The 'email for idiots' political game
"You know, actually, folks, this is a good point here, little Bob from Lyle, Illinois, is making (about the email he got). You see a picture of the crowd at a Social Security office, and it's not a bunch of blue-haired gummers. That's right. It is. Social Security has become a welfare program for a bunch of bottom feeders." -- Rush Limbaugh, talk-radio transcript, rushlimbaugh.com. Sept. 8, 2011
In January 2010, a one-vote majority at the Supreme Court decided corporations are people and began the flood of untraceable money to deliver PAC-rat attack ads. The PAC-rats are careful not to identify themselves as part of any candidate's campaign, ha-ha. And favored candidates themselves do all they can to deny any part in the farce, ha-ha.
Except for Fox, uh, "News" and talk radio, the broader media has expressed at least token disapproval of afore-mentioned knotheadery and/or skullduggery. Not much, but some.
But there's more to the story than what's on TV and talk radio, to which anybody can tune in anytime. The Internet now serves several key roles in politics, including email for idiots.
In the last 11 days, I have received, gratis from one woman, over 30 political emails. For most, the original creator of the email cannot be traced -- at least by anyone without CIA connections. And she, like most idiot emailers these days, is at least smart enough to "bcc" them. Addresses of other people getting the same crapola are not visible.
Once, when senders were net-naive and made other recipients visible, I often replied to all, refuting obvious false claims and offering ways they could check things out before making fools of themselves by sending the stuff to others. Typically, whoever sent them to me was embarrassed/angry. Other recipients often asked me never to email them again. However, one or two would respond, "Thank you, thank you, thank you. I get really tired of getting that stuff from him/her."
That which still comes my way looks like the debris of the former, mostly-sane Republican Party. It originates anonymously from clever think-tanks, deliberately fact-free or fact-twisted. It is quite likely funded by crony-corporatists.
It spreads virally through nincompoops who fall for anything and everything and gleefully pass it along without any semblance of conscience.
A recent email, creator unknown, featured a photo allegedly taken at a Social Security office and a message suggesting that those on Social Security were younger-than-retirement-age freeloaders. And, certainly, the clear majority of those seated at the office were not the "blue-haired gummers" that Rush Limbaugh referred to in his shoot-from-his-fat-lip-and-hip comment. Limbaugh echoes the line that "government is bad, social programs benefit mostly freeloaders, it should all be privatized, etc."
The email photo placed the office in Austin. A Google search revealed the same story but in San Antonio or Milwaukee. I forwarded a copy to Sarah Schultz-Lackey, Social Security Administration regional representative. She called to comment.
"Well," she said, " It does look like a Social Security office. Many have identical architectural features, but who knows where. I've seen that email and photo lots of times over several months. Most who would be seated there are probably either wanting a replacement card, there as power of attorney for a parent or relative, or something like that. Some may be there to process death benefits."
She offered several links to SSA statistics.
The most recent (March 2012) summarizes total recipients in the three basic categories. The first, Old Age Insurance, comprises 69.5 percent of all recipients -- retired workers, their spouses and their dependent children.
The second, Survivors Benefits, goes to widows or widowers, dependent parents and children. It includes non-disabled adults over 60, disabled adults over 50, and 1.9 million children, and represents 11.3 percent of those drawing benefits.
In category three are disabled younger workers, their spouses and nearly 2 million children. That amounts to 19.2 percent of total recipients. (Payments to spouses and children are about half that given in the other two categories.)
But this is not about just one specific example. It would be wonderful if such emails were rare and never forwarded. It would be wonderful if they were promptly and publicly exposed by journalists.
It would be wonderful if so many Americans today weren't so angry and so ignorant.
But it isn't wonderful. It's a little scary.
Bob Hooper is a fourth-generation western Kansan who writes from his home in Bogue.