It seems like one of the most frequent ways that my blog is used is to email articles to others. And some readers have written me email to thank me for providing the information necessary to help their friends and relatives in putting these viral untruths in their proper place.
That's a good thing. Some folks respond to facts and reason. If forwarding my research helps your family - I'm happy.
However, there are a few folks (including my father) who don't respond well to this approach.
If you confront them with the facts, they will ignore whatever you present.
Usually, they'll just continue to quote random lines from right-wing talk radio.
Occasionally, they'll challenge your source. With lines like, "Snopes isn't always right." Or, "You can't trust the mainstream media."
And, if your father (or anyone else) acts like mine... facts are just a distraction. Their beliefs are set and unchangeable. And, fortunately, unlikely to be heard except by fellow extremists.
So, what can you do?
Give Your Inbox a Break
Fortunately, most serial right-wing emailers don't spend a lot of effort in formatting their forwards. They'll follow a pattern.
For example, my father still uses America OnLine as his email provider. (Yes, I know what that says about him. And you're probably right.)
Forwards from America OnLine almost always contain "FW:". So, it's easy to set a mail filter to manage his forwards.
Simple, and worry-free.
When You're Forced to Talk About His Emails
But, when you're dealing with family, these emails will sometimes become topics of conversation.
Again, countering with facts rarely works. And usually leads to more unpleasant conversation.
Here's what's worked best for me.
Step One: When faced with viral untruths, simply ask: "Where did you hear this?"
Step Two: When he confirms someone sent him an email, laugh, and jokingly say, "Yeah, everything's true on the internet... really. Did you really check to see if it were true?"
Usually, that will stop the conversation. It creates a seed of doubt, and doesn't resort to shaming your friend or relative.
And that's what's worked best for me.