Caveat lector (part 1)

An old e-mail chestnut showed up in my inbox today, one of those tiresome pieces of overblown demagoguery that seem to have a ghoulish life of their own. This particular tirade has been haunting the internet for almost a decade, where it apparently feeds off the self-righteous indignation of people who fear they will become marginalized in a pluralistic society. Because they usually subscribe to points of view that have dominated Western culture in recent memory, the dynamics of a more egalitarian arrangement present an uncomfortably steep learning curve.

This particular e-mail came from a person whom I both admire and care about, which created a quandary for me. The shoddy rhetoric typical of such harangues makes them more annoying than chain letters, which tend to be sentimental and/or superstitious and therefore easy to dismiss. As a public service to my fellow webizens, I want to point out the glaring gaps in logic and encourage the person who sent me such drivel to thoughtfully examine anything inflammatory before forwarding it to everyone in her address book. To date, this strategy has not succeeded in educating any e-mail correspondents in the arts of critical thinking, but it has felicitously gotten me removed from more than one mailing list.

Because I regularly see the person who sent me the message that started this discourse, I deleted the message rather than reply. This was a good decision from a personal relationship point of view, but it didn’t satisfy my need to take a stand against the careless dissemination of such blatant hokum. I decided I could direct my efforts to a slightly larger audience by exposing the deeply flawed argument of the message in question here on my blog.

(continued in next posting)

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