COLUMN: B.o.B. and clever manipulation of popular science
Since rapper B.o.B. took to Twitter insisting the Earth is flat, the pushback from scientifically literate and sensible portions of the populace has been overwhelming.
The population, particularly the science community, decided it was time to speak up against such ignorance.
Much of the attention this debate drew hinged on the assumption B.o.B. actually believed what he was saying.
Along with news articles from CNN, the New York Times, the Guardian and others, all of astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s objections centered on this.
There were even further analyses citing the underlying issues of mistrust in science and the government that may have played into B.o.B.’s claims.
All of these took the situation totally at face value. They didn’t believe it was a stunt of any sort.
When only considering what was said, this make sense. Someone said something wrong, so they’re corrected; this is fair.
But we haven’t yet given enough thought as to why B.o.B. might have said any of this.
I think we should consider B.o.B. might not actually believe the Earth was flat.
If this were the case, it would be an extremely savvy publicity stunt to provoke the self-righteous science enthusiasts into noisy online battles.
That way he can re-establish himself in the public eye and rekindle his popularity.
I say this is clever because he had to know that any inaccuracy — no matter how ludicrous or undeserving of thought — would still get a reaction from the public representatives of science.
One might think someone shouting the Earth is flat would gain no conversational foothold. People would simply ignore it. B.o.B., it would seem, knew better.
Not only that, but he had to realize just how much noise scientific issues tend to generate online.
Otherwise he wouldn’t have seen fit to use this issue for his scandal.
It’s also possible this was simply a gamble. In this case he’s not necessarily well-informed, just very lucky.
In any case, the online community fell into his manipulation exactly as he intended. This would all be for the high ideals of reason and empiricism.
This reflects certain social trends, one of which is the increased popularity of association with science. This is something that’s already been acknowledged.
Something that isn’t getting much attention is the fierce loyalty that comes with this allegiance to science.
It was clear, regardless of whether or not B.o.B. actually held this conviction, his clamoring for attention only deserved to be ignored.
Still some people are so compelled to maintain the sanctity of science that they have to correct him.
But while he was wrong, it isn’t necessarily appropriate to correct him.
That will only lead to one of two conclusions: he denies everything either because he believes the Earth is flat or because he wants everyone to think he believes the Earth is flat.
Either way, we lose. Back down, people.
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