« Previous Story | Front Page | Next Story »

Dissemination of Slanderous, Malicious, False or Inflammatory Materials

By Weeden Nichols
Opinion | March 20, 2010

ELLIS, Kan. - First, I would like to clearly state my premise and reason for writing this piece. I believe it is always irresponsible to forward, publish, or publicly declare material that one knows to be malicious, false, and inflammatory. I further believe that it is also irresponsible to disseminate material that is inflammatory, even if the specific facts contained therein are technically correct, if by omission of some facts and over-emphasis of others, there is clear intent to arouse others to unjustified anger and potentially unjust action. I believe that a weak "small print" disclaimer accompanying such dissemination does not relieve one of responsibility.

A few years ago, at a Memorial Day observance at the Hays, Kansas, VFW, a local dignitary presented a "keynote" speech, in which he declared that we (the United States) had been "at war with Islam" for, at that time, 33 years. He cited a litany of events over the 33 years to "prove" his point.

He omitted that, like Christianity, Islam has a warlike and aggressive wing as well as a gently-pious wing. He omitted mention of Christianity's history of the Crusades, a protracted, violent, invasive campaign against Islam. ("Crusade" has positive connotations for many Christians, but it is part of a corporate memory of Islam involving images of injury, death, fear, occupation, and oppression, and, on the part of some, precipitating motives of revenge.) I was able to locate the same litany of incidents cited by the local dignitary, almost verbatim, readily available on the internet. I can only conclude that the substance of the local dignitary's speech was drawn from the internet source, though not credited.

During the months before Barack Obama became the chosen Democratic candidate for the presidency of the US, I received a forwarding from two high school friends (it has been well over 50 years since I was in high school). The forwarded item was "The Jihad Candidate" by Rich Carroll, 06/16/2008. The item was attributed in these forwardings to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The "Subject" line on the forwarding was "A Challenge from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram." In essence, the author stated with seeming certainty that Barack Obama was a "sleeper" planted in the US political scene by Muslim oil interests so that, when the time came, he could act for those oil powers and for Islam, against the interests of the United States. I was familiar with The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's overall editorial stance. The Star-Telegram was our dear Molly Ivins' journalistic home base. I finally succeeded in contacting a member of the Op-Ed Page editorial staff, and found that Rich Carroll's piece had never been published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Recently, I received a really slick, professionally-produced video forwarded by a friend who is a colleague of mine on a national board. (The forwarding obviously had no relationship to the business of the organization for which we are directors.) My friend, in his forwarding message stated that the content was true and that it was not propaganda. The content, citing "research," presented that Europe was now irrevocably lost to Islam, and that North America was threatened more than seriously. Toward the end, the narrator with the confidence-inspiring voice called the viewers to "action" (without specifying a particular action). I pointed out to my friend that, even if the facts were correct (which I did not concede), it was propaganda. I confronted him with the following questions:

1. Who sponsored this video?
2. Who prepared it?
3. The narrator cites "research" but does not say what research, by whom, by what methods. We must know this.
4. The narrator concludes with, "This is a call to action!" What action do you suppose is being suggested?

My friend was offended at my questions. He responded that he forwarded the video to me (and nearly a hundred others) "for your information." I was able to identify the responsible entity ("Christian Resistance") and look at their catalog, almost all of which is anti-Muslim. "Christian Resistance" reveals nothing about itself or about who is part of it, or about who funds it.

A couple of days ago I received one of those tiresome "Birther" forwardings that purport to state with authority that Barack Obama was not born in the US, and is thus ineligible to be president. The forwarder provided the following interesting disclaimer: "According to www.snopes.com the below information is INCORRECT. I DO NOT forward info that I receive from other people unless I check it out first on snopes." (The capitalizations were an original part of this disclaimer.) Obviously, this is contradictory, as he forwarded something www.snopes.com identified as incorrect. The secret, though, is that many readers would miss the small "in" in "incorrect," since the forwarder was forwarding the item, and had stated that he forwarded nothing that had not been verified by www.snopes.com.

I received another forwarding two weeks ago from a good friend. This one suggested that Obama is a "Manchurian Candidate" type sleeper planted, according to this scenario, by the Russians to act for their interests and against the interests of the US. She supplied this disclaimer: "I'm not enough of a contemporary historian to know if any of the forwarded message makes sense and thought I'd send it to you all for rebuttal if any." That's nice, but how many addressees will provide objective evaluation and appropriate rebuttal, and how many will absorb the purported negative message into the body of "knowledge" they assume to be true and correct?

This week, a friend of mine telephoned. He was upset by materials he had found on the internet regarding the proposed national health care legislation. The internet posting purported to be from a "judge" in Alabama. The part that upset my friend most was the purported mandatory end-of-life counseling every five years for all persons over 65 years of age. In order to assist my friend, and as a matter of my own interest, I read the pertinent part of the proposed legislation. Admittedly, legal writing is sometimes difficult for a lay person to read; however, a "judge" should have had sufficient background to sort it out. What I read in the proposed legislation itself was that persons over 65 would be entitled to a voluntary end-of-life consultation with a health care professional, billed as a health care expense, every five years. It was implicit that, if an individual wanted such counseling more often that every five years, he would have to pay for it himself. That is a long way from subjecting everyone over 65 to involuntary end-of-life sessions. My friend's indignation was genuine and innocent. Whoever wrote and posted the "judge's" missive was anything but innocent. That person intended an incendiary effect that would have citizens practically up-in-arms in protest. As I researched this matter, I encountered postings (some attributed to Fred Thompson), to the effect that older citizens would be subjected to mandatory euthanasia counseling.

There are myriads of other examples. What I would like to do is urge everyone to refrain from fanning the fires of hate and anger. I suggest that all of us should take full responsibility for the material we disseminate and its apparent intent. Most of us wish to live our lives in terms of ultimately being held responsible for what we have said and done in our lives.


Isn't it amazing how many supposedly educated people believe all the fwds, without even considering the source or likely hood of their authenticity. Many of those, I receive, even say they've checked them out on Snopes and encourage me to check for myself. What do you know? When I check them out, they are clearly identified by Snopes as false and most generally show where to find the truth. On the few occasions when I respond to all, I get several reply that they don't want to know whether the fwd was true or false. They just agree with the content because it agrees with their political or sectarian affiliation.

New Rule: If you use the internet, tweet or text-learn how to fact check.

Post your own comment here

Do you want to read more? You've only just scratched the surface at the Kansas Free Press. We have so much more to read! Nearly all of the pieces published here are timeless and relevant, regardless of when the articles were first published. To discover more, please take a look at our Table of Contents or go back to our Front Page.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:

About This Page

This page contains just one story published on March 20, 2010. The one written previous to this is titled "I vote and I'm Supporting Tax Increases" and the story published right after this one is "Obama's Crossover Dribble and Dunk on Health Care Reform"

Our most current stories are always updated on our Front Page.

Other Archives

Interested in other topics? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents to find other sections and archives.

Do you want to explore pieces written by specific authors? You can find archives for KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Recently Featured Stories

My Response As a Kansan to Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti has come on board The Nation magazine to fill in for Katha Pollitt as the feminist columnist while Pollitt is on leave to write a book. I've found reading Valenti's columns thought-provoking and insightful. She often takes …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word. To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad …
Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine. In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, …

News and Opinion

Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.