I have several different email accounts with different providers. I mainly use Google's Gmail because I like the functionality of it, but I also have a Yahoo! account, a Rocketmail account, and I think I might even still have a Hotmail account floating around somewhere.
But despite the many different accounts, one thing remains constant between them all: the amount of bogus emails I get.
Now, we all have Spam folders in our email accounts, the place where the truly obvious junk mail goes to die. Letters from "friends" stranded in Europe (Jon Acuff has a great blog on this type of email), notes from Kenyan bankers looking to shelter money, or even the classic distant relative leaving you a sizable fortune are all familiar scams. Hopefully, even the most reluctant email user has long ago learned to just delete and move on.
But there is another form of bogus mail with which I am inundated, and it's got nothing to do with someone’s unclaimed millions in a Swiss bank account. It's the hyper-reactionary political email that, with a couple minutes of Googling, proves to be boldly, wildly untrue.
Now, these types of things have been around forever - and we have Snopes to prove it. But with the 2008 presidential election and the Birther movement, the age of high-paranoia political assassinations arrived in style. Once upon a time, I used to get missives from the GOP; now, as I've expanded my reading base considerably, I get paranoid emails from all over the place.
And, me being me, I do the same thing every time: I delete them. Without reading.
Every once in a while, someone will send me something that has a clever subject line that throws me off the scent, and I'm four lines in before I realize I've been Rope-a-Doped. But once I realize that it's just another blown-up lie, I delete it.
And shake my head.
Because that's what these emails are - lies. False stories. Half-truths. And when I receive them from my fellow Christians, they make me shake my head all the more because I'm quite sure that "not bearing false witness" is mentioned in the Bible a couple of times. And that seemed to be one of God's big no-no's, a top-ten lister for sure.
Yet those things rocket around the Interwebs like a sugared-up toddler, passing from one account to the next without so much as a pause.
Granted, some of those emails come with pretty dire admonitions not to break the chain of senders. Some even suggest that Jesus will be very disappointed with you if you don't pass the message along.
Yeah - Jesus would be real tore up because you didn't disseminate a lie. Just like he'd be disappointed if you didn't secretly envy your neighbor's new car.
And for the record, prefacing your email with "I don't know if this is true or not, but I don't want to be the one to stop the chain if it is!" doesn't earn you a get-out-of-jail-free card. Ignorance is not a viable defense. Not when we have Google at our fingertips.
I get that the political stakes are high. () I understand that we have reached critical mass in terms of the polarization of the electorate, and that each side tends to see the other as the enemy. I know that people often need motivation to do their civic duty come an election year, but really - do we need to make up flat-out lies?
So let's call a truce on the whole defamatory emails, okay? No more Obama-is-a-Muslim-plant or Romney-family-accidentally-misspells-their-name-RMONEY hoaxes. Let's instead concentrate on channeling our inner Joe Friday's, and stick to just the facts.
I mean it seems like the candidates give us enough ammunition on their own that we don't need to waste time making junk up.