This week, a woman who pretended on Youtube to be a right-wing Christian praising God for the Japanese earthquake outed herself as a mere Internet troll--an attention-grabber. The troll, Tamtampamela, later defended her actions to The Atlantic Wire by saying "in my defense, if I am able to show people that this is how some people think and it's wrong, I think it's a pretty effective way of doing that."

That's the sort of argument one might use to promote satire in general, in fact. But commenter SteveL isn't convinced. Here's his response:

Except, she doesn't actually know anyone who does believe that, does she? She just imagines there are, or read something somewhere once, or whatever, and voila, she has a rationale for her poor behavior.

But you know, I guess it works for some people. Hey, I know, I want to draw attention to cannibalism here in America. I don't know if it exists but I'm going to believe it does. And to satirize it, I'm going to go out and kill people and eat them. With luck I'll get my own paying gig on a Web nutrition site.

It's not a perfect analogy: Tamtampamela was drawing attention to beliefs by talking about them, not acting upon them (she did not, for example, cause the Japanese earthquake), and she wasn't causing physical harm to anyone. SteveL raises an interesting question about satire, though: when does the rhetorical device start to distort instead of illuminate?