Monday, July 27, 2009

Hate Is Not an "American Value"

Once again, still, and continuously, email containing not only fabricated, embellished, and/or malicious information disguised as "news" has made its way into my mailbox. This time it was an email that attempts to make all Arabs look stupid. I've spent more time than these emails are worth wondering what the motives of the people who send them around could be (and commented on that in a previous blog post: "Don't Confuse Me With the Facts").

Where this particular email is concerned, the goal being to make Arabs look stupid, I think the motive is simple: to undermine any confidence the recipient of the email might have in the President, who has made it a central goal of his international diplomacy initiatives to extend an olive branch of sorts to Arab nations, and acknowledge the fact that most of them are not terrorists, and that Al Qaida does not speak or act for Islam (and is in fact not a Muslim organization at all--they are political, not religious). I think there is also a cheap shot at connecting him personally with terrorists, because his father was Muslim (President Obama is Baptist, not Muslim--this is a long-established fact).

Of course I'm talking about the Etihad A340 Accident that has been blamed in this "urban legend" email on the alleged ignorance and stupidity of the test pilots and engineers of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologis (ADAT).

Today's blog post is not to acquaint you with the details of that accident. If you don't already know about it and haven't been "lucky" enough to get one of these inflammatory emails maligning the intelligence of Arab engineers and pilots, you can click on the link above and read the original email, as well as the debunking of the claims by

For anyone who can read a newspaper, tune in a radio or TV news station, or pull up in an internet browser, it is easy to sort fact from fiction. It's even easier if you get your news from more than one source, not just the one that agrees with you 100% of the time in their slant on the news. Upon closer scrutiny, where news stories from different sources do not agree, it is usually a matter of tone or omitted facts, not outright fabrication (this is what we call slander when it is spoken, or libel when it is printed).

Just so there's no confusion, I do not consider anything that comes to me as a forwarded email news unless it is an email that contains a link to an actual news story on some news-reporting website. Most of the time I just delete them, but some of them really get under my skin.

As I was writing this, I was also wondering why I have no problem simply deleting the emails that wrongly attribute a speech to some comedian (there was a really good one going around a few years ago that was attributed to bunch of different politicians and historical figures, but was actually by George Carlin; and then another one attributed to George Carlin that he said was not his), but then I get all worked up over something like this stupid Etihad A340 Accident garbage. Here's the reason: the ones that get me all worked up are the ones that attempt to malign the character and intelligence of an entire ethnic group.

I should mention that these forwarded emails usually come from relatives. My friends know better (not to mention that my friends would never send them). This brings to mind that old saying that "you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives." (Then there's that other saying that you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your friend's nose....) Make no mistake--I love my relatives (although that little saying is particularly poignant for me right now for reasons that will never show up in my public blog). But it seriously grieves me that so many of them are so closed-minded about any culture or religion that does not fit into their lily white, super conservative, "Christian" beliefs, and a few of them will even send out these emails that are designed to divide us even further.

Let me just come right out and say it: though these emails may sometimes be disguised with humor or cleverness, they spread hate; plain and simple. They are hate mail. No amount of humor or supposed cleverness can disguise their true intention.

For the record, this is not the first time I've ever confronted the senders of these emails. On the contrary. When I get an email that is forwarded to me with this hateful nonsense in it, I go to, type in a few keywords from the email into their search engine, usually find an article debunking the "urban lengend" that was sent to me ( has actually never let me down on this one), and then I click "Reply to All" in the original email and send the link to the debunking of the "urban legend" back to everyone in the "To" field that accompanies my own email address.

Sometimes I get a "thank you" from someone on the list for turning them onto Usually I don't hear anything back. But one chronic offender actually gave me the most creative response I've ever received: "Who are these Snopes people, anyway? What do they know?" Smokescreen! Where did he get his information? Where are his supporting facts? As it so happens, I knew the answer to his question, though he was never able to answer mine, and in fact did not have any supporting facts for his libelous email. (If you would like to know the answer to his question, click here and read all of the numerous articles about who the people behind are, and why and how they debunk urban legends.)

Another reason I got so worked up about this email in particular is that I have been the Journalism teacher at the school where I teach for two years. Debunking "urban legends" is Journalism 101--get your facts straight! Don't print anything unless you can prove it! I do not have to have a degree in Journalism to know this; I learned it in English class every year in the little unit on Journalism. Everyone who's had a high school English class should know this. But, alas, it is not high school kids sending these libelous emails around, but adults.

My final word on this today is about what really got my ire up. It really, really bothers me that people who spout off about "American values" send this hate email around. Perhaps they don't know any Arabs. Perhaps that's because they're so busy creating walls of hatred for anything different than themselves between them and these people they're making up stuff about. Perhaps it's simply ignorance of the unknown; that tired old fear of anything "other" than "us."

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now the 21st century. We no longer have the excuse of ignorance to defend our petty maligning hatreds. America is no longer populated only by the descendants of white European conquerors and the indigenous, invisible remnants of the continent. The "indigenous remnants" are a thriving, vocal part of our citizenship, as are the hundreds of millions of non-white, non-European legal immigrants, naturalized citizens, and their descendants. It is long past time that the ignorant minority begin to acquaint itself with the growing population of American citizens and their friends, relatives, and allies who do not come from a Judeo-Christian culture.

Moreover, we are no longer separated from the rest of the world by slow transportation and communication. When I click the “Publish” button on this blog, it will be available to everyone in the world with access to the internet instantaneously. Regardless of the attempts at censorship we read about surrounding the recent elections and unrest in Iran, it is extremely difficult in this day and age to perpetrate a lie for very long. Now more than ever “the truth will find you out.”

The unfortunate truth that is being revealed by these emails that many think are harmless is how much hate is being generated in the name of the perpetuation of “American values.” I, for one, choose not to participate in the dissemination of hatred. I’ll go one step further than deleting the offending emails and continue to point out to the senders and their other recipients their falsity, as well as my sincere desire for them to stop spreading malicious nonsense. If you would like to participate in my little movement, it’s as easy as I’ve described in this post: go to, type a few keywords from the email into their search engine, email a link to the debunking article back to the original sender and all other recipients. Together maybe we can prove that malicious misinformation and hatred are not American values.

1 comment:

chris said...

But you're completely ignoring the fact that Snopes is a dissent squashing, high-level conspiracy cover organization masquerading as a "fact"-finding rumor destruction machine. :-)

Be even more "live and let live" and don't waste too much of your precious time on Earth trying to change the minds of joyfully ignorant people. They derive too much pleasure from "being right" all of the time and it's not as much playing Jenga with their ivory towers as we'd like to hope.