Please check your facts before forwarding those titillating but inflammatory or prejudicial (or just plain stupid) email messages to unsuspecting voters or impressionable readers who might believe everything you send their way. You know the messages I mean: The one that asserts that immigrants are better off in America than retirees because they get a bigger government check; the one that claims that Starbucks wouldn’t send free coffee to U.S. troops in Iraq because the company opposes the war Barbados Email List and anyone associated with it; the assertions that U.S. legislators enjoy huge pensions but don’t have to contribute to Social Security; the urgent request to sign a petition to be sent to the White House to encourage the president not to extend social services to illegal immigrants…and on and on and on.
You’ve received them; we all have. Have you passed them on? You don’t have to answer that, but we know someone is passing these things around through cyberspace. Do you think they check them out first to see whether they’re true? I would bet my firstborn that 99% of the inflammatory, denigrating, sappy and nasty emails forwarded from computers in this country on any given day are passed on without the most minimal attempt to ensure their veracity. People are bamboozled, and then they go ahead and bamboozle everyone in their address books-or at least those they believe share their political views or harbor fears or prejudices similar to theirs. Now why is that? Why would otherwise intelligent, responsible citizens send printed idiocy screaming around the globe and clogging electronic mailboxes without so much as a keystroke or mouse click in the interests of truthfulness?
I think I know why: We often like to be bamboozled. It’s such an effortless way to stoke the fires of frustration, anger and even hatred that smolder within us. I used to pass along warnings about dangerous products or women lured from their homes into the hands of a rapist by the sound of a crying baby cleverly recorded and played into the night air. I passed on that tender (but misrepresented) photo of the fetus clutching the surgeon’s finger during in utero surgery. The latter was so precious, the former so compelling. Was my face red when I learned that I’d been bamboozled!
I can forgive (and delete) the sappy messages about friendship and love that end with the line “pass this on to ten women you care about.” They’re not harmful, and I know, in my heart, the ten women I care about would be grateful to know I hit “delete” instead of saddling them with yet another gooey, sappy message. I don’t like that people send those to me, BBBORG but they’re basically harmless, so I let them pass. After all, there’s really no bamboozling going on-just melodramatic foolishness.