When the story of Indiana State Representative Bob Morris and the Girl Scouts first broke, I was all set to write a letter to the editor of both our local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, and their local paper, the Indianapolis Star, full of the righteous indignation that only a librarian and a former Computer Literacy teacher could bring to bear on the situation. Because this was clearly a case of an elected representative believing the first opinionated rant he stumbled across on the Internet, rather than taking the time to do some real research, and checking out reliable sources. And as much as he wanted to put this behind him as a minor issue and get back to “real work,” when someone we trust to represent us and write our laws is doing so based on bad information, that’s a major issue in my book.
And then I found out that it wasn’t quite that simple. It turns out that Morris wasn’t simply misinformed, he wasn’t simply the victim of shoddy searching. His conclusions about the Girl Scouts and their supposed connection to Planned Parenthood would’ve remained the same even had he gone all the way to the tops of both organizations and gotten denials from them (after all, they could be hiding their connection).
For you see, according to the Washington Post (part of the evil liberal media complex), Morris is a member of a very small, very conservative group of people who are pulling their daughters out of the traditional Girl Scouts for their own American Heritage Girls. These people portray the traditional Girl Scouts and their organization as a group of radical, lesbian, Marxist, feminists, who don’t share “traditional family values” and are pushing abortion and contraception on young girls.
As Bill Cosby’s Noah might say, ”Right…”
When I look at a group of people like this, that is deliberately spreading misinformation, I realize that there’s just no talking to some people, and that trying to straighten them out would be like pouring sand down a rathole. They’re very much like editor J Jonah Jameson in the Spiderman comics, who at least once said, “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.” They have their beliefs…their deeply felt and held beliefs…that America is going to Hell in a handbasket, and nothing any of us, librarian or not, can say to them will change their minds, because the only information they will look for, indeed, the only information they’ll believe, is that which supports their beliefs. I’d like to think that the rest of us are a little more open to correction. I know that I am.
But there is some good news here. Despite all their noise, and the 15 minutes of fame they received, there are only 18,000 girls in the American Heritage Girls organization…compared to over 2 million in the Girl Scouts. To put this into context, the American Heritage Girls would just barely fill Madison Square Garden, while the traditional Girl Scouts far outnumber even everyone else in Manhattan. I think this shows just how influential each group is.
And despite the fact that these people seem to be a very exclusive group, who demonize anyone who doesn’t totally agree with them; the fact that they exist is one of the beauties of this country. We allow even the most far-out wingnuts to have a voice…provided they don’t hurt anyone. Conversely, the surest way to give people like this more power is to have them feel that they’re persecuted; so the best thing to do about them is to smile and nod…and then walk away.
But what about the rest of us? While it’s true that you can’t talk to some people, while it’s true that even when confronted with the facts, some people will stick to what they want to believe, the rest of us have a responsibility that this librarian feels very strongly about. That responsibility is to make sure that all of our information comes from reputable sources, and to double and triple-check it. This includes a responsibility to even check to see if those with whom we disagree are actually right, because sometimes they are.
Oh, and while we’re at it, we should each have a Girl Scout cookie.