A relative of a relative of a relative (I’ll leave it at that) helpfully sent a little data our way in the form of an email grenade titled “A Little Data on Illegals in This Country.” It launched with this chaotic preamble [sic]:
THIS IS NEITHER REPUBLICAN, DEMOCRAT, LIBERAL, OR CONSERVATIVE
A REPORT OF FACTS THAT YOU REALLY SHOULD READ. DECISIONS ARE MORE COMFORTING WITH OUT BIASED AGENDA AS CONGRESS ON BOTH SIDES DELIVER DAILY
The “facts” that followed — which I choose not to reprint — were purported to have been written by reporter Tina Griego of the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. (The email provided no publication date.) The author listed about 50 ways in which America would be better off if we were to “invite 20 million aliens to go home.” Among the reasons cited were “no more push ‘1’ for Spanish or ‘2’ for English” and U.S. cost savings of “a whopping $538.3 billion dollars a year.”
You have no doubt guessed that Ms. Griego had nothing to do with this 1,350-word poisoned-pen letter, as she confirmed in her 2010 Denver Post op-ed, “One thing’s true: People believe what they want.”
Yes, they do. This “data on illegals” rant continues to be shared, reposted and forwarded more than 11 years after it was crafted by obdurate xenophobe and right-wing radio guest Frosty Wooldridge in 2007. It was forwarded to at least 16 people by the aforementioned relative of a relative of a relative, even though said person had no idea who wrote the piece or when. (I did that research myself.) It was forwarded with an indifference to truth.
So, which is worst? People believing what they want? Making up the things they believe? Or accepting fabrications as facts and passing them off to others?
I certainly do have my opinions on matters. But when I present something as fact here, even in editorial mode, I can usually cite a source. (Diligent readers will be sure to find exceptions — mea culpa for those lapses.) Believe it or not, there have been many times that I have deleted an assertion or opinion — or even an entire post — in the draft stage, when I could not find convincing evidence to support my premise. Writing this blog is often, if not always, more of an education for me than for my readers.
But education is not the aim of propagandists, says public diplomacy scholar Nancy Snow of California State, Fullerton: “[P]ropagandists are not knowledge and understanding generators, since the values attached to these pursuits do not align with the goals of the propagandists.” According to Snow, “truth offers nothing” for propagandists, other than its utilitarian value to shape public opinion. She observes that propaganda’s effectiveness “begs the question if the mass public is seeking truth in the first place. It could be that more of a tribal-like community or shared experience in belief systems is sought; if so, then the need for propaganda to gratify the appetite [for] simplistic answers, foment hatred, and even combat loneliness, will circumvent any need for truth.”
It seems too timid to label the “little data” tract as propaganda. Wooldridge’s appeal to “stand up for our country, our culture, our civilization and our way of life” amounts to a call for white supremacy. So I have to call skunk when skunk has been served. A person who hates brown people is a skunk. A person who won’t say he hates brown people but lists dozens of economic and cultural reasons to deport brown people is a lying skunk. And a person who embraces the lying skunk shares his treachery and smells just as bad.
Even when that person is a relative of a relative of a relative. Or a President.