Although I stand corrected and apologetic for my recent violation of Internet protocol, I remain unrepentant about standing up for truth and honesty in political discourse.
By now, I would have thought that people were used to it, political spam that is. On any given day, I get at least two or three uninvited political messages from people I know and some from people I don’t know. It’s an election year, don’t you know? And all the candidates have discovered the newest, most cost-effective way to campaign: the Internet, websites, blogs, YouTube videos, and email — much of it being political spam (messages of a political nature that we would not otherwise choose to receive). But I read ‘em all, everything that gets past my ISP’s spam filter. Yeah, I admit it, I’ve become a political junkie.
Many people hate political spamming even more than junk snail-mail or telemarketing, and some may even question the legality of it. But communication over the Internet (including e-mail) is a form of speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Political speech has the highest value among protected forms of speech, and therefore receives the greatest protection. According to a Duke University law brief, “Debate on the qualifications of candi- dates is at the core of our electoral process and of the First Amendment freedoms, not at the edges. The role that elected officials play in our society makes it all the more imperative that they be allowed freely to express themselves on matters of current public importance. . . . We have never allowed the govern- ment to prohibit candidates from communicating relevant information to voters during an election.” I think it’s safe to presume this First-Amendment protection extends to candidates’ campaign staff and to ardent supporters as well.
I have responded to some political spam. Most of what I’ve received, however, I’ve just deleted after reading, unless of course the originator flat-out lied about something or misrepresented the facts so badly that it was obvious. To these, I’ve always tried to respond after doing some on-line research to confirm my suspicions. I’ve considered it my patriotic duty to do so. And, if the sender has provided a distro (a list of addressees), I have in the past sent my responses to them as well. My rationale has been that these people deserve to have the facts set straight. But, y’know what? Many seem to be quite comfortable with lies, so long as they serve to buttress their frame of reference… support their already-held beliefs and convictions.
I recently made the mistake of including people I thought would appreciate reading what I had to say on the Cc-line of my response to a political spam message, like-thinking friends, co-workers, and family members. I thus generated my own distro. Some of these people responded favorably, thanking me for the research I had done, thus clearing up for them a swiftboat-style myth about congressional Democrats conspiring to increase taxes on retire- ment fund distributions. One of my Cc addressees, however, a family member who doesn’t share my political views, became incensed that I had included him in the distribution, and I can’t say that I blame him. Another recipient uncharacteristically responded to all with a phrase demeaning people who might believe the original author’s claim.
The original message had been sent to me personally and indi- vidually by a family friend, asking me what I thought about it. She appreciated my research efforts, but was not at all happy with having been identified to others as the source of the message to which I was responding. Sigh…
From now on, when someone sends me a political message, if there is no distro, I will endeavor never to add one of my own. Neither will I send messages with distros others can see without checking first with all of the addressees. As many of you know, when I send electronic invitations to my community of readers announcing a new posting or story, I do so using the “Blind” carbon copy (Bcc) address line. I know this to be much better etiquette than using the Cc-line. Further, I always invite recipients to opt-out of future invitations.
Although I stand corrected and apologetic for my recent violation of Internet protocol, I remain unrepentant about standing up for truth and honesty in political discourse. Responding only to the originators of false and misleading political messages on the Internet would do nothing to correct the problem; these people already know their messages are based on exaggerations and lies. They are so committed to the “righteousness” of their persuasions that they feel justified doing whatever they have to do to ensure their party’s or candidate’s success. Accordingly, they are not at all likely to publish retractions.
For more information on appropriate use of the “Information Highway” and for suggestions on ways to reduce or avoid all forms of Internet spam, visit “Promote Responsible Net Commerce: Fight Spam!”
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