How to best respond to wrong headed eMail
September 22, 2006 5:14 PM   Subscribe

What is an appropriate response to these chain eMails pounding out more fear for the sake of the wingnuts. There is

I recieved the following chain eMail from someone who wants me to believe that the Repuglicans are the saviors when in reality they are the cause. It starts as follows:

"I could hear Patton saying this, couldn't you.....and he'd be right. He never apologized for the language he used.

A Message from the Ghost of General Patton....
To those whining, panty-waisted, pathetic Maggots, it's time for a little refresher course on exactly why we Americans occasionally have to fight wars."

What do I respond to all of those that are in the forward to address blocks which says in essence Patton wouldn't have gotten us into this mess in the first place, don't take his good name and smear it for your cause.
posted by ptm to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hit the delete key.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2006

I subscribe the forwarder to the most offensive porn email spam I think is best fitting their offense to my values.
posted by DragonBoy at 5:19 PM on September 22, 2006 [4 favorites]

I get these from a family member. or google usually supply a refutation to send as a reply. In a few case, I've researched a refutation myself, and replied with that and links supporting my argument.
posted by orthogonality at 5:31 PM on September 22, 2006

Second using the delete key. Its not worth agonizing about an appropriate come back.
posted by special-k at 5:31 PM on September 22, 2006

Send them a cornucopia of animated gifs and macro images...Ceiling Cat, the elephant crapping, the "O rly" owl, the "Ha ha" guy, whatever.

...or you can just hit delete and ignore it.
posted by daninnj at 5:47 PM on September 22, 2006

I think it's completely worth it to come right back at them with solid evidence supporting your side. I generally do my homework, write a solid response, then reply to all.

You keep getting these emails because people imagine that everyone gets a kick out of them or that they agree with the statements within. By responding, you send the message that you do not agree with the email, and you don't appreciate recieving them.

Plus, you may cause someone to think twice about the offensive, and often factually incorrect, content therein. It's worth it to take a stand every now and then.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:48 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't subscribe people to porn spam - what are we, 15 year-old script-kiddies??

Grow up and defend your position with reason and logic.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:49 PM on September 22, 2006

There was a massive thread on this issue last month or so, but I can't find it.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 PM on September 22, 2006

The attached diatribe you recently fowarded to this address was poorly written, factually incorrect, and offensive to those who do not subscribe to the author's skewed perception of reality.

Your decision to forward it absent the slightest bit of research is symptomatic of the ignorance of history and context which have infected the political views of the American populace.

Linked below are various resources which rebut the claims presented as fact in the diatribe:


While I hope that you will take some time read the linked pages, I will accept your refusal so long as you remove my e-mail address from any future mailings of this nature.

That'll get you taken off the list.
Or perhaps disinherited.
Or possibly both.
posted by The Confessor at 6:13 PM on September 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

"Grow up and defend your position with reason and logic."

A good idea, but most of those sending these emails are so brainwashed by Rush Limbaugh, FOX News and the right-wing media they have forgotten how to think for themselves. Any and all response, no matter how well-reasoned or written, is received with contempt and only reinforces in their muddled brains the idea that they are right and you are wrong -- because Rush or Malkin or the Little Green Footballs idiot told them so.

Best to ignore them altogether and use your delete key.
posted by camworld at 6:15 PM on September 22, 2006

I kinda like The Confessor's idea.

OTOH, if there is an issue that you feel particularly passionate about (say, oh ... Election Fraud) then you can always return the favor by sending your own well-researched essay on to everyone on their list.

Sidebar. Why is it that whenever I get one of these diatribes, it's from someone who includes the email addresses of everyone in their book, and the message has been forwarded a dozen times, thereby allowing me and everyone else to see all those damn email addresses? Does no one know how to use blind carbon copy?
posted by Corky at 6:25 PM on September 22, 2006

I have used, among other responses, these:

"Seriously: forwarding me dumb shit not only gets your emails flagged as spam, but it makes me like you less. If you want to talk about the war, feel free to stop on by and we'll have a cup of coffee and a cigarette and hash it out."

"If you forward me one more fucking thing we are not friends anymore."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:27 PM on September 22, 2006 [3 favorites]

Best response? That's entirely up to you. Delete and ignore them is an easy choice. With a little more effort you can provide debunking links and include your comments. Snopes is a great first source for debunking, is great if the email is political stuff.

I've received good appreciative feedback from other recipients of glurge emails after debunking and sending using the 'reply all' button. That may work well for you too. You may also find that you are no longer receiving junk mail from the sender after you send a couple of rebuttal or debunking responses.
posted by X4ster at 6:32 PM on September 22, 2006


My girlfriend tried the "respond-rationally-to-the-forwarded-rant," complete with citations, snopes articles, logic, the works. It sparked a family-wide freak-out, with cousins writing her telling her what a horrible horrible person she was.


If you don't mind the chance of strife, go ahead and respond to the forwards. It won't change anybody's mind, and there's a chance that the recipient will find it every bit as offensive as you find the forwards. But that's not always a bad thing.
posted by lekvar at 6:42 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

lekvar's right, it's much like the old "teaching the pig to sing"cliche.... It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
posted by X4ster at 6:50 PM on September 22, 2006

If it's something I agree with? Delete it.

If it's something I disagree with? It gets a one word reply of "bullshit!", or a cutting snark if I'm feeling creative.

Patton obviously didn't suffer those he considered fools gladly - why should I?
posted by Pinback at 6:53 PM on September 22, 2006

If it's a co-worker or a friend, I reply with the snopes links, a reminder about the profusion of this garbage on the net and how it hurts the overall effectiveness of email, and I remind them that future emails of this sort could be flagged as spam (which would be reported to their IT department, and they'd risk all sorts of trouble).

If it's a family member, I do much the same, but tell them of the dangers of getting reported by someone that doesn't care about them the way that I care about them.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:03 PM on September 22, 2006

lekvar: what was the outcome of that? How could they be angry at someone replying fact-for-fact?
posted by bonaldi at 7:06 PM on September 22, 2006

If you don't mind the chance of strife, go ahead and respond to the forwards. It won't change anybody's mind, and there's a chance that the recipient will find it every bit as offensive as you find the forwards. But that's not always a bad thing.

My mother used to call me a "shit-disturber", so I rather relish the thought of some family member or friend flipping out. Even better so if they respond irrationally and I can pick their flawed logic apart easily.

If they get offended and don't want to be my friend anymore, then screw 'em. I don't need friends who:
a) forward me stupid shit
b) can't back it up
c) get upset about non-personal attacks

You'd get pretty sick of a friend who talked bullshit all day long, why is discourse through email any different?
posted by chrisamiller at 7:08 PM on September 22, 2006

my two choices ...


or make something up that's even more absurd, but believable to a person like him and see if it starts making the rounds ... i've never tried that, but if you pull it off, you'll be very satisfied ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:11 PM on September 22, 2006

Sadly, what she and I call facts her family would call propaganda. I'm pretty sure that the opposite is true as well, but I like to think her responses were at least... no, let it go, let it go. The long and short of it - their response to the emails was along the lines of "you obviously hate Freedom and should move to Canada with the rest of the Communists."

It's a good thing that we really didn't like that side of the family.
posted by lekvar at 9:20 PM on September 22, 2006

It doesn't matter what kind of logic you use. When my cousin started sending me 10 religiously fanatical forwards a day, I sent her an email (separate from the forwards) politely asking her to not send them. I asked her again in an instant message, explaining that without trying to offend her, I would appreciate if she didn't send religious forwards. I haven't received any since.

Just politely ask the person(s) to stop sending you forwards. If they can't send you a "real" email they must not care about you that much. A considerate person will understand. An inconsiderate person you can block.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:32 PM on September 22, 2006

My aunt forwards all kinds of right-wing religious and political crap to friends and a bunch of extended family members. Several times, I've looked up the debunking and sent a reply to all. I have no hope of changing my aunt's mind, but via my replies, I've formed good relationships with a couple of other distant family members who are also on her mailing list and feel the same way as I do.

One of the family members whom I've met this way is, in fact, my cousin's husband--his mother-in-law is the offender in question.

For the life of me, I just can't figure out why my aunt keeps me on the mailing list.
posted by tippiedog at 9:34 PM on September 22, 2006

tippiedog: it's most likely because she doesn't actually know how to remove you.

Address books and mailing lists are often Deep Magic to those whose brains show signs of having been sucked out by the right-wing zombie army.
posted by flabdablet at 10:45 PM on September 22, 2006

I can only give you an example:

A friend of mine, who is definitely more on the right-wing side, had emailed me about how Cindy Sheehan was a scuzzbucket who hadn't seen her son in years, blah blah. I dug up the appropriate stuff on Snopes, sent it back to him.

Adding the link to your refutation is important. More important? Saying, "You based your opinion on something that was wrong - you need to rethink it. You passed on a bunch of lies to people. Do you have the GUTS to forward a correction to all of them, saying that you were wrong? Make THAT your new chain mail."

A little shame helps.
posted by adipocere at 11:35 PM on September 22, 2006

I got a forwarded email from an old work acquaintance... it said, essentially, "we oughta just pack up Muslims and send them all home."

The thing is, this was from an immigrant! I sent him back a polite letter pointing out that if we applied the standards in his forwarded email to everyone, we'd be forced to send him back to Vietnam because he's a communist. He sent me back a short reply, saying essentially, "hmm, well my friend who wrote that is a very angry fellow. You've got a point."

I'm sure he didn't forward that mail to the same people he sent the original to, but at least that particular meme won't come through him again, I don't think.

People often don't think their way through ideas they get in email... they spend five seconds contemplating it, and if it fits into their preconceptions, they forward it. Sending back a reply can make them think about it a little.
posted by Malor at 11:45 PM on September 22, 2006

What is your ultimate goal here? To just get this off your chest or to make a good faith effort to "educate" the sender in those areas where you think he (or she, I don't think you specified) is ignorant?

If it's the former, go ahead and send a rebuttal in the manner you described in your OP. If it's the latter, I'm afraid it's probably a lost cause.

Peoples opinions on this kind of stuff tend to be rather entrenched. Just as you did not read the forwarded email and think to yourself, "Hmmm, this email really brings up a number of insightful, interesting points I hadn't previously considered", I think it is equally pure fantasy to imagine you can come up with a compelling rebuttal email that will cause the sender to rethink his (or her) position.
posted by The Gooch at 11:48 PM on September 22, 2006

Please, please, please don't "reply to all." I get these every now and then through email lists that I'm on for school or other discussion lists. I'll get one moron talking about sand niggers or how Katrina looked like a fetus, and I'll get half a dozen replies calling them a retard or knocking around their facts. Then I'll get another half dozen emails from people who support the original contention. Then another half dozen asking people not to send things to the whole list. Then a handful of "unsubscribe me" emails sent to the whole list. And since the only people that seem to reply to these things are absolute morons, there's never any light from all the heat, just 200 goddamn messages in my fucking inbox.
Reply to the person who sent it to you, fine. Just don't think that because I want info on some touring band or about journalism scholarships or something that I want to hear your illiterate rants one way or another.
posted by klangklangston at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2006

I am generally in the "ignore" camp, but when I get really annoyed I send them a link to "Pardon Me For Being Forward".
posted by TedW at 2:48 PM on September 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

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