The Nashville Corrections Department, conveniently located adjacent to a Christian Science Reading Room and Balloon-A-Tune, is where you will find concerned rape preventionists Rita R. Reed and Benjamin F. Bean.
A propos of scaremail forwards:
I was just the happy recipient of the following text message on my phone:
Please be aware and be careful….
National Gang Week is starting: This is their new target method. While driving on any roads, if you see a baby car seat sitting on the side of the road, DO NOT STOP! These are gangs targeting people, especially women, to stop their vehicle to help a baby. They make this baby look as if it has blood on itself or on its clothing. when you get out of your vehicle in attempt to help, the gangs will jump from their hiding spots. they have beaten women to near death then continue to rape them and other torture methods.
DO NOT STOP! CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY!!!
-Rita R. Reed. TN Dept of Corrections Central Dispatch. (615) 253-8182 (615) 401-6811(fax)
So, naturally, I shifted uncomfortably in my car (and wouldn’t ya know it, the only text message I get all week I end up reading while driving) on accounta being filled with the requisite dread that every woman is obliged to feel at all times. Once home, I set myself to teh Google and while I couldn’t find any Snopes entry on this particular one, I noticed a series of similar debunked messages wherein gang-members (read = BROWN MEN!) rape/murder/maim/etc. women, especially white women, especially mothers. Just another way for the patriarchy to keep us askeered and racist at the same time! Two for the price of one unsolicited text message!
Here’s the Snopes search, if you want to be sickened and entirely justified all at once. I know, I know: that’s your daily bread, sister.
Your text sample is a real beaut. A cursory Spinstanalysis:
The “please” capitalizes on the recipient’s susceptibility to bogeyman mythology by emphasizing the author’s solicitous concern: Please! I beg of you! If not for yourself, then for your children! Read this text message and take it to heart because you will die otherwise, and anonymous authors of text messages care.
The ellipsis — a four-pointer — portends a dark and foreboding situation urging the recipient to consider entering an undefined state of general awareness and carefulness. Yellow Alert!
No, make that an Orange Alert; “gangs” are involved. And although they are targeting “people,” they have a particular fascination for women. This means you.
So wait, now we have “National Gang Week”? Whence cometh this 411? Does the King of the Gangs send out a press release to Safety Mom Weekly? “Watch out, bitches! We will soon be attacking innocents on a roadside near you”? And what’s the protocol? Is it take a gang to lunch or else? And, really, a whole week? Mothers, secretaries, and women only get a day. Spinster aunts get bupkis. Breast Cancer Awareness — despite the fact that everybody in the solar system already oozes breast cancer awareness from every pore — gets a whole month, but you can’t expect the megatheocorporatocracy to deny itself 29 extra days to cash in hardcore on the golden eggs from that poor, sick old goose. As a matter of fact, the CEO of Pink Ink Inc, manufacturer of the ubiquitous pepto-pink pigment (the secret ingredient is panda fetuses), has banked enough to buy a private island in the Caribbean. He’s got an English valet with a better vocabulary than his, a pair of tickets on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and a margarita machine.
Anyway, National Gang Week is “starting,” but the author omits to include the date, which leaves the end of National Gang Week sort of up in the air. And if the text message sender is to be believed, the object of this infinite National Gang Week appears to be that participating gangs must suddenly abandon the tried-and-true in order to implement elaborate and cumbersome methods of murder and mayhem. To wit:
A car seat with a bloody baby, placed by the side of “any road,” while multiple gang bangers, coiled like cobras in “hiding spots,” eternally await the random good Samaritan, hoping it’s a tenderhearted little woman they can torture, and not a cop? The scheme strikes me as a trifle busy. And passive, time-consuming, and comparatively unremunerative. Don’t they normally just rob you at gunpoint? Simple, but efficient. No bulky props, no waiting around. They don’t even really need the gun. I was once robbed at fingerpoint, of $3 and a Chanel lipstick. Lucky for me it wasn’t National Gang Week at the time, or I’d be singin’ soprano today!
It turns out that the gangstas of National Gang Week don’t want your money or your lipstick. Instead of dealing drugs, waging turf wars, and pimpin hos, these guys prefer to loll about on roadsides, luring women who take an inordinate interest in discarded car seats, beat them not quite to death, rape them, and torture them. I guess they’ve been watching Law & Order: Rape Cops, the TV show where it’s always National Gang Week.
ANYWAY!!! I GOOGLED RITA R. REED AND FOUND THE FOLLOWING!!!! Brace yourself….
According to Snopes, “National Gang Week” originated as an email hoax before jumping species to infest the cell phones of innocent blamers. Note the subtle differences between this email version and the text message.
Subject: FW: Driver beware
National Gang Week is starting: This is their new target method while driving on any roads, If you see a baby car seat sitting on the side of the road DO NOT STOP!!!! These are gangs targeting people, especially women, to stop their vehicle to help a baby. They make this baby look as if it has blood on itself or on its clothes, when you get out of your vehicle in attempt to help, the gangs jump out from cornfields or tall bushes. They have beaten women to near death, and then continue to rape them with baseball bats and other torture methods. This is not just a forward of information, it is within our area. If you do happen to see a car seat DO NOT STOP CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY!! Please send this on to everyone you know.*
Benjamin F. Bean
State Of Tennessee
Department Of Correction
5th Floor Rachel Jackson Bldg.
320 Sixth Avenue North
The syntactical and punctuation mishaps remain, but this Benjamin F Bean’s email is a bit more colorized, a bit more cinematic than Rita R Reed’s text message. In Mr Bean’s particular Bizarrohorrorwelt, the reader must not merely please be careful; she is ordered to beware (Admit it. The last time you were told to beware, you were whiffling through a tulgey wood, am I right?). Mr Bean’s gangs don’t just jump, they jump out of ominous tall bushes and forbidding cornfields. They don’t just rape, they rape with baseball bats. And what of the eccentric and somewhat sinister “This is not just a forward of information, it is within our area” admonition? Doth Mr Bean of the long, official mailing address protest too much that he is a reliable narrator? Happily, he remembers to close with the traditional “Forward this to everyone you know,” which beloved valediction — curiously omitted by Rita R Reed — is central to the scaremail terrorthodoxy.
My question is this: has a dude ever sent you one of these things? Because I’m formulating a hypothesis that fear-forwards of the rape-and-murder variety are the particular purview of women, both as senders and as recipients. I formulate this hypothesis in response to what I sense is the vague perception that these forwards are in fact sent by an amorphous entity known as The Patriarchy.
* The *About.com version has Mr Bean asking you to send this “onto” everyone you know. Ow!