As many others have pointed out, one of the pitfalls of the Internet as a means of communications is that it can be used to spread misinformation as rapidly as accurate information, but all too often the former is set loose to spread far and wide, and correction comes too late, if at all. Here is a case in point of why even a simple memory of a recent event — a television appearance by someone of prominence — spread via e-mail cannot be trusted as accurate. Even though the gist of the message is true, nearly every detail it contains is wrong.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Bryant Gumbel recently interviewed Billy Graham’s daughter on the Today Show.Gumbel: “Why didn’t God stop this or do something about this?”
Billy Graham’s daughter: “For years we have told God we didn’t want Him in our schools. We didn’t want Him in our government and we didn’t want Him in our finances and God was being a perfect gentleman in doing just what we asked Him to do. We need to make up our mind — do we want God or do we not want Him. We cannot just ask Him in when disaster strikes.”
Bryant Gumbel was silent.
On September 13, Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the Reverend Billy Graham, appeared on on CBS’s Early Show, not NBC’s Today program. She was interviewed by Jane Clayson, not Bryant Gumbel. Neither the question posed to her nor her response is quoted accurately above. Her interviewer was not “silent” after her remarks; the interview proceeded as before after this exchange:
Jane Clayson: I’ve heard people say, those who are religious, those who are not, if God is good, how could God let this happen? To that, you say?
Anne Graham Lotz: I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it.
Ms. Lotz did say, in effect, that we cannot simultaneously reject God in our daily lives yet still expect His protection when disaster strikes, but now a paraphrase of one response she made in the course of a longer interview has been offered as a direct quote, and all the details about the context in which she made the remark have been gotten wrong.