Poe’s law, named after its author Nathan Poe, is an Internet adage reflecting the idea that without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between sincere extremism and an exaggerated parody of extremism.
Poe’s law states:
Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.
The core of Poe’s law is that a parody of something extreme by nature becomes impossible to differentiate from sincere extremism. A corollary of Poe’s law is the reverse phenomenon: sincere fundamentalist beliefs being mistaken for a parody of that belief.
The statement called Poe’s law was formulated in 2005 by Nathan Poe on the website christianforums.com in a debate about creationism. The original sentence read „Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is uttrerly [sic] impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake [it] for the genuine article.”
The idea is also the main concept behind Kurt Vonnegut‘s 1961 novel Mother Night.