explain why your fun is actually helping the Nazis. Enter “a nunnery,” who has basically reinvented the Bible Code but for Tweets. Sure enough, if you add up 30 and 50 and 3 and 5 you get “88,” which is the Hitler number because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.
The craziest thing is probably that the second half of all that is true. Neo-Nazis are stupid pieces of shit so the best way they could come up with referencing their dead and rotting beta cuck dickhole is by a simple replacement cypher. If you browse through Reddit and see someone with a username that includes “88”, they’re as likely to be a Nazi as to be 31 years old.
But the rest of nunnery’s tweet is just straight up confirmation bias. Let’s review! Confirmation bias is what happens when a person seeks out information that supports what they already believe to be true, and ignore what they don’t believe to be true. For instance, if a psychic tells you that she sees your dead relative whose name is Jim and gave you a watch when he died of cancer, you will cling to the fact that your granddad was named James, even if he died of a heart attack and never gave you a watch. You’ll forget those other details and tell everyone the psychic is for real because she knew your granddad’s name — if you wanted her to be a real psychic, or if you desperately wanted a message from your granddad.
In this case, “nunnery” wants this viral tweet to be a coded Nazi message, so she dug through and found these details that she thinks make it obvious that it is, even though those details require her to add random numbers together, and even if there’s no actual reason for this message, which was simply a reply to a celebrity talking about assault weapons, to contain a secret Nazi code. You can see it happening in her replies, too, when she attempts to support her position by saying, “I wasn’t certain until I looked at the fascist POS’s tweets, and he keeps putting whistle after whistle in responses, 4, 8 etc.
I’m really sorry to break this this way, and I wish I’d learned or noticed earlier. I would just delete everything you’ve posted on it. I am going to.”
I looked at the “fascist POS’s tweets” as well and surprise, he’s not a Nazi. Or if he is, it’s very, VERY well-hidden because he mostly tweets about basketball. Her proof is that he defended the question of how to handle 30-50 feral hogs by stating that he “never advocated for one solution,” and…Hitler proposed a final solution, I guess? But if he’s using a dog whistle there, wouldn’t he say something like “I was just looking for one (final) solution” to the feral hog problem?
She points out that his use of “8” twice also fits. In one tweet, he tweets “88,” the Hitler number! But this is from 5 YEARS AGO in reply to an ESPN commentator asking who people think will win the Daytona 500 that year. Several other replies also name 88, because car number 88 is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Guess who won that year? Yep! Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 88. Proving that NASCAR itself was signalling to the world that it is a secret Nazi enclave.
Nunnery’s other proof? That McNabb tweeted a funny video last month about what it’s like to be on Twitter by saying, “I’ve been on Twitter for over 8 years. This is exactly how what it’s like.” Someone replies to Nunnery saying, “Do you think he deliberately made his account in 2011 because he knewe that exactly 8 years later he’d be able to exploit it for a Nazi dogwhistle?” And incredibly, she says yes: “I mean, come on, there’s plausible deniability and then there’s just denying the blatant.”
Normally I would have just ignored all this because this person seems…unwell. Like, Pepe Silvia level paranoid. But her initial tweet, with zero corroboration, has almost 500 retweets and 1,000 faves. And I think it’s worth noting that there isn’t anything about conspiracy theorist paranoia and cognitive biases that can’t also apply to liberal progressives. We need to be especially careful to not fall into that trap, because when neo-Nazis actually do use dogwhistles (and they are becoming more and more obvious), we can call them out without looking like, well, paranoid conspiracy theorists.
And as an aside, Willie McNabb doesn’t deserve to be branded as a secret neo-Nazi. Is he a moron? Yes, obviously. But the absolute bollocking he took for his viral feral hog tweet, which even made it to CNN for god’s sake, is more than enough for what his 2nd-amendment-loving ass deserves.
One final note — that’s not to say that all people pointing out Nazi dogwhistles are incorrect. Just the opposite! As another recent example, Frank Figluizzi, an NBC analyst, recently pointed out that Trump has ordered the flag to fly at half-staff until August 8th, 8/8. Did Trump knowingly and specifically arrange for the flags to go back to full-staff on 8/8 as a Nazi dogwhistle? Honestly, probably not? But there are actual Nazis working for the State Department, as Hatewatch uncovered this week, so it’s not entirely out of the question. And there is no traditional amount of time for the flag to fly at half-staff following a tragedy — it’s entirely up to the president. In this case, Trump determined that it would fly from Sunday, August 4 to Thursday, August 8. That does seem like a strange amount of time. Why not finish out the work week? But there’s really no way to know without getting a memo from Whitey McWetDog to Trump saying “Hey, 8/8 is important to white nationalists let’s do this.”
But Figluizzi’s point was that whether it was intentional or not, neo-Nazis will see it as yet another sign that the president of the United States is on their side. If you were president of the United States and you happened to have a big following of actual Nazis in your fan base (and working for your administration) but you weren’t a Nazi sympathizer yourself, wouldn’t you be doing everything possible to distance yourself from them?
See? We can talk about Nazi dog whistles without using numerology and inventing neo-Nazi conspiracy theories out of thin air. Good news: it’s 2019 and the Nazis aren’t exactly hiding anymore. Wait…maybe not so good news.