First it was Barack Obama's turn. Now it's Sarah Palin's.
If you think that kind of ignorance is the sole province of right wing extremists, think again. During the primaries, I read letters to the editor and "facts" forwarded to me from men and women, whites and Hispanics, Christians and Jews from all walks of life. At the time, they more often than not came from disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Opinion journalists, by definition, work in a field that is loaded with sociological landmines. If you have a public e-mail address, you expect to encounter a fair share of improvised explosive derisiveness.
In an election year, there's a lot more C4 and Hexolite lying around than usual. What's depressing, but not so surprising, is how many of these charges are loaded with small-minded bigotry.
You think you know who these people are? You think prejudice about race, gender, age or religion isn't playing a role in this election? Think again.
Before I had served on a grand jury, I thought I knew about crime in my hometown of San Antonio, who the criminals were and where they lived until I heard the truckload of cases prosecutors presented.
The guys who beat their wives and molested their stepdaughters, the drug dealers and drug users they didn't only live in the other part of town. They also lived in affluent neighborhoods and led seemingly respectable lives.
In my heart, I had always wanted to believe that anti-social behavior knew no socio or economic boundaries. Serving on a grand jury confirmed that belief. It also prepared me for work on the opinion pages.
Sometimes the messages of "truth" I read are sent anonymously. Other times they're signed by people who live in affluent neighborhoods, are successful professionals and lead seemingly respectable lives.
Frequently I laugh. Mostly I'm embarrassed for them. But as with my inaccurate map of criminal behavior, I am constantly revising my mental atlas of ignorance and bigotry.
Now Sarah Palin is the target of an Internet veracity campaign largely related to her Christian faith. I won't repeat the charges there's not enough space. I will repeat what I wrote in a column refuting baseless lies against Obama: there's so much public factual material to rebuke Obama or Joe Biden or John McCain or Palin that there's no need to traffic in personal fiction.
Why do so many intelligent people help perpetuate such bunk? Why are so many otherwise fair-minded individuals privately susceptible to intolerance or worse?
Part of what's at work here is the old psychology of partisanship as long as something is remotely plausible, it's entirely acceptable in the promotion of a larger political purpose.
The Internet adds a new factor. It gives decent people the ability to read bigoted screeds and outright lies the kind of garbage that formerly appeared only in poorly mimeographed newsletters of extremist groups and then innocently forward them. That's how such notions move from the fringe to the mainstream.
Don't do it. Whatever your party, whoever your candidate of choice, don't spread lies based on hate and ignorance. Don't add to the incivility that has infected our body politic.
When in doubt, check Web sites like FactCheck.org and Snopes.com, which do a good job separating Internet falsehoods from facts.
Better yet, take advantage of the most underutilized function on the keyboard the delete button.