This morning, I inadvertently became part of one of the most annoying things about e-mail and the internet: mass e-mail forwarding. I didn’t mean for it to happen. Honest, I didn’t.But sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut. I have a compulsive need to educate the ignorant. It’s a curse, really, my cross to bear.
Let me backtrack. In my introductory post about Dick, I mentioned that one of his many irritating tendencies is forwarding of chain letters. I think it might be his primary hobby, and there’s a good chance it’s what he spends the greater part of his working hours doing. So this morning, when I opened my e-mail I had no less than 8 forwards from Dick. Five of them required me to click some attachment to see some photo. These are usually pointedly gross so they get immediate “click-delete” treatment. One of them was a suggestion for everyone to put “In God We Trust” in their e-mail signature. Another was a story about a giant Alligator someone killed in Alabama, complete with some poorly PhotoShopped images of an Alligator taking down a full sized buck. I glanced at that one for a couple of seconds and then deleted it.The final e-mail was titled “Proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution”.
As you can guess, this e-mail was an example of the most common purpose of mass e-mail: political rabble rousing. It was as insidious or overt as some of the other messages I see from time to time, but it didn’t lack for ridiculousness. The United States Constitution, the e-mail suggested, should be amended for the 28th time to include the common sense provision: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States". Well, gee whiz! Who couldn’t get behind that? I mean, I love the Constitution and all but just the other day I was saying to myself, “Self, why doesn’t the constitution have any amendments that use a lot of words to say nothing at all?” And now, problem solved!
It gets better, too. You might not have known this, but amending the U.S. Constitutions is an exceedingly easy thing to do. To wit: “[We] Only need 3/4 of the State Legislatures to pass this to become law...AND IT IS VETO PROOF including no appeal to the Supreme Court.” See, piece of cake. Let’s get right on that.
Wait? What? That’s not right?
No. No, it’s not. You see, having paid attention during elementary school social studies class, I can tell you that it is actually more complicated than that. An amendment to the constitution, shockingly, actually requires an act of Congress. A prospective amendment requires the “Yay” vote of 2/3 of both the United States Senate (67 of 100) and House of Representatives (290 out of 435). Only after does the proposed amendment go the states for ratification, requiring ratification of three quarters of the states (38 of 50) to become the law of the land.
Well, damn. That sounds a lot harder.
I probably should have just let it go and sent that e-mail to the recycle bin with the rest of them, but I couldn’t help myself. So I responded to the e-mail (I did not reply all to a bunch of strangers; that would be obnoxious) and pointed out to Dick that amending the constitution was actually a fairly difficult thing to do, which is why we’ve only had 27 amendments in more than 2 centuries.
Dick, for his part, took my e-mail and forwarded it to all hundred plus names on his mailing list, taking care to add his own rant about how actual process pretty much guaranteed that such an amendment would never pass. And so, whether I liked it or not, I became part of the wonderful world of e-mail forwarding. At least I brought some actual facts to the process with me. That’s rare in e-mail forwards.
I don’t really get how some of these things explode the way they do. I know some older people that won’t purchase things on the internet because they’re worried about their credit card info being stolen, but if some stranger of unknown origins at some undisclosed location in the country tells them that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, they take it as gospel and share it with all of their friends. I heard it on the internet, so it must be true. What kind of system is that? And there’s no limit to the ridiculousness that people will believe. One time I joked with a friend of mine that I was going to start the most ridiculous internet rumor I could think of, forward it to a couple of people and see if I could get it to show up on Snopes. The rumor was that Barack Obama and his democratic allies in congress were planning to secretly vote on a law to rename the state of Alabama as “Al’Obama” to honor Obama for becoming our nation’s first black president and introduce a touch of Islamic culture to our map. I would have done it, too, except I’m half afraid it would work and people would actually believe it.
And then I’d have three different versions of it forwarded to me from Dick, and I only have so much space in my mail box.
That’s all I’ve got.