Monday, September 12, 2011

This morning I received one of those “patriotic” e-mails of the kind we are so accustomed to deleting from our boxes so we can get on with the day’s work.  This one said:
I am forwarding this to all of you, because it scares me to see the leaders of our country and our TV stations banning the use of American flags, whether on a lapel or from a home, or wherever.  This is America, and it is the land that God gave to us...let's continue to pray for our land and that we might have a revival in our hearts towards HIM!

The e-mail that came to me was launching a campaign to display flags on the occasion of our 10 year celebration of 9/11. No problem with such a display. But the introductory words supported a fearful campaign far more sinister.  With carefully chosen inflammatory words, the writer here planted visions in my head of presidential proclamations, congressional bills, TV news spots and newspaper headlines, all banning flag displays, and perhaps hinting at escalating anti American…”something BAD…”

yeah,  I get those, too, and every day I seem to learn the “sky is falling!!” (thank  god for chicken little!!) and we’ve talked in these blogs about the goofy preacher in florida who burned all those Korans and caused the retaliatory deaths of a lot of people, and the CA preacher who—well, I think he’s still has a date marked off in October for when the world will end…you have no end of nut balls who would love to wear neon signs on their foreheads advertising their Christianity, and very nearly NONE who want to advertise the true other side. I’ve said and I’ve said, often, I guess that it’s not up to me to understand that most of you are good and solid, kind people and/or pretty much like everyone else…BUT not everyone prefaces what they do with WHO THEY ARE…and not everyone passes judgment on others in the process of whatever they do…”judge not that ye be not judged…”

but now, this morning when we were talking, you got a little exercised about the flag email—okay, crazy!! and I have to say, I agree 100% most of them are nonsense, and incendiary, and could be turned off at the source  by the use of one simple, teeny tiny device that would take less than a teeny tiny minute…

I went to Snopes to check it out.

I was not surprised. Once again, someone  trying  to stir up panic and fear and wanting us to take a fighting stand for patriotism, as if we needed to be talked into patriotism! And, as if that were an essential element of godliness. In order to do this they have taken a few isolated incidents, and  revised the script to fit  in with their little playlet. And they well know that there are many people who will read, but not analyze, or possibly even think through what is said. They will, with shaking fingers, pass it along to their whole address book, via email,  and thereby help to widen the panic, or smear, or whatever craziness is being pedaled today—in this case--what they interpret as a massive move to ban the display of the American flag.

What I found at Snopes (WWW.SNOPES.COM) were these 3 stories:
1.     ABC had long had a policy against wearing any national identity symbols while doing a televised news report.   At the moment when the whole country erupted into a flag-flying mania after 9/11, ABC insisted on keeping that policy, even though many of their employees wanted to change things at least for the moment..
2.    A company that tried to ban flag displays on its premises, actually confiscated these at the time of 9/11. Subsequently, they investigated it and changed this policy.
3.    A group of high schoolers in California decided to wear T-shirts with American flags on them on the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo. This offended some Mexican students who claimed it was their holiday. School officials told students to turn their T-shirts inside out. Instead, the students called their parents who took them home to change clothes. This stirred up Fox news to start a poll to see how many folks disagree with flag-banning in the schools.

No proclamations or bills, TV images or newspaper headlines. Just stories of American citizens interacting with a world that doesn’t always understand or appreciate our brand of patriotism.  In a time when tensions are high and feelings are raw about issues like immigration and homeland security, little relational volcanoes are sure to erupt.  What we do not need in the middle of all this, is a group of folks who live either so far to the right or to the left that they cease to search for a middle-of-the-road stance where we can experience peaceful coexistence. they don’t want to hear about it, and they don’t want to know about it…

We  need to look for truth—basic truth, whole truth—when we read  things that seem to want to incite us to fury, and to do so before we even consider passing them on..  And to my Christian brothers and sisters, I would say that of all folks on the face of the earth, we should be the very first ones to do so—we claim that our God is Truth, and so we must be most zealous in learning and protecting the Truth. But instead, we seem so eager to gather evidence of the deterioration of our culture that we grab onto every sensational report and never ask whether it is true or false or uncertain.
In dealing with the deluge of fear mongering that often stuffs  my inbox, I have learned to:
1.     Search Snopes and other dependable resources to determine whether the purported “facts” presented are actual facts, or somebody's distortion of the facts for whatever purpose.
2.     Search the incidents that gave rise to the report I am reading to see what really happened and why. There is almost always a “rest of the story…” . And that reason often alters the whole story.
3.    And, finally, I always pray before passing anything on! And, if necessary, I  wait until my anger has subsided and I can honestly say I care more about being the peacemaker God has put me on earth to be than about helping somebody else’s “righteous” cause.


Wanda said...

When I read e-mails like this, I delete them. They're not worth my time!

From the Rim of the Box said...

So do I most of the time, Wanda. I get the feeling that if I stop to take care of every one that comes I'll get nothing done.

But often I am caused to stop and ask, is this a wildfire out of control that I can arrest at least in a few directions? Then I respond to the person who sent me the e-mail-- or more often I respond as a "reply to all" so everyone on the list gets my comments.

Always I urge folks to stop and look for the truth before they pass anything on to the rest of their world. And if it seems impossible to verify one way or the other, I WILL NOT PASS IT ON. I am inclined to think I should do this more often as a means to try to stop the fires.

This is sort of what Ellen is begging us as Christians to do, I think-- to speak up and let the world know that not all Christians are careless with the truth.

Athol Dickson said...

I too tend to ignore those inflammatory emails from friends and family, and I hardly ever pass one on.

But I don't trust Snopes any more than I do the anonymous authors who first wrote those chain emails. Snopes is just two people somewhere in California who have decided to set themselves up as authorities. It's not like they're the editors of Consumers Guide or professional journalists operating according to to an established ethical standard. So I wonder where they get the time to do their research? Who's paying for that? And do they have a personal bias? How could I possibly know?

And as the editor of a news aggregator site who spends hours every day reading legitimate news sites, I will say that there is definitely an assault on traditional American values happening in this country. It's aggressive; it's well coordinated, and it's nothing short of Satanic. I don't believe it's alarmist to alert our friends and family when new evidence of it comes up. I believe it's what needs to happen if we're going to save our fundamental freedoms for our children and grandchildren. But anytime we pass information along, we should include links to our sources. If you want readers to believe you, that's just common sense.

Mimi Moseley said...

You girls sure have a way of sucking me in. I can't stop reading and I'm hungry for more. I hope you take this as a compliment. These conversations are FABULOUS!

From the Rim of the Box said...

You make important observations here, Athol. Thank you for calling our attention to the need to compare sources in our attempt to find the truth. You talk about your role as a news aggregator site editor, and you say you search legitimate news sites. Would you mind giving us some help here? What are some examples of the kinds of sites you consider legitimate? Where should we go besides to Snopes?

Yes, we do want to preserve our freedoms for the next generations, and that is not always easy to do. It seems to me that our number one need here is to be sure of the truth before we pass things on. Otherwise we tend to widen the gap between folks who need to learn to work together.

From the Rim of the Box said...

Thank God for you, Mimi!! Keep reading and we'll keep writing. And if you have an idea you want our take on, let us know. We want this to be your site as well as ours, you know.

Paul Yin said...

I also tend to delete those e-mails. You are right that these e-mails usually use "carefully chosen inflammatory words" that intend to alarm us - Christians or non-Christians alike. So, I tend to delete them...well, until it hits a nerve. Like the time I received an e-mail forwarded from a preacher (and copied to many believers) that warned against the coming of ACR 82 about "reverse discrimination". I replied all and tried to get a polling on my survey. Not one person responded. I then send the survey to a random list of my friends. And, I posted the result on my blog. If you're interested, here's the link:

From the Rim of the Box said...

“But I don't trust Snopes any more than I do the anonymous authors who first wrote those chain emails. Snopes is just two people somewhere in California who have decided to set themselves up as authorities.” --Athol Dickson

I, also, try to be very skeptical about most of the negative opinion pieces that come my way—-accusations of the satanic involvement of well-known people; political assassinations of every sort and from every side, etc--but, I have a question here from something I read in your comment, Athol…you may know things I—and our readers-- have no information about, and I’d be grateful to be enlightened. I’ve found snopes to be very reliable. I’ve never seen an opinion expressed in it. what I’ve seen is the factoid under consideration and then a mention of true or false, or both…and then what I take to be relatively careful documentation covering the reasoning behind that; short and sweet. if there’s a history known about the factoid, or multiple variations, these are mentioned. dates are given.

I started to write that I don’t know who writes the snopes material—and that I also don’t know who writes consumer reports, for that matter! but then my husband looked at what I wrote and said, “don’t be so darn lazy, if you don’t know—go find out! at least then you’ll know what you’re talking about…” “oh, yeah” I hate it when he’s right…

so , I did go online, and here’s the url that’s relevant. and here’s part of what’s being spread around:

“you cannot and should not trust ever for anything that remotely resembles truth! I don't even trust them to tell me if email chains are hoaxes anymore. A few conservative speakers on Myspace told me about a few months ago and I took it upon myself to do a little research to find out if it was true. Well, I found out for myself that it is true. This website is backing Obama and is covering up for him. They will say anything that makes him look bad is a hoax and they also tell lies on the other side about McCain and Palin.

Anyway just FYI please don't use anymore for fact checking and make your friends aware of their political leanings as well. Many people still think is neutral and they can be trusted as factual. We need to make sure everyone is aware that that is a hoax in itself.”

the author of the piece combats each claim and finishes this way:

"•CLAIM: is a more reliable source than Snopes.

"First off, has condemned this anonymous attack against and, in fact, lauds the site as an "excellent" and "authoritative" resource. What's ironic about claims to the contrary is that when you compare the contents of the two sites their findings rarely diverge in any substantive way. Shouldn't we therefore conclude that is biased too?"

i’ve learned to trust, over time that snopes—and consumer reports are “for real.” barbara and david mickelson, the snopists, support themselves, according to their own words, by advertising, and only that. I suppose anyone may set himself up as an authority on practically anything as long as he comes up with the goods, and doesn’t ever do anything to kill your trust—and , of course, each of us may be the judge of that.

if you want more info about snopes, google can redirect you to Wikipedia on the subject of snopes…

IF you think you can trust Wikipedia!!


From the Rim of the Box said...

In this world, we gotta learn to trust. If we didn't trust anybody or anything, we'd never get out of bed in the morning. In fact, we'd never lie down on the bed lest it collapse beneath us--or the ceiling above us...
I think my major point here is that we all need to develop that attitude of heart and mind that can
1.Listen to opinions that differ from our own (See Janet Somes' valuable comments from our August 18th blog conversation) and gather fodder for deeper opinions.
2. Make sure we know something is true before we pass it on
3. Remember that our strength lies not in causing each other to panic, but in encouraging all to trust God most of all. We get e-mails of this sort, too. (Though, admittedly, some are clearly works of fiction with anonymous authors-- sigh) Do we pass them on as eagerly as we do the others?

Unknown said...

Ethel, sometimes I do check up on the truth. When I find an article is way off, I do respond. However, recently, if it's not a personal e-mail I just don't have the time...