Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's All Evil.

I have a new obsession, and it’s not a good thing.

I am obsessed, these days, with the evils of email forwards.

They are coming in even as I write this.

Now, I don’t so much mind the ones with cute animal photos although they are getting a little repetitive. And Maxine is pretty cool her own self.
I don’t even see them all since I refuse to click on any link to a website, a movie file, or anything that doesn’t actually load into the body of the email.
I say that’s on account of viruses but it’s really because I’m lazy.

Too lazy to click?
Deal with it.

For awhile I was mostly getting the forwards that told me how much the sender valued me and my friendship which was kind of nice until I got to the part where it urged me to send it along to all my friends (including the ones I didn’t value so much because I was a bad person not to) and even send it back to the sender or else she would realize I didn’t feel the same way about her and though I usually did, both feel the same way AND forward it back, the guilt trip was getting on my nerves, not to mention, affecting my ability to write a sentence which doesn't run on forever.

But now, more and more I’m getting emails with an agenda. Part of the problem is that while the agenda is crystal clear, the source is usually not.
There is nobody behind these messages to argue with, blame, sue, stalk or otherwise punish for spreading their false information, lies, at times hate, and always, attempt to influence.

This really hit home recently when I received a forward from a close friend I’ll call Zelda (not her real name) whose intelligence and worldly sophistication I’d always admired. Zelda is well read, well travelled and far from naïve. What she forwarded was a right wing rant about the (perceived) threat of people singing the Canadian National Anthem in a language other than English or French at next year’s Olympic Games in Vancouver. Zelda even included her own comment about how she was going to contact her member of parliament in protest.

While the issue that reportedly sent off the ranter had actually occurred (albeit over a year ago) many of the arguments were based on misinformation and the tone was decidedly discriminatory.
To put it mildly.

To make matters worse, there was a threatening tone, well more than a TONE, it actually SAID that if I did not forward the letter for fear of offending someone, then I was part of the problem.

I replied to Zelda, explaining why I disagreed with the arguments in the email, and she agreed and even thanked me. But I was left with an uneasy feeling, and did a bit more research, the results of which steamed me up even more, and which I’ll cover in an upcoming entry.

The point is, I am becoming more and more concerned about the insidious effect that these emails must be having on our way of thinking. What happens that makes us suspend our critical thinking and just accept and forward these things like robots? What makes us think that just because it appears in the inbox, that it's true, correct, factual, and verified? We are nowhere near that gullible when it comes to what we read in the paper, what we see in advertisements or what our friends and family tell us.

How much are we internalizing the messages we see? This seems to me an updated version of how societies throughout history have been brainwashed only now it’s easier, just a couple of clicks will do it. Send this along to everyone you know or something bad will happen. Bullying, a nice touch.

I don’t care how inconsequential the subject matter. It’s the process that concerns me, and concerns me deeply. While Zelda was very gracious about my correction, others are losing patience with me. They don’t understand why I can’t let this go, why I have to check EVERYTHING out and take great pains to point out the errors to them. Some have stopped sending me stuff and while that might be good for my short term mental health, I’ve decided instead to take my aggravation and blog it.

Starting with the email that I vaguely referenced above, I will be posting the text of these forwards and deconstructing them. If nothing else, it will help lower my blood pressure.

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