Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nutcases and Conspiracies and Google

I have an old friend from high school. Yah, we're old. We graduated from high school in the early years of the Vietnam War. Some of you were not yet born. But that's beside the point.

My friend wandered off to a distant state, married, and became a member of a large church that considers itself persecuted by nearly all of America. But that's not the point either. ( does become part of this post...towards the last. Keep reading.)

The past several years our friendship has been sliding and after this week it's just about ready to slide off the edge of the world (for those who still think the world is flat).

My point in all of this is that my friend emails me with "conspiracy theories" about the state of our nation and who did what to whom and who is conspiring to do what to all of us and who is at fault for everything from the state of the economy to who is in the White House to who started all this fol-de-rol about the pending swine flu "epidemic". (Remember that last one.)

I generally read two lines of her emails and hit "delete".

Now and then I do a google and send her a website that clearly and convincingly refutes what she just sent me. I do that just to keep her honest. And because it bugs me when people forward "untruths" as if they were "truths".

Last week I refuted two of her emails. One of those emails contained a series of statements credited to a certain well-known and highly respected columnist with initials CK. A simple google found CK directly refuting those statements as not coming from his mouth (or from his pen for that matter). I figure CK ought to know what he said and didn't say. So I sent his statement (and website) to my friend so that she would know she goofed, that she didn't do her research. She just blindly forwarded some idiotic drivel under the guise of "true stuff!"

And I did that because she is well-known in her community and in her church and I figured she would want to know that she erred. I figured she would want to maintain her integrity AND her credibility.

Her response was, "Well, maybe HE didn't say those things but they were true whether or not he said them." I'm thinking to myself that whether or not they are true doesn't give you the right to ascribe the words to any person if he/she in fact DID NOT SAY THEM! Which I pointed out to her (very kindly) in my next email. She responded that maybe she did err. But she never admitted that she needs to be more careful in researching what she maintains is "true stuff".

The second item she sent was about a fellow who is rabidly all over the net about how the swine flu is a conspiracy for someone to make money. Lots and lots of money. And in the process many of us are going to die from this manufactured emergency.

Now I am not an expert on conspiracy theories, reading as few of them as I possibly can, because they make me puke. (Chemo never did that but this stuff does!)

As I said, this anti-vaccination guy is all over the internet and not only is he calling the flu vaccination thing a huge, huge money-grubbing, international conspiracy, but it also turns out that he is an angry ex-member of my friend's church. Google knows this guy well. He makes money by rabidly defaming my friend's church. He accuses the church of satanic ritual abuse and yada, yada, yada. This is one foaming-at-the-mouth dude!

So here she is, quoting as an expert a fellow who rabidly hates her church. And she's using him as an authority in regards to a conspiracy theory.!?? On one hand he's a credible witness in regard to the swine flu conspiracy but NOT a credible witness in his attacks on her church?

When she gets my email she then accuses me of believing this guy and hating her church! What!!????

I responded with "No, I am not defaming you or your church" and added "I sent the link to you so that YOU would know who YOU were advocating as an expert." and ended something like this... "you never want to use a nutcase to prove your own point of view."

Maybe I'm a nutcase for trying to reason with her.

Dear People. Before forwarding something that sounds incredibly outlandish, check it out with or by using google. And make certain the website you are visiting is not itself written by a nutcase.

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A NUTCASE. Just in case you wondered.

I think it's all Al Gore's fault. He invented the Internet. Didn't he? He did, didn't he??!! I read it on the net so it must be true. (she said with a snicker)

P.S. A friend (a totally different friend, faithful and true!) recommends in regards to checking the veracity of those fast-forwarded emails.


Cat Rocketship said...

I endlessly wonder about conspiracy theorists. For me it seems like many of them have some paranoid tendencies combined with a lack of critical reading skills. It's sad. I'm sorry that your friendship is suffering.

Elle Bee said...

I too have a few people in my life who have often "blindly forwarded some idiotic drivel" to me and it irritates me to no end! They are always incredibly inflammatory in nature and have no basis in reality! Dear Whitestone, this post was like a little warm spot for me to curl up because you said everything I want to SCREAM at these people. One person in particular is SO "misguided" that I'm constantly replying back with references refuting the forwarded emails.
PS While we're at it...if I get one more forward that says if I pass on a bunch of pictures of cats and dogs in cute poses to 9 people something good will happen to me....UGH.

Debbie said...

Well for the love of Pete! I think we probably all have someone that sends us that kind of stuff. I know I do, and it is a relative.

Cornfield Quilter said...

Awesome post! I know a few people like your friend also. :D I take them with a grain of salt.

Laurie M. said...

I also recommend (or is it .org?) from the Annerberg Foundation. Be sure whatever organization you use is NON-partisan, and with no particular religious bent.

Judy, I may have to shoot you an e-mail. I woke up 20 minutes ago thinking about writing a blog about conspiracy theories, but for now I have to go to work.

I can tell you, that when you deal with someone with this way of thinking, there's no reasoning with them. They are also attracted to churches, at least in part, because they like to be "in the know", "have the inside scoop", in generally be "one up" on the rest of the world. There is a lot of pride in that way of thinking.

Right now I'm wondering whether to address someone who insists the moon landing was a hoax. I tried to deal with a different one and, well, that one would not accept refutation - preferring the lie, which suited her politics, to the truth. I think when you find folks in a politically disagreeable position you'll likely see even more of this. It gives folks a feeling of power.

Debby said...

Good post. You know, I respond with The last time around, people got hugely, hugely angry (I hit 'reply all'). What amazes me is that these people (Christians all) have so little regard for the truth.

I just e-mailed another friend last week, and explained that we did not wish to receive his forwards. He actually was very courteous about it. I think we can salvage the friendship. This is not always the case because there are those who insist that you have to see it their way, or you're evil. Or unGodly. I hate that.

Redlefty ( wrote a good post on this.

Angoraknitter said...

I think the military invented the internet though...Al Gore, ha!