Still Thinking about half-truth emails

Australia is considered a tolerant multi-cultural nation. There will always be those who are less tolerant, and who are not happy with the range of outcomes necessitated by a multi-cultural society. The Internet gives these people an avenue to spread their view of the universe, and quite often the message is more than a little  confused. Here’s an email received recently. The exercise of the day is to read it, and analyse your immediate thoughts and impressions. Now consider how a range of different people you know would be likely to receive, and react to such an email…

Following this email is a copy of the note that was sent via “reply to all”. What is your approach to dealing with examples of half-truths or misstatements?

The email has the subject line “Very powerful…”

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NOW!!!!! WHAT RIGHT’S DO WE HAVE?

THINK ABOUT IT????????

A very powerful cartoon, please keep it going and remember they are putting their lives on the line for us all. We all should have the same rights, what ever your religion.

cartoon depicting a failure to take a pledge in front of disabled soldier
This should be posted in every school in the Australia and all Commonwealth countries.

Only31 words — Think about it!

Isn’t life strange? I never met one Veteran who enlisted to fight for Socialism!

If Muslims can pray in Martins Place, why are Christians banned from praying in public and from erecting religious displays on their holy days?

What happened to our National Day of Prayer?
Muslims are allowed to block off major streets, in all Australian States and pray in the middle of the street! and it’s a monthly ritual!

Tell me, again, whose country is this?
Ours or the Muslims?

I was asked to send this on if I agree, or delete if I don’t.

It is said that 86% of Australians believe in God.

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s prayer said in our schools or public meetings.

I believe it’s time we stand up for what we believe!

If you agree, pass this on; if not, delete it.

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and here is the response sent to all who were on the distribution list for this email…

ok. i’ll admit to being a bit of an anarchist when it comes to these sort of emails… i’ve added a few comments. feel free to delete, the same way the original email suggests…
NOW!!!!! WHAT RIGHT’S DO WE HAVE?

THINK ABOUT IT????????

i have thought about it a lot. i’ve taken myself to university to study it, and most of the reading that i do day-to-day is oriented towards just that kind of thinking.

A very powerful cartoon, please keep it going and remember they are putting their lives on the line for us all.

Agree that soldiers fight in wars that governments start, and that every injury and fatality – both military and civilian – is a horrible outcome. The cartoon however, lacks impact because it tries to tie together unconnected issues. For example, for it to be funny or powerful, you have to assume the child understands the full impact of his actions, or that the child who fails to act out the pledge cannot have sympathy for a disabled soldier – neither of these is a valid expectation. Let’s see how the accompanying wording goes for robust thinking.

We all should have the same rights, what ever your religion.

Totally agree.

This should be posted in every school in the Australia and all Commonwealth countries.

Totally disagree. The cartoon puts forward one view out of many possible interpretations of the underlying themes. If the cartoon is available at schools, it should be used as an example of how opinion is polarised by fallacy and inappropriate calls of authority through association.

Only31 words — Think about it!
Isn’t life strange? I never met one Veteran who enlisted to fight for Socialism!

The cartoon makes no statement about Socialism.

If Muslims can pray in Martins Place, why are Christians banned from praying in public and from erecting religious displays on their holy days?

The cartoon makes no statement about Muslims.

What happened to our National Day of Prayer?

What National Day of Prayer? This is Australia. We don’t have a National Day of Prayer.

Muslims are allowed to block off major streets, in all Australian States and pray in the middle of the street! and it’s a monthly ritual!

If they apply for appropriate permits, and the same permits are available to all under the same conditions then there should be no issue with this. The cartoon does not make a statement about Muslims being able to pray on the streets.

Tell me, again, whose country is this?
Ours or the Muslims?

The country “belongs” to the people who inhabit it, whether Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Agnostic or Jedi Knights.

I was asked to send this on if I agree, or delete if I don’t.

Once upon a time, i just deleted these emails. Then i realised that this is exactly the same sort of lethargy and apathy that allows such half-truths to keep in circulation. Now i annoy people by hitting “reply to all”, and pointing out the shortfalls in validity and logic, and the mistaken calls to authority based on just about every fallacy available.

It is said that 86% of Australians believe in God.

No. 68% of Australians believe in “a God”. That includes Bhuddists, Muslims, Jews, Spiritualists and the smaller denominations. http://www.theage.com.au/national/faith-what-australians-believe-in-20091218-l5qy.html

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s prayer said in our schools or public meetings.

Religion was removed from schools and politics because Australia has a secular government and education system. Those who hold a religious belief are free to express that belief but there are limitations on their ability to push that belief on others through national government agencies.

I believe it’s time we stand up for what we believe!

No. You are making a fuss because the world doesn’t exactly reflect what YOU believe.

If you agree, pass this on; if not, delete it.

Like i said, once upon a time i did this but eventually half-truths have a way of becoming lies, so i don’t do that any more.

Using a disabled soldier image in this way is just as bad as the “bad” things that this email rails against.

We live in Australia, where i am free to stick my thumb at whomever i please, to call the Prime Minister a tosser, and to follow whichever brand of divinity i like or none if that’s what i prefer. i expect others to give me a fair go, in the same way that they can expect a fair go from me. People are free to follow whichever religion they like, so long as they obey the country’s laws. Let’s not change that. If there are examples of Muslims acting illegally then they will and should be treated exactly the same as the Christian/Jew/Atheist who acts illegally.
Let’s not twist logic just to put across a limited point of view.

Feel free to delete my comments.

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Is it best to ignore tripe like these racist, bigoted or just plain wrong emails or is it important enough to do something about?

It is logical to assume the person who drew the cartoon was trying for a completely different message to that put forward by whoever composed this email. The cartoon’s message seems clear enough – that there are people in America who do not appreciate the sacrifices made by the nation’s soldiers in carrying out their duties. The cartoon is obviously aimed at an American market – the back of the chair includes the motto adopted by the US Marine Corps in 1883 “Semper Fidelis” or “Always Faithful”, and Australia does not have a pledge as such. The cartoonist links a lack of participation in nationalistic declarations as a rejection of the efforts of soldiers and members of the armed forces, and there is at least a superficial link that could make the issue a sore point for some people.

The Vietnam War highlighted the social difficulties caused when a country goes to war and the home front is openly divided on whether the soldiers should be fighting at all. In both the US and Australia, commentary on military casualties are treated with due respect and deference in a bipartisan approach, and even if there is disagreement about aspects of military operations, most politicians are careful to differentiate their argument and try to make sure that they are not seen to be denigrating the efforts of soldiers carrying out orders. Politicians are representing all of their constituents, and it is appropriate that they take the steps that they do.

However, there is no reason why it should be the case that every person within a society has to agree with the actions of the armed forces in a particular conflict nor is there an obligation on every citizen to perform civic rites of one sort or another. An individual can and should have a multi-faceted view of the world, and simply falling into positions of compliance is not a very robust indication of a good citizen. So the cartoon has an emotive call to action but not an overly strong argument to put forward as justification.

It seems that someone in Australia has decided to use the cartoon to promote their own agenda. In doing so they have woven a fairly slap-shod series of statements and opinions that should not be used as a basis for deriving the conclusions being sought. And this style of email appears again and again and again, in a range of guises.

How do you deal with them?

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