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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Ed Freeman and Political Manipulation

It goes on and on: See Update.

I generally don't want suggestions for True's Honorary Unsubscribe feature; my usual problem is having far too many possibilities for the one slot each week. In July, a new trend started, and has not stopped (I got another last week): people wanting me to do an Honorary Unsubscribe write-up for Ed Freeman, a brave Vietnam War helicopter pilot who saved about 30 shot-up kids and was awarded the Medal of Honor -- the U.S.'s highest military decoration.

And then there's the kicker, the angry twist: "Shame on the American Media" for not honoring Ed Freeman with obituaries and news stories after this great American hero died on June 25, 2009. Does that date sound familiar? Might not; I had to look to confirm that indeed it's the same date Michael Jackson died. It is. "Michael Jackson dies and it's 24/7 news coverage," the e-mail that everyone has been forwarding to me concludes. But, "A real American hero dies and not a mention of it in the news. The media has no honor and God is watching."

Ignoring the implication that God takes sides in our earthly wars*, there's a good reason the media ignored Ed Freeman on June 25 in favor of Michael Jackson: Ed Freeman didn't die on June 25, 2009. Rather, he died on August 20, 2008 -- ten months prior to Michael Jackson. Now, I actually pay attention to the obituaries because I honor someone each week. And you know what? I noticed that he died, because "the media" did, in fact, honor him very well with obituaries and news stories about this great American hero.

* ("Our task should not be to invoke religion and the name of God by claiming God's blessing and endorsement for all our national policies and practices, saying, in effect, that God is on our side. Rather, we should pray and worry earnestly whether we are on God's side." --Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.)

So who didn't notice the death of the great American hero? That's right: the readers who are complaining about the coverage of someone who did die on June 25, 2009. So if it's "shame on" anyone, it's those who didn't notice those numerous stories about Freeman -- those who either didn't pay attention or, worse, forgot about Ed Freeman. But instead of honoring him, they are letting others use him as a political pawn to complain that the public cares about other people, too. And yet these hypocrites dare to point fingers and scream "SHAME!"? They should be looking in the mirror when they do it.

Ed Freeman
Ed Freeman awarded the Medal of Honor
Ed Freeman is awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush on July 16, 2001. (Photo: the White House)

Worse, this political manipulation was done on purpose: someone had to put that fake date on there, and I have little doubt that it was done knowingly. Snopes, which tracks and debunks stories like this, notes that the same e-mail was previously used to compare the "lack of coverage" of Freeman's death with "some Hip-Hop coward beating the crap out of his 'girlfriend'" -- a reference, Snopes says, to "rapper Chris Brown's having been arrested in February 2009 on charges of battery against his girlfriend, Rihanna."

Yet that was manipulation too: that February 2009 arrest was six months after Freeman's death. There's another similarity: Chris Brown is a black entertainer. Michael Jackson was a black entertainer. And Ed Freeman? A white guy. Smells of racism, doesn't it? Would a Medal of Honor recipient condone his name being used to perpetuate racism? I doubt it very, very much.

There's a reason my Spam Primer talks about spam "and other e-mail pests" like chain letters. They're very often used for political manipulation. Think back to the recent presidential campaign, where e-mails circulated like mad with charges like Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., or that he "refuses" to pledge allegiance to the flag, or "refuses" to wear an American flag lapel pin. Or that he's actually a Muslim. Each and every one a lie, but sent out to manipulate the gullible.

Hey, did you notice? Obama is black too.

Maybe it's a coincidence, but I just don't think so.

Now, if you have legitimate gripes about the president, that's fine. I'm not, in fact, a Democrat myself, and some of his actions have given me pause; no one is going to agree with every decision, every policy, every initiative of any president. But do you want to be used as a pawn in a disinformation campaign with political or racist goals? If not, then think about that e-mail you get that says you should "pass on to everyone you know" no matter how good the cause sounds. Check it on Snopes or another apolitical debunking site to see if it's real, or not. There are plenty of real horrors in the world to get up in arms about, and those horrors are more deserving of your attention than made-up stories designed to support some fringe political position. In other words, think FIRST, before you hit Send. Trust me: that's not too difficult.

Oh, and don't send me the manipulative chain e-mail saying Snopes is political! That's garbage too! Sheesh!

So, did I, in fact, honor Ed Freeman in the Honorary Unsubscribe? No; I had some weeks earlier honored a Medal of Honor recipient (Jack Lucas -- remember?), and in August 2008 someone who was a personal hero and had an impact on the creation of True died, and I honored him instead: Lawrence Urdang. As I said, the problem is having far too many possibilities: there are a lot of worthy people who had real impact on others who die every single day.


The "Ed Freeman" Chain Mail

This is the text of the e-mail that readers have been forwarding to me:

You're a 19 year old kid. You're critically wounded, and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley, 11-14-1965, LZ X-ray, Vietnam. Your infantry unit is outnumbered 8 - 1, and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 or 200 yards away, that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop coming in.

You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns, and you know you're not getting out. Your family is half-way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again. As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day. Then, over the machine gun noise, you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter, and you look up to see an un-armed Huey, but it doesn't seem real, because no Medi-Vac markings are on it.

Ed Freeman is coming for you. He's not Medi-Vac, so it's not his job, but he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.

He's coming anyway.

And he drops it in, and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board.

Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire, to the Doctors and Nurses.

And, he kept coming back.... 13 more times..... And took about 30 of you and your buddies out, who would never have gotten out.

Medal of Honor Recipient, Ed Freeman, died June 25, 2009 at the age of 80, in Boise, ID ......May God rest his soul.....

Shame on the American Media.

Michael Jackson dies and it's 24/7 news coverage. A real American hero dies and not a mention of it in the news. The media has no honor and God is watching.

Ed Freeman Medal of Honor Citation

The text of the citation for Freeman's Medal of Honor:

By direction of the President, under the Joint Resolution of Congress approved 12 July 1862 (amended by act of 3 March 1863, act of 9 July 1918, and act of 25 July 1963), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, is awarded by the Department of the Army in the name of Congress to:

CAPTAIN ED W. FREEMAN
UNITED STATES ARMY

Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, of Boise, Idaho, who distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone because of intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water, and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights, by providing the engaged units with supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, directly affected the battle's outcome. Without them the units would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area because of intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing lifesaving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers -- some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter, where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman's selfless acts of great valor and extraordinary perseverance were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

(Source: U.S. Army)

Updates

The e-mail has started going around again, with Ed Freeman having "died last Wednesday" and now, instead of Chris Brown or Michael Jackson being targeted, Tiger Woods has been substituted.

If you took a poll, you would likely find that Woods is black too -- yet another data point in the pattern I discussed.

And in February 2012, it was changed again to Whitney Houston. Yep: black again. Let the man rest in peace, you bastards! A true hero deserves that much.

My prediction: the next time a black celebrity dies, the e-mail will be updated again with that person's name, and circulated again. Then my question will be, will you be a political pawn again?

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72 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Charles, McKinney TX on January 4, 2010:

Right On!, Brother Randy. I am so sick and tired of receiving bogus crap (hate mail) about what the President has done to desecrate this country. I enjoy good political banter about the State of the Union, but poisonous garbage regurgitated without basis of fact is worse than Communist propaganda. It smacks of McCarthy-ism at the least, and seeks to incite a riot amongst the mindless sheep that call themselves Americans. I voted for the other guy this last election, but the purely malicious tones from my radical Right friends and relatives really disgusts me. "Thou shall not bear false witness..." is #9 on "The List". Maybe those hate-mongers need to read to the end of that list.

Posted by Steve, Houston,TX on January 4, 2010:

THANK YOU for using your bully pulpit to push back on this. I am so sorry to see how many people in our country have decided to trade truth for ideology, no matter which side of the aisle they are on. Thanks for pushing back when you get these -- I will keep doing so when I get them, too.

Posted by Jorn, DE on January 4, 2010:

Wow. I thought by now everybody knew that any chain email forward is farce - I generally expect anything with more than two previous senders is a joke, either because it's something funny, or it's a farce like this one. I didn't think anyone actually believed anything in those random emails these days.

---

They absolutely do -- "My friend wouldn't have sent it to me if it's not true!" But as you have realized, more often than not it's not true. -rc

Posted by Nick in the UK on January 5, 2010:

I am surprised that you think it is racism. I may be naive but I see those despicable attempts at using a war hero for somebody's own agenda more as an attack on the celebrity worshiping cult that "the media" (whomever that is) truly seems to be participating in. Now, I don't know the amount of media coverage that Ed Freeman's death got but I bet it is a whole lot less than Chris Brown or Michael Jackson.

By the way, was Ed Freeman and his actions not the inspiration for the helicopter pilot in We Were Soldiers?

---

I didn't see the movie, but I do recall that tie-in. As for racism, I'm seeing too many "coincidences" to believe it's random. -rc

Posted by Chris, OHIO on January 5, 2010:

If it is alright with you, I would like to forward this to all of the people in my family that get sucked into the propaganda news distribution.

I feel like I am banging my head into a wall when I try to have a FACTUAL conversation with many that I am surrounded by.

Randy....you rock.

---

It's fine to send the URL to this page, to my Spam Primer, to Snopes, to FactCheck, or any other good source of information to educate people. The URL, not the articles. I realize you may have been joking, but as we've seen, the gullible are willing to believe anything, and I want to be clear. -rc

Posted by Rene (Austria) on January 5, 2010:

At first, when I read the above in the True Mailing, I wasn't so sure about your interpretation. Not having known the original mail, I thought of many (not so dissimilar) chain-mails, that were so clumsily written, that I think they might have been kids' jokes.

But after reading the original here, I must say, that this is a very professionally written piece of disinformation. It also is a very nice piece of psychological manipulation, asking the reader to mentally take the place of one of the rescued soldiers. Such mails are actually much more dangerous than open racism...

Posted by John, Lexington, MA on January 5, 2010:

I cannot tell you the number of politically motivated "stories" I have rebutted by using snopes.com. It didn't take me long, however, to realize that, once talking to several of the people who were sending out anti-Obama rants, that they were not at all interested in the truth. What do you do when every fact you counter is defined as part of a conspiracy? I now just hit the "del" button and move on. The ~10% of Americans who are birthers are not going to let facts stand in their way. Racist? Most likely. Just plain dumb? Absolutely.

---

For the record, a "birther" is someone who has believed the disinformation campaign and actually thinks Obama was not born in the U.S., despite the fact that Obama's birth certificate from Hawaii has been released to the public. -rc

Posted by Joe (Chantilly, VA) on January 5, 2010:

blog.fr

Performing in Kid Boots in Chicago, Eddie Cantor received a 12-page telegram from Florenz Ziegfeld with suggestions for improving the show. "The whole message [was] such a jumble of ideas" that Cantor simply responded:

YES.

Ziegfeld wrote back:

WHAT DO YOU MEAN YES? DO YOU MEAN YES YOU WILL TAKE OUT THE SONG OR YES YOU WILL PUT IN THE LINES OR YES YOU WILL FIX THAT SCENE OR YES YOU HAVE TALKED TO THOSE ACTORS?

Cantor responded:

NO.

I don't see the "racial" component in the email you presented. Sure Michael Jackson was of African descent, and Ed Freeman was not -- but that didn't seem to have anything to do with what the writer was saying. I think the point of the email was that we tend to get overly excited about what happens to our pop celebrities and overlook the tremendous contributions of our real heroes. I think most people can agree with that sentiment; it is a sentiment that fits hand-in-glove with your wonderful "HeroicStories" periodical.

If there was anything "political" in the piece you presented, it was the implication that Americans do not do enough to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of our Military personnel, and that is a "political statement" that I, personally, heartily endorse.

Now, perhaps there were other variations of the email that turned it into a "racial" thing, but given what you presented, Randy, I don't think you "made your case."

For what it's worth, I haven't gone to Snopes to do further research on this (nor do I plan to), because I no longer trust Barbara's objectivity since she has begun to let her own personal beliefs color her analysis.

Oh -- and I don't think I missed your point that it is plainly WRONG to distort the facts (such as the day of Ed Freeman's death) to support a statement. And it is also ludicrous to believe that God is on our side simply because we are...well, us. I hate these emails just as much as you do. But we already have enough problems with racial animosity in this country; I'm not going to make things worse by jumping to the inflammatory conclusion that the email in question had any racial component whatsoever.

---

It's not just that MJ is black. It's that I see a pattern in these e-mails. Even in this single one, first it was Chris Brown (black entertainer) and, since that didn't work too well, another black entertainer was substituted -- and then it went viral. And the exact same schemes are repeated again and again ...and the target just coincidentally happens to be black? I don't think so.

The supreme irony was this morning, when a neighbor who happens to be a very conservative Republican sent me 20 mug shots -- all of which were of black people, and all of which were wearing Obama shirts. Here's the message's conclusion: "Did you ever see anyone arrested wearing a Bush T-shirt, or for you older guys, an Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, or even Nixon, or Bob Dole shirt? There MUST be a message here, but I can't quite grasp it. Maybe you can help me out here." Yeah: I get the message all right. -rc

Posted by Ken in Garland, TX on January 5, 2010:

Sounds like we need a new newsletter, Randy. (You're probably thinking "Like I need another hole in my head!"), sort of like True Stella, but for sham emails. You could just limit it to ones that are sent you. :->

---

I'm trying to reduce my work week. Got it down to 50-60 by hiring an assistant.... -rc

Posted by Steve, Houston, TX on January 5, 2010:

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." -Voltaire

That sure seems to be the agenda of those who write these emails, and that seems VERY un-American to me.

Posted by Jennifer, Australia on January 5, 2010:

Thanks for a very rational response to incorrect information being pushed for political/personal/malicious agendas. What people often seem to forget is that when you live in a democracy sometimes things go your way, and sometimes they suit the other guy better. Instead of denigrating the whole democratic process with false information, actively seek to educate people with correct facts to get them thinking. In the process you will often learn things yourself -- and that keeps you thinking! That's where real progress originates.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 6, 2010:

I think what lends credulity to a lot of these fact-challenged political emails is the same thing I've noticed on Snopes. Many times I'll get an email with an OBVIOUS joke, complete with punchline. Then a couple months or so later, I see the same joke on Snopes where people are wondering if it's true.

For most people, it's not the gathering of facts that leads to a conclusion, but rather a conclusion that leads to a gathering of facts to support it. (If that did not include me, then I'd truly be unique among the human race.) Sadly, too many people will accept anyone's statement of the "facts" as long as it coincides with their own ideological viewpoint.

Posted by Matthew, Illinois on January 6, 2010:

Didn't you know that facts and the checking of facts are shifty, dishonest, Liberal propaganda? (Note sarcasm)

Posted by Craig - Maryland on January 8, 2010:

I, too, am getting disgusted at the mean-spirited emails that have been making the rounds. I have been a Republican for years, but the Obama mis-info attacks from last year made me seriously reconsider my party affiliation.

I've used "Snopes" for years to refute very obviously false information spread by emails. It amazes me sometimes how gullible otherwise intelligent people can be.

I do agree though, that we live in a society that worships at the altar of Celebrity. Maybe we should remember that "Bennifer's" latest escapade is not the most important thing happening in the world.

Posted by Jas, Michigan on January 8, 2010:

Wondering why it wasn't picked up by that "fair and balanced" news station?

Then if Rush would have only repeated it two or three times it may very well have become true.

Napoleon stated that "History is but a set of agreed upon lies."

Some of today's lies will settle into history some will fall to the wayside but be assured the facts will not be allowed get in the way.

Posted by Jim Dallas GA on January 8, 2010:

There may be a racial component to these emails, but I notice more a political component. Most of these false stories and accusations have liberal Democrats as the focus. Around election time I am inundated with these emails from my Republican friends. And the more "evangelical" they are, the more likely they are to keep sending them (and never a retraction). I guess there is a Bible verse somewhere that says "Though shalt not bear false witness...unless it is a liberal you are smearing". Now that they have seen the "dopes from snopes" email, they will no longer accept them as a source!

A few of them have changed their ways after repeated corrections from me. They informed me that I was now off their distribution list! I guess I was harshing their mellow.

I did not see John McCain attacked until he made the unfortunate remark that he was not sure of how many houses he owned, then their were emails showing all his houses. But Kerry got that treatment 4 years previous without inviting it. McCain's most viscous treatment was at the hands of Bush supporters in the 96 SC primary where they claimed his adopted daughter (who is from Bangladesh) is really the result of his liaison with a black prostitute.

Daniel Moynihan once said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts!"

Posted by Alex, Derby England on January 9, 2010:

This article is about lies and misconceptions , yet in it you perpetuate the myth that president Obama is black. As I understand it he is of mixed race and so it could be just as valid, by your standards, to say he is white. The day either of our countries elects a truly black leader will be a day to behold. There is still a deep rooted institutional racism in both of our societies and I say that as a caucasion with his eyes open.

---

I don't know if you're "caucasion" or not (I'm Caucasian, myself), but since you say you are, I take that at face value. Likewise, Obama says he's black, and I don't think it's up to me to argue the point. -rc

Posted by Steven in Denver on January 9, 2010:

The World Health Organization and the US Census Bureau each estimate that around 153,000 people worldwide die on any given day, so clearly it is a difficult task to decide who to "honor." I suspect that you (and Jimmy Carter) may be correct in your perception of a pattern of racism, though it is probable that most of us are not aware of our own unconscious assumptions of racial superiority, as demonstrated by quite a number of "Implied Association Tests" that have been developed. Awareness (confession) is the first step toward correction (redemption).

Posted by Anne, California on January 9, 2010:

Thank you for posting and sending this!! Maybe a few more people will pause to think before forwarding on viral emails.

And yes, there is definitely a racist component to these. There are people who still can't accept that we have an African American leading us. It's sad.

Thanks again for a great write-up!

Posted by Ken, Hillsboro, OR on January 9, 2010:

It needed to be said and you said it well. Thank you.

Posted by Paul - Lafayette, LA on January 9, 2010:

Thank You for this. I am forwarding this page to all the idiots who send me every piece of BS that pops into their e-mail box.

While I may not agree with everything the President does or doesn't do, I respect the man and his office and the difficult job he has. The job that the majority of Americans elected him to do.

What bothers me most about this is the total hypocrisy of some of these people who felt that no matter how much you disagreed with Bush you were duty bound to support him, and failing to do so was un-American and a traitor.

Once again thank you, I only wish I was able to spend the money for a premium subscription now to support you and your site.

---

I appreciate the thought regarding a Premium upgrade, but that's not the only way you can support this publication. Your sending people here, as you started with, helps too. See other suggestions here. -rc

Posted by Brad, Garland, TX, USA on January 9, 2010:

I'll echo the many other thanks, Randy, for another of your well-reasoned essays (I'll distinguish yours from "rants") that I'll keep handy. I know I'll need it, because eventually I'll get one of these mass-addressed emails. Now I'll just send back, with a "Reply ALL", this URL. Some won't get it, some will "know" that you're just part of the vast conspiracy, but some will actually think, and those are the ones I hope we'll reach.

Posted by Lou, Kansas on January 9, 2010:

May I mention another media practice that bothers me and seems to be racial (IMHO). I get most of my news coverage from radio and have noticed, since President Obama took office, that he commentators/reporters refer to him as "Mister Obama". I don't recall this being done with previous presidents, except by the occasional foreign journalist. My conclusion: We still have people, including many in the media, who still haven't accepted the fact that we have a black president.

---

I have seen this complaint posted on other forums, and all I can say is the people who are complaining have very short memories. The usual news practice is to say "President X" on the first reference, and "Mr. X" on subsequent references. Having been in the business over the 90s and the 00s, I remember this being used for every president. And, in fact, that's quite respectful. -rc

Posted by RON on January 9, 2010:

YOUR WHOLE BULLSHIT PRAISE OF THAT ASSHOLE, OBAMA, IS AN ERROR.

I'M UNSUBSCRIBING, AFTER 10 YEARS. IF I HAD KNOWN YOU WERE A LIB-FUCK, I'D NEVER SIGNED UP IN THE FIRST PLACE. ANYWAY, GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD GARBAGE.

Randy is a PC, libshit 'progressive' from a community full of such (Colorado Springs, CO.)

Ypu're the "liar," sir, and you and those two assholes at Snopes deserve each othjer

---

Isn't it fun to watch illiterate obliviots sputter? So RON has been reading for TEN YEARS and only now, after more than 500 newsletters, does he realize that I'm a dreaded "LIB-FUCK" and a "libshit" because I challenged his beliefs formed by quick readings of anonymous propaganda? Well isn't he the smart one! I wonder how he didn't figure out I was a "LIB-FUCK" when he read my Guns in America essay?

I can't check whether he commented on that one, because he used a fake address on the above rant -- he couldn't bring himself to include his real address. So what does that say about him? That he's afraid I might reply to him and shake his fact-free existence? I'm willing to stand up and argue under my real name and photograph. And all RON is willing to do is shoot from the shadows like a cowardly terrorist.

And how interesting that he thinks Colorado Springs -- home of the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as Focus on the Family and dozens of other ultra-conservative organizations -- is such a "progressive" community. I've actually not seen a more conservative place when I've visited on occasion -- it's a six-hour drive from where I am, so he can't even get that right!

I can just see the stinging tears streaming down his cheeks as he types, obscuring his vision so he can't even get words like "you" or "other" typed out right. But maybe there aren't any tears: RON's vision has clearly been obscured for a long, long time. I don't hate RON, I pity him and his tiny heart (and tinier brain). So much for the concept of critical thinking that would actually make a positive difference in the world. -rc

Posted by Dan in Oswego NY on January 9, 2010:

Re: Steven in Denver on January 9, 2010:

"...though it is probable that most of us are not aware of our own unconscious assumptions of racial superiority, as demonstrated by...."

NO, most of us do NOT have an unconscious assumption of racial superiority, and I greatly RESENT people like YOU are continually insisting that we do!

Posted by jas SSM, MI on January 9, 2010:

YOUR WHOLE BULLSHIT PRAISE OF THAT ASSHOLE, OBAMA, IS AN ERROR

Gee! Where can a guy find "FAIR and BALANCED NEWS" Now days? I bet this guy thinks he knows....

Posted by Anna, Canada on January 9, 2010:

"And yet these hypocrites dare to point fingers "

They need only look at their own pointing finger, where they will see three fingers pointing right back at themselves.

Posted by Alan, Tennessee on January 9, 2010:

When, in your essay, you said you weren't a Democrat, I felt smug -- "Yes! He's a member of MY party!" is what went through my head. But within a few seconds it hit me: I've been finding the Republican party lacking. Your admonition to "Think!" (not just in this essay, but in general over the years) suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning.

I read this essay when you posted it on Monday, and I thought I had better think about it fairly carefully before making any comment. I've been coming by each afternoon to read what others have said in their comments.

"Craig - Maryland" said the misinformation attacks have "made me seriously reconsider my party affiliation." I realized that is exactly where I have been for months, but wouldn't admit it to myself.

And I have to say that the comment from "RON" made up my mind: he's like so many I've met in political meetings, and they've always made me uncomfortable. They're not conservatives, they're anarchists who seem to think our duly-elected president is less than human. Not just a "communist" or "socialist" but a "ni--er" who doesn't deserve to breathe the same air as "we" do. In short, you called it: they're racists. Not all of them, obviously, but the vocal ones to be sure.

Then I started to think about the other things that have been bothering me. The first thing that has made me uncomfortable over the years was the pandering to the far-religious-right. My Christianity is a religion of peace, love and forgiveness. The right-wing seems to prefer war, torture, and divisiveness; the "us against them" mindset that teaches that if the Democrats want something, the Republicans MUST fight against it, no matter whether what the Democrats is good for the country ...or the other side of the coin is bad for the country. It seems to be okay to destroy the fabric of society as long as you get a political point against the "common enemy" (there's that war thing again).

Next, I'm fiscally conservative, but the Republicans aren't that anymore, either. I watched George W. Bush spend us into oblivion, mortgaging my children's future (and their children's, and their children's) while bailing out giant corporations like AIG (the ones it allowed to get "too big to fail" by dismantling reasonable regulations designed to control their short-sighted bottom-line mentality).

The conclusion is finally obvious: I'm leaving the Republican party. Well, I'm not leaving the Republican party: it has left me. But because of my beliefs I cannot register as a Democrat. I don't think they're evil, they just don't represent what I think. Just ... like ... the ... Republicans ... don't, and haven't for some time now. So my decision today is to reregister as an Independent.

And that's when I had my second revelation: you're not a Republican, either, are you, Randy? Anyone who is as clear-eyed as you probably "can't" be a member of either party, a part of the "us vs. them" mentality that has infected politics like a terminal disease.

"RON" is so like my Republican "friends" that I haven't really liked for a long time. Really, how stupid can a man be? He admits he's read your work for ten years, and therefore clearly loves it, and you've told the truth week after week for 520 weeks, and when he finally sees one thing he can't agree with, he's now positive you've been lying all along? So is he stupid for fooled for ten years, or is he stupid for refusing to even try to think about what he really believes and wants for this world? Either way, he's stupid!

But he has, at least, done a service by bringing ME to my senses, just like reading about stupid people every week in your fine publication has made me realize I don't have it so bad in this world, compared to them.

I'm hoping that I'm not the only one who has had his mind opened a little bit by this essay. You said for years that your goal is to entertain us, but also to make us think. You did it well, and I now realize what an idiot I have been to not support you all these years: I'm upgrading to Premium, and I pledge to renew every year for as long as you live. And to "Think!" (especially when you irritate me, as you sometimes do.) Thank you, thank you, thank you for making me realize I've been deceiving myself by supporting politicians who are not truly representing me, my country, nor the conservative ideals I believe in.

---

I looked up your subscription, Alan, and see you've been subscribed for not quite six years yourself. Over that time, I've been accused of being both a right-winger and a left-winger. I've occasionally said I'm not a Democrat, and I've said I'm not a Republican. It has been incredible to me that until now, no one has written with the realization that yes, I'm a member of the biggest "party" in the United States: Independent -- which is much larger than either the Republican or Democratic parties. Far from being filled with people who can't make up their minds, it's instead filled with people who believe in our entire Constitution, not just the parts that can make them money; people who want what's best for the country, not what's good for the party or the politician voting along party lines. People who have left one or the other of the big parties disillusioned. Maybe, with many more thoughtful people like you abandoning the politicians and thinking about what we should be doing, we'll turn things around. It's a big mountain to climb, and we're still in the foothills. -rc

Posted by Ann, MT on January 9, 2010:

I am not going to comment much on the political aspects of your essay and those who have replied as I feel your posting was more about not being susceptible to e-mails just because they support your views and not on actual facts. I am an Independent myself and do not degrade those who feel differently and do not agree with me because I am an American and believe in the foundations of that great thought and belief that founded this country.

I do, however, get so tired of people sending e-mails on such stories as you mentioned without research and confirmation. I always check with Snopes (and did not go with the e-mail about Wikipedia because as a recent college graduate in my 30's I know that site can be unreliable at times). Even though I have told people to please not send them on without checking their validity they keep coming. I have noticed a recent trend of the e-mails containing the phrase "confirmed on Snopes" but I still check them...and 9 times out of 10 they are bunk e-mails.

So please everyone, if you receive such an e-mail, check it out before sending on to others even if it does confirm your beliefs...it is likely incorrect an any case.

And no, I am not a Premium subscriber...one day when I can afford it I will upgrade!

---

Don't worry: there's no requirement that anyone has to declare their upgrade status or intentions! -rc

Posted by Diana, Casper WY USA on January 10, 2010:

Thank you for bringing up this issue. I totally agree that there is a racial underpinning to so many of the misinformation posts, emails and articles these days. It makes me really sad to think that, in 2010, we are so little advanced beyond the 60s -- or even the 1860s!

I have a Facebook page, and at least once every day I refer someone to snopes.com after they've posted a completely inaccurate diatribe (usually against the Democrats or Obama). The good part is that my post is then viewed by every one of that person's friends. The bad part is that, since I keep having to refer people to snopes.com, many of them are not retaining the information. :(

One way I've discovered of seriously cutting down on the chain emails that contain false stories and information is to use "Reply All" to reply to the sender. Then, in large, bold, red letters across the top, I put "THIS IS A HOAX. DO NOT FORWARD. SEE [the web page address at snopes.com]." By using "Reply All," every person who received the initial email becomes aware that what their friend sent them is a hoax, and, especially after several such emails, they no longer trust the info from that friend without checking it out for themselves first -- which is my goal.

An extremely religious relative of mine is absolutely the worst when it comes to forwarding completely false info, and many of her friends (whom I don't know, but who received one of the "Reply All" letters) have written me to say "Thank you" for helping them to be more critical of any email they receive. I realize that initially I'm adding to the amount of email sent, but, if I can prevent the friends from forwarding, perhaps, in the long run, the total emails sent will be much less.

Posted by John VA on January 11, 2010:

I agree with your response, but take issue with your assertion that Barack Obama was born in the United States--this has not been conclusively proven.

The Certificate of Live Birth he provided is not commonly accepted as official proof for obtaining a passport, for example. It has no record of the attending physician(s) or the name of the hospital. It was freely given by Hawaii to parents who "swore" to the details of their child's birth--in short, it is heresy, not valid documentation.

The only TRUE document that would prove conclusively, and with absolutely no room for doubt, would be the LONG FORM Birth Certificate -- which Obama has inexplicably refused to produce! Until he does this I don't consider him to be my president, he is a usurper who has not proven his Constitutional eligibility to serve.

You may blow this off as a letter from some "nutjob", but you'd be wrong -- there are thousands of Americans who feel the same as I do on this issue.

Some questions I'd REALLY like answered are:
Why was Senator John McCain fully investigated, while Obama was not?
Why has Obama spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of TAXPAYER MONEY to keep his birth certificate and other records sealed?
Why has there been no Republican outcry about this issue? Chairman Michal Steele has never brought up the issue!

The Constitution requires that our President be a "natural-born citizen", Obama has yet to prove that he meets this requirement. Our nation is founded on our Constitution, we ignore it at our own peril.

---

I think you mean "hearsay", not "heresy" (which is something else entirely!) Yes, I know that there are thousands of "birthers" out there -- but thousands out of 300 million does not mean they're not (to use your term) "nutjobs". That said, you do raise good questions that should be answered. -rc

Posted by Beth, Manchester, NH on January 11, 2010:

I found the line, "the media have no honor, and God is watching" interesting. Ever see the movie "A Few Good Men"? The line is delivered by Keifer Sutherland, "Santiago died because he had no code... Because he had no honor. And God was watching". Apparently the letter writer really liked that movie.

It just amazes me that some people think anything they see in print must be true. And that anything that challenges their narrow thinking must be wrong. Why are they so afraid to think about alternate viewpoints -- what is so threatening about that??

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 11, 2010:

I've watched a lot of Presidents come and go, and there has always been bashing about all of them. But it hasn't been until the 2000 election that I've seen it really spiral into the ridiculous. 8 years of Bush-bashing, blaming him for everything conceivable, including some hurricane-making machine to wipe out the Black population of New Orleans. And now it looks like at least 3 more years of Obama-bashing, including more ridiculous accusations. Doesn't matter, because no matter WHO takes the Presidency in 2012, Republican or Democrat, there will be MORE bashing, including some of the most ridiculous stuff [un]imaginable.

I can't blame the media for this. The media has been around since the beginning of this country. But I notice that the Clinton-bashing wasn't as vituperative as I've seen in the 21st century. Could it be that internet, which went public in 1994, took only a scant 6 years to draw out all the fruitcakes, looney-tunes, and conspiracy theorists with a mass saturation medium that protects their identities?

Internet, trolls, & spammers, OH MY!

Posted by Jean CA on January 11, 2010:

John VA:

My daughter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii; her birth certificate looks identical to the one Obama released. It was also the same birth certificate I used to get my daughter her US passport and to enroll her in schools here in CA. My son was born in Oakland, CA. His birth certificate does include all the additional info you seem to think is required to be deemed a "long-form" birth certificate, but it's merely a difference between State of Hawaii and Alameda County forms. One is not better than the other for establishing identity and the minimum facts of birth AND citizenship.

Please get a clue and realize that different states/counties/etc. have very different birth certificates. The minimum requirement to establish identity is a birth certificate that lists full names of the person, the parents, the date, and the place of birth. Such birth certificates are perfectly acceptable for passport issuance.

Posted by EarleyDaysYet, Australia on January 11, 2010:

First off, I applaud the irony of the randomly placed paid ad (Google?) asking, "do you want to stop Obamacare?" in the comments pages. That tickled me.

Secondly, I too have spent my life hitting Reply All to inform people of hoaxes (usually followed by an email to the sender explaining how to use the Bcc: field so as to avoid broadcasting their friends' email addresses to every scammer in the world). It is so irritating that people don't have that bellowing voice of scepticism with which I was apparently born! All we can do is help.

Thirdly, people don't like admitting they're wrong, especially after building up a good head of righteous indignation.

To the person who said Obama was mixed-race and could as easily be called "white" as "black", your naivete is breathtaking. Attacks on Obama have never been focused on what he IS, but on what he appears to be. If the Right categorise him as Black - and thusly treat him - then what matters the pedantry of political correctness?

Posted by Ken, Washington on January 11, 2010:

Very well put. Years ago I too would send those outlandish stories on and then I discovered TruthorFiction.com. I now check every story that makes any kind of claim and, if it is fiction, I send the link in a 'reply to all' back to the sender. Many of my friends will send me a story and ask if it is true. I've often wondered why they don't check for themselves.

Posted by Stephanie M. Virginia Beach, VA on January 11, 2010:

Allan in Tennessee -

Thank you so much for your post. It sums up quite nicely my feelings as well. To say I was a rabid Republican would be putting it nicely. I was certain (partly due to youth) that the GOP held the only answers that would work and I couldn't see or hear a single criticism that made sense. I worked on GOP campaigns before I could vote. I even gave them my time after I was injured in the Army and could only volunteer a few hours a week due to physical limitations.

On my first Senatorial campaign after my Army Medical Retirement I noticed that things seemed much more extreme. I chalked it up to living in Virginia Beach (home to Pat Robertson and Regent University) instead of my native Northern Virginia. I thought the political climate was simply different here, not the party at large.

I was used to hearing a few Jew jokes on these GOP campaigns in the DC area (I am Jewish but having blonde hair and freckles makes most bigots assume I'm a sympathetic ear) and racist comments but I thought it was just a few bad apples and it wasn't a frequent occurrence. Virginia Beach was markedly different. It had only been 5 years since I worked on a campaign so again I figured it had to be regional. I was wrong. In the short time I served in the Army before my injury, things had changed in our country. It seemed like 9/11 was a license to many in the GOP to dehumanize anyone that didn't look like them or come from a similar socioeconomic background. I left rather quickly after realizing that this was not the GOP I had worked so hard to elect in the past.

I was still voting GOP at that point, but I was done with volunteering in this area. Then the 2004 election happened and I saw a new side to the party I had defended for so long. I had spoken to anyone who would listen about why it was important to keep the GOP in power and suddenly I realized that most of the arguments I was making no longer applied to the GOP. Common sense conservatism was gone, frankly I had to look pretty hard to find a conservative in the bunch. I was furious and I took action.

I am now an Independent supporting Democrats out of fear that a 3rd party vote will mean control of my son's future by people who think that debunking evolution and picketing abortion clinics is more important than ensuring that our troops have the equipment they need to keep them as safe as possible in Iraq (they pay lip service but their actions and votes speak much louder). Opposing gay marriage is apparently more important than education, the budget, critical infrastructure, the environment (which I see as a National Security issue due to our dependence on foreign oil), and privacy from the government.

The new GOP was determined to get votes; privacy, civil rights, and most of the old party platform be damned. They were trading our country's future for political expediency. The Patriot Act had trampled the Constitution I had sworn to defend and was making my fellow soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and my fellow Americans less safe.

It seemed like the inmates had taken over the asylum and so I did what I never in a million years thought I would ever do... I spent 2 years organizing and leading a very large group of Veterans, Military Families, and disgruntled Republicans for a Democratic candidate. The extremists in the GOP had scared me so badly that the only choice was to ensure that they would not gain a foothold in this country until they remembered what they were supposed to be doing in office.

I'm 32 and I know so many people my age that feel the same way. We are a bit more socially liberal than the previous generation, but many of us believe strongly in economic conservatism, gun rights, and a strong national defense.

We no longer have a party but many are voting for Democrats because the election of wingnuts that focus on "Intelligent Design" and promoting abstinence-only "education" instead of understanding economics is a terrifying prospect.

Thank you Allan from Tennessee and Randy for being a voice of reason in the cacophony of crazy. If a rabid repub like me can hear reason and change her mind, anyone can and your words will help accomplish that.

Posted by Nikki---Montgomery, IL on January 12, 2010:

A lot of food for thought in the essay and the comments. While I am an intelligent woman, I have never hid the fact that I am "politically challenged". I know nothing of politics. I'm 34 and can name MOST of the presidents who have been in office since I was born, but I admit, I don't even always remember the name of our CURRENT vice-president. I'm not an idiot. It is just that I have had a difficult time bothering to care because I don't like what I see when it comes to politics. But after reading many of the posts tonite, specifically Alan's post (and Randy's follow-up), you have each given me something to really THINK about. I appreciate it. Thank you both!

---

If you don't like what's going on, you do owe it to yourself to become educated so that you can vote intelligently. The reason things are so bad is too many people over the generations have thrown up their hands in disgust and let the pols do whatever they want. -rc

Posted by Geoff, Scottsdale AZ on January 12, 2010:

Having read the article and every comment thus far, the only thing I see that seems less than accurate is the race issue. I do not see racism as being the reason for all these emails, but rather I see race being used as an additional subconscious weapon being by the "Neocon" movement to sway as many as possible to their "cause", whatever that is. I completely agree that such arguments are false, and sadly take a lot of people along with them. I will be sending the link to this in response to every idiotic email I get (Look out sis) and fervently hope some will exert the thought process to actually read and comprehend it.

Posted by Phil in VA on January 12, 2010:

Not precisely sure how this topic has drifted to the Obama/birther thing, but I can't help noting that the birthers claim to believe that the Supreme Court, all of Congress, and various other parts of the government are all in on some conspiracy regarding Obama. Ignoring all the contrary evidence (not to mention the fact that the restriction is outdated by about 200 years -- it was put there to avoid a Brit-leaning candidate from taking office), if we accept that it's true, then don't they realize they should probably not be publicly complaining about it? If there's a conspiracy of this magnitude and breadth, shouldn't they expect to be "disappeared" any day now? The fact that one of the "leading" [sic] birthers is a Russian emigre strikes me as particularly sad and/or funny -- she of all people should realize that if the government is truly that evil, publicly denouncing it is a Very Bad Idea.

Posted by J from Colorado on January 12, 2010:

Interesting on many levels. Not the least of which is how it keeps getting updated and reused.

But Racist? No. I don't see it. Seems that less intelligent people are doing the hate campaign now than were doing it during the Bush years but if you go back to the media stories about Bush waving to Stevie Wonder, Bush documents from the Vietnam War, etc. There were just as many shenanigans going on during the past administration.

The difference? The media (Rather, the Washington Post from the examples) seemed much more inclined to rush them to the "news" category without fact checking. Now it is just some people going through email, forwarding them on without fact checking.

I think things have improved by that scale.

Posted by Philip. Qld. Australia. on January 14, 2010:

I have just read the actual citation story of one Captain Ed FREEMAN, shouldn't congress given him 14 Medals of Honour, One for every life saving venture into enemy held territory to deliver vital supplies to the American boys fighting to survive, and also to his refusal under Enemy Fire to leave badly shot up boys to die untreated,and risking his own safety, flew them out time and again,asking nothing of his Maker than the chance to do just that.14 Medals did I say, Nah, still not enough Mate.

Posted by Paul, Michigan on January 14, 2010:

While nobody may have written you saying that they figured out that you are an independent, many people -- including me -- figured it out long ago.

Keep on thinking!

---

Oh, I'm sure there are many who have realized. I'm just amazed that when the subject has come up (many times, sigh!) in the past, no one floated the idea. Seems reasonably obvious to me. -rc

Posted by Ray - Houston on January 15, 2010:

As you probably know, this is going around again, this time substituting Tiger Woods. Each time I get it, I reply:

---

And now for the truth.

The story about Ed Freeman is true, the rest is a lie. I received this twice recently and want to make two points.

1. Ed Freeman is a true hero and his story should be told. He died August 20, 2008, not "last Wednesday", and his story was covered at the time of his death. Look it up.

2. As a Vietnam vet, I am deeply offended with those with a political agenda using the life and story of a true hero in a lie to try cast a cloud over "the American Media", or anyone, or anything else. It is not my intention to defend the media, I only seek the truth.

This email has been circulated a number of times since his death, most notably in June last year (2009) around Michael Jackson's death. Now, it has been revised around Tiger Woods. There was no choice to report Ed Freeman's death versus the other two, the events were a year apart in one case and 18 months in the other.

Shame on the American Media? No, shame on those who dishonor Ed Freeman by creating a lie in his name in order to promote a political agenda. And shame on those who pass along these lies as well. Don't they think that their credibility is damaged simply because they did not write it? To use the same font above, if "YOU pass this along on YOUR mailing list." you are just as guilty.

---

Hear hear, Ray. I hope you open some eyes. I'm not a Vietnam Vet, but I'm still outraged and offended that a man of honor is being used in such a dishonorable way. It's disgusting and needs to stop. Thanks for doing your part to stop it. -rc

Posted by Derek in New Mexico on January 16, 2010:

I was surprised by your comment to John (VA) on the birth certificate question, when you said, "That said, you do raise good questions that should be answered. -rc". I re-read John's (VA) letter, and didn't see any good questions, only undocumented, and largely uninteresting assertions. I haven't studied this issue, so I spent ten minutes researching one aspect of the question on the internet, to try and verify a memory from my junior high school social studies class. I wouldn't claim that ten minutes research is proof of anything, but FindLaw.com confirms my memory, that the birth certificate question is irrelevant. Citizenship can be obtained in various ways. Here is one way that Obama qualifies as a US citizen, about which I've heard no dispute:

"People who have U.S. citizens in their direct line of ancestry. If your parents or grandparents were U.S. citizens, you may not realize that U.S. citizenship has been passed down the line, even if you were born elsewhere and your parents or grandparents haven't lived in the United States for a long time."

I haven't heard anyone claim that Obama's mother and maternal grandparents aren't US citizens. So why are "birthers" fixating on the birth certificate to the exclusion of all other provisions for citizenship? My guess is they intend to mislead, or are mislead. Ah, but the above quote speaks of "parents"! The plural! We all know that a maximum of one of Obama's parents was a US citizen. What about that?! FindLaw.com continues:

"In many circumstances, even though a child is born outside the United States, if at least one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the child's birth, the child automatically "acquires" citizenship. When this child marries and has children, those children may also acquire U.S. citizenship at birth."

Links are given to explore the "many circumstances", and I haven't read them all. But given all of the skilled lawyers in the Republican Party, I would imagine that these questions have been investigated. To say nothing of Hillary and Bill Clinton, both able lawyers who would have loved to get Obama out of the race during the primaries.

Which I think is the answer to one of John's questions, "Why has there been no Republican outcry about this issue?" There has been a lot of outcry on this issue, and most all of it from a subset of Republicans. My guess is the reason that most of the Republican leadership has not gotten involved, is that the challenges are without merit, and signing on to this line of lame argument would decrease a politician's political future.

So what am I missing, Randy? What are the good questions that John raised?

---

If John's suppositions are correct (e.g., if Obama truly has "spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of TAXPAYER MONEY to keep his birth certificate and other records sealed,") then it's certainly valid to ask "Why?"

I'm pretty dubious that McCain was "fully investigated" but Obama was not -- does anyone really think no Republican candidate or organization didn't have a fleet of private investigators trying to find any possible dirt on him? They're completely incompetent if not.

A president's citizenship is not at issue. Their being a "natural born Citizen" is, since that's the Constitutional requirement (though, if you read the article at the link, you'll find that the phrase is not defined in the Constitution, and there's contention about exactly what it means). Thus, your discussion of Obama's grandparents or mother being citizens is immaterial if he was not born on U.S. soil. Since I've seen evidence that he was, I take that at face value until I see convincing evidence to the contrary. -rc

Posted by John, Utah on January 16, 2010:

Is the hoax representative of a genuinely political agenda? I don't see any reference to the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Congressmen, Presidents, judges, laws, taxes, abortion, the war, speed limits, global warming, endangered species, or any of the other topics that are political in nature.

A cultural agenda? That case can be made, although I think the real motive was to see how many people could be tricked into bleating along with the leader, that the originator's real agenda was no higher than his/her own amusement.

---

Again, with only one example, I'd agree with you. But with the lengthy pattern of manipulation, as discussed and documented, I believe the political nature of the propaganda becomes clear. -rc

Posted by Kim, Sandy, UT on January 19, 2010:

I got one for Ed yesterday. This one, at least, stops after May God Rest His Soul. It doesn't mention anyone else that the media is honoring instead of him.

---

Interesting. I wonder if that's the "original", before it was turned into political propaganda. -rc

Posted by Neil, Cheshire, UK on May 6, 2010:

Is it generally assumed in the US that people are party members unless otherwise specified? I misjudged Randy's political stance when I started reading TRUE (although I'm not the sort to object to the idea that someone might in some way disagree with me) but I took it as read that he wasn't a party member and would judge how to vote on the merits of various parties' policies on each occasion. I now gather that's what you call an Independent; here in the UK that refers to people who actually run for election without joining a party (or perhaps who support such people), and identifying oneself with a party implies (perhaps long-term) support, not membership.

---

I think a great many Americans assume people are a member of one party or the other, even though the reality is quite different. The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are about 146 million registered voters in the U.S. According to Pew Research, about 36 percent of registered voters identify themselves as Democrats, and just 27 percent identify as Republicans, leaving the largest "party" -- or about 37 percent of voters -- being "none of the above". That's where I sit. -rc

Posted by Anton in Cascadia on July 7, 2010:

"Natural born citizen" means a citizen from birth, not necessarily by place of birth. (I was born abroad to US parents myself, so I'm a citizen under the Nationality Act of 1952 rather than under the Fourteenth Amendment.) The glitch in Obama's case, supposing that he was born abroad, is this: if only one parent is a US citizen, then citizenship is inherited only if that parent lived in the US for five years after age 14, and mom wasn't yet 19 when he was born.

Posted by Alex in UT on July 26, 2010:

If it is alright with you, I would like to forward this to all of the people in my family that get sucked into the propaganda news distribution.

I feel like I am banging my head into a wall when I try to have a FACTUAL conversation with many that I am surrounded by.

Randy....you rock.

---

You're always welcome to send the URL of such pages to others, but of course you may not forward the text. -rc

Posted by Rebecca in Denver on December 4, 2010:

I have yet again referenced your page because this exact same e-mail is circulating again. I think someone actually read it because now the e-mail references Tiger Woods and Lindsey Lohan. Of course, I keep getting this e-mail chain from the same three people, so maybe they didn't read it, but someone out there must have, because it now lists a non-black drug addict...

Thanks and keep up the good work. It's comforting to those of us who actually think for ourselves to know we aren't totally alone out here.

Posted by Phil, San Antonio, Texas, USA on February 24, 2012:

Every time this email, or an adaptation of it, makes the rounds I take the initiative and remind everyone of the true facts of the case, but they always seem to fall on deaf ears. The same people keep circulating this garbage as is comes around again. Some people just want to believe the worst.

---

You're already doing the best thing possible: 1) thinking about it, and researching when necessary, and 2) making it clear to the sender that you've done so, and that they haven't. Step 3) is "let it go": when people insist on being stupid, they've chosen their path poorly (and you've chosen yours wisely!), and both of you must walk it. With luck, after being hit in the head 20 or 30 times, your "friend" will choose the more intelligent path too. "You can drag an obliviot toward education, but you can't make them think." You can point them toward the truth, but then you have to let them go. -rc

Posted by Merv -- st catharines, ontario on February 24, 2012:

Somehow I missed the Urdang death. He was one my heroes as well. We had some interesting correspondence. I have a slew of his Verbatim magazine around here somewhere.

---

So do I. One day, I'll pull them out and read them all again. Long live Doctor Rotcod! -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 24, 2012:

Not this one, specifically, but a tactic that's been adopted for several of the recycled emails is to include a link to Snopes to purport that even they have verified the story. Yet when you click on the link, it actually states that the story is false and the reasons why it's false. For a lot of people, though, just saying that Snopes verified it is enough to make it "true" when it's really not.

---

More commonly (that I've seen), they just SAY it's been checked by Snopes, and "is true!" No link. Of course, then the rest of your scenario plays out: if you go to the Snopes site and search, you find they have researched it, and they've found the story is false (and give the reasons why they think so). -rc

Posted by Tom, Indianapolis on February 24, 2012:

That's what I get for not being up on all the chain emails. What I got seemed to be original to the guy who sent it. I'll let him know.

Still, Randy -- here's an idea. Maybe not Honorary Unsubscribe, but maybe Hero's Hall -- a page where these brave men -- and women -- could be once again honored -- and a quick place to check the next time something like this comes around. Good Idea?

---

Well, there are. In addition to Snopes, which is a good place to check out all chain e-mails, there are dozens of places where the stories of heroes are told. The whole idea of the Honorary Unsubscribe (and its archive) is to give everyday "heroes" some notice, to help people understand that there are real people much more worthy of notice than celebrities. As for military heroes -- Medal of Honor recipients, for instance -- there are multiple places, including on Wikipedia -- though MoH recipients from the Vietnam war are listed on a separate page. The bottom line is, there are lots of places to research the validity of things. But if you don't look, you won't find them. -rc

Posted by Camille, Montana on February 24, 2012:

"There are plenty of real horrors in the world to get up in arms about, and those horrors are more deserving of your attention than made-up stories designed to support some fringe political position. In other words, think FIRST, before you hit Send."

Definitely agreed Randy.

Not sure if this is true for anyone else, but to me it seems like the 80/20 rule applies here: 20% of the people out there seem to be responsible for passing on 80% of the overly emotional, overexaggerated and/or untrue e-mails that float around. In some cases I respond back with links to debunking sites; other times I respond back with my own explanations of why the e-mail I got was poorly researched, poorly argued, or was just flat out wrong; and sometimes I just start ignoring the person.

Posted by Tony, Japan on February 24, 2012:

"It's not just that MJ is black. It's that I see a pattern in these e-mails."

If you want to prove this is racist, look for the pattern that isn't there; How many mails like this mention the story being obscured by Charlie Sheen's meltdown? Lindsay Lohan? Mel Gibson? Paris Hilton?

Posted by Paul, NJ on February 25, 2012:

The really sad thing, at least in my experience, is that some people will forward this kind of thing, even AFTER you debunked it when they sent it to you the last time it was making the rounds. And it's just as bad on Facebook. I've seen people "sharing" things after a number of people have been making "debunk" posts in reply to earlier posts, or stuff resurfaces at some point after the initial flurry.

I finally went on a "rant" one day and posted for people to pay attention to things in their feed besides just stuff about their games and apps.

Posted by John, MN on February 27, 2012:

To me, the real tragedy is that it took the US government 36 years to give Capt. Freeman the Medal of Honor.

Posted by John, Los Angeles on February 27, 2012:

Being a retired Army Helicopter pilot, I've had the privilege to talk with Ed Freeman, Bruce Crandall, Fredrick Ferguson, and Patrick Brady at various Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association events, as well as other MOH recipients at the Riverside, California National Cemetery. None of them would be the least bit amused at having their name associated with this sort of trash.

To a man, they are all very unassuming individuals who just did what was right when they had to.

The quote that probably sums it up the best is this: When asked if he was a hero during the war, he replied, "No, but I served with a bunch of them."

Posted by Mark, Atlanta on February 27, 2012:

President Obama's long form birth certificate has been released. Can we please stop talking about that non-issue?

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/04/27/president-obamas-long-form-birth-certificate

I am blessed with a great group of friends. On one email list I occasionally see a non-factual forwarded email but someone else always sends the right Snopes link before I have to.

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Look at the dates on the comments: all of the "birth" comments were made before that release, in April 2011. -rc

Posted by Kurt/Bangkok on February 27, 2012:

As always, as excellent essay I somehow missed before. I also am greatly impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of the considerable majority's comments.

I've become increasingly unwilling to battle this kind of idiocy, simply because most of the time, no matter how solid my proof is that the message is wrong, the other person or people chalk it up to "lies." Take the birther issue, for instance (since I happen to know -- unfortunately a rather large number of them). When Sharron Angle, the lady who ran against Senate Majority Leader Reid in 2010 and lost, finally admitted she believed the President to be a U.S. citizen, I began mentioning her statement. The response in every single case? -- "They got to her," or words to that effect. I also point to the multiple ways a person can be classified a "natural born citizen," adding that the phrase isn't defined in the Constitution. The response? -- "Yes it is and everybody knows it. Congress lied when it passed laws saying differently, if they did" -- the "if they did" pretty well proving the reader/listener didn't even bother to check my claim.

Even on purely personal stuff I sometimes run into this. Many years ago, I received a Congressional nomination to compete for a place in West Point (though another person won it). My then-Congressman sent me a telegram, which served as my "orders" to report to Fort Sill (Oklahoma). But I've been accused of lying about having been nominated, and when I showed the accusers the telegram -- one of my most treasured possessions to this day -- they've demanded to see my orders to report to the fort. And they simply won't accept that the telegram WAS "my orders," or accuse me of flat-out lying about it, some even claiming I had sent the telegram to myself.

And I'm a nobody! ;-)

Finally, like some of the posters here, I found the GOP left me, not the other way around. I never *registered* as a republican, but I voted Republican (or Dixiecrat when they ran my state, Texas, when I was young decades ago, and Dixiecrats were pretty much indistinguishable from pre-2008 Republicans or in some cases even the current ones) some 70-80% of the time, including in 2008, though I did vote for the Obama-Biden ticket, primarily because of Palin's presence on the republican ticket. I was astouded when the very next day after the election, Senator McConnell announced the GOP's sole goal was to make the President-elect a one-term one. And virtually everything the Republicans have done since has moved the party further by the day into the far fringe, leaving me increasingly further behind. Though I'm not *registered* as an Independent, that's essentially what I am, and actually always have been -- never voted a straight ticket in my entire voting life, which began in 1972.

BTW -- are you *still* working 50-60 hours per week? (You don't have to answer that -- I certainly don't really expect a reply!)

I don't remember how I first ran across your stuff all those years ago -- but am I damned glad I did, and I plan to keep my premium subscription to "The Is True" up for good.

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I'm probably still doing about 50/week, but not all of it's for TRUE anymore. And I appreciate your willingness to think for yourself. -rc

Posted by Rick, ID on February 28, 2012:


At the risk of not seeing racism lurking under every rock and bush (and thus forgoing the opportunity for a thunderous "Mea Culpa"), let me suggest that the reason the "famous" person was cited was simply one of numbers. If you are going to argue that all the comparisons to the true hero were non-white, then you should show that was intentional, not a function of quantity. For example, I recall it was a fairly big deal when Elvis died, and Liz Taylor, and John Wayne, etc. There may well have been some people worthy of admiration who died at the same time.

But how many widely known white rocksters have died in the last day, week, month, ...to serve as a counterpoint to the MoH winner? You can show that someone widely known gets more notice than someone who truly deserves renown, but you have not demonstrated a bigot bias.

There may be some correlation to number of non-white names that appear in viral emails, but correlation is not causation. That the date was altered, is not relevant to the fact that famous (earned or not) people get more ink than lesser known (even though more worthy) folk.

Another Independent premium subscriber.

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I think you're missing the point. Freeman died on August 20, 2008, (not "last Wednesday"), and since then this e-mail has gone around several times. A lot of famous people have been in the news or have died since August 20, 2008 -- most of them not black. Yet every one of the people used in this e-mail (that I've seen) has been black: Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, Whitney Houston. And we're told that we should cry "SHAME!" against the media for talking about those icky black people when this wonderful white guy died -- ignoring that the media did talk about him at the actual time he did die. Sorry, but when it's 100% black people, just too much of a coincidence to believe that it's not racially motivated. -rc

Posted by Judy, Gardendale AL on March 2, 2012:

When I read your statement about the mug shots with folks wearing Obama T-shirts and "all were black," I was positive there were whites included as well as blacks. I did a search for the mug shots and there are two white guys, although one was in a short sleeved shirt with an Obama sticker (bottom row). Sorry, I didn't read all the comments, so if someone else mentioned this fact, I over-looked it.

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I have to wonder if the two white guys were added later. The e-mail version I got only had black guys. -rc

Posted by Lee, H Woods, MI on March 3, 2012:

The only real flaw I see in your logic, is proven with your own source, Snopes.com.

While I don't disagree that racism is rampant all over the world, and that it exists in a multitude of various scenarios other than white on black, all you have to do is look at the index of Snopes.

Had you done that, you'd have likely found just as many white people trashed in junk mail as black people, if not more.

Let's use your example of racism toward Mr. Obama: there are 236 listed e-mail fables about George Bush at Snopes, compared to 220 for Barack Obama.
I'd say that with your reasoning, it illustrates black racism toward whites.

The fact is, you're reading more into the phenomenon of trash mail than it deserves.

Don't lecture me about racism either, I'm half American Indian.

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Snopes doesn't "prove" the "flaw" in my "logic", since your premise is wrong. I did not say, nor do I believe, that all chain e-mails are designed to perpetuate racism. That would be an absurd belief. What I said was, the manipulation of this specific Ed Freeman e-mail is clearly racially motivated, and since I said that there are some more examples of that very manipulation that same e-mail -- those further examples "prove" my point. I further mentioned that there are other examples of political manipulation, such as the anti-Obama e-mails that rely on lies and other distortions to further an agenda which fits the same pattern. And all of that is demonstrably true. -rc

Posted by Cheri, Missouri on March 3, 2012:

I absolutely HATE chain emails, and chain postings. I refuse to open chain emails, and everytime I see chain postings on Facebook, I check Snopes, and they are false 99% of the time. I usually point that out and add the Snopes link. When will people learn that these things are just stupid and wrong?

Posted by Pierre, Canada on March 4, 2012:

Fantastic essay, along with your replies to comments, the vast majority of which were good, thoughtful, useful. A couple were disgusting, and I hope you can ignore the slurs and insults.

"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They’re there every night, they see it done every night, they see how it should be done every night, but they can’t do it themselves." -- Brendan Francis Behan

I wish the USA had a good third party. We have 3 parties in Canada, and t seems to cur down a lot on the "we/they thing" that is plaguing the USA as of late!

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Oh... were there slurs and insults? Hadn't noticed. -rc

Posted by Sean - Deltona, Fl. on March 4, 2012:

I really have nothing constructive to add to your observations, as my BS meter went active as soon as a version of that e-mail hit my inbox. I try and teach folks a fairly simple algorithm for detecting truth in situations like this, which runs as follows:

Start with a mental scale from 0 to 42, with 0 being irrefutable and 30 being pure fabrication (scores higher than 30 warrant nothing but contempt).

Then apply the following point system to data presented as 'fact'.

Did you see it on the Internet? Yes = Add 6 points.
(present company excluded, naturally)
Is it politically motivated? Yes = 7 points.
Does it invoke outrage? Yes = 8 points.
Did the author utilize caps lock? Yes = 9 points.
Is God involved in any way? Yes = 7 points.
Does the story attempt self validation? Yes = 5 points.

When I received a version of that e-mail several years ago, it differed slightly from your posted version, in that it used caps lock in the title, and included wording to the effect of, "This has been verified by _______" (maybe Snopes? I don't recall exactly). As such, it earned 42 points, a perfect score on my BS meter, and was deleted immediately.

Since I was already inoculated against the BS in the e-mail, I just kind of scanned through it, until I arrived at your Lincoln quote. As a student of history, and an admirer of Lincoln, it caught my eye, as I could not recall him ever saying those words, though he reputedly uttered something similar to a rather smug clergyman.

Would you happen to have a reliable source for that quote?

I ask because is scored 21 points on the aforementioned scale.

Peace Brother!

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First, regarding your scoring system: excellent! And probably quite accurate. Second, regarding asking about my Lincoln quotation: touche! I don't find the exact quote, and cannot remember where I got it. However, there is good documentation of him saying something very much like it, as noted here (When a pious minister told Lincoln he "hoped the Lord is on our side," the president responded, "I am not at all concerned about that.... But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side." -- which is attributed to Six Months in the White House by F.B. Carpenter (1866 -- full scan at the link). -rc

Posted by Floyd, Seneca, Oregon on March 26, 2012:

I was intrigued by the received e-mail about Captain Ed Freeman. I honor his service career.

I began to suspect that there might be something less than accurate about the circulated E-mail story of his heroics when i noticed it said he was a Captain in the USAF (US Air Force), instead of the US Army.

I am a veteran of the US Air Force during the Vietnam era, and served between 1962 to 1969. I was already on active duty when the conflict in Vietnam escalated. I was never permitted into a combat zone due to my involvement in nuclear detection activities in support of the Atmospheric Nuclear Test Ban Treat of 1963. This duty kept me isolated from the details of Vietnam, so i can in no way speak with any authority as to how it was to be "In Nam".

Except for occasional intelligence briefings on the war in Vietnam, and reading the same news available to the American public, I simply was about as informed as any other member of the American public. I did, however, have a fairly clear understanding of the differences between aviation activities of the US Air Force, US Army, US Marine Corps, and US Navy in this conflict.

For the most part, the US Air Force was not primarily charged with close-in helicopter operations as depicted in Captain Freeman's citation.The helicopter pilots were primarily members of the US Army, by virtue of their combat roles.The other services had helicopter operations, but usually not of this type.I humbly bow to those pilots from the other services, notably, the Air Rescue Services of the US Air Force and US Navy who performed heroically in extracting downed airmen.

I hope i'll be forgiven if i've slighted or mis-represented any fellow veteran. I do wonder, however, how the story came to be that Captain Freeman was USAF, instead of US Army.

My great admiration to Captain Freeman, his family, and his fellow Army veterans.

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I don't recall seeing any version that identified him as USAF. Indeed, the ones I've seen -- including the copy posted above -- don't mention a service branch at all. Why would some have that? Because whoever is trying to make it look "more legitimate" in order to further their propaganda mission simply typed it in without having any idea as to what the truth is. That is the sad part about this whole thing: the truth is terrific, and there's no need to change it. Yet they do -- because they have a propaganda purpose. Which, indeed, is the whole point of my essay -- to point that out. -rc

Posted by Jeremy, San Diego, CA on May 9, 2013:

This is flaring up again on Pinterest. Whenever I see it, I leave a comment with a link to this page.

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Thanks. A reader sent it to me last week -- and before I could reply, he followed up saying sorry, it was very old. Good for him! (For the first time that I remember, the version he sent didn't have the racist portions included.) I also sent him the link to this page.... -rc

Posted by Gerry, Boise, ID on August 16, 2013:

I dealt with this type of false posting from one of my mother's friends back in 2009:

"Okay, I'm gonna say this one time. You have got to check these e-mails that you get forwarded from the slope-brows. It's not that hard. I called up the attachment, copied the claims (mostly because they looked familiar), and pasted them in the search block at the FactCheck.org website. Got two hits. This one below is the very first one. Note that what was sent to you was a complete fabrication (i.e. a hoax.). I realize that you despise President Obama, but I could respect your sentiments if they were based on anything more than choosing to believe only what supports and endorses your personal beliefs.

"I would also appreciate it if you don't send me any more e-mails. I did NOT appreciate your calling me a "democrat or a socialist" as you did in your last posting to me back in July. For your information, I am a veteran of the US military. I served my country for more than 20 years, ten of them helping to defend America against Red Russia during the Cold War. To be accused of being a "socialist", apparently because I dared to challenge some pseudo-conservative slander of the president, rubs me absolutely the wrong way. You do not know me. Unfortunately, you chose to resort to a lame and baseless attack on my politics, my intelligence, and my patriotism. NO one does that to me, not if they expect me to respect either them or their opinions.

"I thank you for your keeping in touch with my mother these many years. It has meant a great deal to her. However I see absolutely no purpose served by your attempting to stay in touch with me. As I wrote in paragraph 2, above, please don't contact me again."

In the end, the best way of dealing with bovinus excrementus is to not simply ignore it.

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Yes and no. Yes, it gets them out of your hair, but no, it doesn't improve the world, and someone else will then have to deal with the dumbass. You took a great middle ground: you showed him a path to knowledge and truth. If he takes it, the world is a better place. If not, then the obliviot is out of your hair. (He's not an obliviot because he hates the president, he's an obliviot for buying into propaganda intended to rile up ...the obliviots).

Thank you for trying, whether it worked or not, and for your service to our country. -rc

Posted by Stephen, Camarillo, CA on September 2, 2013:

The truth about this e-mail does prove its thesis that we (society and the media) pay too much attention to entertainers and not enough attention to war heroes. Saying that Freeman had died last week worked only because most readers (and, more importantly, most forwarders) of the e-mail did not remember that he had died months or years earlier. If someone has sent a chain e-mail saying Michael Jackson had died last week, it would not have gone viral, because it would have been obvious that it was false, because nearly everyone remembers that he died years ago. The last white war hero whose death is so well remembered? A guy in the navy named John Kennedy.

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