By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The e-mail circle goes round
Placeholder Image

From: Robert M. Williams, Jr.
Subject: Your recent email
Date: July 30, 2008
To: (Relative, friend, stranger)

Thank you for your recent email forward describing a multitude of sins, bad behavior, insults to our proud military and other disgraceful acts by someone with the audacity to think he/she should be president/senator/ — mayor/coroner/whatever.

I appreciate you thinking of me, but — have you thought about what you are doing?

The most important thing anyone can do before an election is become an informed voter.

Learn all you can about a candidate so you can cast an informed vote based on a candidate's knowledge, abilities and likelihood of performing well in office.

Would it make sense, however, to go into every public bathroom in America and form your opinion about a candidate from what you read inside a bathroom stall?

This may surprise you, but, reading unattributed messages distributed via email is “virtually” the same as reading those toilet scribblings. Let me clue you in. Anyone can write anything and send it over the Internet.

There’s no one to ask: where’s your proof? How do I know you’re telling the truth?

If you read graffiti in a bathroom stall and then ran down the street, telling everyone what you’d seen, most people would think you’re crazy.

That’s only slightly crazier, however, than blindly pressing the “send” button, forwarding email from anonymous sources.

Thanks to millions like you, other millions are swearing they know that Barack Obama or John McCain or just about anyone did something bad/stupid/disrespectful, etc.

What they “believe” is very often either entirely untrue or only partially correct, at best.

Does that matter to you? Or to anyone? It should.

How does it honor our American military, who certainly deserve to be honored, by including them as part of a worldwide chain of lies? The lightning-fast spread of gossip, innuendo and downright lies may do more to undermine America than the many faults of politicians and the political system.

How many opinions are formed, or hardened, due to misinformation?

What are those mis-informed opinions doing to our system?

Many believe evil media somehow conspire to spread lies. The media certainly doesn't always get everything correct, but, if national news outlets spread a fraction of the incredible lies I receive via email from friends and family each week, they’d all be sued into bankruptcy.

Fewer than 1 in 10 forwards I receive are true. Some may have started with a grain of truth but, somewhere along the zillion miles of Internet, someone twisted portions of the original message until what arrives in my in-box has only the vaguest semblance to that truth.

In the past it wasn’t easy to spread information so quickly.

Consequently, it’s far harder to stop the spread of mis-information. With the deluge of information we receive daily, people often don’t bother to sort the “wheat from the chaff.”

And that is dangerous.

It’s become popular to say there “ought to be a law” to stop so-called media from spreading information that isn't true.

First, it’s not the media spreading most of the lies. It’s your sister-in-law, your buddy down the street, your Aunt Lucy with time on her hands and a bulging email address book.

In America anyone can say — or print, broadcast or email — almost anything. It’s called free speech. Our nation has always been able to afford such freedom, because we’ve been intelligent enough, and diligent, to discern for ourselves what’s true and what isn’t. Before email, though, there weren’t nearly as many of us deliberately spreading lies. Now it’s a national pastime and we’re all too busy — or too lazy — to determine the truth. It’s easier to just believe.

Sadly, spreading, or believing, a lie via email just doesn’t trouble us.

I can hear you now: “Well, I knew it probably wasn't true, but I just sent it along for a laugh.”

What if the laugh was on you? What if someone spread lies about you to millions of people all over the world — just for a laugh?

It could happen. And, with the direction we’re going, with so many willing to distribute inaccurate, biased, discriminatory lies, who’s to say who will be the next target?

Just something to think about before you press that “send” button again.

With warm regards,
Your (relative, friend, stranger)

Robert Williams, an Effingham County native, is editor and publisher of The Blackshear Times.