The smear forward has its roots in two distinct forms of Internet-age communication. First, there's the electronically disseminated urban legend ("Help find this missing child!"; "Bill Gates is going to pay people for every e-mail they send!"), which has been a staple of the Internet since the mid- '90s. Then there's the surreal genre of right-wing e-mail forwards. These range from creepy rage-filled quasi-fascist invocations ("The next time you see an adult talking...during the playing of the National Anthem--kick their ass") to treacly aphorisms of patriotic/religious uplift ("remember only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ...and the American Soldier").
....From the beginning, the vast majority of these Internet-disseminated rumors have come from the right. (Snopes lists about fifty e-mails about George W. Bush, split evenly between adulatory accounts of him saluting wounded soldiers or witnessing to a wayward teenager, and accounts of real and invented malapropisms. In contrast, every single one of the twenty-two e-mails about John Kerry is negative.) For conservatives, these e-mails neatly reinforce preconceptions, bending the facts of the world in line with their ideological framework: liberals, immigrants, hippies and celebrities are always the enemy; soldiers and conservatives, the besieged heroes. The stories of the former's perfidy and the latter's heroism are, of course, never told by the liberal media. So it's left to the conservative underground to get the truth out. And since the general story and the roles stay the same, often the actual characters are interchangeable.
I really hate those emails...especially the one I got most recently, telling me that if I "supported the troops" I'd forward the email to seven other people. Why seven? Why not twenty-five? Is that asking too much...like a war surplus tax, or actually serving in the military? Forwarding to seven is the chain email equivalent of getting a magnetic sticker I guess. The actual email itself was replete with images of "the troops" (including fictional ones) and as conservative chain emails go it wasn't so bad (except for the forwarding to support the troops bit.)
I don't know what you do with this crap except delete it, though I suppose if you're willing to have a little fun you can alter key parts of the email and then forward it around, and wait to see how long it is until you get it back from someone else. Anyway, if you're one of the people who sends me this crap, stop it okay? If you are going to change my mind about anything, it won't happen via unsubtle, over-the-top, sappy and inaccurate emails.