I am 85 and I am tired. So tired of Bill Cosby posting racist rants all over Facebook. So tired of the Obama’s Anti-Christmas Tree, or whatever thing they do every year, for the first time ever this year. So tired of democrats literally pounding at my door, day and night, to take away my guns. Most of all, I’m just so tired of people remaining willfully, GLEEfully ignorant.
Obviously, I’m not 85 years old. What’s scary to me is that for many people, that’s the only obvious thing in that paragraph above.
An old friend of mine posted something to their Facebook wall today that I have seen make the rounds before. Attributed to Bill Cosby, it was a speech titled “I’m 85 and tired”. It went on and on about how tired Mr. Cosby was of having to pay for welfare and to help the underprivileged. He was tired of dealing with people of other religions. He was so tired of everything, but thankful he’d be dead soon so he wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore!
Sounds rather bleak for a 75 year old champion of the downtrodden, doesn’t it?
Yes, Bill Cosby is 75 years old. Not 85. Want to know how long it took me to find that out? Three seconds.
Want to know how long it took me to track down the original blog by former US marine and former Massachusetts state senator who actually DID write that rant? Try 5 seconds. And the entry on Cosby’s own site where he specifically states he had nothing to do with that tirade and that he personally abhors it? Not even 2 seconds.
Time and time again, I’ve brought up to the people posting it that it isn’t correct only to be told the same thing every time: “It doesn’t matter; it’s still a totally true statement!”
Perhaps now is a good time to make a distinction between fact and opinion. Opinions can be subjective, facts are not. The fact of the matter is that Bill Cosby never wrote this piece. The fact is that Bill Cosby isn’t even 85 years old. The fact is that whoever modified the post couldn’t even bother to get Cosby’s naval service correct. So if the entire underlying premise behind it is fabricated, how true can it be?
Or how about the hilarious quote from then-senator Obama which people love to throw around? I believe it goes something along the lines of ‘I believe America is the greatest nation in history. I intend to change it.’ I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve seen that one posted around office cubicles. Or the “oh but it’s so true!” post by Ben Stein extolling the virtues of the Christmas Tree while making fun of Dr. Spock, whose son committed suicide?
The people who post these, at least in my social circles, aren’t dumb. They aren’t racist or unintelligent or uncultured. However, for whatever reason they still perpetuate these stupid chain letters and online myths. Don’t think it’s only on one side of the political spectrum either, it’s all over the place. Why is that? Don’t they know that a 5 second Google search would point them in the right direction?
Yes, but they don’t care.
In today’s internet culture you usually end up falling towards one of two ends of the spectrum; the opinionated jerk or the safe, un-opinionated bore. The jerks are fine where they are because that’s who they want to be, but the bores aren’t. Let’s face it everyone has opinions, but these people don’t want to be the jerks. So how do you manage to express your opinions without becoming the jerk? Find someone who is above reproach and see if they agree with your less that wonderful ideals! After all, it’s ok to be a little bigoted or racist if Bill Cosby is too! Doesn’t sound so good when you say, “Yeah I know it’s not all that flattering. But look, this politician is saying the same thing!” Hear the difference?
Inevitably the next question comes up: “But Zuke, why does it even matter who said it if it’s ‘true’?”
For that I’d like to, once again, bring up the recent dispute between our friend Jonathan Coulton and Fox’s Glee. If you haven’t been following the news, Glee took one of Joco’s most popular song, ripped the tracks he wrote, put someone else’s vocals on it, claimed it was theirs, and sold it on iTunes. At no point did they properly attribute it to Coulton, nor seek his approval in the process. While legally they may be in the clear, morally they are on the loosing end of this fight (a position I’m sure Fox is quite familiar with).
See, for every one of us who knows this back story there’s another 50 or so people who now actually believe that Glee DID make that song. And some guy who makes internet songs now has his own cover of this song they first heard on TV. Or that some band called The Rolling Stones made their own version of a song that was originally on a condom ad. Or that as soon as a certain person is elected all our guns are being stripped from our homes, so we’d better stock up on ammo now. Or that there’s a bridge for sale . . .
Even worse is the fact that if you can’t properly attribute who said something you agree with, how can you even be sure you agree with them? Yes, they wrote one sentence or paragraph that sort of aligns with how you are feeling at this moment. But do you want to completely identify with them?
“But even if the racist rant wasn’t from the honorable Bill Cosby, it was still by a veteran marine and statesman! I can side with that!”
Actually, you can’t.
See, the original post (available here) didn’t actually go like the one that’s being posted around Facebook now, either. That means that some one took the original quote and attributed it to someone they thought you’d be ok identifying it with. Someone else then took that quote and then rewrote it to fit their world view and put it back out into the wild. Who was this person? We don’t know. We never will. For all you know you are posting a racist rant that you got from a 15 year old who wrote it when he was supposed to be paying attention in class. You could be agreeing with the serial rapist who had some free time on the computer one day. You could be identifying and agreeing with anyone.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Since you are reading this, it’s probably safe to assume you have access to the internet (the greatest research tool ever created by humankind). The next time you see a fancy quote or stirring speech or moral declaration that you feel resonates with you so totally that you need to broadcast it to everyone you know . . . perhaps you should first step back and look into it. If it turns out it’s legit then you’re the more educated for it. If it’s not, then you might have just saved one of your friends from writing a post like this.