Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comic 690: Incendiary Remarks

Semicontrolled Demolition of XKCD's reputation
First off, let's talk about this comic as though it did not have to do with September 11th. What's the joke? It's about the idea that a compromise between two "extreme" views is inherently good, and closer to the truth than the extremes from which it was derived. That's an all too common idea these days (you can hear plenty of people complain about examples where people in the media present two sides of an argument equally, even though one is clearly sensible and one absurd) and while I am all in favor of mocking it, I can't exactly say it is a fresh topic. Lots of people talk about this sort of thing. But still, it's a worthy target and this sort of mockery seems to be a good way to expose how dumb it is. It's the same as all the forum posts saying things like "Well, I think you punching my arm caused me a million dollars in damages. You say it barely touched me and I should shut up, and get nothing. Clearly, the fair thing is to compromise, and have you give me $500,000. HA HA."

That said, this comic doesn't present the joke in a vacuum. Randall needs, of course, a context for the idea, and he went with 9/11. Let's talk about that.

First off, I'm not opposed to making fun of 9/11. I think it's important to laugh in the face of these sorts of things, and that, especially in the case of terrorism, the way to not let them win is to not be scared, and laughter and jokes help with that. That said, it's still 9/11, 3000 people still died, 9 years ago, and the direct ripple effects of that are still with us. So what I'm saying is, at least for the next many years, make fun of 9/11 if you wish, but be careful about it, and make sure the joke is worth it. I know I've linked to this before, but here is the online version of the Onion's immediately post-9/11 issue (two weeks after 9/11). You should read all the articles. They are done brilliantly, combining humor with sympathy in a way that quite frankly I think every comedian needs to study, and hard.

Let's compare it to Randall's jokes about 9/11. A cursory search of my memory and xkcd's shitty, shitty search engine* gives three: a throwaway reference, a throwaway alt-text reference, and the two more interesting ones, a punchline and a joke in a long series of jokes. It's those last two that are more interesting. Comic 102 always struck me as really jarring - I don't usually expect such dark humor in xkcd, or most places. Think about it: the joke is her dad died on 9/11. Funny in some ways, but you really have to be in the right mindset.

(update: xkcd's crappy search function made me miss another one: 647. I'd call that one pretty much neutral, using 9/11 as a historical benchmark in the way many sudden tragic events, like the Kennedy assassination, are used).

(later update: Ian Jones points out another 9/11 comic, even a 9/11 truther comic, 258. It's not funny at all, but the point is, these jokes were funnier back then, in the first half of 2007. Now, they are a little old. Hell, even the birther conspiracy folks are old. What's a good new one?)

* Yes, I know Randall's search engine is Oh No Robot, made by man-god Ryan North. But he needs to freaking update it and also not constantly repeat comics in it.

And Secretary Part 3, with its joke about the 9/11 Truthers, making it a good one to compare to today's comic. I like the older one more - claiming 9/11 was a hoax because it didn't happen is a pretty absurd idea, and I like it - it parallels the absurdity of the 9/11 Truthers. But this one just isn't as interesting.

Today's comic is of course new ground in xkcd-9-11 jokes, because it has an actual drawing of the twin towers. Like the subject of 9/11 itself, you have to be careful. Here - let's remember what he is drawing:

that's what he is taking and making a joke out of.

I really really don't want you to think I'm opposed to making any sort of joke about a tragedy - that's why I stressed so hard that it can be ok. But seriously, make sure it is worth it! Was this comic worth it?

I'm worried that 9/11 is quickly becoming the new all-purpose topic for jokes when you want to prove you aren't scared of making jokes about a touchy subject, a la the holocaust / hitler or dead baby jokes. Or rape jokes. Basically anything Cyanide and Happiness makes jokes about regularly. There are good jokes about Hitler - just watch The Producers. But they are vastly outnumbered by shitty jokes that people made because they aren't funny enough to think of good ones, and are substituting shock value for humor value. The fact that awkwardness or tension sometimes manifests itself as laughter can be enough to convince these people that they should continue to make such jokes.

Maybe I don't even dislike this comic - I'm not sure. My thoughts about its subject matter are getting in the way, but maybe that itself is proof that it's a bad comic. I'm also a little bothered that more people aren't concentrating on this part of it - they're just taking the context of 9/11 in stride and talking about the truth-lies-halfway-between-two-claims part.

I wasn't expecting this post to turn so philosophical (hey guys let's debate the justifiable limits of free speech in the comments!) so take it as a set of thoughts inspired by the comic.

ha ha, truthers.


  1. Carl, you're suckin' right now. /qyf

  2. Comment on 691: Where's the goddamn punchline.

  3. the punchline is he wants to fuck a computer.

  4. Jacques "The Ox" TiramisuJanuary 19, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    Comic 102 wasn't really ABOUT 9/11, I don't think. It was more a commentary on the premise/plot of Back To The Future: Marty has access to a time machine and obviously has the ability to alter history, but the only thing he "fixes" is the lives of his parents and Professor whatsisname. He doesn't go back in time and try to prevent the Holocaust; he doesn't try to prevent WWI; he doesn't really do anything substantive about some of the worst events in human history, even though he has access to a machine that could conceivably make them all go away. The way I see it, 9/11 is really interchangeable with a number of other disasters--the Challenger explosion, the Kent State shootings, or simply the death of some poor man caught in the crossfire of some gunfight. (In that way, 9/11 may not be the best choice for a crisis, since it happened several years after the movie was made. But whatever.)

    The comic does mention 9/11 in a very blasé way, which may be sort of iffy in and of itself, but the joke isn't that her dad died on 9/11 but that her dad died and "Marty" was too big of a douchebag to even think of doing anything about it--or any of the other billions of problems that time travel might have been able to fix.

  5. Jacques "The Ox" TiramisuJanuary 19, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    (And by "interchangeable", I mean that you could exchange it with those other events and the joke would be pretty much the same, not that 9/11 was no different from/somehow inferior to those other tragedies. That would be a horrible thing to say.)

  6. Three points:
    1) The joke in this comic is that the compromise theory is inherently more ridiculous than either extreme. Given the jokes you compared it to in your post, I get the impression you did not understand that. The joke when you complain you deserve a million in damages for a punch on the shoulder is that you can invent your own extreme to make ANY compromise favorable to you. The joke in this comic is that being moderate is not the same as being open-minded. Which I think is fairly deep, for xkcd.

    2) The caption at the bottom of the comment is unnecessary. Both because the alt-text does a better job of exposing the joke and because, truthers or not, anyone would respond poorly to a compromise theory that discounts every GOOD point either side has to make. Not to mention that by explicitly calling out the truthers here, he's implying that one side of the argument deserves less respect than the other (which is fine if he believes that, but it dilutes the real joke, pointlessly).

    3) I don't think there's much attempt to shock, here. 9/11 is widely recognized, and the joke here is valid. If you think about how the developed in his mind, Randall probably did not think, "What's a good example of a compromise that's more ludicrous than any extreme?" He was probably thinking about 9/11, and the joke evolved from consideration of both theories and how incompatible they are.

    It may not be in good taste, but I don't think Randall made a conscious effort to include a 9/11 reference just for shock value, or to make up for lack of depth in the actual humor of the comic.

  7. Great writeup. I was a bit jarred at first by the 9/11 reference, specifically the drawing, and upon trying to figure out why, I was drawn to the same conclusions discussed here. I'm not offended in the least, but Randall is walking on thin ice. It's a touchy subject. Jokes are fine, but if it's not funny, it sort of stops being a joke and starts being disrespectful. This comic is quite far from funny. The premise wasn't bad, but the execution was terrible. 691 is, similarly, just not funny at all.

  8. Anyone who makes a joke about dead babies needs to go to a fucking funeral for one.


    Uh...anyway, you can go back to talking about the lame comic. Touchy subject matter as well.

  9. The joke was not about the second WTC attack. The joke is about the irrational assumption that facts rest between two extremes.

    I'm actually surprised that we're still talking about the second WTC attack. It was a minor incident, a decade ago, to which the U.S.A. overreacted. Today, it is irrelavent and will only garner a minor footnote in future history books.

    Maybe people still discuss it to alleviate their national shame. I mean, the U.S. didn't overreact to the first WTC attack back in the mid 90s and no one ever mentions that one anymore.

  10. I have been reading this site for a long time and have never posted.

    But anonymous 12:23, fuck you. Seriously. I would not give a shit if you died right now. I would tell your grieving family that it was a "minor incident" that is by that time "irrelevant". Most people in the world won't even know it happened.

    In addition to being a total asshole, you're just a retard for thinking 9/11 is irrelevant in today's world.

    Did I mention you can go fuck yourself? I'm sure there are other people who read this blog who personally knew someone who died that day.

    And I'm not American.

  11. 12:23, 12:48

    Ironically, the truth here does lie in the middle. :48 is correct that it's not irrelevant in any way (certainly 9/11 will be a substantial part of history textbooks in the future, possibly as much so as Pearl Harbor. Maybe larger, depending on how things go in the Middle East. It has had a huge influence on US policy and public opinion.). :23 is correct that we overreacted-- all I need to say here is 'Iraq'.

    Anyway, on humor, I don't really see anything wrong with making jokes out of delicate subjects. Yes, tragedies suck. But sometimes the best thing you can do about them is suck whatever fleeting joy you can from them. And in regards to terrorism especially, not being able to make jokes about 9/11 means not being able to make jokes about Bin Laden. Humor may not stop terrorists, but it can do a lot to stop terror.

  12. Failure to see how the WTC bombing and the 9/11 attacks were different in nearly every aspect is idiotic. Failure to see how the state of the world in the past decade is almost entirely a result of 9/11 is even more idiotic. Congratulations, 12:23. You're an idiot!

    Latest comic: I can only hazard that he took the post-punchline dialogue complaints to heart and, in Randyllian fashion, had no idea what to do with it and cut out both the post-punchline dialogue AND the punchline.

  13. I don't think he's making fun of 9/11 or making it look lightly. He's making fun of the people who think it was a set up etc. It's not really the same thing. Making fun of the Hatian earthquake or the Tsunami victims, that's a differnt matter.

  14. While the US did overreact to 9/11, it's hardly "minor" and certainly not "irrelevant." In all honesty, as far as monetary damages and loss of life, the bombing of Pearl Harbor was far more "minor" than the 9/11 attacks, yet it's a big subject that's more than a footnote in history books for a lot of reasons.

    9/11 is the same way. Even if you want to say that the loss of two buildings is minor, the attacks were responsible for many things: the US invasion of Iraq, the Guantanamo Bay prison, as well as a sudden rash of anti-Muslim sentiment from conservatives. This has directly led to a lot of changes in the way the world works now as opposed to how it was before the attacks. It's hardly "irrelevant," any more so than the bombing of Pearl Harbor was irrelevant because it led to the US getting involved in World War II.

    The reason people discuss it isn't due to "national shame." It's because two huge friggin' buildings are gone. The earlier WTC bombing did not result in the towers being completely destroyed, nor did it cause any significant political changes...that is why that one isn't mentioned very often. Further, the WTC bombing only killed six people, whereas the 9/11 attacks killed much more, making it a bit more significant.

    So yes, 12:23 is an idiot (actually I'm more of the belief that he's a troll, which means I'm deliberately feeding him right now, but oh well).

    Anyway, 691. Waiting for the obligatory "GOOMH I was thinking about storage devices too!" on the forums. And yeah, I've had those thoughts before, that it's pretty crazy that those little cards hold more data than those 5 1/4" floppies back in the day, or even most computers in those days did, but there isn't really anything inherently funny about that.

    I guess the punchline though is that dude's going to shove it up his ass or something? Man I don't want to know now that I think about it. I also claim Randall intentionally disconnects the heads of his stick figures. There's no other explanation.

  15. "The reason people discuss it isn't due to "national shame." It's because two huge friggin' buildings are gone."

    Not even that. It's because it [i]shaped the history of the entire 21st century so far and will continue to do so for years to come.[/i]

  16. A post from xkcdsucks that I liked and agreed with.

  17. 9/11 9/11 9/11... you guys sound like Rudy Giuliani.

    Anyway, the latest comic. At first I thought it was kinda boring exaggeration of nerdy fascination with technology. Then I read xkcdexplained.com and now I just can't unsee it. The punchline is truly disturbing if you think about it.

  18. Anonymous 12:23, it will be discussed in the same vein as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand i.e. an action that sparks much larger consequence.

  19. 9/11 is much more significant than even something like the assassination of Ferdinand. It's not just a catalyst. It represents a fundamental paradigm shift in political interaction and conflict - the nation-state no longer predominates. Overwhelming military power is no longer a guarantor of safety. Etc. It's, um, a pretty big deal.

  20. This comic is terrible.

    Not because I'm offended by the 9/11 reference, because I'm not.

    It's just bad.

  21. in germany we have a saying:

    Satire darf alles. ( engl: Satire is allowed to do anything/everything)

  22. In the Kingdom of Bhutan we have a saying too:

    "Next time make the joke worthwile."

  23. daniel: minor nitpick, there are basically no nation-states left in the world; haven't been for a long time. Just states.

  24. This whole "offense" to the use of 9/11 in the joke is ridiculous. Sorry Carl, but you're really reaching - and in this case, it makes the criticism seem quite facetious.

    The joke doesn't utilize 9/11 for humor - it utilizes the "9/11 truthers" conspiracy whackjobs. There's a world of a difference there.

    Just like making jokes about the Holocaust is not the same as making jokes about Holocaust Deniers.

  25. that's not what facetious means

  26. America deserved 9/11.

  27. Anon 12:48:

    You know what? You're right - the world won't know about when I die, nor will my family be right in considering it to be earth-shattering. And I really wouldn't want it to be any other way.

    I hope that my death isn't utilized for political agendas, to fuck over entire nations of people on the other side of the world, while simultaneously degrading any sense of decency or pride in ourselves as a nation, via the violations of the Constitution, civil rights, and privacy that we've currently endured.

    It's because of people like you, who still continue to react in the way that you do, that politicians have been able to take advantage of us and royally screw us over, not to mention the thousands of innocents killed in other countries for this bullshit crusade.

    So go fuck off.

  28. So what you're saying is something which has led to people being taken advantage of, thousands of people being killed, rights being violated on a vast and terrifying levels, etc etc--is completely irrelevant and will be no more than a historical footnote?

  29. I was going to bring up the Archduke Ferdinand thing; you know, even though 9/11 may not be a significant event on its own, the fact that it's led to such a clusterfuck of WTFery will ensure that people remember it, but it looks like John Evans beat me to the punch.

    I have no problem with 9/11 jokes (knock knock. who's there? 9/11. 9/11 who? YOU SAID YOU'D NEVER FORGET!,) the issue with this joke is the fact that it's just so fucking olllldddd. Truthers have been around since, what, 2001? If the joke is only to point out "the truth doesn't always lie between two extremes," then use something fresher to frame it. If the joke is also that truthers are dumb, well, you're 7 years too late, buddy.

  30. http://www.xkcd.com/647/

  31. Some random anonymous dudeJanuary 20, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    Yes, Carl. 9/11 was awful. But behind MOST JOKES there is often something awful, such as slavery, prejudice toward different people, poverty and shit. All of which KILL and have KILLED a whole lot of people. Still, those jokes are made. That's human nature.

    Having that said, this comic did suck. And today's comic is awful. xkcd is not perfect and I nearly agree with you: xkcd sucks... sometimnes.

  32. http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=216 was my first thought

  33. 8:09: congratulations on maintaining your idiot status. The other anon wasn't saying that it's okay to use the deaths of thousands as an excuse to cause the entire clusterfuck of the last nine years. He was saying that you're a moron for failing to see how significant 9/11 is in every aspect of our recent history, and will be considered one of the key events of the post-cold war era. Also, he was taking offence at how you seemingly trivialised the deaths of thousands as 'not a big deal'.

    But no, you read his post and, only taking away the fact that he disagreed with you about the importance of 9/11, you figured he's a foaming madman who wants to bomb those iraqi fuckers for 9/11 neVAR FORGET!

    For that failure in comprehension, you're still an idiot. Nice job!

  34. I'm kind of confused about this guy's definition of significant. I mean, even if you hate America with unrivalled passion, you have to acknowledge that we live in a world where America's actions shape the world. Indeed, if America were insignificant, 9/11 would never have happened.

    Was it significant in terms of direct damage done? I can't think of any bigger terrorist attacks in terms of death toll. That's significant. It completely destroyed two iconic buildings, so that's significant--far more money than you or I are ever likely to encounter.

    And then there's the responses. Changes to air travel. The decline of the industry. The Patriot Act. Multiple failed wars from the US, sinking countless millions of dollars into national defence. A much sharper global focus on the middle east and Western-Islamic relations. A significant decline of America's popularity on the global stage.

    By almost any definition of "significant," 9/11 is an incredibly significant event. Its ramifications are still being felt today. It's radically changed the course of world politics. It has almost single-handedly defined the era we live in today.

  35. you know i really feel like randy's inspiration always comes from "huh this equation/fact/book/film/website/meme is interesting. but boy wouldn't it be funny if..."

    but his twist is usually obvious mundane hackneyed. when he spent his time reading scientific articles and working with maths and such, that was ok. because nobody was making any kinds of jokes about those subjects so you couldn't be hackneyed.

    but now that xkcd has become an extended "my hobby: looking at stuff on the internet", it's just embarrassing a) how unaware he is of the comedic flaccidness of his spin on the topic is, and b) how unaware he is that - unlike a joke about imaginary numbers - he's got to consider whether the rest of the world is on a similar watch to his quips, whether the jokes will seem late-to-the-party and tired (like jokes about 9/11 or Spinal Tap) or just plain inappropriate (oh 631, so much to answer for).

    also embarrassing c): how, given that the dates of a lot of the comics align with the dates of new additions to randy's web history, there are times when you can't help but think "really? you're only now finding out about that? boy we all made that joke years ago what took you?"

  36. How the hell is Randall making fun of 9/11? Using 9/11 in a joke is not the same as making fun of 9/11. He is making fun of truthers/chronic middle grounders. There is nothing in the comic which tries to make 9/11 seem somehow humorous.

  37. I've already made my opinions on comic 690 known, so I'll just say this about comic 691: this would have been a great idea for Randall's illustrated picto-blog. The 4th panel could be removed entirely and replaced with an illustrated version of the alt-text (maybe with some extra examples, e.g. the Library of Congress can be held in [a huge building of books] or [a large room of CDs] or [a small volume of SD cards]) (It would have made a much better poster than the crappy gravity well one).

    The 2nd panel has some nice illustration (well, above-average for XKCD anyway). It's too bad the other three panels are composed of largely copy-pasted pictures of decapitated stick figures that add nothing to the text.

    Did I mention the joke is disgusting, unnecessary and unfunny?

  38. "a clusterfuck of WTFery"

    That's... beautiful.

    "now that xkcd has become an extended 'my hobby: looking at stuff on the internet'"

    I was thinking about this after the FIRST Design comic. If you're no longer active in the scientific/engineering community, then what does he have to go on? What he learned in high school and on the internet.

    691: The comfort xkcd explained provided by showing me I'm not the only one who read it that way was balanced by removing the hope that I was wrong, and that's all I have to say about that.

  39. "There is nothing in the comic which tries to ... seem ... humorous."

  40. I don't think this comic was funny, either, but your criticism was awful. I feel embarassed to hate XKCD because of how much focus you put on the 9/11 aspect. It's way past the "too soon" period (which is bullshit to begin with).

  41. 691: oh boy is that a disgusting thought and plus it makes no sense. Why would anyone be sexually attracted to large amounts of memory?

  42. I think it might have been better if it had picked something that didn't involve people dying, I mean, I'm ok with 9/11 jokes just as I make Pearl Harbor jokes or Hollocaust jokes, I just don't know why it had to be 9/11 here. Why couldn't it be like, well, I decided to reconcile the two sides of the issue. Apollo 11 really was a hoax, but the Apollo 13 astronauts definitely walked on the moon.

    Maybe it's not perfect, but hey, at least it won't offend anybody...

  43. I support 12:23. It was a minor incident. Very much like the Ferdinand event, the bad guys used it as a reason to attack the supposedly other bad guys. Then even more innocent people died.

    Only for theologists it's kind of a big deal, because it once again disproved the existence of any god.

    @Rob 10:30: What America are you talking about? I don't "hate" America, it's just another country. And not actually something "shaping the world." It's popularity couldn't possibly decline because of some stupid war games, it hasn't been any popular since the start of WWII.

    And, what the fuck: "I can't think of any bigger terrorist attacks in terms of death toll."?! What about Hiroshima? (Death toll: 166,000 - by the explosion only) Nagasaki? (80,000) Oh shit, Americans can't be terrorists, of course.

    Arrogant cunts.

    Xkcd is one of American's worldwide enjoyed products, so please consider this slight edit of your reaction for the rest of the world:

    "I'm kind of confused about this guy's definition of significant. I mean, even if you hate America with unrivalled passion, you have to acknowledge that we live in a world where America's actions shape America. Indeed, if America were considered insignificant in America, 9/11 would never have happened to America.

    Was it significant in terms of direct damage done to America? I can't think of any bigger terrorist attacks on America in terms of American death toll. That's significant for Americans. It completely destroyed two American buildings, so that's significant for America--far more money than you or I are ever likely to encounter." (What? Significant is when you or I can't pay for the renovation of what is destroyed? I'm sorry, did you even try to make sense? You or I haven't paid for the building, it's not our building, so it isn't significant. Sorry for this interruption of my edited version of your text.)

    "And then there's the responses in America. Changes to air travel in and to America. The decline of the American industry. The Patriot Act." (I'm sorry, what?) "Multiple failed wars from the US" (Ha! Already there!) "sinking countless millions of dollars into American national defence. A much sharper American focus on the middle east and American-Islamic relations. A significant American interest in the decline of America's popularity on the global stage.

    By almost any definition of "significant to America," 9/11 is an incredibly significant event to America. Its ramifications are still being felt today in America. It's radically changed the course of American politics. It has almost single-handedly defined the era the most narrow-minded Americans live in today."

    Sorry for this long post, probably my first and last, unless some troll feeder plans to respond. I just wanted to let 12:23 know he's not the only one who thinks you guys are overreacting. Again.

  44. Johnny Kebab is awesome, mostly because he seems to be declaring that America and the rest of the world are completely cut off from each other. America was radically changed; the rest of the world barely blinked. Plausible!

  45. Agree with Johnny Kebab. I'm not from the U.S. but I lived there a while, and it's unbelievable how self-absorbed the country is. Even otherwise thoughtful people get sucked into it.

    9/11 shaping the current era is a pretty ridiculous notion. There was already plenty of ill-will towards the U.S. because of all the shit they had already done over the 20th century (not that other countries in a similar situation of power had done any differently, or worse -- England comes to mind). Relations between other coutries and trade were hardly affected. The difference it has made to the average non-american person is a bunch of annoying and poorly thought out security checks at airports.

  46. It's unbelievable that people think the self-absorption of the United States is somehow unique or distinctive.

  47. "I don't "hate" America, it's just another country. And not actually something "shaping the world." It's popularity couldn't possibly decline because of some stupid war games, it hasn't been any popular since the start of WWII."

    Haha. Okay, sure, you don't hate America. You are just disdainful of it and live in a fantasy world where it has been universally reviled since WWII.

    "What about Hiroshima? (Death toll: 166,000 - by the explosion only) Nagasaki? (80,000) Oh shit, Americans can't be terrorists, of course."

    Oh dear. Well, here is the definition of terrorism I generally use: "politically motivated violence directed against noncombatants designed to instil fear in the targets." I don't believe that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were politically motivated--despite hitting illegal targets and hoping to instil fear, it was a military strategy rather than a political one. That is, of course, a point of contention, much like the definition of terrorism. In order to clarify: this is the largest non-state terrorist attack that I can think of, in terms of property damage and death toll, and certainly in terms of international response.

    Now, as to your fantasy about America being insignificant outside of America--I'm not sure what world you're living in. Are you suggesting that America's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan don't affect anyone besides America? How about all of the NATO troops in Afghanistan, or the countries that sent troops to Iraq? How about Afghanistan and Iraq?

    How about the growing international influence of American pop culture? Does that not exist? America's unwillingness to play ball with the rest of the international world,

    I think your mistake is assuming that when I say that America influences world affairs, I am saying that it's a good thing or in any way taking a pro-American stance. I am merely describing the global political climate. America's wealth, cultural dominance, and military power combine to make it the most influential nation in world politics. That influence is in relative decline, but it still maintains unipolar status. Indeed, if it didn't, you wouldn't be sitting here complaining about Americans and how dumb they are.

    There is nothing sadder than popular backlash against something getting in the way of basic understanding of facts of international relations.

  48. In response to Sir. Jonathan Kebab:

    "Only for theologists it's kind of a big deal, because it once again disproved the existence of any god."

    Bravado, my good sir! It is refreshing to see a fellow rationalist denounce the Calvinist and tyrannical mass-hallucination commonly known as... RELIGION (capitalisation for intentional effect.) Clearly, the root of evil throughout all history.
    Let me elaborate, using examples simple enough for your thick pea-esque, heavily indoctrinated heads to comprehend:
    Pagan/Aztec sacrifices? RELIGION. The Spanish Inquisition? RELIGION. The Illuminati? RELIGION.
    Hussein? RELIGION. Mussolini? RELIGION. Mao Ze Dong? RELIGION. I have more! But I digress...
    Let us now look at the list of negative things as a direct result of atheism:
    ...Emotional trauma for theists??
    Obviously, from this indisputable evidence I have just presented to you, an atheist society would be exponentially more progressive, productive and peaceful than a theistic "society" (this, too, is for effect.) As you all know, theists are the most arrogant insipids to walk this Earth, constantly quoting the work of like-minded but more articulate (idiot savants?) fellows and demonizing our beliefs and patterns with moronic blanket statements, believing without a mote of doubt in their cause. Simply visit TheAmazingAtheist's (apt name) youtube videos and watch the ignorami in the comments! I, and my noble scientific compatriots love to shatter their bileful beliefs using but one simple yet effective weapon: FACT. It is a most amusing venture and I implore you to join (if you are an "Xkcd" fan, of course)!

    As the Geek/Greek (tehehe!) philosopher Epicurus said:
    "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
    Quod. Erat. Demonstrandum.

    -William Monty Hughes, ESQ
    IQ 224
    "Cogito Ergo Sum"

    Post Scriptum. I also appreciate how you managed to weave it into your post so delicately and so seamlessly... Clearly, any sheeperson reading it would have suffered immense mental trauma from having their entire fundamental world-view crushed! I believe that your entire argument was strengthened by its entirely logical insertion! T'was indeed a good choice to include it.
    Once more, bravado!
    Post Post Scriptum (no recursion!.) It is amusing to me that their entire belief system can be completely destroyed in a single sentence (I opt for ten) yet they persevere. Naively. Futilely. FURIATINGLY.

    Now good day. Fools*.
    * Possible exception of Jonathan Kebab.

  49. Johnny Kebab, are you in middle school? I thought a lot like you towards the end of middle school.

    'Sorry for this long post, probably my first and last, unless some troll feeder plans to respond. I just wanted to let 12:23 know he's not the only one who thinks you guys are overreacting. Again.'

    No dude, you're not a troll. Sorry, you have to take responsibility for the things you say.

  50. So how come people still say PS? I can see how it makes sense when you write a letter in ink, you'd have to go and write it all from the beginning to add just one thing. But since this is digital you could just go and add your afterthoughts to wherever they are relevant, instead of this PS tomfoolery. Why, then? Answer me, Bill!

  51. The 9/11 comic was so "blah" that I don't even have anything to say about it. But the latest comic is... ... look, this has ALREADY gotten out of hand. We know Randall is a geek-wannabe who caters to the technology love that all the cool geeks have; and we know Randall always loves to remind everyone that he knows sex and he's awesome for that. But... Randall just doesn't know how to turn icky into funny. He should stop trying. That strip is idiotic, disgusting, unfunny and simply painful to read (even WITHOUT the anal insertion imagery). If he REALLY needed so badly to make his point of "oooh, modern technology is so intimidating", there are much better ways to do that. Come on, 251 was a funny one, and didn't even get close to mentioning sex! Why can't we have more like that one?

  52. People still say P.S. because it's classy as hell.

  53. I think we also need to note this as Randall and saying stupid things on stage

    I'd like to say 9/11 won't go down so much in history wrt to the fact that millions are dying. But I've seen people raise Pearl Harbor as high a tragedy as Hiroshima

  54. Also, Keep (way up there) sums up my current opinion of xkcd very well, I think. I wish Randall would just go find a job, maybe his shit would even end up together after all.

  55. As a European, I'm just still confused why Americans seem so obsessed with 9 November for some reason.

    (that joke's almost as bad as the XKCD one, I admit :) )

  56. Sven, I appreciate your joviality and prefer it to the hypocritical superiority implicit in some of the previous posts by non-Americans (or self-hating Americans, as they might very well be).

  57. "It's unbelievable that people think the self-absorption of the United States is somehow unique or distinctive."

    I can only give anectodal evidence, but I've somewhat extensively visited (i.e. not just done the tourist thing for a couple of days) 12 countries in Europe (east and west) and 4 countries in the Americas (north and south), and nowhere were people as blissfully unaware of other countries as in the U.S. The majority of people I met there, most in possession of at least a university degree, were ignorant of even basic facts of world history and geography. They compared rather poorly even with (nominally) less educated people of less developed countries.

    Of course this doesn't say anything about any particular person, but it does very much set the tone of every part of american society that I ever experienced. And it is simply NOT the same everywhere else. (Another common fallacy, to go with the "golden middle" one: if someone does something bad, everyone must be doing it too.)

  58. "I'm glad our country isn't arrogant and assholish like America! Our country is HUMBLE! In fact, we're like ten times more humble than any other country! Maybe even a hundred times more humble! I'm so glad that we're such great and wonderful (not to mention modest) people that we don't have to flaunt our superiority to all those lesser nations that are nowhere as good as we are!"

    I also find it humorous that somehow America isn't shaping the world, considering what happened in Iraq, and considering that the economies of China and America are greatly tied together. Also I seem to remember BBC covering the 2008 election pretty heavily on election night.

    America doesn't have as big of a place in the world as it did back in World War II, and maybe the government (and some citizens) like to think we're more important than we are, but to say we're not shaping the world is well, pretty ignorant of what's actually happening in the world.

    ...man these trolls really know how to play us. GG.

  59. 1223 Anon said, "I'm actually surprised that we're still talking about the second WTC attack. It was a minor incident, a decade ago, to which the U.S.A. overreacted. Today, it is irrelavent and will only garner a minor footnote in future history books. "

    Are you serious? GET REAL. 9/11 is the defining event of post-cold war politics. Anyone with an elementary grasp on history will tell you that.

  60. I don't know why we're making concessions that the U.S. overreacted to 9/11. Is the U.S. supposed to just let terrorists be until an even bigger attack comes? The terrorists are not going to disappear. Any enemy you leave alone will grow in power.

    If you say this was just an isolated attack, I will hold you in a full Nelson, and let George W. throw a shoe at you. Here is a list of terrorist attacks committed in 2001 alone - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents,_2001

    I don't know how the U.S. actions can possibly be interpreted as overreacting. It seems like just because the U.S isn't fighting a war against a group of countries (for the most part), people can't wrap their minds around what we're doing, and call it pointless.

    The truth is, whatever the U.S. does, people will find some reason to blame them.

  61. Still on the topic of 9/11 relevance, I realize that life in the U.S. must have changed a lot, what with the government putting the big scare on everyone (on top of the terrorist attack).

    However, this is not directly perceivable by people in other countries. To put it bluntly, what is perceivable is trade relations, tourists, and diplomatic relations. None of this really changed except maybe for a few countries in the Middle East. The rest of us thought, you know, "wow, those hijackers were some evil crazy bastards", and went back to our lives. (Again, I don't want to be callous, but the death toll and the suffering were not even very high, compared to those going on in other countries distant from non-americans.)

    I would say that the economic crisis shaped recent events much more than 9/11 ever shaped anything. There's going to be a lot of economic reform in a lot of places, affecting billions.

    (Also, Pearl Harbor? Outside of the U.S. people barely know what that was about.)

  62. 'I can only give anectodal evidence, but I've somewhat extensively visited (i.e. not just done the tourist thing for a couple of days) 12 countries in Europe (east and west) and 4 countries in the Americas (north and south), and nowhere were people as blissfully unaware of other countries as in the U.S.'

    Look at the size of your typical European country. Look at the size of the US.

    Think about your typical European country. How many countries does it border? OK, how many of those are within driving distance? You've got that in your head? Good, now look at the US.

    Look at a citizen of your typical European country. How necessary and relevant is it to their life to know the geography and history of other countries, given their relative proximity to and dependence on those countries and their place in world affairs?

    Now look at the US.

  63. '(Also, Pearl Harbor? Outside of the U.S. people barely know what that was about.)'

    I actually laughed at this. Because, see, everybody else is so educated about other countries and world history and shit.

  64. Jay, in your first post, you are making excuses for americans to be largely ignorant of the rest of the world. Whereas I was responding to someone who denied that this was the case. These are different discussions.

    You seem to argue that people should not be expected to know, or be interested in, things that are not "directly relevant" to their lives. This is a pretty common view in the U.S., as far as I could tell, and of course it is the reason that people are so ignorant. After all, it is easy to learn these things if one is so inclined.

    As regards "necessity and relevance", although I am quite baffled by anyone's disinterest in learning about how other people live and have lived, here are a few "uses" of this knowledge.

    First, if you have any knowledge of the history surrounding the development of Christianity, and of the customs and religions of other people around the world, you can dismiss the extremely dominant Christian religion as the bullshit that it is (in its metaphysical and historical claims, and logical underpinnings). Throwing off those shackles is pretty useful in my book.

    Second, if you have contact with the actual life in several other countries, you will be able to see the overly-optimistic claims of your politicians ("America is still the best place to live", and so on) for the drivel that they are. It would also show these politicians in a different light: as people spouting arguable claims as incontrovertible truth, and without much evidence, i.e. actually going and living somewhere else. It might change the way you vote.

    Third, being moderately informed about the world makes you a more interesting person.

    Finally, people might be educated, but their headspace is still finite. Pearl Harbor is one of those things that is huge in the U.S. but really tiny elsewhere. You'll also find that people know that there was a civil war in the U.S., but not the names of specific battles.

  65. Oh, no, no, it wasn't an excuse, it was an explanation. Don't confuse the two.

    It's not really a different discussion, because you implied that Americans are ignorant because they are "self-absorbed." I disagreed and offered an alternate explanation.

    'You seem to argue that people should not be expected to know, or be interested in, things that are not "directly relevant" to their lives.'

    I'm not saying that it's good, just that it's true. Most people won't go out of their way to learn information that's not relevant to their lives, and that's true of every country there is. Americans are more ignorant of the world because it is less relevant to them. Europeans are more knowledgeable because it is relevant to them, not because they're naturally more curious and intellectual.

    'Finally, people might be educated, but their headspace is still finite. Pearl Harbor is one of those things that is huge in the U.S. but really tiny elsewhere.'

    That's absurd. You're the one making excuses now. Pearl Harbor drew the US into World War II. That's a major historical event. If you can't see that you're an idiot.

  66. re: your three "uses", I'm astounded that you turned a discussion on American ignorance into a paragraph of Christian-bashing. I don't even disagree with you, but that's so out of the left field, I don't even... like, where is your head at? What the hell, dude.

    Points 2-3, I don't disagree with those either. I never said that being informed is useless - just that it's less useful when you live in one of the largest, most dominant countries in the world, bordered by only two others and isolated on the other two sides by thousands of miles of ocean. It's very possible for someone in America to live their whole life in ignorance of the rest of the world. In Europe, you would simply be unable to do that. It's not a good way to live, but many people will regardless - and it doesn't indicate some self-absorption on the part of Americans. It's a function of geography.

  67. This comment has been removed by the author.

  68. Alright, this whole "Americans are ignorant of the rest of the world while us Europeans/Asians/whatever are wise and much more knowledgable about the world around us" thing needs to end. I'm a European, and have been to many countries in Europe, and if there's one thing I've taken away from that it's that people only know about the stuff directly around them. So for Europeans, it's Europe, and NOTHING ELSE. Sure, they know where the United States are, because it's a fucking huge country that gets in the news every day. But ask for a little more info and they're stuck. Ask where Wyoming or Missouri are, and 9 out of 10 Europeans won't even point in the right area.

    Of course, you're going to say that that's not fair, because that's a state and not a country. Bullshit. They're huge geographical regions, and you should know about them if you expect Americans to know exactly where Poland is. Hell, plenty of French, British and Spanish people of met don't know exactly where poland is. How about the Sakha Republic? I'll guarantee you that the vast majority of Europeans don't even know what the fuck that is, despite it being the largest governing body in the world. Most people won't know that Kazakhstan is even in Europe, despite it being larger than Western Europe. They'll think Mexico is in South America and would happily say Alaska is part of Canada. Asia is a fucking mystery to most Europeans. But hey, we all know where France, Spain and England are (the difference between England, Britain and the United Kingdom will be a mystery to lots of people, but hey), so we're much better than those ignorant Americans. Ha ha.

    History, same thing. People know about Pearl Harbor because of Jerry Bruckheimer. Most people won't have a clue how it ties in to the course of WWII, and will only come to the conclusion that it's the event that caused the US to join the allies when you press them on it. The US civil war is happily mixed up with the American revolution, and European history is an even bigger mystery. People will know the Hanseatic League by name, but have no idea what it is or who were part of it, and I have never met a European who could tell me how World War I got started. But oh no, our country is more than 250 years old, so that automatically makes us more in tune with the world's heritage than those shortsighted Americans.

    This shit needs to end. People know in detail about the area directly around them, and the rest is just generalities. Europeans, Americans, anyone. Granted, there are people who know more about the world, but that's because they're taking an active interest, not because of some sort of culturally defined sense of knowledge of the world around you.

    So next time you call Americans ignorant about the world around them, either pinpoint Botswana on the map and name when the Boer Wars started and who were in them, or shut the fuck up.

  69. i'm going to go ahead and clarify that i am totally fine with 9/11 jokes, what offend me are bad ones. And this was a bad one.

    Also, I wikipedia'd November 9th for a long time, trying to figure out what important historical event I was unaware of, before realizing you just meant 9/11 vs 11/9.

    i am smrt.

  70. "Now look at the US."

    You mean, the most powerful and influent country in the planet? Yeah, it hardly interacts with other countries at all. It does nothing to the rest of the world. Its citizens totally don't need to know how life is going on outside. Cuba? It must be somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, right? Haiti? That's somewhere on the other side of the world, no? Mexico? Isn't that the big land with all the tiny islands on the top? China? Ah, yeah, the tiny island with all the earthquakes! Venezuela? Ah, right, that country in Africa with the crazy dude. Honduras? Wonder why anyone's talking about it, since it's so far away!

    I don't know. Maybe our realities really are that different, but at THIS age, the age of information, there's no excuse for that. Geographical proximity isn't such a big deal anymore, when you're hearing about the rescues and gang raids in Haiti in pretty much real time!

    Sorry for so much cynicism, I just got carried away.

    Captcha: conseso. With so many diverging opinions, it will be hard to reach a conseso (i speak spanish lol)

  71. The truth ironically exists between the two extremes here.

    1. Johnny Kebab is an asshole. He's not the only one, he's just the first non-anonymous asshole I noticed. El Duderino is toeing the line, though I agree with most of his points and just not their...vigour, except where he disagrees with Jay, because Jay is right about just about everything he's said here.

    2. That said, "shaped the history of the entire 21st century so far and will continue to do so for years to come" is also kind of a ridiculous exaggeration. It had profound effects on Afghanistan an kind of Iraq (although maybe Iraq was going down anyway? Hard to say), and substantial effects within the United States, and yes, some ripple on all the NATO countries peacekeepers. So it was an important event. I'm not going to claim it wasn't. I am going to claim that its personal influence on me is airport security rules + internet forum debate fodder. There are US events unrelated to 9/11 that are far more significant *to me*.

    I'd CERTAINLY say it's less important than Ferdinand's assassination. I mean, there's no "fundamental paradigm-shift" quite like the holocaust and a global war that killed 73 million people, mostly civilians, which then neatly slid into the cold war where for the first time the belief that the world was going to end was somewhat justified. I believe that's about 1000x more lives than Iraq + Afghanistan, maybe a bit less. And I'd certainly been hearing of the death of the nation-state long before the 3rd millennium. And WWII's influence didn't exactly stop with the peace treaty, either. So I think it's a little ridiculous to claim 9/11 is "much more significant". I suppose history will tell.

    3. I've lived in a few countries. Most people everywhere are mostly self-absorbed and interested only in their immediate surroundings. But I'd still say Americans are the most insular of any place I've spent time in by a fair margin. There's a lot of assumption that things significant to the US are THE globally significant things, whether they really are or are not. Even here in this debate we're seeing as justification a few cases of US + one other country = this is significant to everybody.

    "America doesn't have as big of a place in the world as it did back in World War II"

    I'd actually argue it has a bigger place than during WWII, and it's mostly been on the increase since WWII started (with the highest acceleration right after peace with Japan), for better AND for worse.

    (and here I was yesterday making a flippant comparison to auto-erotic asphyxiation).

    "I don't know why we're making concessions that the U.S. overreacted to 9/11."

    Afghanistan: probably justified.
    Iraq: probably not justified *by 9/11*. If it's justified, it's by non-9/11 factors. I'll tiptoe around this because I don't much feel like expanding the political argument here, but there were people that linked the two and it never made a lot of sense.
    But the real overreactions were a lot of little laws here and there in various states where you have to carry ID at all times and you have to do ridiculous contortions to travel (I'm not just talking about airport security) and the warrantless wiretapping crap and gitmo and this and that and the other thing.

    "Is the U.S. supposed to just let terrorists be until an even bigger attack comes? The terrorists are not going to disappear. Any enemy you leave alone will grow in power."

    And it's this attitude that let that all happen. Because see, you're creating a position of two extremes. One where you let the terrorists win, and the other where every last thing the US did was totally justified. But the truth is...somewhere in the middle.

  72. Shut your faggot-ass sperglord mouth, 3:16

  73. Fernie: how much of your depiction of Americans is based on knowledge of Americans and how much is based on the same disinterested assumptions you accuse them of?

  74. Aw, man. I was pleased when I saw Comic 690 because I thought Carl might discuss Comic 258. But the search failed to highlight it and nobody else mentioned it.

    Carl, would you be so kind as to humour me on this one?

  75. Hey guys, the section of land where my parents most likely fucked is better than the section of land where your parents most likely fucked so suck my dick.

  76. Anon 3:16, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand is generally credited with starting World War I, not World War II.

  77. "how much of your depiction of Americans is based on knowledge of Americans and how much is based on the same disinterested assumptions you accuse them of?"

    It's actually not a "depiction"; it was just a cynical way to refute the idea that the USA is isolated enough from the world to justify people being alienated. Keep in mind that I live in a place where the anti-american sentiment is quite widespread, and perpetrated by people who ALSO can't find Iraq in a map. I'm not playing the anti-yankee here; I reckoned my cynicism went out of hand, and that's why I apologised.

  78. to be fair, WWI was a big cause of WWII.

    Ian: Consider it done.

  79. What, precisely, is the utility of discussing whether the "general public" of one country is more sophisticated or well-versed in geography or politics than that of another?

    Because when you do that, it's functionally identical to saying, "Black people commit more crimes and are less educated and poorer than white people."

    This is not, in my experience, a sentiment people appreciate much - it is, strictly, true, but trying to pffer it up in any discussion is both meaningless and potentially offensive, at least when the statement is judgmental in nature; politicians can (and should) talk about how some urban areas are poorer than they should be and analyse the factors that lead to this, because that is integral to executing their job, but armchair discussions of what group of people is better than what other sort of people tend towards engendering fruitless prejudice and self-aggrandizing elitism.

  80. Well, see, this whole "America is not an important country thing" stems from a strong anti-American backlash. They are trying to discredit Americans by asserting that, because I have actually studied international relations, that I am merely an ignorant American who doesn't believe other countries exist.

  81. Guys, I came here to read your reactions to the SD card anal insertion joke, not to read an argument about whether or not 9/11 or America or whatever is important.

    Also, art nitpick - in number 102 that you linked above, the stick figure goes bald for some reason.

  82. Jon, I came here to argue on the internet, not listen to you complain that you don't care about my arguments on the internet.

  83. I came here to chew bubble gum and have stupid arguments on the Internet.

    And I'm all out of gum.

  84. I'm here to be super doodle poppycock. Make some spinach mate! Aye AAAAAAYE!

  85. I'm not playing the anti-yankee here; I reckoned my cynicism went out of hand, and that's why I apologised.

    Yeah, you apologised, but you apologised in the same post where it went out of hand, so you didn't mean it. If you had honestly felt sorry about what you said, you would've just edited your post or declined to click 'post comment'. Instead, you said you were sorry and then posted your nonsense anyway.

  86. This feels like the comments on some politcal youtube video. The comments are never about the video. It's just a bunch of politcal opinion and backlash against other comments. :\

  87. Why do most people here say they don't have a problem with 9/11 jokes? Is it not trivializing the suffering of thousands of people?

  88. wtf carl you try to make it longer but it just really sucks. Why are you losing your touch?

  89. And I just came when I saw all the attention my one litte post got me. Wow.

    I'll try to keep this one a lot shorter.

    First, to my most valued discussion partner of all, Rob, I completely agree on your last (12:28) post, I grinned; it put a smile upon my sad an bitter face, but... I still think Hiroshima was kind of a political strategy. Perhaps it's a bit of a thin line, but clearly Japan withdrew from the war and surrendered, struck by fear for America (to be honest, for the advanced weapons of the US), and the (psychological) effects of that still last. I am actually more scared of an American atomic bomb than Muslimfundamentalists flying a plane through my house. I have quite a small house, not skyscraperish at all. Yet an H-bomb would wipe out my whole country. I would never daresay you are all terrorists (just like not all Muslims or Iraqis are suicide bombers), but I am sure glad I'm not living in a country "you guys" (and this is meant ironically) declared war upon. History shows Uncle Sam can play a nasty game.

    @Jay, you are right, I am not a really good troll. Did it help that in the lines above these I just repeated what I already said, without actually adding new arguments?

    @All the Anonymouses: Try using a name! Suddenly the guys here see you as people, instead of cuddlefish. I am even "the first non-anonymous asshole" some Anonymous ever noticed! Seemingly, using an obviously made-up name, turns you into a person.
    (And yes, I am an asshole. I prefered to think more of myself as a classhole, but I usually regret thinking in quotes from webcomics, so I won't anymore.)

    @Anyone who thinks I think my country is better than the States: I don't. I'm just kind of bitter in general.

    @Anyone who is remotely interested why the fuck I posted in the first place: I felt someone had to defend 12:23, being one of the few sane cuddlefish visiting this blog. And I am clearly not a high school student anymore. As a high school student, I preferred porn over trolling anytime. Woe is me for growing old.

    @Landon: You're quite stupid. But that shouldn't be a problem. Just keep breathing, eating, perhaps fuck a little, join any religion you like (try atheism: they like narrow-mindedness), just stay the hell of the internet. "Any enemy you leave alone will grow in power."?! That's like saying any troll you don't feed will troll harder. The opposite is true: an enemy you don't leave alone, will still see you as a threat. Perhaps invading a country is considered provoking in some cultures.

    P.S. Post Scripta rock.
    P.P.S. I have no idea of William Monty Hughes was being sarcastic or sincere, and for that I feel very, very ashamed. If he were sincere, I would tell him his rant on religion was completely overreacting to what my one sentence about the nonexistence of God was about, and if he was being sarcastic I don't like it at all. Anyway I don't have anything less against theists than I have against atheists. Atheists are probably slightly worse for being fucking hypocrites.
    P.P.P.S. Post Post Scripta rock even more.

  90. lol amerifags are dumber than shit.

  91. Yeah, stupid atheists, not making cosmic assumptions, and a lot of them even have the gall to criticize assumptions, what hypocritical bastards. What?
    Also your post only pissed me off because it tossed America in there to the point of nonsense, as if the US and the rest of the world exist on separate plains of existence that have zero interaction or communication with each other.

  92. P.S. This is a Pre Scriptum. Be impressed.

    Dear NotAnonymous (see? It works!)

    I am so sorry to have pissed you off. On second thought, I am not, because pissing you off might have been my very goal.

    On third thought, I thought I tossed America to the point of global nonsense. As nonsensical as any other country. There's a lot of interaction (like wars) and communication (like more wars) between "the US and the rest of the world". Perhaps you might be interested to know, there is even communication (like smaller, less significant wars) between some countries that are NOT the United States. This concept might fail to grasp your attention, and indeed, it shouldn't even try to.

    And what do you exactly mean by "not making cosmic assumptions"? And what about having the dignity to shut the fuck up about their religion?

    In short: you are making even less of a point than I try not to.

  93. Ah, Mr Kebab, you return! I am glad you did.

    I, personally, am not worried about being bombed by Islamic fundamentalists. I feel like I should clarify that. As I think I said (I meant to anyway), it is entirely possible to interpret the US dropping the bomb on Hiroshima as terrorism. I don't like to, but it's not an invalid interpretation (esp. since terrorism is so poorly defined).

    I'm personally of the belief that history is filled with monsters and written by the winners. The US is no exception and is certainly not the only example. But! I try not to be bitter, because despite all that life is pretty great. It is best to approach politics and history with a sense of humor I think.

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to rant at length about global politics. I think I am done for now.

  94. "not making cosmic assumptions,"
    "There are no gods" is a cosmic assumption.

  95. "There are no giant 200 ft. tall tarantulas." is a cosmic assumption.

    Now let me sell you some tarantula insurance.

  96. See, atheists make the assumption that believing in God is akin to believing in 200 ft. tall tarantulas--or rather, that everyone who disagrees with me is an imbecile and probably insane.

    The worst thing theists accuse atheists of is hating God.

  97. Most atheists only define themselves by a lack of belief in God. It's not impossible to say "I don't know", believe it or not.

  98. I don't get the point of heated religious debates on the Internet. Whoop-de-doo, you told another fatass neckbeard his worldview is wrong. Like unless it's a writing exercise or trolling I really don't see the point.

  99. It is fun to talk religion intelligently! That never happens, though, so it is fun to troll atheists instead.

  100. Fair enough. As long as you're just in it to piss other people off I guess you're OK, because really what else are you going to accomplish

  101. Hey I remembered my password, what a glorious day. I love you in every way a man can love a man, Rob.

  102. Like say, if you can find someone intelligent and willing to discuss things without getting all "OMG YOU ARE IRRATIONAL" it is nice. Mostly I do that privately with friends, though. The goal is never to prove people wrong.

    Of course at that point it's not arguing about religion so much as discussing philosophy. And some of the best conversations I've had have been late nights talking about life, the universe, and everything, as it were.

    ScottMcTony, I am flattered.

  103. '"There are no gods" is a cosmic assumption.'

    It's really not.

    Anon 5:21, I don't engage in "heated religious debates," but I think the people who do find it fun. Like this blog. They say they're doing it to convince the other person, or to challenge their own beliefs, but the truth is they just find it fun.

  104. I don't think there's much point to claiming that atheism is some sort of default state, automatically more plausible than anything else, and that a belief in a divine being is an aberration.

  105. "Most atheists only define themselves by a lack of belief in God. It's not impossible to say "I don't know", believe it or not."

    I was under the impression that most atheists are the "there is a 0% chance of there being any form of god" kind. I guess it's just the people I know, and those truly awful youtube commenters.

    I'm sticking with my cosmic assumption thing.

  106. Also I don't personally class agnostics as a subtype of theists/atheists.

  107. Christianity is a religion. Islam is a religion. Atheism is not a religion, nor is theism, nor is agnosticism; there are religions with each of these as tenants, but they themselves are not religions. Rather, they are ontological(or, depending on the flavor, epistemological) claims.

    It is both facile and deplorable to characterize all atheists as iconoclastic, elitist rabble-rousers, just as it is deplorable to paint all Christians as atavistic moral throwbacks or all Muslims as bloodthirsty extremists.

  108. Jews, on the other hand, are all racists.

  109. We were talking about this with a friend earlier: WHY ARE ATHEISTS SO ANGRY AT CHRISTIANS?

    and we came up with this answer: they're jealous! Let's see why:

    1) Atheists think they got it all figured out. Yet they live unhappy and unfullfilling lives.

    2) We believe in something, while atheist believe in nothing. This is why they hate us so much.

    3) We arent sad and emotionally unstable like most atheists are.

    4) Girls dig us better since we have very wide social circles. Atheists have forgot how to live in society

    5) We aren't the ones whining all the time about "under God". If you don't like it, GTFO my country you godless traitor douche.

    6) We are more moral thus help sustain society. Atheists just ruin everything since they live a miserable existence.

    7) An atheist chick would rather fuck a christian, since we aren't hateful or have the need to lash out violently.

    8) We're simply cooler. Admit it, maybe it wasn't the case some 200 years ago, but nowadays being atheist sucks while being christian is cool as hell

    9) Anti-god is anti-freedom. Atheists know it, but can't come to terms with it lol

    10) Atheists are sexually depraved and need sick fetishes just to get aroused. How pathetic is that?

    11) If you don't die a virgin, and happen to get a daughter... chances are she'll be marrying a Christian :)

    I could be going on and on and on but you get the point by now. Go ahead and downvote me like a good little atheist

    Enjoy being atheist, sucker :)

  110. Just because I can, I'm going to throw another pseudo-terrorist act into the batch.

    So we're all getting our knickers in a bunch over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but did everyone forget about the firestorm of Dresden?

    It's true that not as many people died during the bombing, but you have to remember that this wasn't just a lone bomber dropping 1 bomb (Nagasaki and Hiroshima were taken out by 1 B-29 each, that's it, no fighter escort or any other bombers, just the one) this was a bombing raid by 1,300 RAF and USAAF bombers.

    This doesn't add much to the discussion, but just a reminder that as bad as we think the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, remember that a lot more planning was put into the destruction of Dresden (that and for all those saying Hiroshima and Nagasaki were political moves, you're right. Truman wanted to scare both Hirohito into surrendering and he wanted Stalin to back the fuck off)

  111. Too obvious, W. Try better next time.

  112. I lol'd at the fact that this somehow turned into a religious debate in the comments.

  113. "I could be going on and on and on but you get the point by now."
    W, we definitely get the point. Troll harder, nigger.

  114. Guys, guys. Don't you get it? You're ALL assholes.

  115. I think it would be funny something a bit older than 9/11 was used, or even something that didn't involve people dying, like the "debate" about the moon landing.

    Much more importantly, were you hating on Cyanide and Happiness? Cause if you were you and I might have to have a little talk. In the alley. And I'll have a bat. And I'll be hitting you with it instead of talking to you.

  116. Dude, Cyanide and Happiness has been terrible for years now.

  117. God, eh? I'll tell you what I think about God... The concept most people have of God seems to me so illogical... I am almost certain that God can't be an intelligent, sentinent, perfect being with free will. If God is *the* absolute being, then why does he has free will? That would imply he can make mistakes, and that would imply that either he is not perfect or that there is an even higher being that would justify the "wrongness" of said mistake. And if he doesn't has free will then what's the big deal? He's just like us. So why is he any better?, he suddenly turns into just a concept. Such as:

    a) God is the first cause, the uncaused cause.
    b) All and everything, i.e. God *is* the universe.

    And then, I'm not sure what that would imply or how it is relevant to our lives. This always leads me to think of things like the collective unconscious, or that every one of us is actually god; that we are nature being aware of itself. And suddenly it starts to sound too new age...

    P.S. Note I didn't mention religion. I don't think anything religion preaches can be used to know anything about the nature of the universe. It's just dogma. Its roots are murky. Its history demonstrates it's just a social grouping and/or control system.

    P.P.S. The SD card comic is idiotic. God (hehe), why are the punchlines always executed so terribly?

  118. Only rainman can count to six.

    And apparently Randy is now trying to ingratiate himself with autistic people.

  119. I used to think Cyanide and Happiness was the worst thing on the internets, but then I saw Sarah Zero, so now C and H is the second worst thing on the internet.

  120. You know what's really funny/scary: Half the people in this thread arguing about 9/11 probably weren't even teenagers when it happened.

    This is why it can seem so minor to them. Kids: you were six! Now grow up!

  121. @Kirk:

    You should check out Boston and Shaun. I am still unable to comprehend how something so terrible can exist.

  122. Cyanide And Happiness is awesome.

  123. Also W is the worst troll ever and if anyone takes the bait I will weep for humanity.

    Unless he's some kind of meta-troll that gets off on people telling him he's bad at trolling. Whoa.

  124. That's not too uncommon. It's a pretty good way to troll, really. You win either way: some people get annoyed at how bad you are at trolling, and some people fall for it, because human stupidity knows no bounds.

  125. OK, this post is clearly too late as a reply to Jay way up there, but here it goes.

    I didn't say, nor meant to say, that AMERICANS are self-absorbed by nature, or that europeans are curious by nature, or whatever. Just that american society, as a whole, for various complicated factors (only one of which is geography), is more self-absorbed. This means that, through no fault of their own, the majority of americans (that I met) were never lead to learn about life in different countries, nor about history besides the bare prerequisites to understand american history.

    To blame geography exclusively is, I think, optimistic. Obviously the whole social and economic structure of the U.S. (in the recent past) is strongly predicated on a notion of "working hard and making it" that is, to put it lightly, not very realistic. People are led to believe that being overworked is a cause for pride, or at the very least a fact of life. (And most people don't have a job that they are enthusiastic about.) I think a big part of their acceptance of this lie is their lack of knowledge of concrete examples, around the world, of life not being like this. Obviously, the people profiting from this massive amount of work have an interest in keeping things that way.

    Again, none of this is meant as agression upon any american individual; I am not even saying anything about any particular individual. For all I know everyone posting here could be extremly worldly. But it is my very strong impression that general american ignorance of the rest of the world cannot be explained by geography / necessity alone. (People in Europe and in South America -- that I met -- knew much more about the other than americans -- that I met -- knew about either.)

    Finally, I don't see how pointing out that Christianity is absurd as a conceptual structure constitutes "bashing" any individual. Most christians' conviction that 3+ billion people, sharing beliefs entirely analogous to their own in terms of evidence, are mostly in the wrong and will pay for it in some way, sounds a lot more like bashing to me.

  126. Oh, and let's not forget the Christian religion's very big part in keeping working classes in line, with promises of rewards in the life to come if they will only endure the bullshit in this one.

    (It is irrelevant if this was not Jesus' intention. Christianity was historically used for this and today still routinely has this nefarious effect.)

  127. The thing is, 9/11 wasn't a big deal. It pissed my brother and I off that they canceled our cartoons, but after that I didn't even realize the implications of it until years later. And by then, no one cared. No one cares now. It's just December 7th.

  128. If you think this comic is over the endge, you'll probably get a heart attack by this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv0xq0_1lZY

  129. oh man, I wish they had done a better job with that...it's a great idea but I don't think theirs is very funny. Perhaps if there had been songs? I guess this show isn't in English so I wouldn't have understood it, but the idea of musical 9/11 is pretty funny, I think.

  130. tl;dr: Too soon.


  131. What's amazing to me is that in all these many posts, no one has tried to defend the 9/11 truthers. All I will say is this: It sounds like a conspiracy theory, so many smart, rational people who have meticulously looked into conspiracy theories in the past will react like Randall in 258 and dismiss it as the product of "whackjobs" and confirmation bias. In fact, if you look into it, it is a large number of engineers and architechts drawing attention to the high number of glaring inconsistencies in the official story and the fact that none of these has been addressed by the government (the three independent commissions employed almost exactly the same scientists, hard evidence of thermite explosives has been found, most of the metal that could answer these questions was quickly and mysteriously rushed off to China to be recycled, the list goes on.)

    I am not and have never been a conspiracy theorist, and if someone can point me to a rational, fact-based, line-by-line refutation of the truthers' claims PLEASE DO because it will ease my mind greatly, but if not, I urge you, for your own sakes, look into it. Because if there is any chance its true, we cannot let the party responsible get away with it.

  132. I don't know why you're surprised. Most of the cuddlefish are inclined to agree with Randall, and most of the regular posters here are fairly sane people.

  133. lol truthers!

    You're a fucking nutcase, dude. Get over it. Nobody is going to engage with you like you are an intelligent human.

  134. I don't understand. If you don't engage with a theory, how can you possibly be so adamantly sure its wrong. Otherwise you're taking habit and wishful thinking as fact and I think the stakes are too high for that approach. And that's why I challenge you to do some independent research like the scientifically minded people you all (by reading and critiquing XKCD) claim to be.

    I mean you call Randall's fans cuddlefish for blindly following what the croowd says is popular. Isn't there a possibility you're guilty of the same thing?

  135. You know to be entirely fair I've talked to a few truthers and they always sound entirely sane when talking about 9/11 (mainly because they're talking about things I'm not very knowledgeable of) and always get *this* close to convincing me but then they slip up and say things like "Bush is going to run for a third term, the two-term thing is just a tradition, there's nothing that says he can't, believe me I've checked" or "Obama bowing to the Saudi king is PROOF that he's a muslim/a secret agent of the One World Shadow Government" or "the Government is going to establish a New World Order in 2012, just like it says in Revelations". I can then go back to comfortably thinking of them as the nutcases they are.
    That might sound like something of an ad hominem argument, and in a way it kinda is. But not enough to make it a fallacy, I don't think. Think about it: do you really think somebody who honestly believes any of the above quoted statements is capable of the kind of critical thinking necessary to uncover a deception that fooled so many others?

  136. ok how about this -
    al-qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks. There are videos of Osama Bin Laden talking with his co-terrorists about the planning of the attack.

    if the buildings were asploded, what happened to all the people who got on planes that morning and have never been seen again? And if planes did crash into the buildings, who was piloting them? secret suicidal government operatives? and why did the US govt think it was so important to crash a 4th plane into a field in PA? and what was the govt's motive?

    this has been your daily "come ON GUYS, get a hold of yourselves" reality check. i cannot believe i had to write it.

  137. OK - within 24 hours of the Challenger disaster:
    What do the letters NASA stand for?
    Need Another Seven Astronaughts!

    Boom boom.