Monday, August 07, 2006

What Would the Internet Do?

I'm sure you all know of one of those people who feel compelled to forward you every damn thing that comes into their email inbox - pictures of kittens, delete-this-and-you-hate-Jesus chain letters, jokes you thought were funny in the 6th grade, etc. I am on the email list of one such person.

She works for the IRS in a department that's in charge of outreach programs to low-income taxpayers, so the financial literacy program at my job works with her a lot as a member of a coalition. She may send 20 messages in a day, all from her government address. One time she even invited her whole address book to her daughter-in-law's baby shower!

I've put up with these stupid emails since I started working here because she seems like the kind of person to hold a grudge and make my job difficult if I piss her off. I also believe that she would cut us off from other organizations and resources if she gets mad at us. However, a few months ago she forwarded the email referenced in this Snopes article along with some hateful, bigoted commentary about the entire religion of Islam. Keep in mind this is coming from her work email. I was so disgusted and angry my head nearly exploded. I immediately sent out the link to the Snopes article to everyone who received the email, and one person contacted me privately saying she was glad I did.

My boss got the same email, and we talked about how we could address this with her supervisor without getting into a big, nasty showdown with this woman that would make it difficult for us to carry out programs for our clients. We don't have any idea who her supervisor is or how to get the phone number. Getting through to the IRS isn't the easiest thing in the world.

Before we could decide what to do the IRS lady sent out an email apologizing profusely for sending out false information and filling our inboxes with unprofessional messages. She promised to only send out work related emails from then on. We figured she had already gotten in trouble, and that was the end of that.

Well, that lasted less than a week before the stupid "humorous" emails started again. At one point she sent out an advertisement for tickets to the Evander Holyfield fight. WTF?

Here's where the dilemma comes in. Last week the person who took my old position called me to ask if I had seen the IRS lady's latest email. She forwarded a bunch of pictures taken during the demonstrations about the cartoon of Mohammed of protesters with violent messages on their signs. She didn't add any commentary to the email, but the forwarded message included ugly statements about Islam again. This time, however, she had specifically left me and my boss off the email.

Something has to be done about this, but I have no idea what. Yes, those pictures were accurate, and angry crackpots were carrying signs about butchering and beheading those who mock Islam. But, that is just as wrong and crazy as those excellent "Christians" who disrupt military funerals to chant "God Hates Fags" or Catholic priests who molest children and work to cover it up. This woman has no right to spread hate and fear of an entire religion, much less to use government resources to do it. (Just because the president, the military, and the congress does it, doesn't make it right. That might not be a completely fair assessment, but I thought I'd beat you to it.)

At the same time, we need her help (or at least her department's help) to run a program that does a lot of good for the people we serve. If we make it harder for them to get the services they need by standing up against one wrong, we commit another one. Addressing her directly does no good. Even if we could figure out where to complain, doing so anonymously seems cowardly. Doing nothing seems even worse.


1 comment:

SerenitySprings said...

I guess I would say that she has a right to be a bigoted dumbass just like you have a right to request that she stop sending you personal emails. You could do it in a manner that is unoffensive, such as mentioning that you don't have space in your inbox or time in your day to read emails that don't directly pertain to your job.

If enough people do that, maybe she'll stop.

Anyway, maybe she'll stop sending you the emails so you won't become enraged. Even though it won't necessarily change the situation, at least it won't affect your program (hopefully.)