When Christians pass along fictitious and alarming stories about how our society is under attack by leftists and gays, are they just being gullible, or is it malicious? Fred Clark argues that these are not innocent mistakes, but rather malicious and dangerous.
It I tell you that Some Guy said something foolish, and then it turns out that he never actually said such a thing, I can plausibly claim that I “fell for a hoax” or that I was “deceived.” But if I tell you that a zombie horde is shambling toward our town when, in fact, no such army of the undead exists, then I cannot defend my passing along this false claim by saying I was innocently deceived and mistaken.
Why not? Because the urgency of the alleged threat is such that it would not be possible for me to genuinely believe it to be true without also stopping at nothing to prove it such to myself and to others. It’s conceivable that I was just too lazy to confirm what Some Guy said before passing along that fake story, but if I really believe that the Scary Story is true, then I should really be scared, and that fear should have roused me from the apathy, laziness and ignorance that might keep me from bothering to confirm some less-consequential bit of dubious gossip about Some Guy.
Anyone who genuinely believes a Scary Story to be true will be compelled to confirm it and to reconfirm it with a desperate urgency borne of that genuine belief.
Clark ends with a good test for whether someone was sincere but gullible or malicious: how do they react when they discover that they are wrong?
Someone who is gullibly frightened by a fake Scary Story will be relieved and pleased and grateful to learn that the purported threat is not real, that the monster is not under the bed, the barbarians are not at the gate and the sky is not falling. When we do not see such relief, joy and gratitude on learning the truth, then we can see — we can know — that we are dealing with something other than gullibility.
Read the entire post at Slactivist: It’s Not Gullibility, It’s Malice.