Friday, June 17, 2011

A Familiar Conundrum

Familiar to me, at least. Maybe you’re more fortunate.

Here’s the set-up: Someone you know, and like, and perhaps are related to (maybe by marriage, maybe by blood) helpfully forwards to you yet another idiotic, had-you-taken-two-seconds-to-think-before-you-hit-send-you’d-have-realized-this-is-bullshit piece of...e-mail. And you are torn between setting the record straight and preserving the friendship.

Add into the mix that the e-mail in question is an ancient bit of balderdash that is endlessly recirculated as a slander against the current President of the United States, to wit, a baseless claim that “Obama made a policy that NO U.S. SERVICEMAN CAN SPEAK AT ANY FAITH-BASED PUBLIC EVENTS ANYMORE,” supposedly originating with one “Retired Vice Admiral Bob Scarborough, of Arlington , Va” (all punctuation oddities sic).

It is, of course, malarkey. As indicated above, anyone with a nickel’s worth of skepticism would catch the fragrance of horse crap, and either delete the thing immediately or take two and a half minutes to check it out. points out that the incident alluded to in the slanderous e-mail, in which an Army Green Beret was scheduled and then un-scheduled to speak at a Catch-A-Dream Foundation event, was in fact the result of an existing Department of Defense policy and “was NOT a function of any influence or directive from the President, nor was it a change in policy,” according to a statement from the Catch-a-Dream executive director, who added, “It is my understanding that the decision was based upon strict interpretation of an existing policy regarding involvement of military personnel in ‘fund-raising‘ activities.”

You can read the whole deal here. The message that was forwarded to me seems identical to the one quoted by Except mine came with a racist subject line—“FW: thats our boy”—so we should be under no illusions about the leanings of the message’s originator.

In most circumstances, I would be inclined to do one of two things, depending on the particulars of the case. I might send off a gently, even humorously corrective message. Or I might send off a more strongly worded corrective measure. The former is something I employ when someone sends something stupid but harmless, like hotel key cards contain your credit card account information and other vital statistics, or Al Gore is going to start charging you for every e-mail you send. (I’ve previously written about the nice old lady who was accustomed to sending such balderdash to a whole long list of recipients, including my previous workplace address. I would gently set her straight. She would send more balderdash. Repeat. Eventually she quit sending them, but I suspect that all she did was remove me from her list.)

The latter approach, which usually involved the phrase “anyone with half a brain” at some point, is what I use when there’s an actual slanderous lie in play, as is the case with the current e-mail.

But the problem is, the forwarder of the message, as indicated, is someone I like, and I’m having trouble coming up with a way to correct his stupidity without making him feel, you know, stupid, which, I find, is the sort of thing that strains friendships.

I suppose I could send an e-mail burst to everyone who received the message, which would include my friend as well as the jerk who first passed it along (from a business address, which, along with the inability to correctly render the contraction of “that is,” and the inability to put recipients’ addresses in the BCC field, shows us exactly how sharp a cookie we’re dealing with here). But it’s a tough call.

And in the end I am plagued also with the knowledge that people who share such slanders aren’t interested in the truth anyway. We see it all the time. Hell, a bunch of them are running after the GOP presidential nomination even as we speak, and a bunch more are cheering them on.

Meantime, I can’t pretend that I don’t feel less fond of my friend now. I’ve always known he tilts toward the right, but I always thought he was more fair-minded than appears to be the case. I’ll try to convince myself that he’s merely gullible and not the least bit mean-spirited, racist, or sladerous.

Yeah, that should work.

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