Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Tripe

Using Bloglines, I keep track of numerous RSS feeds. One of them is Snopes. Snopes is a website that essentially catalogues urban legends and internet rumors. Their researchers research these items, and the majority of the myths and rumors have a True or Not True marker on them. It's a great tool for looking up those email forwards, ideas your overconfident friends tell you, or simply to read for laughs.

Over the last week or two, many of the recent entries on Snopes brought to me by Bloglines have struck my as being particularly rife with bigotry or attempts at forwarding a particular ideology via misinformation. In this blog entry, I shall show a few cases of this, and attempt to identify the source of the bigotry and misinformation among these items.

1. Steve Irwin.

Yes. He has passed away. That fact is not in dispute except perhaps among some anti-media conspiracy theorists. What is in dispute is whether or not he "made a decision for Christ."

The initial email uses many christianese cliches to put forth the idea that Steve Irwin, a figure who is currently in media focus due to his passing, has accepted Christianity as his new worldview and belief.

There are two possibilities. The first is that Mr. Irwin did that, and the second is that he didn't. Snopes's research gives reason to believe that the various forms of the email are technically incorrect in details. If Irwin did choose Christ as the new focus of his life just weeks before his death, then the emails do not tell the story correctly.

The only positive reason to spread such a story that I can think of would be to spread consolation about his death, saying that he will live forever. A possible negative reason for spreading such stories would be to associate a much-loved TV figure with Christianty, thus using the fallacy of Ipse Dixit to make Christianity more appealing. Unreasonable as this sounds, it's not beyond many people to forward a dubious email, hoping both that it is true and also that it will convince someone that their way of thinking is right.

2. English.

English, or American English, is the language spoken by many citizens of the United States of America. The email of this one is not particularly wordy. It merely says "38 SENATORS VOTED TODAY AGAINST MAKING ENGLISH THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF AMERICA. HERE THEY ARE. REMEMBER THIS THE DAY YOU VOTE. PLEASE PASS THIS ON." It also included a list of Senators.

The problem with the email that Snopes talks about is the fact that the issue these Senators voted on was that of immigration, which did involve language. Thus, the emali is given the rating of "Partly True."

My problem with this email is that it makes it sound like it would be antiAmerican to vote against having English as the national language. To me, this looks like American bigots wanting to feel justified in their bigotry. It is understandable that immigrants should have a knowledge of English, rather than forcing the rest of us to learn their languages, just as it is understandable for an American traveling to Germany must learn some German, rather than requiring Germans to all know English.

If the main purpose of the law were to simply make English the national language, then I would call that a waste of legislative time, and veiled bigotry as well.

3. Wal-Mart and the rainbow.

The email states that Wal-Mart has partnered with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Essentially, this means that Wal-Mart will financially support this group which advocates gay rights. These facts are true and are not in dispute.

This email is not unreasonable. It asks people to tell Wal-Mart what they think of it's involvement with the Gay Rights movement. The author of the email seems to be under the impression that citizens telling a company not to be donating to an organization that promotes allowing individuals to make their own choices is the right thing to do. I partially agree. Sure, a company can choose to whom to donate money and be involved with, and customers can choose to boycott or not. It's also not unreasonable for one to choose to be against the NGLCC.

Let's look at the motives of this email. What are they? The author wants those who care to contact Wal-Mart and tell the company that being involved with the NGLCC is something they dislike. Okay. Why would someone dislike involvement with the NGLCC? Well, part of Wal-Mart's decision will have the company place homosexual-owned business above other businesses. Is this unfair? It is about as fair as favoring a Christian-owned company over another. Why else might one dislike this arrangement? I suppose if someone hated homosexuals, this would be a horrible thing, this preferential treatment. Additionally, if one didn't necessarily hate homosexuals, but just didn't want homosexuality encouraged, then that would be a reason to dislike Wal-Marts choice. Whether the authors and perpetuators of this email are anti-homosexual bigots or simply would prefer that sexual preference not be something a business spends resources on, I don't know.

4. Americna Theism.

This email states that 86% of Americans believe in God, and that "the world" caters to "the 14%."

I'm going to ignore the "the world" comment, even though it's an example of exageration and unreasonable assertion. Snopes points out that the numbers stated in the main point of the email are incorrect, and that the real statistics (the numbers of which were slightly different than those in the email) refer to a somewhat different topic.

The email is a classic example of poor logic and misinformation being forwarded around in an attempt to feel better about what one believes if one is of the Conservative Christian Crowd. The email is incorrect in content, and ineffective in accomplishing anything than sucking the bandwidth of gullible WASPs and those in their address book who may be unfortunate enough to have to read through yet another unconvincing piece of pro-God propaganda.

If Christianity is indeed the Truth, then why must some of it's constituents blather meaningless things like this to each other, tooting their own horns? I am a Christian, and I believe that my understanding of things, while highly incomplete, is at least a little bit correct in regards to the Truth. It irritates me when misinformed or poorly constructed arguements circle around, because it makes all Christians look stupid.

5. Democrats.

This facetious email would have the reader infer that numerous well-known democrats are, in fact, of extra-terrestrial origin.

Snopes points out that the birthdates are wrong for nearly all of those listed. It's hard to criticize this email forward in any other way, given that it is not meant to be taken seriously. My only criticism would be that it's another example of conservatives wasting decent bandwidth in order to toot their own horns.

6. Conclusion.

I have seen precious few pro-Democrat, pro-homosexual, pro-Wal-Mart, or pro-atheism email forwards.

This could be due to any of the following reasons:
A. Many of my friends are conservatives.
B. Snopes doesn't choose to publish many of the stupid emails of Democrats et al.
C. "Liberals" have better sense than "conservatives" and don't need to toot their own horns with ineffective tripe and whole folders of folderol.
D. Other reasons.

Beyond seeing few emails from such sources, I've also seen a huge number of poorly written, illogical, and useless emails that have been forwarded along by people too lazy to write anything on their own or add any meaningful content to what is otherwise a waste of bandwidth.

While a few emails do actually have things in them which resemble logic or correct information, they do not comprise the majority. I'm not sure if it is due to my skeptical nature or something else, but the majority of these forwarded emails have an effect on my that is opposite of that which was desired. Rather than being more inclined towards their cause, I instead see unintelligence, bigotry, and pride. PSA to the world (especially conservatives): don't forward those emails unless they expresses verified information in a reasonable way that doesn't devalue fellow humans. Otherwise, you'll be ignored by any intelligent person you were hoping to convince.

Please pardon me if this post has been particularly illogical, misinformed, bigoted, or arrogant.


Blogger The Wrath said...

The English as official language crap is especially pathetic. I simply can't believe that these bigots have so much time on their hands to fret about such an issue-- that sounds like a French thing to do. Are we now going to have language police ratting out lettuce-pickers who (shock! horror!) dare to converse to their kids in Spanish? Pathetic!

FWIW, the whole reason the Founding Fathers never declared English an official language, is that the native American tongues got special protections even back in the late 1700's, it was the only way to incorporate the indigenous peoples with some remote resemblance to peaceful integration. In fact, US laws have always given special protections and legal recognition to "original languages" brought in not by immigrants (after the US was independent), but which were already established in a particular region.

That's why e.g. Hawaiian is an official language in Hawaii. It's also why Spanish has all kinds of legal protections in the Southwestern USA-- after the Mexican War, the charters and legal statutes extended all manner of protections to Spanish to ensure that the Latinos in the region, who had gone from Mexican to US citizenship overnight, wouldn't rebel in riots or guerrilla warfare. Extending respect to Spanish for the Latinos was a way of helping to ensure that the Latinos would respect US sovereignty. Nothing special about it. That still stands today, and it's why people in SW USA and obviously in Miami (more treaties) learn Spanish to start their businesses, it's one of the protected media, just like English, in which business is to be transacted.

6:41 PM  

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