Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Need a distraction? Help solve the Internet's oldest mystery, Markovian Parallax Denigrate

Illustration for article titled Need a distraction? Help solve the Internet's oldest mystery, Markovian Parallax Denigrate
Screenshot: YouTube

If you’re like us, you’re probably desperate for any and all distractions to get through what is apparently the Month From Hell (March 2020, of course, has only recently won the title from February 2020, and will almost certainly cede it to April 2020 in a couple weeks). So, wanna delve into something spooky and conspiratorial, but not, like, with any real world implications like an inept government trying to contain an already rampant pandemic? Well, how about helping us solve the Internet’s oldest mystery?


With a name sounding like a terrible Nine Inch Nails cover band, Markovian Parallax Denigrate is arguably the Internet’s first eerie mystery, dating back to 1996, when early Usenet message boards began receiving posts comprised of seemingly nonsensical text strings. No one knew what to make of them, so naturally, some people predictably suspected sinister CIA machinations. Of course, given that particular era of the proto-Internet, it could have also just been an early attempt at a spambot and/or trolling. YouTube channel, Barely Sociable, lays out the whole story here pretty succinctly:

In essence, Markovian Parallax Denigrate almost certainly follows the old maxim, “If it looks like a spam, and walks a spam, then it’s probably a spam.” The “mystery” really wasn’t on anyone’s radar for years until a 2012 Daily Dot article recounted the whole story for a new generation of readers. Even then, Kevin Morris’ piece pretty much debunks all juicy theories, including the biggest—that the whole event was orchestrated by an alleged CIA asset named Susan Lindauer.

So how did Markovian Parallax Denigrate become “the Internet’s oldest mystery” when what seems like a couple hours of deep diving pretty much handily solves the puzzle and confirms pretty much everyone’s initial theory of an early spambot? Well, it’s because of articles like the very one you’re reading right now! Gasp. Twist!

Barely Sociable points out that people often have this little habit of connecting dots that aren’t there, particularly when any kind of mystery is involved. Couple that with our frequent “inability to read past a headline” along with websites’ neverending quest for ad revenue clickbait, and we get stories about Markovian Parallax Denigrate with unnecessarily long shelf-lives. As Barely Sociable handily summarizes, “We may like asking questions more than we like getting answers.”

Bottom line: Don’t hate us, hate the entire system that enables us. Alright, how’re we all feelin’ now?!

Andrew Paul is a contributing writer with work recently featured by NBC Think, GQ, Slate, Rolling Stone, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He writes the newsletter, (((Echo Chamber))).