Lazy, Gullible, or Hateful?

This morning, my wife forwarded me a chain email she received from an acquaintance, someone she described as a “good person.”

By way of background, my wife’s a great judge of character. If she describes someone as a “good person,” you can generally bank on that evaluation, which is precisely why we were both confused by this situation.

The email this “good person” had forwarded to over 100 people in her address book told a story about an Imam in a prison ministry who acknowledged that all Muslims are out to kill the rest of us.

Hold on. It gets better.

The chain email concluded with this sentence: “Please pass this on to all your e-mail contacts. This is a true story and the author, Rick Mathes, is a well-known leader in prison ministry.”

So I Googled “Rick Mathes” and found, in a matter of seconds, this refutation at BreakTheChain.org, a site dedicated to debunking junk email and Internet-enabled misinformation; plus this refutation at Snopes.com, a similar site dedicated to debunking “urban myths.” I also found Rick Mathes’ own clarifications on the matter. While he stands by much of his original story, there are critical differences between his account and the chain email my wife received. Importantly, even Mr. Mathes concedes, unlike those who have twisted his words, that “not all Muslims are called to kill all infidels.”

I won’t belabor this post with the details of the refutations; you can read them for yourselves. But I do want to highlight some of the date stamps: March 24, 2004 at BreakTheChain.org and January 25, 2005 at Snopes.com. Furthermore, according to the report at Snopes.com, the original source of this story was published by Rick Mathes sometime in 2003. That means, despite information to the contrary, this particular chain email and its various iterations have been alive and circulating the Internet for three to four years.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In a former life, I consulted with Procter & Gamble. Several years ago, they were forced to deal, once again, with the decades-old, unfounded and entirely false rumor that their CEO encouraged Satan worship among employees. I remember wondering then how such rumors surface and how they persist. Are people just too lazy to check facts for themselves? Are they/we really that gullible? Or, in the deepest, darkest corners of our souls, are we really just hateful creatures, itching for a reason to unleash our spite on others?

(For more information on Muslims who defend and practice peace and charity, like their Christian, Jewish, and other-religion counterparts, please reference one of my earlier posts at Central Sanity and/or the writing of Ruth Nasrullah, a convert to Islam who maintains a Reader’s Blog, The Straight Path, at the Houston Chronicle’s Web site.)

Author: PETE ABEL

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6 Comments

  1. Pete,

    What a well written and timely diary. I hope it is read by all and distributed all over the blogs.

    I have a cousin, living in the Midwest, that sends me forwards of articles like the one you write about and until now I have, out of respect (? family? love?), just ignored them and not replied or responded to what I saw as misinformation…

    This ends NOW… As soon as I post this comment I am going to cut and paste the first part of your diary and send it to her along with a link to the rest.

    Again thanks for motivating me to do what I should have done a long time ago.

  2. As someone who does a lot of work online, I get many of these “misinfomercials” and glorifed chain letters. I generally find the item on Snopes.com and send it to whomever sent the item to me. Oh, and I break the chain letters.

  3. My mother and her friends – all 65+ – are constantly forwarding this kind of stuff to me. My mom always asks for my opinion and after an entire 10 seconds most of them can be debunked with little effort. But I don’t know if she forwards my “research” back down the original chain so it might not be doing any good.

    BTW, the last one (two days ago) was about the Pharaoh’s chariots they’ve found at the bottom of the Red Sea which is – of course – irrefutable proof that Moses parted the waters!

  4. My wife has a friend who sends these things to a list. We get them from her all the time. I then go to Snopes, debunk the letter of the moment, and send the response back to my wife. I assume she sends the response to her friend but I don’t know. The friend in question just keeps sending them. The last one was about how the Democrats want to give Social Security to illegal aliens.

  5. I get crap like that from my father by the truckload. It boggles me as well.

  6. Several years ago, they were forced to deal, once again, with the decades-old, unfounded and entirely false rumor that their CEO encouraged Satan worship among employees.

    Nice. I’d never heard that one. It’s right up there with idiots who believe that role-playing games (esp. Dungeons & Dragons) promote Satanism and/or witchcraft and/or neo-paganism. Gack.

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