I’m going down the Shore for the remainder of this week and so, alas, this space will be devoid of new content until I return. In my absence, I’ve scheduled some old content — some evergreen posts that I hope you’ll find worth revisiting.
Re-runs, in other words. Links to and excerpts from some oldies but, I hope, goodies, which can also serve as open threads.
Let me start with this one from 2008, “False Witnesses.”
It’s about my first recognition of the bad faith of Satanic baby-killerism, which came back in the 1990s, when I worked for an evangelical nonprofit. In that job I and sometimes fielded questions from local church leaders about the rumor then circulating that Procter & Gamble was somehow linked to baby-killing Satanists. Sometimes these were pastors asking for help responding to members who were spreading this rumor, but more often it was apparently indignant Christians asking why we were wasting our time talking about the poor or the environment rather than rallying behind their call to boycott Crest and Tide and Dawn.
P&G had produced a good dossier of materials debunking and disproving the rumor, so I would make copies of that dossier and mail them to everyone who asked me about it. The dossier was full of facts and evidence and I naively believed those would make a difference:
That was an old-school, pre-Internet method of doing something that I’m sure everyone reading this used to do via e-mail. You would receive one of those chain e-mails from a parent, friend or coworker, containing some breathless warning against a nonexistent threat. It’d take you a handful of clicks to find the Snopes page debunking the rumor and you would cut and paste the URL back into the e-mail and then hit reply-all.
I say this is something you probably used to do because, I’m guessing, you eventually realized that this approach doesn’t work. It didn’t work for me either when I sent out those photocopies of that slam-dunk, undeniable dossier from Procter & Gamble.
The dossier/Snopes approach doesn’t work because it attempts to apply facts and reason to people who are not interested in either facts or reason. That’s not a nice thing to say, or even to think, about anyone else, which is why I was reluctant and slow to reach that conclusion. But that conclusion was inevitable.
In trying to combat the P&G slander with nothing more than irrefutable facts proving it false, I was operating under a set of false assumptions. Among these:
1. I assumed that the people who claimed to believe that Procter & Gamble supported the Church of Satan really did believe such a thing.
2. I assumed that they were passing on this rumor in good faith — that they were misinforming others only because they had, themselves, been misinformed.
3. I assumed that they would respect, or care about, or at least be willing to consider, the actual facts of the matter.
4. Because the people spreading this rumor claimed to be horrified/angry about its allegations, I assumed that they would be happy/relieved to learn that these allegations were, indisputably, not true.
Read the whole thing here.
And feel free to talk amongst yourselves about whatever you like.