Posted by: David Harley | March 30, 2010

Corpus Christi Hoax

I was forwarded a fascinating chain letter by Bill B. Just to make it clear from the start, this is a known hoax (or at the very least a misunderstanding that has been adapted as a hoax: see http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/gayjesus.asp.

(By the way, if you want to verify the truth or otherwise of a chain letter, Snopes is always a good place to start!)

In fact, there is a play similar to that described below (Corpus Christi, by Terrence McNally) but to the best of my knowledge (or that of Snopes’ Barbara Mikkelson), no-one has ever started production of a film based on it, though Barbara managed to find a reference to an obscure film called “Him” made in 1974 with a (very) vaguely similar theme.

But what’s so fascinating about a hoax that’s been circulated since 1984, and seen on the Internet since at least 2000? The fact that it has a couple of built-in tweaks to make it more difficult for hard-pressed administrators and others to apply spam/chainmail filtering and other remedial action. See my comments inline…

Subject: FW: Going Beyond Disrespect

    When you forward this make sure you send it BCC to avoid hackers getting everyone’s e mail.

[Blind copying is considered good manners if you're mailing a lot of people who don't know each other, but I'm not sure how it reduces risk from hackers, who have far more effective ways of finding targets than combing through chain letters for email addresses. Perhaps this was intended as an anti-spam measure. Spammers also have far more effective ways of harvesting email addresses, though. And even if this suggestion did defend effectively against hackers and/or spammers in that respect, it is even more effective at enabling hoaxers to propagate chain letters. Why? Because it bypasses some common anti-spam filtering heuristics (such as multiple recipients) and makes it impossible for a recipient who does recognize it as a hoax to pass back that information to all the people who've received it earlier. (Note that I'm not saying that passing that info back is always a good strategy: only that taking this advice pretty much removes that option.)]

          Subject: Fw: Going Beyond Disrepect

            The movie “Corpus Christi” is due to be released this June to August.  A disgusting film set to appear in America later this year depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals!  As a play, this has already been in theatres for a while.  It’s called “Corpus Christi” which means “The Body of Christ”.  It’s revolting mockery of our Lord.  But we can make a difference. That’s why I am sending this e-mail to you..  If you do send this around, we just might be able to prevent this film from showing in America.  Let’s stand for what we believe in and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Where do we stand as Christians?

[I've introduced a new paragraph here because I want to highlight the next couple of sentences.]

At the risk of a bit of inconvenience, I’m forwarding this to all I think would appreciate it, too. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord.  There is no petition to sign, no time limit, or minimum number of people to send this to..

[Yes, it's another attempt to increase the viability of the propagation mechanism.

  • By acknowledging the risk of "a bit of inconvenience", the hoaxer calms any concerns about the undesirability of chain letters.
  • Earlier versions of this hoax include a petition form to send to specific official resources. This version lessens the risk of a recipient checking with such a resource before sending it on.
  • The absence of a time limit brazenly sidesteps a major objection to chain letters: even if there is some truth to the topic, there is never any indication of currency. If there's no time limit, who cares that the letter has been circulating since the 1980s. (Actually, I do :-/)
  • Or to put it more traditionally, "send it to everyone in your address book..."]

It will take you less than 2 minutes!  If you are not interested and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don’t complain when God does not have time for you because He is far busier than we are.

[A little moral/emotional blackmail always helps to push a hoax a little further.]

 Hey, it’s worth a shot!  Apparently, some regions in Europe have already banned the film.  All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of e-mails.    JUST GET THE WORD OUT

Please don’t. It’s a hoax. Don’t forward it, even to warn people about it (there are better ways to draw attention to a hoax).

David Harley 
Small Blue-Green World

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Responses

  1. [...] some brief notes on its more interesting tweaks: I've included more information in another blog here, and I'll return to it in a longer paper in due [...]

  2. [...] mail in order to add the addresses of other recipients. And I am concerned, as previously discussed here, that overstating this minor risk encourages the use of blind copying as a mitigation when [...]


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