Digg Patriots & Climate Change: The Confederacy Of Dunces

What makes the Digg Patriots story interesting is not so much what they did, but what it tells us about society that they were able to do it at all. I am referring of course to the revelation that a group of “conservatives” organized to suppress certain kinds of information on the behemoth news sharing site digg.com. The core story and related ones are well covered in the following articles, so I won’t repeat them:

I will begin with the caveat that as one of those targeted for cyber-stalking I am really only familiar with the Digg Patriots who involved themselves with climate change and related issues, but them I know only too well. As such it is really to that segment of the Digg Patriots that I refer, although I have no reason to believe the rest are any different.

Why should we be concerned that the Digg Patriots existed at all? Is it really so bad that a group organizes themselves to promote a particular point of view, even though subverting site policy and going so far as working to suppress others? Nothing particularly surprising there.

Of course this group, or some members of it, practiced harassment and other acts (see articles above). Or as also documented, the Digg Patriots had not the slightest interest in truth or facts; they were pushing a particular politic and were quite happy to censor facts while promoting lies. Here too, not really that surprising or noteworthy in my opinion.

What is interesting to note is the nature of the groups grasp of the issues, or rather lack of it. However rational or intelligent they may or may not be in other spheres of their lives, while acting as Digg Patriots they demonstrated the maturity of grade school bullies and the intelligence of lobotomized rodents.

If you are familiar with them at all you know that it is difficult not to picture the typical Digg Patriots as being named Gomer,living in a trailer behind his uncle’s back road filling station, and hoping to someday finally finish grade 6. No doubt they are actually fairly typical demographically, but you would never know it from their comments and actions.

That may a seem an attempt at an abusive ad hominem, IE trying to discredit them by insulting them, but that is simply not the case.  Lest you doubt me, feel free to check the comment threads of the various Digg Patriots. Just select a few names from the list, search for them on digg.com and read their comments.

You will discover they never have any kind of rational or relevant response to a real climate article. Instead you get (a sampling in approximate order of frequency):

  1. Vacuous, ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims such as “the hoax is over”;
  2. Name calling and insults (actual abusive ad hominems;
  3. References to any number of the Denier hoaxes and frauds well known to be false
  4. Constant inconsistencies and contradictions, such as claiming that the world is not warming, and then on the next article that it is warming but it’s caused the Sun, not CO2, followed by another that it is caused by CO2, but not from humans, and then back to another saying that we are cooling.
  5. etc

Stupidity is not a crime per se, indeed it is even protected by law. Organized stupidity equally so, unless it is done in order to commit a crime. I grant there is an argument that this would apply in this case, but let’s leave that aside for now.

The question I have is, how is it that the village idiots became gate keepers controlling the flow of information to tens of millions of people, and no one except the immediate victims noticed? Not Digg administration, not Digg moderators and not Digg users generally.

On the one hand I suppose it really isn’t that surprising. If someones regular source of information is exclusively mainstream media Deniers such as George Will, Andrew Bolt, Lawrence Solomon, or James Delingpole then the disinformation campaign at Digg was no different from what they normally experience as “journalism.”. Indeed these “luminaries” and others like them are the sources of a fair amount of the stupidity that the Digg Patriotss try to pander on news sharing sites such as Digg.

However, I assume that most Digg users do not isolate themselves in the world of wingnut pandering. I suspect that the truth is that the majority of Digg users are fairly typical of Internet users generally, and to that extent, the general population as well. They did not notice the dumbing down of the information stream because they are not particularly that aware of climate change as an issue at all.

Of course in the interests of feeling “well informed” they will look at some climate change information when it appears before them, but other than that it simply has no place in their lives. How then would they notice any change in the quality and quantity of information that appears before them? In an informed society where the media actually functioned the actions of the Digg Patriots would have been an obvious and laughable farce. As it is in our world of infotainment they were relatively successful.

As such the Digg Patriots were not a problem so much as a symptom, and not merely of the success of the industry funded disinformation campaigns.

The real, far deeper and much more terrifying problem is the relative ignorance of the general public with respect to climate change that allowed the Digg Patriots to operate unnoticed.

Catch 22, public ignorance leads to public ignorance, and until the public is better informed it is very difficult to better inform the public.

The particular site used by the Digg Patriots may be gone, but it is easy enough to create another somewhere else within hours. The various Digg Patriots then open new Digg accounts under new names in even less time (as some have repeatedly done) and they are back in business.

That is not to say that the exposure of the Digg Patriots was a futile act of mole whacking. More people are now aware of the depths to which the Deniers will sink, and hopefully Digg itself will take measures to ensure that this sort of gaming of their site is at least more difficult.

Nor am I suggesting that there are any easy answers. If there were we would have long since implemented them. The challenge of educating the public is huge, complex, and endless.

I am merely noting that the symptom will return in some form as long as the core problem remains. The exposure of this particular Confederacy of Dunces needs to be the genesis of a dialogue as to how we deal with them effectively, not seen as the conclusion of a problem that has been solved.

Image Credits:

Gary Baseman Dunce by”Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Heads by hydra arts

The Dunce Corner by kmakice

TV Dunce by Adam Crowe

Orange Cones and Their Strange Whereabouts by Sister72


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