In Skeptical circles, Poe’s Law is an axiom suggesting that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between parodists of religious or other fundamentalism and genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane.
‘Poe’ as a noun has become almost as ubiquitous as Poe’s Law itself. In this context, a Poe refers to either a person, post or news story that may cause Poe’s Law to be invoked. In most cases, this is in the sense of posts and people who are taken to be legitimate, but are probably parody. Hence a typical phrase would be ‘it’s a Poe, people, don’t be so stupid’ when a link to Landover Baptist Church or ChristWire is posted. A similar use is ‘I hope this is a Poe’, which refers to the desperate hope that humanity isn’t quite as stupid as what someone has just read or seen.
Keeping the above in mind, I’m pretty sure the following is a Poe:
The newspaper (The Northern Outlook of Canterbury, New Zealand) is genuine (at first I thought it was the Kiwi version of the Onion). The letter, too, was published (on October 3 this year). If you follow that link, however, you’ll see that the Poe-ish-ness of the piece was not immediately obvious, at least not to its initial readers.
On Facebook, there’s been a lively discussion, on my page and others’ pages: Poe? Troll? (And what’s the difference between those two categories?) Genuine? An Australian picking on Kiwis? All are plausible. One friend thought the obvious self-identification as ‘homeschooled’ was a bit of a giveaway. For my part, I thought the phrase ‘the powers that be’ in there, with its echo of Romans 13:1: ‘The powers that be are ordained of God’ stood out for Poe-ness. Romans 13:2 goes on to state ‘[w]hosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.’
Libertarian he wasn’t, old St Paul.
On one of the sites where the letter has been shared, a commenter suggested that the straight ducks vs gay Romans thingy needed to be added to the following fabulous spaghetti diagram of the equal marriage debate. I’m not sure where you’d put it in – maybe next to the little detail about San Francisco finishing up a smoking hole in the ground – but one suspects it would find a happy home in there somewhere.
In any case, the ducks will probably get you in the end.