Accuracy in Media


It’s a joke uttered by thousands of politicians: “Tell your friends in our party to make sure they vote next Tuesday; tell your friends in the other party to make sure they vote next Wednesday.”

But when a meme pushed by conservatives on the Internet jokingly told Democrats to vote Nov. 7 instead of on Election Day the day before, Twitter took action and suspended the account and about 1,500 others similar in nature.

The joke tweet on an account created to joke about Democrats’ conformity and supposed lack of critical thinking skills “was a bridge too far for Twitter,” whose rules prohibit giving out knowingly false voter information, according to press reports.

But in “What is NPC, the Pro-Trump Internet’s New Favorite Insult?” with a subhead: “Twitter has barred hundreds of right-wing accounts for posing as soulless, ‘nonplayable’ liberal activists” by tech writer Kevin Roose, the New York Times shows what really bugged Twitter – and the mainstream media – about the accounts.

NPC stands for non-playable character. These are characters in video games that help actual players by appearing at given points during the game and saying particular pre-programmed lines. They are akin to the dolls of yesteryear where one could pull a string and hear 10-12 pre-programmed responses, such as “I am hungry.”

The New York Times says a “trolling campaign” carried out by pro-Trump “right-wing Internet users … involve creating hundreds of fictional personas with gray cartoon avatars, known as NPCs. These accounts posed as liberal activists and were used to spread – among other things – false information about November’s midterm elections.”

Beyond the obvious joke about the date, what misinformation was involved? NPCs “join the anti-Trump crowd not because they are led by independent thought or conscience to oppose President Trump’s policies, but because they’re brainwashed sheep who have been conditioned to parrot left-wing orthodoxy, in the matter of a scripted character,” Roose wrote.

Now, “a group of young, extremely pro-Trump internet trolls have spent the past several years mocking anti-Trump people as whiny, easily triggered snowflakes who are primarily motivated by social acceptance rather than by logic and critical thinking,” Roose wrote.

Actually, though, it is “many of Mr. Trump’s supporters – including, as of last week, Kanye West” – who have echoed each other in talking points and “put their support for him in the language of a freethinking rationality and paint the other side as being motivated by blind loyalty and identity politics.”

His proof is that West said at his White House meeting with President Trump last Thursday that he was “programmed to think from a victimized mentality.”

This “offers Mr. Trump’s online supporters an easy shorthand way to paint liberals as humorless prudes who say ‘Drumpf’ because the HBO host John Oliver told them to, who march in protests and put on pink ‘pussyhats’ because they’re the popular things to do, and whose views can’t withstand scrutiny.

“And then, when progressives object to a meme that portrays them as unthinking automatons, it becomes another piece of evidence: See? The left can’t take a joke.”

At Kotaku, the concern was not a joke about when Election Day will take place but that the “NPC meme tries to dehumanize SJWs.”

Writer Cecilia D’Anastasio broke it down like this: “Part crackpot social theory and part elementary school insult, the NPC meme originated from a deeply comical medley of bogus physics and stupid religion found on the messaging board 4Chan.”

She quoted a 4Chan poster, who wrote that there are only so many souls in the universe that are recycled constantly, and that the population now exceeds the supply of souls, and the “soulless extra walking flesh piles around us are NPCs …”

The NPC meme “takes things a step further into a political zone where mass outcry against, say, serial harassers, racial injustice, or Trumpian ideas is dismissed as not just inherently uncritical but prima facie evidence of a lack of human consciousness.”




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