One day Henny-penny was picking up corn in the cornyard when—whack!—something hit her upon the head. “Goodness gracious me!” said Henny-penny. “The sky’s a-going to fall; I must go and tell the king.”
Henny-penny (aka Chicken Little) seems to have seized control of my Facebook news feed lately. From those ubiquitous (and universally bogus) posts warning of dire privacy breaches or other internetual urban legends to news stories that appear to imply The End of the Catholic World as We Know It, you’d think skies are a-going to fall left and right.
To make more room in my life for much-needed prayer, I’ve decided to stop responding to each post individually and just send out one open letter with three calming suggestions. I am directing these suggestions to myself, first, in hopes that I will learn to practice what I preach.
If Cocky-locky, the first creature Henny-penny encountered on her hysterical mystery tour, had simply sat her down, held her trembling claw, and asked her to breathe deeply for a count of ten, she might have regained the ability to tell the apocalypse from an acorn. (Of course, then I’d have lost this convenient folk reference, but oh well.) We need to put up a mental stop sign the minute something that feels like the sky bumps us on the noggin. Breathing (literally in-spiration) is one of the best ways to interrupt the feedback loop of panic. The world may still appear to be hellbound and handbasketed after a brief time out, but at least we will face that possibility with our wits about us.
2. Consider the Source
I posted on my mother’s wise use of this saying just a couple of weeks ago, in the context of seeking out the agendas that might be lurking in the bushes of political or religious positions. But considering the source is also a mighty good antidote for confusion, hysteria, and despair. If any one of the creatures Henny-penny met on her way to the King had given her news a bit of thought, they might have wondered what made a chicken an authority on astrophysics anyway, or asked what might be in this for the chicken.
A couple of examples:
Yesterday, a number of Catholic bloggers picked up on a New York Times story purporting to prove the bishops wrong in their contention that some of the contraceptives for which the HHS mandates coverage have an abortifacient function—and thus eroding further the bishops’ credibility in fighting the mandate. Worrisome indeed, if true. However, a bit of source consideration reveals that the scientific evidence the Times provides comes from Dr James Trussell, identified in the article only as a Princeton researcher, but in actuality the head of research for Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute. Dr Trussell’s PP-funded research forms the bulk of the basis for the National Institute of Medicine’s guidelines naming pregnancy a health emergency that requires government-mandated prevention. He is, for all intents and purposes, the author of the section of the HHS mandate to which the Church vehemently objects. It is in his interests and those of his backers to spin research in a way that attempts to silence the bishops.
I’m not saying these kinds of stories shouldn’t be linked to or posted, but before we go running to the King about them, we need to do our homework.
3. Don’t Feed the Gremlins
Of the making of stupid statements/posts/tweets/youtube videos there is no end, as Qoholeth says. That does not mean we have to repost the ones that make us angriest or most afraid. I continue to be perplexed, for example, as to why LGBT folks (who, I swear, were the only ones reposting it) made that idiot of a preacher’s sermon calling for the extermination of homosexuals go viral. It was quite viral enough in the first place; why give him a pulpit as big as the planet?
Yesterday, it was a post supposedly collecting illiterate and racist death threat tweets against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker that was making the rounds of conservative blogs and posts. Putting aside for a minute both the fact that you can probably find illiterate and racist death threats against anybody if you search Twitter hard enough and the very real possibility that these were largely dummy accounts set up by Walker supporters, what purpose does reposting this stuff serve? Do we need reminders that People Are Ignorant and Vicious? Look at the Cross.
This morning I took on a liberal Facebook friend who was reposting a wingnut rant of the very very very far right. Why give this the time of day? I asked. He said, “We can’t ignore this stuff. We have to counter it.”
I say, we can ignore it. And we should. On all sides, for and against all causes. What would it be like if we pledged quarantine of the unreasonable, the idiotic, the designed-to-crank-us-up? Deprived of attention, maybe this stuff would hiccup itself to sleep like a tantruming toddler who’s gone too long without a nap. As Dr House says, You can’t fix stupid. You can’t counter it, either. But you can cut it off at the root.
Let’s try it. Don’t pass the crap. Refuse to repost the fear-mongering. (Do check Snopes.com, a very reliable source of what’s true and what’s not when it comes to rumors.) Don’t feed the gremlins, after midnight or any other time.
Those are my modest proposals this morning. I’m sure that after lunch I’ll be returning to cackling about falling skies, but when I do, will you remind me to breathe?