This guest blog comes from my husband, a former political reporter now union negotiator.
I received a couple of emails today. That’s not unusual. I get literally dozens a day. But these particular two got me thinking. Thinking about information, how it’s assembled and distributed and more importantly its use. A trite expression that’s been around a long time now is, “information is power.” It’s an expression with which I generally find myself agreeing. But what if that information is bad information? Is it still power? I think the answer is yes. However, it is not power for the receiver but rather power for the sender. We see this in the negative advertising campaigns that now dominate North American politics.
So back to these emails. One of them purports to be a “True Story.” I am not going to repeat the contents verbatim but the theme goes like this. First for context it notes that Calgary recently elected its first Muslim mayor. The story continues with an unnamed employee at an unnamed federal prison facility attending a training session at an unnamed location. At the session are an unnamed Catholic, an unnamed Protestant (we don’t know if they are so-called men of the cloth) and an Islamic Imam. The story tells how this unnamed individual through a series of deft questions brought the Imam to shame. In the end actually hanging his head, as he acknowledged that his Muslim faith requires him to kill all non-believers. The story concludes with the worrying note that within 20 years Muslims could elect a Canadian Prime Minister. The email ends (and I’m not making this up) with the bold, capitalized call: “For God’s Sake – Send this on.”
The story is concerning for a number of reasons. First, a lot of people will likely see this and accept that it is a true story. Secondly, it is barely disguised hate. And finally, its contents are patently false. The Koran (Quran) makes no call to kill all non believers. Certainly religious zealots have used religion to justify all number of injustices and
atrocities. The Christian bible has been used to uphold slavery, jail Galileo, subjugate
women and wage war.
The second email was far less serious but also pointed to the problem with people potentially believing anything they hear or are told. It also purports to be true. It story goes as follows:
“The Miss USA pageant was held at the Theatre for the Performing Arts in Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 19, 2011. It was the 60th anniversary of this show. As in the past, contestants are graded on beauty, charm, poise, skills, and their ability to respond to questions. One
of the questions asked of the 2011 contestants was: “Do you think math should be taught in school?”
The attached video captures some of their answers. After you’re done laughing, pray that these young ladies are sterile! This isn’t funny, it’s shocking!
Unfortunately it is something the public education system has been turning out for the last couple of generations.. The proof is in the pudding, [this video].”
I suppose I should put the video on this page but it seems to me doing so allows the misinformation to continue. What we see is a series of women, some of them identified by the State they represent, struggling mightily with the question and many suggesting that, no math shouldn’t be taught or that 7 year olds should decide for themselves. It perpetrates the stereotype of the bimbo. While I am no fan of beauty contests it is not up to me to decide whether they should exist or not. The idea that anyone who takes part in such events should be the subject of mockery and derision just doesn’t work for me. The whole thing seems also to be a not too subtle attack on the intelligence of women. Out of curiosity I googled the Miss America website to compare the image of the woman identified as Miss Arizona on the video and the one on the website. Not surprisingly there was no similarity. It’s also worth noting that the website also highlighted the fact that Kathryn Bulkley, the 20 year old real Miss Arizona, was a graduate of the University of Arizona and a high school honours graduate with a 3.9 grade average.
One sad fact here is that many others will see the contents of these emails and assume them to be true and will use this “misinformation” to make decisions, like who to vote for, how to understand and treat minorities and how to think about important societal issues. Another sad fact is that by using the same web based technology with just a couple of mouse clicks they could actually find out what is really going on. My final sad fact is they probably won’t.