Friday, February 8, 2013

Bill Cosby Is Not Tired ...

This article is NOT about Bill Cosby
There's a piece of writing going around* claiming to come from Bill Cosby entitled "I'm 83 and I'm Tired." Here is a piece of it:
I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"
I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate.
I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses or stick a needle in their arm while they tried to fight it off?
There is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on! This is your chance to make a difference.

I’m 83 and I'm tired. If you don't agree you are part of the problem!
I Forwarded It ... Is It Real?
No. You were taken. Bill Cosby certainly did not write it and the actual piece is a hacked up version of an actual blog post by Robert A. Hall, retired marine and former member of the Massachusetts State Senate. That's not the interesting thing. What's interesting is this: If you posted it or forwarded it, or just read it and nodded your head--why did you believe it?

Why Did You Believe It?
It would take but a moment of reflection to see that it misleading you. Even if you have not figured out that all these viral emails making bold statements are almost all lies (and that prince from Nigeria? I have some bad news for you ...) something very, very simple should stand out: Bill Cosby is not 83.

Okay, you didn't know that. How about this: Bill Cosby is not Ted Nugent. While he has made some moderate, if pointed, political statements in the past in speeches can you imagine him issuing an angry email manifesto? Even if you think he might believe all that stuff (he says in his rebuttal: "I don’t subscribe to the ugly views expressed in the email") can you imagine him saying it? And imploring everyone to "send it on?" Calling everyone who does not agree with him "part of the problem?" No--you can't--not if you're honest.

But most of all, look at the bolded bit: is that remotely credible? That this would not be widely publicized unless you forwarded it? If Bill Cosby actually said this (a) he could easily say it on national TV, all he'd have to do is hold a press conference and (b) this would be the most talked about event for the next 48 hours. You know this is true--everyone knows this is true. So the idea that Bill is counting you you to get the word out (which you did, if you forwarded it)--that's the most unbelievable thing of all.

So why did it slip by?

The Answer: What Does I'm Tired Really Mean?
Much of the 'Cosby' piece is word-for-word from the Hall blog post--specifically the "I'm tired" framing. Why is that important? Well, it's pretty clear that that isn't exactly straight shooting either: What 'I'm Tired' means both to Hall and to the person who forwards it is I'm Angry. The author is angry that Muslims are billing themselves as the "Religion of Peace" while some of them are conducting honor killings. The author is angry about having to help support drug addicts and angry about the consensus over global warming.

When the reader is angry too--about this or more--all the critical functions (including typing it into Google to check Snopes for you) go out the window. That's pretty straightforward, right? Emotional appeals work around our logic. It's part of being human.

So we're good. Aren't we? I think we are--this could happen to anyone. There's just one more thing I'm wondering about. You were wondering about it too, weren't you?

Why Bill Cosby?
You weren't? Oh. Well ...

So why did they choose Bill Cosby? Robert A. Hall really, really wrote this piece, why not go with him? Sure, it's hacked up and has some stuff added? (Which stuff was added? The piece is in the text I quoted above--I'm pretty sure you can figure it out since I bolded it).

But even without that, it's still a perfectly serviceable rant and having it sent from the original ex-marine would make a pretty powerful statement, right? I mean, the guy was an elected state official. That's credibility--and I'm not being snarky: I disagree with him on several points (I do not think you can read about atrocities in the  name if Islam every day--nor do I think that tattoos make people unemployable in this day and age)--but still, I'm not going to go nuts on a Republican ex-marine for sounding off here.

So why not leave it?

Well, why not--what do we know about Bill Cosby? When I told someone on Facebook that this was a lie and they'd been had, I got two responses. One was more or less: 'I think he does believe it! Look around you!" and the other was (I read) as kind of incredulous: "Are you saying that because he is Black and Rich he can't feel this way!!!? Really?"

Of course I had said nothing about black or rich (but note the capitals as proper nouns)--but we all know it: yes, Bill Cosby is black. Yes, Bill Cosby is rich. That's part of the answer as to why use Bill and his image at the top of the piece. There's another reason: Bill Cosby is credible. For like a decade he came into our living rooms and was, while also funny, kind of the ultimate dad. Younger readers won't believe or really understand The Cosby Show (reports had it that people's homes were robbed with them in it because the whole family was glued to the TV) but it was a phenomena.

In short: Bill Cosby as a black, rich, and most of all beloved credible guy makes the sale because it's not you saying these things--it's you agreeing with them after Bill already said them. You know that if you were to rant about addicts and Muslims and tattoos you might be called a racist or bigot or whatever is in vogue these days--but after Bill has coated the sentiments--and you--in his Cloak of Credibility you are protected. If someone has an issue? They can take it up with Cosby.

If some ex-marine Republican white guy was saying these things? Well, uh--we all know what happens when old white guys who are Republican sound off about Muslims and tolerance and slacker addicts with their senses of entitlement who are living on the welfare ... they get called racist.

And you can't call Cosby racist--hell, you don't even have to launch into a Rush Limbaugh I'm-talking-about-behavior-not-race style defense. You're already defended. So rock-and-roll.

And then we get to the part the originator of the email-chain added: the call to send these on. Hall notably does not end his rant with a plea to send this out to everyone--he just posted it on his blog and noted that when people tell him he ought to die, well, he's old and has a terminal disease so pretty soon he won't disappoint them (which is classy).

But in this case you are the product: your Friend's list--your email chain--your name in the title bar that'll get it looked at--so the creator knew what he had to do: make it safe to say it.**

* I have seen it twice on Facebook. Once I laughed it off--the second time I commented and my comments (and part of the response) are part of this article.

** I will note that there has been some confusion with the author as a different old white guy actor with a similar name. In these cases (most of them, anyway) the piece was correctly attributed and the confusion was on the reader's part. In any event, the Bill Cosby strain is more effective. You can see some illuminating discussion here.

1 comment:

  1. "I'm 60 and Blessed" (one way to look at life)

    I’m 60 years old, and I’m blessed. I have been physically able to work since I was a little kid. After high school, I was blessed to have an opportunity to earn a degree to get my teachers’ license at the college of my choice. My career has been such a blessing in my life! As an elementary teacher, I have been blessed to work for 36 years, at 50 to 60 hours a week with a sick day here and there. I may not be finished with my career yet. I never did make a lot of money, but that was not so important to me. However, I was blessed to work during my summers to make ends meet for my family and I. Yes, I'm blessed. Very blessed. Despite the ups and downs of the economy, I look forward to retiring someday on my pension and social security. I won’t be rich, but compared to so many people around the world, I feel really blessed. I HAVE NEVER FELT THAT I DESERVED THESE BLESSINGS BECAUSE I AM SPECIAL IN ANY WAY. God has been gracious to me. So many around the world would love to have my life, and I am humbled by that thought. But my earnings are not my own, but have been entrusted to me by my heavenly father. Throughout my life a portion of my taxes have been used to help those in need. Even though I live under a secular government, an act of charity has been done on my part. I feel blessed that besides this help, many private organizations and churches also feel the call to help the poor and marginalized in our society. I feel blessed to be in a country that offers help to those who have run into hard times and offers forgiveness and a new start to those who have made mistakes. I feel so blessed that I am able to freely worship in my local church. I am a Christian, and my government guarantees this right to worship. I see people of all faiths enjoying this same right, and I respect their desire to do so. Our founding fathers were wise, and I feel so blessed to be here. I also feel blessed that my country seems to be learning from the mistakes of the past and, for the most part, treated Muslims respectfully after 9-11. I feel blessed to live in a country that is a melting pot of so many cultures who seem to get along with each other. My own parents immigrated from Europe in 1947 and enjoyed this land of opportunity. I am so proud and blessed that we have been looking at the long term effects of global warming. We have just begun, but I am so glad we are being far-sighted to ensure a good future of our children. Yes, I’m blessed. But I am not so glad to be 60 already. Life seems to be passing so quickly. I have just really enjoyed it so much. If I could choose, I would love to see the world created by my children’s and grandchildren’s generation. It seems they are so ably equipped to do much good in the world. I have so much hope for their future. Yes, I am blessed! Very blessed!