Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

January 17, 2014

Lie after monstrous lie: Are they nuts to believe this nonsense?

— — My birthday was the other day. As a Capricorn, a sign shared by Elvis and Jesus, I was born with an ironic sense of unease about birthdays, so please hold the celebrations.

Besides, I have reached that stage of life where every passing year seems to come like a creeping vine further weakening the mortar in the walls of a stately ruin.

But from an unlikely source, I have been encouraged to feel younger. It came from emails, though from neither kind supporters nor from crabby people suggesting that my parents never married.

No, the encouragement came from an odd third category: political emails from people who don’t like me because of my liberal views, but who perhaps see in me some spark of lurking humanity, or else just want to show me that I am wrong and go nyahh, nyahh, nyahh.

Whatever their motives, these correspondents are trying to educate me. When they send out one of their frequent anti-Obama hit pieces, they are kind enough to include me in the long list of recipients. It’s my way of finding out what the other half are thinking, if it can be called thinking.

Over the years my would-be ideological saviors have come and gone, and this past year I was down to two — Bob and Richard, whose last names must remain anonymous because they are very shy. All I know about them is that they are old, so old in outlook anyway that they may have known the pharaohs personally.

In years past, George used to send me emails too, but I fear something has happened to him. He seemed like a kindly soul, and every so often one of his nephews would send a gently worded reply that would go to all the recipients: “Dear Uncle George, I don’t really think Barack Obama is a space alien.”

OK, I made up that example for amusement purposes. However, it’s not so far from the nonsense usually in the mass emailings of Bob, Richard and previously George, whom I pray did not expire from exposure to political reflux disease.

The depressing thing is that a large underground army of Bobs and Richards is undoubtedly using the Internet to spread political guff like manure on the fertile fields of paranoid imaginations. They are the Internet arm of talk radio.

Yet it occurs to me that most of you are sufficiently blessed that you aren’t familiar with this phenomenon.

For a glimpse into this dark cyber world, I suggest going to sites that examine various urban myths — for example, www.snopes.com. Click on any crazy rumor or claim and it’s likely that I have received it in an email from the aforementioned amateur propagandists. Nine times out of 10 it is completely wrong on the facts.

Consider some of the things Bob has sent me in the last month: “’Obamaba’ has set up free gas stations in Detroit for minorities and the poor” (no, he hasn’t); “Trump explains ‘Dumbo Care’ — nobody explains it better” (yes, just like when he said the president was born in Kenya).

And there was this gem, which purports to be an actual statement made by the president: “The National Anthem should be ‘swapped’ for something less parochial and less bellicose. I like the song ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.’ If that were our anthem, then, I might salute it. In my opinion, we should consider reinventing our national anthem as well as ‘redesign’ our flag to better offer our enemies hope and love.” (Hello, Crazyland.)

And so on and so on, week in and week out, lie after monstrous lie believed without hesitation. Sometimes satire is taken as fact, other times stuff is just made up. Does anybody wonder why politics has become so wretched? Of course, people would have to be nuts to believe this nonsense, but some are up to the task.

So this is what I have learned from my emails: Amazingly, not enough golf is played in this country, not if old guys are forced to pass along political libels to amuse themselves.

Better yet, I’ll never be as mentally old or as ethically decrepit as Bob and Richard. No matter how long I live, no matter how right-wing a future president turns out to be, I resolve never to trade in absurd lies out of a bitter regret for a changed world.

No, I’ll just play golf and, like a good Capricorn, shoo the goats gently off the course.

Reg Henry is deputy editorial-page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Readers may send him email at rhenry@post-gazette.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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