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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Dec. 14-Dec. 21

This week, readers sent us comments about chain e-mails and TSA, and wishes for happy holidays.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

We’re Nonpartisan, E-Mail Rumors Are Not

You ask (rhetorically, I presume), “But most of the false claims we are asked about are authored by people attacking Democrats and liberals. We don’t know why” ["The Viral Spiral of 2010," Dec. 21].

Well duh! The incipient racism involved in so many of these viral messages shouldn’t escape you. And the fact that so many are “picked up” or in many cases originated by the Fox media-types/Michele Bachmanns of the world should be another hint. Bottom line, these lies go viral because they work. People WANT TO BELIEVE the very worst about their political opponents and when you reject reason as a tool of the devil, it’s way too easy to spin these lies virally. There is an old adage about simple minds but we probably shouldn’t go there.

Jeanne Matthews
Gold Canyon, Ariz.

From the story on viral e-mails that are false, distortions, or that omit relevant information — as I so often said when I was regularly posting on Media Matters, those e-mails (and other behavior from the right-wingers) are intended to push the conservative agenda.

So, when one of your writers wrote, "But most of the false claims we are asked about are authored by people attacking Democrats and liberals. We don’t know why," my jaw dropped.

How can you possibly not know why this happens?

It’s because they can’t win using the truth. They can’t succeed if they stick with the facts. They can’t fearmonger unless they invent boogeymen who don’t exist! They can’t keep the deluded confused and on their side unless they continue to deceive and distort and omit info that would inform their listeners!

This ain’t rocket science.

The Democrats don’t behave that same way — it might help them in the short term to behave that way, to combat fire with fire, but they aren’t built the same way, they can’t stomach behaving so disingenuously in order to push a liberal agenda.

Republican leadership is all about short-term gains, both economic and political. And so they’ll use anything, including disinformation, to gain whatever advantage they can. They don’t care about the damage that this kind of toxic nonsense does to our national discourse.

I am baffled as to how this could be something that any reasonable people don’t already know.

Sue Runyon
Austin, Texas


TSA Stories

TSA lied to you ["TSA Not to Blame for This," Dec. 15]. I have personally seen TSA agents stop people for having those little 98 cent nail clippers because they had a fold out one inch nail file. The agent gave the person the choice to "break off" the offending file or surrender the whole clipper. Next time talk to some people who fly for a living if you want the truth about TSA absurdities.

M. Smith
Oak Lawn, Ill.

I am sorry that I could not locate the article about TSA and the nail clippers to attach to this mail. Soon after 9/11, nail clippers and cuticle scissors were confiscated at Palm Beach International Airport from my daughter-in-law and from me. Your answer stating that TSA did not do this was incorrect.

Greta Faigen
West Palm Beach, Fla.

FactCheck.org responds: It is still the case, as our article stated, that nail clippers are not on TSA’s official list of prohibited items unless they have blades attached. Also, TSA did not assume responsibility for passenger screening until late 2002, so any confiscations of nail clippers immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, were not the agency’s doing.


Our New Year’s Resolution: Keep It Up

Of the many things that I’m thankful for, FactCheck.org is one of them. Thank you for your good work. Our democracy is better because you are checking the facts.

Jane Lehmann
Elgin, Ill.

I want to extend to everyone at FactCheck a very merry Christmas and many thanks for all the hard work you do to keep us informed and how you straighten out the lies and misperceptions that continually plague us. Others have copied you but you are the masters of the internet in factchecking!

Sue Ring
Kelso, Wash.