"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." (Herbert Spencer)
A firestorm of sorts has erupted in our church, or at least in the on-line discussion group connected to the church. One of the members posted a forward she'd received about Barak Obama that begins "This is VERY SCARY!!!!" and that gives some pretty dire-sounding warnings: born to a terrorist radical father, raised by a radical terrorist step-father, won't recite the Pledge of Allegiance (and even turns his back to the flag and slouches while others recite it), etc. This really is scary stuff. If it's true, not only does it mean we're ready to elect a dangerous extremist to the White House (ok, ANOTHER dangerous extremist to the White House) but, even more devastating to our national security and stability, it would mean that Oprah lied to us.
Just a small amount of fact-checking (or just plain common sense) easily shows the e-mail to be just another internet hoax, passed along by yet another person convinced they're being helpful. By now I would have expected people to know that an inflammatory forward-of-forward e-mail that twice asks the recipient to forward it to everyone they know is, at the very least, highly suspect. A few important lessons come out of this:
1. There are large numbers of people who still don't know that an inflammatory e-mail that twice asks the recipient to forward it to everyone they know is probably a hoax.
2. The e-mail - and this may be the biggest lesson - dares readers to check it out on Snopes, even providing the link for it. This is really brazen since, if you click on the link, you'll find Snopes discredits the original e-mail. This really underscores the potential for a zealot - and we're all zealots about one thing or another - not to check things before passing them along as known fact, a phenomenon well known to anyone who has spent time either in a sixth grade classroom or an AOL chat room.
And do you want to know the sickest part of all this fighting? I now look forward to reading the discussion group's e-mails more than ever.
Unrelated Item 1:
In spite of how cynical the above may read to some, I've found a lot to be encouraged about these days. A woman and an African-American are leading contenders the presidency, not as radical fringe candidates running on their gender or race but simply as Americans. A major Hollywood celebrity "came out" and the world yawned and said, "what else have you got?" There's hope for us yet.
Unrelated Items 2: How's That Working Out For You?
The Britney headline-de-jour on aol news told of pills, incoherency, and a standoff with police. And that was just Dr. Phil. (I guess it was only a matter of time before someone emerged as the Al Sharpton of the entertainment world.)
Unrelated Item 3:
In the current culture of so-called divas who have dance troupes, light shows, and truckloads of stage sets - and who, if stripped of their production and made to simply stand at a microphone and sing, would barely earn a living - I'm coming to realize that Shakira is the genuine article, and a real treasure. Just thought I'd mention that.
Unrelated Items 4: Peggy's Sued
Somewhere between severely ironic and you-can't-make-this-stuff-up is a news report I just read saying that Maria Elena Holly, the great Buddy Holly's widow, and Peggy Sue Gerron (yes, that Peggy Sue) are currently at each other's throats. To Holly's "Peggy Sue" and "Peggy Sue Got Married" can now be added, "Peggy Sue Wrote a Book," and Mrs. Holly is taking exception to some of the content. That this is sad news has nothing to do with who's right and who's not.
A few years ago I saw a PBS special celebrating Holly's too-short meteoric career and music, and it was thrilling to see people like Maria Elena and the widow of Norman Petty, Holly's producer with whom there had been some long-running legal fighting over rights, royalties, etc., coming together out of love for the music and respect for the man who wrote and sang it. I'm sure hoping something can be worked out here too.
Unrelated Item 5: This is VERY SCARY!!!!
Did you hear the one about President Bush going to the Middle East to lend them his expertise on achieving peace? Yeah, I thought it was a good one too. Be sure to forward it to everyone you know.