#357: Dispatches from the Mean Old People Internet

Sam the Eagle weeping glitter tears
“I’m mostly weeping because this email forward is written in Papyrus.

Hi Captain Awkward,

I want to preface my email by saying that I really love my mom. I really do. We had a great relationship when I was growing up and we still do, for the most part. Generally she is an accepting, loving, level-headed person, albeit gullible at times.

She is a Christian and a Republican. There is nothing wrong with that. People are allowed to have their own political and religious views as they see fit, in my opinion. That’s part of being an adult. She knows I do not have the same views as her politically or religiously, though, and she claims to respect that.

However, she sends me these incredibly racist/anti-Obama/anti-Liberal/anti-Muslim/anti-poor person/anti-Mexican/anti-gay/etc. email forwards all of the time. Normally I try to ignore them because I don’t want to cause a rift in the family, but it’s gotten pretty unbearable. I have asked her several times to not send me emails of that nature and she always stops for a while, but then starts up again a few months later. For the record, she never mentions any of these emails when we talk on the phone or in person. It’s like she has a secretly hateful side or something.

If I were to advise someone else, I’d probably tell them to block emails or send a sharp reply, but I can’t seem to give myself the same advice. I only get to see my parents a few times per year (they live a few hundred miles away, but I have no car and I’m poor, so it’s hard to get down there to visit), so every bit of contact from them is like a gift to me and blocking would make me feel terrible. And like I said before, I don’t want to cause a rift in the family by starting a fight. 

But these hate-spewing emails make me sad; sad that there are such hate in the world, and sad that my own mother would spread it (and perhaps sad that my mother is not the loving angel I’ve made her out to be in my mind…). There have been several times where I’ve started an angry reply, only to stop myself and walk away.

With election season coming up, they’ve been coming again in a fairly steady flow. It’s gotten to the point where I get agitated if I see an email from my mom in my inbox. 

What would you advise I do about this? Block her email? Ignore the emails? Delete them? Refute them with facts? Remind her that she’s supposed to “love thy neighbor”? Something else?

Thanks in advance,

Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show
I am actively working for the day that this is no longer an accurate visual representation of the U.S. Congress.

Dear Beth,

I had the exact same problem with my Grampa. It made me so sad, because he was one of the people who encouraged me to travel and be curious and to NOT be racist. Then he got old and spent all his time in front of Angry And Unbalanced News and forwarding eye-assaulting e-newsletters full of animated .gifs of weeping eagles and many fonts. Sometimes he composed his own lurid and completely fact-free tales about how Planned Parenthood volunteers go door-to-door canvassing for pregnant women and trying to “sell” them on their awesome and profitable abortion-schemes, written from the point of view of the fetus who a) could understand adult speech and b) was definitely going to grow up to be a fighter pilot or The Doctor Who Cures Cancer. Sometimes he included an evil (Insert Your Reviled Ethnic Group)-scheme to stop good white Christian women from breeding in order to skew demographics in “their” favor, foiled by this brave tiny soldier!

I tried everything, including asking him directly not to send me political emails anymore and refuting the emails point-by-point. I sent him to Snopes.com. I sent him to Factcheck.org. I sent him to IsBarackObamaAMuslim.com. I recommended books by my former teachers and mentors, John Esposito and Amira Sonbol (Official Badass). I told him that I loved him but his insistence on forcing his politics on me in this way was poisoning our relationship. I tried the Jay Smooth approach, but it didn’t work. He died before Yo, Is This Racist? came out. Maybe it’s for the best. There was no way I was going to cut the old man off; I loved him fiercely despite his wack-ass views on religion and politics.

Here’s the only thing that worked:

I made a filter with key words like Muslim, Obama (see also: O-bummer, O-bomber), Mohammed, jihad, socialist, birth certificate, abortion, 9/11, immigration, “illegals,” “states rights,” etc. Anything that pinged the dogwhistle filter would be filtered out of my inbox. I could look at it when and if I felt like it.

Of course initially I checked the filter all the time, which defeated the purpose, but over time I checked it maybe once/month. My blood pressure fell accordingly. I also called my Grampa and emailed him regularly about nonpolitical things, so we had a non-awful stream of communication going.

Initially he balked when he didn’t get the attention and response he was hoping for. “Did you get my email? Why didn’t you answer my email?” Because, you see, he would try to trick me and mix personal stuff with awful stuff.

At which point I would check the filter and respond to everything in the emails that wasn’t political and ignore the rest. And man, it burned to let that stuff go unchallenged, but eventually he slowed down with it and we were able to keep the subject to non-hateful things.

So that’s my recommendation: Filter, Ignore, Delete the emails. Talk to your mom about the interests you share and affirm your love for her. If she tries to steer the conversation toward politics, say, “Mom, I really don’t want to discuss this with you. It always gets so ugly, and I just want to enjoy our time together.” Believe me, if I thought saying “Mom, I really think you’re wrong about this, can I explain from the heart why I think so?” or “Mom, could you tell me what appeals to you about those ideas? I really want to understand where you are coming from!” would help one tiny bit, I would recommend it. Save your sanity points – you don’t have to fight every fight every time.

You guys all know where the “hide story” and “hide user” buttons are on Facebook, right? Let me know if I need to include a quick tutorial to get y’all through the next month or so.

160 thoughts on “#357: Dispatches from the Mean Old People Internet

  1. Hide User. Oh yes. I have one FB friend (who I am not very close with) that I really debated over for a LOOOONG time. She has a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor that I love, but she is also diametrically opposed to me when it comes to political views. And that extended to her sharing photos from confrontationally named FB pages (Insert Political Party Here are MORONS for example).

    At first I didn’t hide her because I didn’t want to miss the humor I enjoyed. But then I realized that the anger the other stuff caused far outweighed the good stuff I got from her. Hopefully once the election is over I can revisit her page and see if it’s worth unhiding. And at that point, if not, I’ll quietly unfriend her, because at that point I will have weaned myself off the humor. Because really, I’ve got a lot of funny friends I interact with 100x more who don’t do things that annoy me!

    1. gawd, yes. I’m with you on that one. I’ve got a lovely, generous, witty friend who posts awful anti-Obama political screeds. And we’re not even American. But most of them are posted as photos so I have blocked all of those, which means I miss all the funny ones too, and the pictures of her home and crafts. 😦

      There is good news though. There is a Facebook Extension called Social Fixer. This extension lets you sort your friends lists into separate tabs AND create filters that look for certain words. You can put posts containing those words into a separate tab or hide them altogether. (The only sad thing is that only works on text.) It has a lot of other useful personalization features as well.

      1. I use Social Fixer, and while I haven’t created a filter yet, I’m almost ready to. In the past few days there have been enough “Mitt Romney” and “Republican Party” posts that they are getting grouped together. And that’s from my liberal friends, which means it presumes I am in agreement with whatever is posted. But it usually just makes me froth at the mouth, and I can find angry-making news on my own time when I’m ready. I’d like Facebook to just help me keep up with what my friends are doing, thanks!

      2. Heh, I remember having a FB friend who started sending me the republican anti-Obama crap and asked me personally not to vote for Obama, because even though he knew “I supported democrats” we “should strive to keep America Great” and “It might be our last chance”.

        The Kicker: I am left (VERY left by American standards), female pacifist (Yep I like shooting, as in shooting sport people, I am very anti-gun) atheist and have a serious case of not-American (as in from the country “right” people generally don’t like and use in patriotic fever-ish “Would you rather live in X, God bless America” statements).

        Why would he even assume I am American, I have never said that. Are all people on the Internets Americans?

        1. Yes, I have noticed the “everyone on the Internet is American” phenomenon as well. I do not know what is up with that. I don’t typically notice other nationalities making the equivalent assumption.

          1. It’s not just on the internet! Yesterday I went to a wedding IN CANADA and in conversation with the bride’s uncle (who was visiting from Chicago for the wedding) I said something that caused his ladyfriend to say, “Oh, so I guess you’re a Democrat”. No, I’m not a Democrat. I’m CANADIAN.

          2. The assumed default by USians* is Straight Het Cis White USian dude. Unless you give yourself away by using “our” spellings where USians would use “or”. Then you’re assumed to be a SHCW Brit.

            *Which I use because, hey yo, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador & etc are ALL American countries, inhabited by Americans. Dig how USians have even coopted the identity for two ENTIRE continents, despite only being 1/3rd of the population and 1/5th the area.

  2. You guys, my best friend from when I was in kindergarten now works at a “crisis pregnancy center”. “Hide user” has saved our relationship (which is definitely less close than it used to be, anyway). It has gotten better since God told her to stop using facebook so much (yup) but the deluge of “planned parenthood is trying to trick you to kill your baby” nearly caused me to end all contact with the woman. “Hide user” is magic.

    1. Ditto! One of my closest childhood friends turned around very rough teenage years and found religion, and I’m so glad that she’s happy now and her kids are wonderful and she’s just as sweet as she’s ever been to me after knowing her for 25 years, but oh god if anything involving politics or religion comes up I want to run screaming for the hills. Hide user means that if I run into her when I happen to be in town, we can have coffee and be friendly without my brain running a greatest hits loop of her most appalling bigotry.

      1. It’s a weird thing. I mean, my friend had Chick Fil-A cater her wedding, for crying out loud! The sermon literally mentioned the temptation of “harlots in red lipstick”. I definitely developed selective hearing in order to keep this person who I love in my life, and technology has helped block out a lot of the most objectionable stuff.

          1. Yuuuuup. Fortunately the bridesmaids (I was one of like, 12) were sitting in the front pew at this point, rather than standing up front facing toward the congregation, else the whole gathering would have seen the most epic eyeroll ever. And the wedding was booze free, of course. And the christian rap at the reception definitely rhymed “abortion” with “the lord’s son”.

            Anyway, yeah. Facebook filters!!!!

          2. “And the christian rap at the reception definitely rhymed “abortion” with “the lord’s son”.”

            Oh. My God.

          3. I used to listen to Christian rap–tiny amounts of it, anyway, in the carefully smoothed down for white kids DC Talk sort of way–and that…uh. Wow. That still manages to boggle me.

          4. Amazeballs. When I was a teen I went to a (for our country) rather evangelical church that skewed to younger members and we had a rock band and went on camps with sermons about how when you have sex it’s like mixing coke and lemonade and you can’t pour the lemonade back out without taking the coke with it and then a revirginisation ceremony and I seem to recall someone speaking in tongues. I sang Hopelessly Devoted To You from Grease at Karaoke once and people in the crowd spontaneously started shouting out stuff like, “Yeah! Hopelessly devoted to THE LORD!”

            But “abortion” and “the lord’s son” is pretty epic.

          5. Coke with a capital C, or coke with a lowercase C?

            Not gonna lie, capital C Coke mixed with lemonade sounds unbelievable.

          6. When I was a teen I went to concerts, but couldn’t buy alcohol because I was under age. Coke + orange juice was my drink of choice for those events.

        1. I’m not sure that I’d want to keep being friends with someone like that honestly, I’m pretty fond of red lipstick though.

        2. I agree! Those harlots with their red lipstick and their juke joints and their dungarees. No good will ever come from those brazen hussies, let me tell you.

    2. “Hide user” only works if that person doesn’t comment on your posts. I have a relative that ignores the 99% of my Facebook posts about cats, gardens, and links to awesome photographs and zooms in to berate me on my rare political posts. And no, they aren’t corrections, they are regurgitated Fox/libertarian points that only tangentially deal with what I posted. Unfriending was the only way I could deal with it, unfortunately.

      1. The answer there is to set up “lists” – for instance, create a friends list entitled “political”, and only add to it people who don’t act like every political post is a red rag to be charged at. Then when you make a political post, click on the little “public” icon (looks like a small picture of the world, top right corner of the status box) then go down to “custom” and select your “political” list before you hit “post”. Voila, the contentious person you’re ignoring won’t see your political post and charge in huffing and snorting and life is much quieter.

        1. Because we’re talking about Facebook, I totally just tried to “Like” this comment. *facepalm*

      2. When I go to post political stuff on Facebook (or even stuff I just don’t want certain people to see), I just choose the “Custom” option of who to share it with and add the names of all of the people that I KNOW either won’t want to see it or who will regurgitate Fox News BS.

  3. Hi LW. You could totally be me. My brother and I have both told our mother (as have our respective spouses) to stop sending us forwards, period. She has demonstrated that she’s unable to tell the difference between a forward we’d want to see and one we wouldn’t (and honestly, there’s nothing in any email forward that I couldn’t live without). It seemed like a nice, bright and clear boundary. However, it hasn’t worked. We’d blow up at her over a particular forward (last time it was over Arizona’s “papers please” bill), she’d knock it off for a while, and then she’d happen upon something she just *had* to share, and the cycle would start all over again.

    Ultimately, what I ended up doing was very close to the Captain’s advice, but with slightly less work. I switched email sites. Yahoo was starting to get overwhelmed with spam anyway, and I was sort of weaning myself off it and onto gmail. One day I just switched over and just….didn’t tell her. So, every once in a while I check the Yahoo mail, and among the massive amounts of spam there are a few forwards from Mom. But because they’re old and stale and not in the inbox I actually use? I don’t care. Plus, I just don’t read them.

    If she has anything she *really* needs to tell me, she’ll call anyway. 🙂

  4. I have a little sister with this problem (not via e-mail, but whenever I see her), and my strategy is to engage without engaging. She’s has some bizarre, ultra-radical thing to say, and I just say something along the lines of “yeah, that’s something people are saying”, or something equally neutral (that ‘neutral statement’ is translated from our normal sibling banter; the actual quote is something like ‘HEY, THANKS FOR THE FACTS-AND-SHIT SALAD, NERD *commence noogies*”)

    I do pick battles though, when she says something REALLY odious about something that’s important to me, and that’s when I say “Sis, would you mind if we actually talked about this? Because what you said does not match up with the facts as I understand them. I’d really like the discuss this with you, right now, if it’s cool with you”

    My goals there are to 1) Educate her (because I’m right and she’s talking nonsense); 2) Educate myself, (because sometimes she’s NOT talking nonsense, and I’m partly or completely wrong), and 3) Let her know that I think she’s smart, and worth talking to, and that I love her (because it’s all true).

    But you can’t do it every time or you’ll die of frustration.

      1. You should include the noogies, too, I’d say. I think they can be a very important part of sibling communication.

        1. Oh the noogies are already a well-implemented part of our conversational patterns, don’t worry. That’s what kid brothers are for.

          1. That’s the fun of being the eldest of four. None are safe from the noogies! (Or in our case, a sudden ribs tickle-tackle. I know where all their ticklish spots are.) And it’s an effective way of derailing the latest bullshit train, too.

          2. I remember when my youngest cousin reached that point. It’s sad. I used to call him my little cousin. Now I call him my baby cousin and he calls _me_ his little cousin. You know. Because I’m short.

  5. I’m a little…. Faceyspace-challenged…. so I just unfriend them. I know where that button is, and then Lo And Behold! I have more news from the folks I actually give a damn about.

    It’s like… seriously, I haven’t seen this cousin in probably 20 years, and all he ever posts is related to 1) Judgy misinformed Republican stuff, 2) football, or 3)…. uh… 3 happens so rarely I’ve forgotten what it is. I shall now collect any fucks previously given and bestow them on someone more deserving. :p

    As far as the emails… well, maybe I have it easy. I learned to speed-read/skim at an early age, and once I skim through too many words that make me cringe, I just delete the damn thing. (I felt really guilty deleting emails from parents and family members – still do. Why? No idea. It’s not like they’ll know!)

    I think the filter basically skims for you, so good call on that one. A little radio silence might not go amiss, either. Hopefully if she’s going, “Gee, I haven’t heard from my beloved offspring in a while,” she’ll want to catch up more on YOUR news and less on Fox News the next time you see each other.

  6. I feel your pain! I have some of that with my mom, too. One of the best lately was when she forwarded one about Romney that asserted as evidence of his wonderfulness that he doesn’t consort with drug dealers, communists, people who preach against America, or community organizers….. She sent it to me, and my sister, *and my brother and sister-in-law who are community organizers* (and truly excellent people!!!). I sent it back and said “seriously?? You send us something equating drug dealers and community organizers?” She said “oops, I guess I hadn’t read it that carefully.” She couldn’t be bothered reading it through, but she felt like it was ok to clutter up my life with it. (Although her own views aren’t altogether repugnant, she seems to think it is important I be exposed to a “balance of perspectives,” which includes some appalling Anti-Obama, anti-liberal crap my uncle sends her that does nothing but piss me off.)

    I used to fact-check and send her back the e-mails with the inaccuracies highlighted, with footnotes for each of my corrections. There’s just too much crap, though, and the fact checking wasn’t achieving a damned thing. She seems not to distinguish very carefully between opinion and objectively verifiable fact, so it’s just like she sent me one opinion, I sent her a contrary opinion, so now each of us can decide what to believe, and she’s sticking with her opinion, thanks. Ugh.

    Anyway, the best I can suggest is to not assume your mom agrees with everything she sends you. Maybe she’s just doing what my mom does. If she does, you probably don’t want to know.

    And yeah — Jennifer — I’d love to know how to filter my e-mail so e-mails containing certain words don’t come through.

    1. What client are you using? Gmail? Outlook? Other? I may be able to walk you through it, for realsies.

        1. You should be able to Create an Inbox Rule, if you’re using Outlook. You can do something like “For emails from [mom@mom.com] and containing the Subject [FWD:] send to [folder of your choice.]” I do this a lot.

          You should be able to create a rule by right-clicking any email, and then choosing Rules >> Create Rule from the menu that pops up.

  7. When my mom tries mixing the personal stuff with the awful stuff, I just ignore the whole thing. Communications that are completely free of awful get a timely, friendly response seasoned with a couple direct, non-yes-or-no questions that show interest and caring.

    This has worked well for me in that there’s a lot less communication overall and the percentage of awful has gone way down. Your Mileage May Vary.

  8. I just let people know that for every email I get that hails from the party of racism, sexism, and homophobia I donate $5 to Obama for America.

    Never had to tell them more than once.

    1. I love you. I’m “fortunate” that the really ugly beliefs-holder in the family isn’t an email user; I have to actually be there in person in order to get that. I miss my mom 😦 but her husband makes me physically ill with some of the things he says.

    2. This is good! I’ve also had fantastic luck with things like “this will make me donate $25 to Planned Parenthood, and if you keep it up I’ll start sending the donations in your name.” Repeat for relevant charity / bigotry combinations. The one involving telling my extremely racist grandmother that I was about to send her a lifetime membership to the NAACP was fun.

      1. lol yeah I donated something like $50 to Wellington Rape Crisis a while ago when there was this big media thing about a pizza’s chains Post Of The Week being a guy bragging about sexually assaulting a male friend. Ohhhhh my god the apologism. It was a hilarious prank and there’s absolutely no way the friend was traumatised by it, of course not!

        The best, best part was the official Twitter account of the police telling the pizza chain, in public, to hand over the guy’s details, though I don’t think they ever did.

      2. The grandmother one is *golden.*

        I used to live in a town where a millionaire white supremacist would send racist mail to everyone in town, and he later shared his mailing list with a racist church in Louisiana. I sent both a postcard notifying them that a donation in their honor had been made to the human rights organization in the county, and that was the last I heard from either.

    3. We used a variation on this strategy when a relative wanted us to donate to a cause in Israel we couldn’t support (my spouse’s extended family did a donations-in-lieu of presents thing last Hanukkah), and instead we gave to something that was in Israel but politically neutral.

    4. Hilarious and sounds effective. A [not the politics they like] jar could be useful at our holiday family meals. Just add a dollar for every dividing, non-family togetherness statement. Sometimes, I even agree with a family member who goes on and on about their views. But, I feel for those at the table who may not agree.

      And why are we not showing interest in each other, supporting each other, etc.??? There is so much more to talk about, celebrate, discuss, enjoy, etc.

      A theory: those who get so riled up about politics are maybe using this topic as a way to express emotion in a “safe” way. The people I know who are like this have a hard time being real with others and expressing their feelings about their real lives and relationships and their fears on a personal level. Safer to get angry about politics and channel the emotions that way.

    5. Also, it is possible to find out which of your friends like Mitt Romney on facebook:

      If you are logged in, — this linkFriended/Fans Of Mitt Romney — will show you a list of your Facebook friends who have liked Romney’s page.

      Then you can just go on a mass hide and/or unfriend spree.

      And hey, you could follow up by posting: “I donated $5 to Obama for America for each of my Facebook friends who like Mitt Romney! Find out which of your friends like Romney here.”

        1. One of my students Dutch. He was also a fan of Geert Wilders before, so this balooney doesn’t really suprise me at all.

      1. I’m surprised there aren’t more for me, honestly; I KNOW I know some super-religious Christians that aren’t on that list.

        So I’m wondering, are they voting for Obama (never did talk politics with any of ’em) or did they just not bother to like Romney’s page?

        1. I have one Facebook friend that I’m sure would say that Romney is way too liberal for her (none of my friends have liked his page either)–I suspect she’s a big Santorum fan.

      2. I found three of my friends who do. Two of them are actually self-identified liberals/Democrats, but one is a political journalist and the other frequently likes right-wing politicians because he’s said, “Don’t you guys want to have an edge on what the other side is saying?” In fact, I recently attended at a talk given by the second guy, and he said in no uncertain terms that he is voting for Obama and he thinks Romney is pure evil in a way that no previous Republican candidate has ever been. The third, well- she doesn’t surprise me, but most of her posts are humblebrags about her baby, so I doubt I’ll need to take much action. What a relief. My Facebook is rather politically one-sided, deliberately.

      3. I tried this with our PM, but I guess you have to have the page ID for the URL. But when I went to the PM’s page itself it told me which of my friends had already liked it. And that was depressing as well. Not surprisingly, the one friend who had liked Romney was also on the Harper page.

      4. Hey, not all of the people on that list are necessarily fans of Mitt Romney. Some politically active people I know “Like” political pages that are part of the opposition, just to get the other side’s news faster to know how to respond to them.

        1. Truth. And I have some friends who ARE fans of the Romney or Ryan page (gah!) but they are treasures when it comes to using Facebook – meaning that when they post something political it’s usually thoughtful enough that I can consider it, or they don’t really post anything political at all. So I wouldn’t use that critieria simply to defriend someone.

        2. Also, many pages require you to ‘Like’ them before you can post a comment. Just like campaigns that ask you to fill out a form to email a congressperson, there are campaigns that ask you to copy and paste a message for a congressperson’s facebook page. Sometimes their pages are flooded with hundreds of identical messages from people who couldn’t disagree with them more! If they forget to un-Like the congressperson, it’ll still be listed on their profile, and wreak havoc on their ads to boot.

        3. True. And if they’re your friends, you can probably tell the difference between people who pressed the Like button out of actual like or just out of a desire for surveillance.

    6. Planned Parenthood clinics sometimes do a thing like this when the protestors get too thick. They solicit donations for people to “Pledge a Protestor” and then they put out signs saying that they’re getting X dollars for every protestor each day. It’s fantastic.

  9. Sometimes I can let that shit go… and sometimes I just cannot. I notice that such forwarders often openly copy dozens of people, known and unknown. If I’ve got the spoons that day, I will “reply all” and respond with a fact-checked, citation-filled, blistering line by line skewering — making it obvious which part of the commentary is mine by using a single font and text color. Then I’ll post and mercilessly mock the whole screed on my blog (anonymously attributing whoever sent it). Oddly enough, the forwards eventually stop coming.

    I’ve learned a few things. First, never argue with a right-winger—unless you have an audience. You will never, ever convince the conservative, but you have a shot at the bystanders. And frankly, when toxic spew goes unrebutted, bystanders are left with the impression that it cannot be rebutted.

    Second, you know that saying that “the person who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person”? Well, those who agree with and forward hateful emails, and who are nice to you, are not nice people either. YMMV.

    1. My Awesome Grandma was also, unfortunately, my Conservative Racist Grandma. The only thing she was liberal about was her use of the “forward” button. I tried ignoring, I tried deleting, I tried rebutting, I tried linking to Snopes… nothing worked. Finally, I’d had it. I had received the last racist, anti-Muslim, hateful piece of bigotry I could deal with from this amazing woman I loved so much. I took her most recent forward and spent a good two days researching every claim in it. Most of them were false — not on the level of interpretation, but on the level of being demonstrably contradicted by facts. The few that were true were so distorted and out of context as to be nearly unrecognizable.

      I wrote out a calm, detailed rebuttal to every single point. I drew parallels between the “liberal” positions the email was denouncing and the near-identical positions taken by favorite past presidents of hers, like Eisenhower. I told her how sad it made me that someone had taken the time to sit down and write up so many outright lies seasoned with a few distorted facts, and even sadder that the person who wrote those lies had deceived her by appealing to her deep and sincere devotion to God and country.

      And then I told her that I loved her beyond measure, and to please not send me any more emails like that. I was happy to hear about how she was doing, and how friends and other relatives were doing, and I enjoyed the other things she sent me. I would be glad to do some research for her if she was wondering about things in an email forward she had received. But as someone who had inherited her love of history, and who is a Christian and a patriot, the lies and manipulations in emails like that one made me angry and sad.

      I don’t think I actually changed her mind about anything. She did stop sending me political forwards. I’m not sure whether that would have lasted through the 2008 election cycle. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to find out.

  10. I guess I’m lucky on this one in that my close family more or less share my politics, and the relations who don’t don’t email me about it. But I just have to say, bombarding someone with emails of a type they have specifically requested you not to send sounds like harassment to me, if not outright abuse. (A comparatively mild form of abuse, yes, but it’s abusive behaviour nonetheless.)

    Doing it to someone you’re related to is particularly cruel, since while a random stranger could just block your emails, your child or sibling is not going to want to unless they really have to. It’s taking advantage of your relationship with them to proselytise your views and make them feel bad for not sharing them, and that is clearly wrong.

    I don’t really have any advice for the people on the receiving end, though, beyond what’s already been said. Setting up email filters is probably the best way of dealing with it. (It might be tempting to respond by bombarding the bombarder with your own stream of political messages, but two wrongs don’t make a right and I doubt it would help anyhow.)

  11. Got any suggested scripts for when this happens in person? The equivalent of a filter (ie not answering when the conversation turns to politics or religion) might not work bc the problem in my case isn’t that he’s saying offensive stuff, it’s that he’s monopolizing the conversation and would happily go on for a quarter of an hour quoting Dawkins or MSNBC or whatever. Something like “can we talk about real life?”

      1. thanks. I like the noncommittal topic-changing responses. I feel bad somewhat because he’s my atheist Democrat dad living in Christian Republican land and I’ve moved away to atheist Democrat land, so when I go back to visit, I think he’s just glad to have someone to talk to who won’t be actually offended by his opinions. But the fact that I agree with him doesn’t mean that I want to spend my limited time during visits hearing him talk about politics or religion. In fact, the fact that I don’t want to spend my time that way leads to me looking for places to disagree with him just so that I can have something to say and make it a conversation rather than a monologue. So rather than picking a fight, I need to be prepared with better topic changes.

  12. This conversation actually happend:

    Me – “Hey Dad, could you please stop sending me articles from Fox News.”
    Him – [Exhasperated Sigh] “You know Shinobi, some day you’re going to have to learn to live in the real world.”

    This conversation took place about a month and a half after I told him I didn’t want to discuss political topics with him any more because we couldn’t have that conversation without him eventually resorting to insulting me. I told him that when he yelled and said hurtful things in order to win an argument it damaged our relationship. He then spent the rest of the night trying to get me to argue with him and proceeded to send me tons of things from fox news. So, that went well.

    I have no real advice for you, except to suggest that you try to be glad that it is just in e-mail. I see my parents maybe 6 times a year, and I almost never make it home from the airport/bus/train without some kind of political conversation with my father. I’m getting better at smiling and nodding and ignoring his barbs. It’s rough though. I failed over Easter and we spent an hour yelling at each other, after which he stopped by my room and told me “Deep down you know that I’m right, and you just don’t want to admit it to yourself.”

    Yeah, that’s absolutely the case, Mr. trickle down economics. UGH. Sorry, I’m rambling, hot button issue, obviously.

    1. He’s choosing the kind of relationship he wants to have with you.

      “Dad, if you want to choose to keep having a relationship where we fight about this stuff all the time, and I spend the little amount of time I have at home feeling awful, annoyed, and avoiding you, keep going with this political stuff. You’re not going to change my mind, so basically you’re just browbeating me. Are you okay with that? Are you okay with having me dread seeing you? I am not.”

      1. Yeah that’s the direction I’ve been trying to go. But if it’s not this it will be something else. Before I was a hippie liberal commie ignoramus i was dying of fatness. Fortunately (?) it’s not just me, it’s everybody. He would love to tell you why you are wrong, he’s like the king of ‘splainin.

        1. Do you have to go to them so frequently*? Can you arrange fun days with just your mom instead? I respond poorly to splainers, and would prefer not to have to interact with them. By removing yourself from his company (in a way that lets you hang out with your mom, who you don’t mention and by extension must be less obnoxious), you’re removing what he wants: a fight with you. It could take a few visits, but might teach him that if he wants your company he has to behave like a reasonable human.

          *I live in a different country on a different continent than my parents and haven’t seen either for a year, with no eta for any visits in either direction, so my idea of frequent may be skewed.

    2. Since you don’t mention your mother’s behaviour I’m assuming you do want to keep visiting her – but would it be feasible to invite her, alone, to where you live sometimes? Your dad is pretty clearly showing that he doesn’t respect you as an adult or person separate from him and even if you don’t want to cut him right the hell off it might be good if you just don’t have to deal with him as often. You shouldn’t have to spend your whole trip biting your tongue for fear of having an hour long screaming match.

      1. Mom had a major stroke about 8 years ago so traveling alone isn’t really an option for her. She has visited, but she doesn’t handle changes in her routine well and I think it is more stressful for her than anything.

        I think that’s part of the reason his behavior has gotten so much worse. She use to call him on a lot of his shit, but now that she has major legitimate brain damage she never knows when she’s actually right or not. Some times she thinks tomorrow is Thanksgiving and another time she’s perfectly fine. It’s not like you can tell when what she’s saying is lucid and when it isn’t. And so now he walks all over her and doesn’t get a lot of adult conversation at home, plus he’s running two businesses on top of being her primary care taker.

        So I guess yelling at your daughter for a while and telling her how dumb she is when she proves you wrong is like… therapy? I don’t know. I’m trying to just keep myself in check and hopefully eventually when he doesn’t get what he wants by needling me he will stop.

        1. Sorry, I missed this before I replied to you upthread. Do you stay with them when you visit? Visiting fewer times a year but staying in a hotel might be an alternate choice. You get to visit with her but aren’t stuck with him.

        2. I’m so sorry.

          My dad can be neutral-to-nice for about 4 hours at a time if he’s not under stress. If we exceed that time limit, i just have to grit my teeth and not engage.

          I had to get over feeling like driving all that way for “just” 4 hours of visiting was stupid – it’s better than driving all that way for just 4 good hours and also 12 hours of OMG SHUT UP.

  13. I have a distant relative who is firmly camped out directly opposite me on the political spectrum, but we manage to have very friendly, respectful, and lively discussions of sensitive topics fairly regularly (on FB). What works for me is to find a neutral point within the issue she’s pushing, and agree with it, then show what “my side” might be doing about the issue. Example:

    Opposite Politics Relative: “This administration is railroading over people’s rights to choose which foods they can and cannot eat. Keep big government out of school lunches!”

    Me: “Health and nutrition is certainly a very important issue. I’m so glad my mom taught me how vital it is to eat a balanced diet. It’s unfortunate that not everyone receives such good guidance at home, which is why I support this local measure to get more fruits and vegetables on the menu in school lunches.”

    Of course, the reason this works for us is because we both respect each other enough not to stoop to yelling or invoking the Precious Baby Savior to make our points. Also I pick my battles very carefully. Of the 30 or so very … interesting articles she posts in a week, I might pick one to start a conversation.

  14. Simple, make a mail rule. If it has Mom’s email in the from line and Fw in the subject line delete it from the server.

    1. Absolutely, that was going to be my additional suggestion. And I’d add not only CA’s list of keywords of the moment, but also a list of URLs from their favorite “information” sources.

      Then I’d go through one really good round of explanation like OtherBecky above did (so she knows someplace that your rejection of that material is not entirely irrational or personal). And then when the filter bloops or she mixes in personal stuff, calmly explain that you’ve setup a filter so as not to further ruin your personal relationship, refer back to first attempt in terms of the quality of info forwarded, and then firmly switch the topic back to something personal.

      I’d also outright delete the messages rather than put them in another folder, just so you really lower your blood pressure. Although you may want an initial period of setting them aside if you have one who mixes in personal comments, till they’re trained to know they can’t do that. Technology can absolutely help your relationships.

  15. -I think Lilly has the right idea:
    I just let people know that for every email I get that hails from the party of racism, sexism, and homophobia I donate $5 to Obama for America. Never had to tell them more than once.)

    -The alternate solution is to tell them:
    If this came from anyone but you I’d say “Look, you mothefucking, racist bigot. If you send me such hate-filled idiocy again I’ll block you from all communications, whether email, facebook, or yahoo, and from all telephone calls and messages. Forever,” but because you’re my Mom, I’ll simply give you one more chance to stop it before blocking you. But only one.

    Lilly’s solution is probably better, though.

  16. I have a cousin who used to bombard me with spam. Not racist, just incredibly gullible “For every person you forward this message to, Bill Gates will donate $1 to people who woke up in foreign hotels in a bathtub full of ice with their kidneys gone after flashing their brights at cars with no headlights” kind of stuff.

    I made an e-mail filter that said: If subject contains “FW:” or if To does not contain [my e-mail address], then move message to trash. (The second condition catches e-mails she sends to a group rather than directly to me.)

    1. Yeah I had a friend who did that for awhile, I went the send her the snopes take down of that email route. I’m not sure if she stopped believing in every email that came her way, but I stopped getting forwards, so mission accomplished in my book!

      1. My mother, bless her, was like that. I never did teach her to go to Snopes herself, but at least she learned to be skeptical enough to ask me about the wild ones before forwarding them.

  17. For facebook I ended up doing something technically wrong, but so worth it. When I set it up I used *common childhood nickname* and friended all my, well, friends, and the one relative I like. Then the rest of the crazy relatives started finding me through him, and I either had to add them and filter/hide them, or deal with them contacting my father and “why won’t Duae friend me?” I made a facebook with my full legal name. I added all the crazy relatives. I post every few days with “My cats are cute and this is why.” and ignore my feed. And everyone’s happy.

  18. I do this with my uncle (who started conservative, moved to America, and decided – apparently – that anything that criticized America/Americans meant HIS FAMILY NO LONGER LOVED HIM AND WE HATED HIM FOR MOVING TO AMERICA AND OTHER THINGS OF THIS NATURE. However that never dissuaded him from sending out long anti-Democrat/Clinton/Obama e-mail forwards.)

    If it’s ALWAYS forwards – like, she’s not personally writing these screeds – if it says “FWD:” in the title of the email? Delete it immediately. It’s not worth reading, even if it sounds like adorable photos of kittens. You can get those at cuteoverload, right? So just straight to the junk folder.

    Then, reply to anything that is actually her writing to you. If that starts going off the rails, well, then… Captain’s filters sound pretty good to me.

  19. Oh wow, I didn’t realize this would get on here so fast! Thanks for the advice everyone! I’m setting up a filter on my email at this moment. I feel silly now, though, as I didn’t even know that option existed.

  20. The thing I finally learned to use with my parents when they try to start inflammatory political conversations like “Oh! Have you heard about the woman on welfare who had four hundred children just so she could get welfare payments for each one and drives around in a Bentley running over puppies and kitties and voting thirty times for Obama under fake names?” is to just say with a completely flat affect, “Huh. No, I haven’t heard about that.” And then if they go on about it, I just keep reacting the same way with a totally flat affect, “Huh. Interesting.”

    Because the whole point of this for them is to get you into an heated argument so they can prove how correct their views are and how evil and wrong anyone whose views differ are. That argument is their reward, like a food pellet to a rat pressing a bar. If you always deprive them of the reward, eventually they stop pressing the bar (i.e., trying to start these kinds of conversations).

    Don’t refute, don’t react, just act like what they are telling you is no more relevant or important than that the spot price of romaine lettuce on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange shot up from $1.03 to $1.05 per pound today. Because what they thrive on is the overwrought hysteria. If you observe the behavior of the talking heads on Fox News, you can see exactly how they exploit this to plug right into their habitual watcher’s heads and get them hooked.

    1. Yup. My grandfather LOVES to get a rise out of people and used to troll me and my mother mercilessly with inflammatory political and sociocultural statements at family gatherings. If we chose to engage, he got what he wanted, and a lot of holiday dinners suffered from the awkward aftermath of us arguing at him. When we both learned to ignore him or respond with absolutely neutral statements with no “hook” whatsoever, he got very disappointed, and he’s now basically stopped trying because we won’t give him the satsifaction of a good fight. Family events are a lot more pleasant now. (This is slightly different from the “horrible emails” problem, but the ultimate method and effect are the same: just don’t give them anything to hang onto, whether ignoring the emails or ignoring the awful statement they just made to your face. They’ll stop doing it in time–and if they don’t, they’re giving ample evidence that the relationship is not worth maintaining.)

    2. This is such wonderful advice! I use varieties on your suggested responses regularly with my parents. Particularly with the follow up in-person/on phone “Did you get my email?” talks. I play dumb or claim I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly read whatever forward chain they’ve sent. They don’t bring it up after that usually.

      1. Yes! Screen screen screen the ones who want a hysterical reaction – it can be hard especially with family, because you know, they’re FAMILY and THEY SHOULD have access to you because they care shmah blah blah standard but we love you speech.

        I still respond to them of course – but only to the non-trigger things. It also helps to give myself permission NOT to pick up the phone or open an email if I see a relative’s addy that I love but who’s message may irritate the crap out of me. Usually a cute animal video helps too. I like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0-Sv6YnxEc (apologies if the vid goes against posting rules Cap!)

  21. I feel your pain, sister(brother?) My Dad and his sister, my lovely aunt both frequent the mean old people internet. Their facebook pages are FULL of this stuff. I think my cousin’s cover photo is Reagan shooting a machine gun while riding a velociraptor? (ok, the last part is awesome). The “hide post” button has become my new best friend.

    1. My brother has that Reagan-riding-a-velociraptor as his cover, too. It’s pretty awesome as a piece of art (politics aside). Facebook is not a problem for me, though, as it’s impersonal enough that I’m okay with blocking posts or deleting rude replies to things I post.

      1. wow, we might be cousins, because my velociraptor-Reagan cousin is a dude! No, we probably aren’t because I think his sister is a little conversigelical too. That’s good you don’t feel swamped with the hate messages on facebook.

    2. ‘Photo’ here, for other curious folks, as well as a pretty bitchin’ illustration of JFK riding a cylon unicorn on the moon.

      Be prepared, however, for some wildly inaccurate scale issues vis a vis Reagan and the ‘raptors. Unless the artist was depicting mini-me Reagan! (Which makes it even better, somehow. ‘Raptor Reagan, one foot high!)

  22. I have a similar problem with my parents’ forwarding habits. I watch for subject lines with key words then delete without looking. The filters are a great idea!

    The only forward I’ve sent a followup to I was glad I read before deleting. It was a “miracle cure” for cancer – spinach shakes or some non-sense, sent from my mom… who has terminal cancer. My reply was more of starting a conversation than a facts dump, and it was well-received. Thankfully she goes to chemo faithfully as the doctor ordered!

    But yeah, forwards about politics or religion get deleted without being looked at. To deal with all the angry, internal WTF going on in myself, it helps to remember the things I love about them. It also helps to bitch to my husband who has an equally generous yet realistic picture of my parents.

  23. I had a similar (though not so extreme) problem with my mom. She would send the racist jokes, I would respond with a sharp words, and she would quit. For a while. And then suddenly, boom! Hi-larious racist crap in my mailbox. What finally worked was the grandchild card: I told her that I it made me very sad that Billy’s grandmother held these views and would say such awful, hateful things. It. Never. Happened. Again. YMMV

    1. Oh, yeah, my mom pulled that with Grandpa when my brother was born. I never even knew he was racist until after he died, and Mom told me. He knew she’d never let us see him if he verbalized that nonsense in front of us.

      1. Yup. My grandmother had a friend whom I was not allowed to be in the presence of until I was old enough to understand that every single thing out of her mouth was crap.

  24. My mom used to forward some of that stuff to me. There are certain facets of the cranky old man internet, that really appeal to her, and she bought into a lot of urban legends, too. I started sending snopes links in response, and she actually learned! Now she copies me when she replies to this stuff and sends snopes links to her friends. So, next I taught her to use BCC and not give all her friend’s email addresses to all her other friends, and she learned that too. Now, she BCCs me as she tries to teach her friends this stuff. A lot of her friends are unteachable, and I don’t really want to be involved in any of it, but it keeps her busy, I guess. I just delete it as it comes.

  25. Oh dear dear dear : ( Yes, my deeply-loved, loves-everyone-unconditionally-regardless-of-weltanshauung aunt/second mommy got sucked into the chain-email vortex long before the popularity of social networking, and for years I’ve had my email box filled with alarmist RWNJ chain mails which I’ve just sighed and deleted and ignored. Occasionally I’ve replied with a good snopes when it was something she really needed to stop lying awake in horror and fear over (like graphically inaccurate violin-spider warnings) or gently set her straight on the latent Satanism in the Harry Potter books (she has brilliant, wonderfully geeky grandchildren and it broke my heart she was worrying needlessly over my awesome nieces’ and nephews’ Hogwarts fantasies).

    I noticed years ago that the chains were sourced by the same aggressively RWNJ instigator; and recently relaxed my do-not-reply policy by responding-to-all with a heartfelt essay on how American Muslims are our fellow-citizens and not out to destroy the Free World through the USPS with a snopes-disproved Ramadan custom stamp. “She was proud of how well-spoken I was” on the subject, but stuck by her fears of Sharia law and I let it go.

    I then thought she’d got the message of how upsetting these obnoxious chain emails were to me; but recently I got another barrage, this time of the wonders of glorious Paul Ryan platform messages, and (possibly a martini or two being involved) I just lost it. I meant to target the RWNJ instigator, but of course it got sent to my long-suffering elderly aunt as well : ( I think it really hurt her I was so hurt, but so far she now only send me lost-fawn-and-alley-cat-love photo essays anymore.

    LW, she’s not my mom. But I love her dearly, and I know this stuff hurts coming from someone who holds a deep tender place in one’s heart, going both ways. She meant well sending the stuff. I uselessly have no advice for you, but you have my deepest sympathies. I will say that in real life (family gatherings, holidays etc) everyone in the family holds a strict no-political-discussion policy, and it keeps us all warmly bonded in what really matters. The internet makes all this stuff very very much harder.

  26. Yep I’m 15thing this. I’ve had similar problems with my Dad and the email filter is an excellent suggestion!

    Little story. My Dad has become increasingly extreme right wing as he’s aged. When he discovered that I was involved with the left side of student politics and that I am pro-unions and pro-Julia Gillard he responded with an aggressive email attacking me for being left-wing/progressive because how could I hold a view epitomised by Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Lenin. This is, of course, in addition to regular anti-Islam, anti-Labor (Australia), anti-women etc forward emails.


    1. Australia’s politics are becoming more and more personality rather than policy based which is sad because it leads to problems like these. That said Tony Abbott scares me and I am hoping that he is not our next Prime Minister.

      1. John Key got voted in because most of the country didn’t like National’s policies but Key has SUCH A NICE SMILE. It didn’t help that Labour hasn’t had a good leader since Helen Clark left for the UN. These days when someone refers to “the Opposition” I’m starting to just assume they mean the Greens because holy crap the NZ bunch are getting incredibly competent on all sorts of policy issues, make great sound bites, ask really pointed questions during Question Time and are hands down the best at using social media.

  27. Oh goodness LW, I can totally sympathize! Of course, for me it’s my brother-in-law in the other direction. He’s always sending me things he *knows* I disagree with politically, and seems to have made it his personal mission to inform me every time any vaguely important liberal manages to pass some soul-cringing piece of legislation. It comes off as some weird sort of challenge like “Hey, would you like to have Thanksgiving with your sister and I? The kids would love to see you; I think they’re hoping for more of those wonderful Kinder Eggs you brought them over Easter. They’ve talked of nothing since! Also you should check out x link. Another victory for [expensive social welfare/mandatory health care/sanctioning gay marriage/you name it]! Can’t wait to see you! Love, family.” It’s really difficult to say anything because I *would* like to go for Thanksgiving, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to just ignore the politics or address them. Would it really be so difficult to leave that stuff out? Talking to my sister about how I wish he’d lay it off doesn’t really work, as she always makes those conversations into how I’m a misguided person with awful ideals and he’s only trying to educate/save/inform me.

    1. Referring to “sanctioning gay marriage” as “soul-cringing” shows a worrying lack of regard for the commentariat here. Unless I’ve misread you.

        1. So was I. Otherwise… I am feeling a deadpan “gosh. I am glad you… shared… that… burden with us?” It might be hypocritical of me, but I am having a hard time caring about what a pain it is to have people be all soul-cringing about relatives sharing their pro-teh gays and their unacceptable icky-poo marriage desires. So… yeah… lalalalala sarcasm it must be sarcasm.

      1. The social ninja skills problem is much the same, though, isn’t it? If I were a deeply conservative Catholic, I wouldn’t like it if someone I knew kept sending me stuff about divorce, Piss Christ, gay couples adopting children, how religious homeschooling is evil, abortion, Planned Parenthood access, etc. And I can respect that someone who wants to use email communication primarily to keep in touch with friends / family might NOT want to have that communication channel turn into a way for someone to send them tons of political / irritating stuff.

        And there are people who don’t like spam of any kind. My friend occasionally forwards silly jokes, and I don’t mind because it’s an occasional thing. But if I were getting a joke email twice a day, my inbox would be getting cluttered with useless crap, and I wouldn’t want to have to read it all.

  28. Politics in my family have always been a blood sport. It’s gotten really nasty as my parents age and get more and more conservative. My mom is getting more religious and has real anxiety about my atheism. My dad retired about 13 years ago and does literally little more than watch Fox News all day with Rush Limbaugh playing on the radio at his side. We’ve had holiday dinners careen to a dead stop. Relatives have left holiday weekends days early. Cold silences have lasted for months. My sister and my mom stopped talking for months after John Kerry lost the 2004 election and my mom called her to gloat.

    The thing about politics is that it almost never stops at “those politics happening over there in Washington DC, which are interesting and I would like to talk about them.” It almost always floods into the personal feelings-sphere, where Dad’s disapproval over [subject] for [reasons] is also a judgement on my worldview, one in which I’m an moronic idiot who will grow up one day and finally have a come to Jesus moment and Get Right. This is annoying, and yes, it’s been the subject of a lot of angst considering the political heat in my family.

    But it’s also a reflection on him, NOT ME.

    Politics are not only about beliefs. They’re also, in the US anyway, a team sport. A competitive sport. On some level, it’s about team pride and winning. I firmly believe that there’s a good contingent of people who have totally irrational personal reasons for choosing one party affiliation over another regardless of the actual party platforms. I think there is a good contingent of people participating in the national conversation who are interested in little more than burning hippies on their Facebook walls (MOM). But I don’t argue anymore if I can avoid it. I answer mockery with mockery. I answer earnestness with mockery. I remove my feelings and turn it back into a game of rhetoric. I’m a big fan of, “Wow, that bears absolutely no resemblance to the facts! Tell me about it!” And, “You don’t genuinely believe this do you? Aw shucks, ma.” That’s the only way I’ve figured out to challenge ignorance without getting my feelings, self-worth, and energy tied up in the conflict. If I can’t muster that, I ignore it altogether.

    1. Politics are not only about beliefs. They’re also, in the US anyway, a team sport. A competitive sport. On some level, it’s about team pride and winning.

      You know, I’m not sure that I’ve heard anyone phrase it quite so succinctly, and I think that’s incredibly apt. So apt that I can’t believe the analogy never occurred to me before now. Coming from a Not Much Sports-Watching And Certainly No Football family, and having lived in the deep south for half my life now, I view the sports (esp. football) culture here with a sort of fascination. I mean, people get downright nasty with each other – and often over teams from schools they never attended, cities they’ve never lived in, etc. It is intense! I just never noticed that it is precisely the same dynamic in politics for some people, too.

    2. I love this: “Wow, that bears absolutely no resemblance to the facts! Tell me about it!”. I am totally stealing this. I can think of several FB friends that it will do well for.

  29. Fortunately, the one who sends me the ridiculously non-factual nasty emails is actually a friend of my dad’s, not of mine. But since my dad doesn’t email, I’m on her email list.

    And for a while there, during the last election season, she would forward every email screed she got. And I would respond briefly. And then one was just ridiculous, so I took a while to point out the actual facts behind each of the stories.

    Her response? “Well, clearly your mind is already made up without even hearing the other side!”

    To which I responded that I was open to being convinced, but not by lies – and that I thought that people who wrote those kind of emails, as well as people who forwarded them without paying any attention to whether or not they were true, were doing their argument no favors. If I can’t trust what you say in 3 emails in a row, why should I trust any of your claims?

    Her response? Crickets.

    The only things I’ve gotten from her since have been occasional religious forwards. I think my bizarre insistence on figuring out what the truth is before deciding what you believe must have convinced her I’m some kind of devil worshipper.

  30. I get these from my grampa. Basically, I will automatically delete anything with FWD: in the subject line. I also made it very clear to everyone in a mass email (LOL, irony) that I wasn’t going to open email forwards. (To be fair, I do the same thing with lefty/liberal forwards–frankly, I find spam, even if it’s political or fun spam sent by friends or rellies to be really annoying.)

  31. Email filters are a great idea!

    I am implementing this idea now – there is someone I used to know at college, over a decade ago, who regularly sends me and a group of other people, none of whom I know, extremely long and detailed round robin emails about the events in her life, sort of like a diary. She started this about a year ago and sends out one email per week.

    So at first, I replied to one with a shortish but friendly message, to which she responded that she would “address my remarks in the next group bulletin”. When I get a chance to read her mails I noticed she includes political and other opinions that I find a bit offensive and annoying… and also I don’t really know her anymore so details of her latest row with her boss aren’t that exciting.

    Now her emails will go blissfully unread into my “deleted items” folder.

  32. Wow. I’m really lucky. My mom does forwards only rarely and it’s usually of the variety “Buy American-made products” and “Did you know if you forward this to 100 bajillion people, Bill Gates will send you 100 bajillion dollars?” I read them because they’re funny because they are woefully misinformed in a funny way. I direct her to snopes sometimes when I think she could get caught up in a scam.

    She also sends the funniest and dirtiest jokes I’ve ever read or heard. Those are usually forwards too. She’s part of a big circle of my family that trades dirty jokes. She only sends me the feminist ones. Thanks Mommy!

  33. I have an excellent Facebook tip! There is a new friend list: ‘acquaintances’. When you add people to this list, they are removed for your newsfeed and put into a separate, ‘acquaintances-only’ newsfeed (so you can still read their stuff if you’re so inclined; it’s just not in your face every time you log on). You can also choose to set your default post settings to ‘Visible to friends (not acquaintances)’. I find that the people who post offensive stuff are also those who are likely to leave me offensive comments on the stuff I post. So now, I don’t see their crap AND they don’t get to see mine! If I decide there’s something I really do want to share with everyone, I can then use the drop down arrow to set that particular post to ‘Visible to friends’.

    It’s awesome and it has changed my life.

  34. It’s hard to deal with people like this. I have a friend on Facebook- who is actually a friend of my mom- who polices my language constantly. “Never use that word again!”

    I have another friend who doesn’t agree with my political views and that’s fine… but he. Often comments and argues with me on my Facebook page. He’s even admitted to trying to get me to argue with him. So strange.

    Also, I must say that I love the use of the Regretsy “Never Forgetsy” crying eagle! So funny!

  35. This makes me feel really thankful that the one time my (generally liberal/always Democrat) dad did send one of those alarmist forwards to everyone he knew (it was the one about “Some Muslims have demanded that they remove the Holocaust from history books in Missouri and the department of education agreed! FIGHT THEM!”), as soon as he found out it was fake he sent out a mass apology e-mail to everyone. For all his other faults, at least he has integrity.

    This thread is going to come in super-handy come Christmas, though, when I’m visiting with my boyfriend’s family, where Rush is usually on the radio.

  36. I think that’s pretty good advice.

    I have a couple of questions. Is she sending them just to you? Or are you inlcuded on an email bomb? Could this be debated as ‘funny’ if someone were ignorant of Racims 101? If both of those are True I have an alternative suggestion based on what I did in a simialr situation.

    Reply All with

    “Some people disagree” and copy in a link from snopes or similar. Than do nothing else. Definately don’t respond to any follow up emails. If you *HAVE* to respond to someone that’s arguing with the source you sited just invite them to contact the source directly since you “Don’t have time or background to really debate this in an email.

    I did this to one person and just stopped getting those types of emails. For another person it turned out that I wasn’t the only one on the distribution that disagreed. I got a bit of a kick watching my racist uncle debate with my dad’s college roommate. It was helpful also because as the ‘kid’ I had less clout in the discussion but if other ‘grownups’ start replying back it’s harder to dismiss.

    1. It’s to a list of people, usually. And she’s gotten better about sending wildly inaccurate stuff since I taught her how to check things on snopes, but now she likes to add “I checked this on snopes!” to her email forwards… She doesn’t seem to understand that just because SOMEONE REALLY DID SAY THIS, that taking it that thing out of context or making it racist/anti-Muslim/etc. is just as bad as spreading outright lies.

      1. Might be a good tactic to cut and paste from factcheck.org as well as snopes when you get wild misinterpretations or out-of-context statements – if nothing else, it will muddy their conviction that their crazy, uninformed forward is lacking depth of accuracy.
        Real life example: Romney’s now-infamous “47% don’t pay any income tax” video and the clarification of “that’s true for people paying INCOME tax, but does not reflect the working poor’s payroll taxes, or the non-working students and retired elderly, or even the income tax-deferred loophole-swimming billionaires, none of whom are lazy entitled boors” – it helps clarify the “fact” they forwarded you while not invalidating the source.

        All that said, I confess I go red when someone sends me or repeats to me something so willfully ignorant of facts and I personally find it hard to look at them the same after that. I am very guilty of partisanship, but I feel that just the pure act of critical thinking would clear up so much unhappiness in the world.

        Be informed, vote with knowledge and intent, and at worst you will negate the vote of an ignorant person.

        1. I believe it comes out as “47% of tax units don’t pay any net federal income tax”, where the important parts are [tax units] (which includes married couples – two people for the price of one!), [net] (balancing it against tax credits etc) and [federal income tax] (no state income tax, payroll tax, taxes on goods and services…)

          Goods and services tax in particular is a regressive tax that affects the poor more than the rich, because their entire income is generally spent on necessities (though rent typically isn’t taxed, at least). But it doesn’t count in that “47% don’t pay taxes” meme. And by counting tax units you’re over-emphasising unmarried people who often tend to skew towards young or old, demographics that are sometimes more likely to be lower income.

  37. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with this from anyone in my family, but I have had two instances at the office. I think it’s easier to deal with there because people are concerned with appearing professional.

    One of the people in my (very small) office occasionally sent me email forwards. They weren’t very bad to begin with, and I think my replying with the Snopes takedown would actually have worked, if the second instance hadn’t occurred:

    A contact at a vendor’s office included me on a mass email forward of a really terrible story that was obviously supposed to be hilarious and heartwarming, but in fact was this irksome stew of national, racial, and gender stereotypes. I had some time on my hands so I replied to her individually. I tried very hard to keep it brief and unemotional, to avoid making her feel bad about anything, but to be very clear that I really really did not want to get any mass forwards of any nature from her ever again. I did, however, use the phrase “racial stereotype” in briefly explaining why I didn’t appreciate that particular email.

    The next thing I knew, a woman with a flourishing, gift-wrapped Peace Lily in her arms was standing in front of the reception desk. It was the mass email forwarder (whom I’d never even met in person before) and the peace lily was for me because she was so, so sorry about her insensitive email.

    I was utterly flabbergasted at this overreaction — I really had tried to keep my response calm, polite, and impersonal — but she seemed quite sincere. Later it occurred to me that she and/or her manager were probably terrified that the horrible accusation of Being Racist would mar their company’s reputation.

    After she left and I got over my laughing fit, I had to explain everything to the bystanders, who included my boss and the coworker who’d been sending me her own forwards. My boss said, “Sending those things is very unprofessional, but be careful how you reply to them.” And I never had another mass forward from my coworker again.

    1. That’s…kind of amazing. I think a lot of people send these things, at least the ‘heartwarming’ variety, without actually examining them in any way. They aren’t usually *meant* to be inflammatory the way the hate ones are. So I’d imagine when there was a response to her email other than ‘that brought a tear to my eye!’ she was totally shocked. And, hopefully, will maybe think a little bit, and read a little more closely, next time…

      Hee. Peace Lily.

  38. This is great advice (the Captain’s about using hide story/user and email filters and Lily’s about letting them know you’re making a donation to the opposite cause, particularly).

    My uncle is definitely on the mean old people internet. He’s a stereotypical “God’s own county” pompous Yorkshireman who thinks the south is deeply inferior to the north, but despite Yorkshire supposedly being the best place in the world he nevertheless emigrated to Spain many years ago. He doesn’t usually forward me emails, but when he mails any of my family he always takes the time to write in a huge rant about (a) the EU, (b) Germany, (c) Gordon Brown (whom he doesn’t seem to have noticed is no longer Prime Minister of Great Britain), or (d) immigration (yes, despite being an immigrant to another country himself). This is all particularly special because my father, his brother-in-law, is from a German immigrant family.

    Last time he emailed, he managed to combine them all into a crowning moment of offensiveness, in which he claimed that all the Greeks were going to emigrate to the UK to live off benefits when the Greek economy collapsed, and the Germans would use this as an excuse to re-form the Nazi party and take over the EU. Apparently only New Zealand will be safe for the British when this happens. My whole family was in hysterics. We just reply between ourselves taking the piss out of his mails (“But what if I can’t get a visa to live in New Zealand because the Nazis won’t let me have one?? Will you go without me?? WHYYYYYYY????”).

    My mum occasionally forwards me the “Rapists are using the sound of a crying baby to lure women to their death!” kind of thing. I always reply (just to her) with the Snopes link and to her credit she forwards on the Snopes link to the people she’d sent the original to. I am always surprised that she falls for that sort of thing – but I think it’s generational. I’m so used to this sort of crap on the internet, and she’s not, so if a friend forwards something to her, she passes it on because it comes from someone she trusts.

    1. Don’t come to New Zealand, it’s full of them Maoris who make sure white people are second class citizens and they can do anything they want and steal all the land and omg now they even think they have rights to water!

      /bitter sarcasm

      Tell him New Zealand doesn’t need any more racist white immigrants. We’ve got plenty already. 😛

  39. Wow, I was about to write a very similar letter. I particularily appreciate the email filter advice. This is so well timed, thank you,Captain and everyone else!

  40. One tactic you might try when you get the “did you read my e-mail” question is to respond that you don’t open e-mail forwards because they can contain viruses. If you wanted to, you could add a lurid story about all the damage that you had to your computer because of a virus, etc.

    I prefer to be more direct, though. I would just reply to anything with a FWD with something like, “please do not send me any more forwarded political e-mail.” Repeat, repeat, repeat. I used to have a bully of a boss who would make outrageous political statements to me in staff meetings (knowing that I was a liberal and he was surrounded by fellow conservatives that would back him up). I just kept repeating, “I don’t discuss politics at work” over and over until he gave up. Don’t give them anything to work with, just set a boundary and stick to it. (BTW, this is a great tactic for salespeople; if you give them a reason why you’re not buying, they can argue with it, but if you just say, “I’m not interested,” they can’t go anywhere with that.)

  41. I am in love with Sam’s sole sparkly tear. That is all. Also? Spam filter the shit outta those emails.

  42. I managed to get off a family member’s forward list. My sister forwarded me one of these messages coming from our family member (apparently my replies to previous mails referencing Snopes had gotten me demoted to a less comprehensive list) in which the forwarders were breathlessly sending around an Onion article about how J.K. Rowling finally admitted to writing the Harry Potter books as a means of luring children to Satan. I clicked “reply”, and wrote a blistering message back to my sister sharing my opinion of how stupid this forwarded message was, and what kind of idiot would believe this? My reply ended up in the inbox of the friend of my relative who sent her the forward I eventually got. I was embarrassed when I realized what I had done, but I couldn’t sincerely apologize for calling this lady an idiot for believing that J.K. Rowling was a satanic evangelist. Word must have reached my relative, because since then I’ve received no more of these forwards at all, but we are still on cordial enough terms. We live far apart and don’t meet often, but when we do, everyone is pleasant. A happy ending, in my opinion.

  43. Something that stopped the forwarded emails for me in the early days of the internet was telling people “My email seems to eat anything that’s been forwarded. Technology, go figure.” And then setting up a filter to shunt anything with FWD in the subject right into the trash. My father’s biological mother used to send me long chain letters with twee junk about how women were amazing because they were holding up the world, and there’d be twenty fonts, a cat poster, and God knows what else on there. Since I didn’t want to talk to the woman at all, I just ignored those until she stopped emailing me. Oh and virtual cards, I hated virtual cards.

    Telling people that forwarded chain things and e-cards carry a pretty high risk of viruses and you’re not going to open them is both truthful, and makes them aware that the stuff they get in the email might not be safe for their own computers. And you get to say “besides, we don’t talk that often, I’d rather just hear about how you’re doing.”

    My husband had a friend who would send him dispatches from the Cranky Racist Old Man Internet, until I went in and set it so that everything that came from that guy got deleted immediately. Which was kind of crap of me, I know, but I did NOT want that guy in my life. He gave off serious white nationalist vibes and I was Not. Having. It. Which if he sees this: honey I won’t let you make friends with Klansmen and I’m not sorry.

  44. Yo, I got a dad who’s not nearly as bad, but I do see him post similar stuff as he and I have pretty different views on politics and religion. So far, I’ve been fortunate enough that I just need to avoid clicking the links on his Facebook, but if it get’s worse, I know what to do. Thanks to Cap and whomever asked this question.

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