There are people who want to believe in conspiracies everywhere. There are people who want to believe the worst about all Muslims. And there are people who lie.
Put them all together, and you end up with an email about how a courageous passenger thwarted a terrorist dry run by a group of Arab men on an AirTran flight out of Atlanta last month.
Except it was very clearly a simple misunderstanding with a man who didn’t understand a flight attendant’s instructions to turn off his camera. And he apparently spoke Spanish, not Arabic. And the self-proclaimed “hero” who wrote the email wasn’t even on the flight, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
It’s frightening that so many people fall for unsubstantiated stories, as long as those stories reflect what they want to believe. They reject anything professional journalists in the “mainstream media” tell them that fails to support their biases. And they accept any random distortion, exaggeration or fabrication served up by partisan hacks and Internet nut cases as long as they agree with it.
In this world, facts are irrelevant. The original email, which went viral, makes no sense. Why would Arab terrorists dress, as the email described, “in full attire” and scream “infidel dog” at a flight attendant? That kind of behavior tends to blow one’s cover. Not much of a dry run.
What’s even more frightening is that once the lie has been completely exposed and discredited, the believers can’t let go of it. On blogs and online comments, they continue to insist that it’s all true and that AirTran and the government are engaged in a cover-up. A sample:
I fear thou dost protest too much. I believe the Petruna. Don’t trust the Mooslims. They want us all dead. I’m sick of this suicidal political correctness we now live under.
This crap doesn’t all come from the extreme right. The far-left nuts who insist that the Bush administration was behind the 9/11 attacks are just as bad.
This country was built on the right to a difference of opinions, not a difference of facts. Yet many people now seem to believe they can construct a set of facts to fit their opinions. They do not understand their obligation — their patriotic duty — to accept obvious facts and then argue out our differences in a civil manner based on those facts. If we can’t do that, our civilization will truly be lost.
In other words, if we don’t cut through the crap and get real, the crap wins.
So if you get that email, send it back “reply all” and tell everyone it’s a lie. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t be sure, or that it’s AirTran’s word against the passenger’s word, or it’s better for people to be frightened by a lie, or who are you to say. Stand up for the truth. Before it’s too damned late.
And if you really believe that Arab terrorists are conducting dry runs on U.S. flights — not an impossibility, I suppose, even if terrorism experts believe the targets have shifted — ask yourself what possible good can it do to make up stories that cry wolf.