Friday, March 28, 2008

On the Spreading of Verbal Compost

When another disabled Vietnam Vet friend sent around a much echoed email entitled "Who is Barack Obama??" full of fairly thoroughly discredited dezinformatsia (Russian for disinformation - they were the masters of this) I felt the need to respond - to the whole group he mailed it to. Given that I was in the To: line, I take that as an open opportunity to respond to all.

I wrote:

Aside from the fact that some of this is previously discredited nonsense of suspicious motivation and origin, what's the point? When we already know that the Internet has every bit as much disinformation and misinformation as real information and that for most people, it is virtually impossible to validate sources, what does spreading this compost contribute to making intelligent choices at the ballot booth? What am I missing?

How many times has our organization been taken in by self-titled "veterans" who have, in the final result, turned out to be frauds? These people have been standing right in front of us, subject to our own willingness and ability to validate them, and yet they have snuck one by us. Why would I ever buy into completely unverifiable allegations about someone, who's general performance and track record indicate nothing remotely aligned with the allegations, especially coming over the internet?



To which one Rob Amiot responded -

What are you saying - in so many words, get to the point - who doing what to whom? Tell me!



Now mind you this is a guy I don't know and haven't even met - not likely to either! Suffice it to say that I had been asked for my point so I tried again to provide it -

OK, Rob

Gee, you know I think I DID get to the point but here's another angle -

1. Spreading known lies, that have been independently verified as lies, about ANYONE via ANY MEDIUM serves no purpose. It is NOT leaving "the place" better than we found it.

2. Spreading lies about someone who has an impeccable record of public service are more than just a disservice, not just a bad idea, but profoundly negative and fundamentally destructive - something that I don't like seeing friends do and have been the target of myself in my lifetime. They don't discredit the subject, they discredit the spreader.

3. When we have so (acknowledgedly) little capacity to verify or validate the Internet rumor mill it is incumbent upon us to exercise every means at our disposal TO verify and validate before we unwittingly do #1 & #2... and there ARE means.

4. If you don't like a candidate it's fine to not like them - just say so - and be ready to back up why intelligently. That is the basis for reasoned, honest debate. There is no value to spreading rumor and inuendo and it's inflammatory.

5. If we want to bring credit to Vietnam veterans by our actions then it won't happen by re-enacting the reprehensible behavior of the so-called (and to me personally repulsive) "Swiftboat veterans" of previous campaigns.

That's what we have to understand, no matter where we go, no matter what we do, we are judged in exactly that frame of reference - Vietnam Vets. After what we collectively went through the moral high ground is ours to lose. Let's not lose it.



Now, apparently this wasn't good enough, because he came back AGAIN!!

Rob Amiot wrote:

Evidently you are a Democrat and are for Obama!

I am not so dull as to accepting stories floating around his being a Muslim and other crap like that. I have not issue with Barrack, but he is not qualifed.

I am indeed one of those who was very pleased by the stopping of Kerry - Swiftboat Veterans or not - he was a weakling, as he showed once again when he tottered up to Obama, in lieu of showing a little bit of loyalty toward Ewards...Kerry is a zero!

Your ambiguity, to me at least, is like a dance around the rosy - what are you really saying? Are you just about telling the truth? If so - you have me on your side - are you soft peddling Obama? This is were we separate. I would rather have Hillary attempting a run at the White House than this empty drum with a smooth exterior, who hasn't a clue about running the nation - can't even put a damper on his mal-attituded wife.


So... my closing position was this -


So much for jumping to conclusions – I am a registered independent and I vote for whomever I think is the best candidate put forward by the bulk of the electorate at election time. If that boils down to Barack Obama then I have no quarrel with it. I don’t share you opinion of his qualifications but, this being America, you are absolutely entitled to those opinions. I really don’t care one way or the other about Kerry – he’s history and he did not reach a position of greater authority so why waste any further energy on him?

What you interpret as “ambiguity” and a “dance around the rosy” others see differently. My points in both emails apply. You may be unable or unwilling to understand what I said but that doesn’t really give you the authority, or put you in a position, to diminish, trivialize, or belittle it. Not that it matters – your opinion, like mine, is 1/6.7 billionth of the world’s opinion on the subject. I’m certainly not going to go to war with you over it. Just remember that one man’s “ambiguity” may be another man’s attempt to convey a message without using blunt force trauma to accomplish it. Simplicity, while sometimes appealing to the broader ‘sound bite” audience, may not be very kind or conciliatory.

Back to the point at hand – [My friend] is a friend, but he also can do some fairly ridiculous “rumor mongering” based on stuff he accepts in good faith (without apparent good cause) from the internet. I don’t think this serves him well and I really think we need more function and less dysfunction during times of political choice. Just my opinion. One thing I DO like about Barack Obama is his commitment and willingness to bring people together to achieve “win-win” rather than being perpetually “I win, you lose” divisive.

So... I was genuinely trying to make the point that spreading verbal compost is an unseemly way to pursue the debate and I felt that the point was worth making to the original audience of the compost, you included, without bashing anyone’s head in about it. If it is more appealing to you that I say “I am about truth” well that’s accurate – but truth is in the eye of the beholder. It is, perhaps, the single most subjective issue on earth. This I can guarantee you – your truth bears no resemblance to mine. But that’s not what I was trying to say originally. I WAS trying to say I’m about validity and accuracy and fairness, which are also subjective to some degree but for which there are more commonly agreed standards.

I hope that helps.


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