The recent passing of Walter Cronkite has, for many, signaled the end of an era in the American experience. The modern media consumer must listen to any number of carefully manicured hosts, each often espousing opinion as much as the oft-heralded-yet-scarcely-found “fact.”
In a retrospective on Cronkite, Time magazine crowned the news-star “The Man With America’s Trust.” Some have since said that that trust died with Cronkite. I may risk being cynical here, but I’d like to agree.
Almost exactly three months ago, I received an e-mail forward from a great aunt with a link to a video on YouTube. Stunned enough by the fact that my 80-something great aunt knew what YouTube was, I checked it out.
It was the “Muslim Demographics” video.
Without getting into the semantics, the video makes terrible, horrible claims. Claims that Muslims are taking over the world and that if “they” don’t get us first, then the Latinos will. Per the grainy video, the only responsible thing to do is to have 12 or 14 babies.
And that’s hard for me to swallow — mostly because, for a lot of different reasons, we can’t. We’re not alone. Some of our best friends can’t have kids — more than you would think. So what’s the end result? Take on more wives? Find more children? You can see how ridiculous this gets.
I wish this was just about the people who made this video — that it could just go away as a nut-job effort to scare people into being afraid of people and ideas that are somehow “other” than what they’re used to.
But there’s a lot more happening here. I’m willing to bet that there’s something more sinister at work. The truth is, this video wasn’t made for my eyes: the tech-savvy, Google-happy, myth-busting Gen Xer who doesn’t trust the system.
It was made for my great aunt. And for that matter, everybody else’s great aunt.
So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m typing away at the computer and I hear a grandmother in the senior adult Sunday school class that meets in the sanctuary say, “Speaking of people, have y’all seen that video about the population growth?”
I remember biting my lip — hard. As she described the content, I could see the wrinkled faces contort in shades of fear and disgust.
“It’s not true,” I said, shocked as they all turned my direction. “It relies on a lot of ‘facts’ that don’t bear out in reality. It’s an effort to scare us — to scare you — to keep us afraid of who is moving in next to us or across the street. It doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus or the gospel.”
The looks were a mix of shock and relief. I may be the young kid in their eyes, but I’ve got enough learning to be somewhat authoritative. No one said any different, and I followed up with the grandmother who brought it up.
“I didn’t mean to say anything,” I stammered. “I just got the same thing from my great aunt and I did some digging. … I just couldn’t let you and others be tricked into something that wasn’t true.”
“Well, that’s all right,” she said. “I mean, someone just sent it to me and I thought, ‘Boy if that’s true, then things are a lot worse than I thought.'”
I wish trust hadn’t died with Walter Cronkite. I wish that my great aunt and all the other great aunts out there could trust everything they read on the Internet.
I wish the tobacco people would have been more honest — or at least that people would have known they couldn’t trust them. It would have been nice to have met my grandfather.
Sometimes I even wish I had the same trust they have — that I could trust something like I trust Google.
Speaking of which, I checked my e-mail recently. One of our church members sent me an e-mail about a Muslim video. He shared that “these ‘demographics’ don’t really surprise me, but it’s scary to see them all together in this video.”
He goes to a different Sunday school class.
Trey Lyon is associate pastor for faith development at Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Ga.