Break the Chain Girl Scout Kookies

Exclusive (8/13/2001) The rising prominence of alternative lifestyles in every facet of American life has many conservative individuals and organizations concerned - especially where children are concerned. Given that conservative interests carry a lot of political power, they are seen as a threat to the more liberal points of view. Thus we get poorly executed campaigns like the following.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Girl Scouts Attacked for Inclusion of Lesbians and Gays

A group of religious extremists called the American Family Association, based in Tupelo Mississippi, is attacking the Girl Scouts because that organization refuses to discriminate against lesbians and gays. Unlike the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts has always been inclusive. In the mid-90s, the organization went on the public record with a statement to the Associated Press that said it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. A few months ago, the Girl Scout national president, Connie Matsui, made favorable remarks about a video called "That's A Family," which positively depicts lesbian and gay family groups. (Ms. Matsui attended a screening at The White House during the final days of the Clinton Administration.)The American Family Association has sent 10,000 letters of protest to the national Girl Scout organization, demanding that Ms. Matsui retract her statement and/or resign. In contrast, the Girl Scouts have received only 5-- that's right, five -- letters of support.

Here is where to write to Ms. Matsui and let her know that we appreciate the Girl Scouts' stand on behalf of diversity and of gay and lesbian families. And please forward this message to all of your friends. Girls Scouts of the USA420 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10018-2798 Or email: gscomm@girlscouts.org

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

The first major red flag on this one is that its source is not identified. Where does the information come from? How can we know if it is accurate? How does the author know Girl Scouts of America has only received five letters of support?

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The Second red flag is that it greatly resembles an earlier chain in support of Vermont's Gay Rights Legislation. Perhaps both chains came from the same source, or maybe the second is a creative re-work of the original. In either case, it is a shortsighted attempt that will probably do more to hurt the cause than help it.

Chains that ask you to send mail directly to the party whose actions you are trying to influence (without their consent) are tantamount to harassment. Most people begin to ignore the notes after the first dozen or so, and many are moved to close their mailboxes (both real and virtual) to escape the onslaught. I tried to contact Girl Scouts of America to get a statement, but receive no reply. I would imagine any other letters on the subject will yield the same response.

Need more convincing? Let's run it through the Seven Tests of Armchair Activism:

  1. Expiration - FAILED - The message is not dated. We don't know how much time has elapsed since it started, and the chain will circulate long after any effectiveness it might have had

  2. Focus - FAILED - The focus is clear: to show support for Ms. Matsui's stand. Unfortunately, the letter does nothing to prove her stand is real or that support is necessary or relevant.

  3. Integrity - FAILED - The letter asks you to contact a third party. We have no way to know if this is done with that party's consent. Without consent, this amounts to an e-mail attack.

  4. Privacy - PASSED - Since you're being asked to contact Ms. Matsui directly and not sign a petition, privacy is not an issue.

  5. Reliability - FAILED - Since there is no cited source of these claims, they cannot be relied upon. Since it's not dated, the truths in the case could have changed drastically by now.

  6. Sponsorship - FAILED - No individual or organization takes credit for this movement.

  7. Validity - FAILED - Again, there's no cited source, so no way of knowing where the information came from or how to verify it.

There you have it. This is a great example of a good intention with poor execution. Break this chain!

What Do You Think?

Category: Armchair Activism
References: None

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