Do Not Forward This - Not a Joke

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (Oct. 2008)


I received this e-mail a few weeks ago  -
Fwd: Important info..... NOT a joke! 
And the person who sent it to me and about 25 other women urged us to “Read right to the bottom”

Notice on car
Just last weekend on Friday night we parked in a public parking area. As we drove away I noticed a sticker on the rear window of the car. When I took it off after I got home, it was a receipt for petrol.   Luckily my friend had told me not to stop as it could be someone waiting for me to get out of the car.
 Then we received this email yesterday:
               WARNING FROM WEST MIDLANDS POLICE
 BEWARE OF PAPER ON THE BACK WINDOW OF YOUR VEHICLE –
NEW WAY TO DO CAR JACKINGS (NOT A JOKE) 
You walk across the car park, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine and shift into reverse.  When you look into the rear view mirror to back out of your parking space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you shift into neutral, unlock your doors, and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view. When you reach the back of your car, that is when the carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off.
They practically mow you down as they speed off in your car. And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car. So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!
BEWARE OF THIS NEW SCHEME THAT IS NOW BEING USED.
If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, just drive away.
Remove the paper later. And be thankful that you read this e-mail.
I hope you will forward this to friends and family, especially to women.
A purse contains all kinds of personal information and identification documents, and you certainly do NOT want this to fall into the wrong hands.
 
And it went on with a second story apparently from another reputable institution.
 
An important message from the Police –
Please pass this along to all the women you know.....
This actually happened a few weeks ago on the M3 Fleet services. It was early evening and a young girl stopped to get petrol. She filled her tank and walked into the store to pay for her petrol. The cashier told her 'Don't pay for your petrol yet.....walk around the store for a while and act as if you're picking up some other things to buy. A man just got into the back of your car. I've called the police and they're on their way'.
When the police arrived, they found the man in the back seat of the girl's car and asked him what he was doing. He replied, he was joining a gang and the initiation to join is to kidnap a woman and bring her back to the gang to be raped by every member of the gang. If the woman was still alive by the time they finish with her then they let her go.
According to the police that night, there is a new gang forming here originating from London. The scary part of this is, because the guy didn't have a weapon on him. The police could only charge him with trespassing.... He's back on the street and free to try again. Please beware of what's going on around you and for your family and friends.
LADIES you or one of your family and friends could be the next victim.
Please forward this on to everyone you know. Please do not discard this message it is very important that everyone knows what is happening.
Please be careful when leaving your vehicle and make sure it is ALWAYS locked to prevent this from happening to you.
 
There was a third story purportedly from yet another police force as to how a new serial killer is luring women out of their houses with a tape recording of a crying baby, if you please!  I ignored the instruction to read to the bottom as these are so obviously hoaxes I couldn’t be bothered. And wondered why so many of the British versions of these urban horror stories take place in the M3 services at Fleet. The poisoned perfume scare story of 6 years was also supposed to have taken place there. I know that service station – I have never seen anything resembling this hive of no good activity in the car park in fair weather or foul.

To appear to digress, one of my favourite films is a black and white film from 1944 by Powell and Pressburger called A Canterbury Tale. It isn’t as well known as One of Our Aircraft is Missing or the Black Narcissus probably because the central plot is preposterous but I love it for the real story which is the journey taken by the three central characters, and the photgraphy of Canterbury itself.

One night during the war three people get off a train in the dark at a village near Canterbury. They are an American Soldier on leave and keen to see more of England, a British soldier joining his unit who are camped nearby and a young woman of the Land Army on her way to her post on a nearby farm. Before the young woman has gone far down the street she is assaulted and glue is thrown in her hair. She is the latest victim of a series of similar attacks and the three decide to find out who is responsible.

As the film continues we find out that the young woman’s fiancé (a historian with a special interest in the Canterbury pilgrims) is missing in action, the American’s girlfriend has not written to him in months and the Englishman is a musician in civilian life.

The Town Clerk gives a series of lectures on the history of the area for “men in uniform”. They all attend, insisting that women are fighting alongside men in this war, and that the Land Army is a valuable uniformed service. By the end of the film the woman’s fiancé has been found alive, the American’s girlfriend writes from a US Army hospital in Australia and the Englishman gets to play Bach on the organ in Canterbury Cathedral prior to embarkation. The glueman is unmasked as the Town Clerk. He was anxious to deter servicemen from going out with local women so that they would attend his lectures instead. Hence his efforts to ensure that women stayed at home. Like I said, preposterous.

If you get a chance to see the film do so. If only it had been made in colour because some of the photography is stunning. The Canterbury Cathedral organ sequence is a set as the real Cathedral was boarded up after a raid but that doesn’t matter.

I then replied to the person who sent me the e-mail “this is a hoax. It is obviously a hoax because . . . ” and I pointed out the obvious inconsistencies. Then I referred her to one of the hoax buster websites which have traced the first story back via the US where much of the language used originated (purse for handbag, shift for gear level, guy, store etc) to Australia.

The advice is not to forward these stories as they
i) clog up IT waveband in the same way that spam does and
ii) they spread fear and despondency and increase the atmosphere of mistrust in society.

The answer I got back was that if these stories make us think twice when out and about it has done its job, and in her opinion, passing them on has been worthwhile. 

Worthwhile to who? Who benefits from women being scared to travel alone, or without a man? Who has a vested interest in keeping women fearful in their homes?

Well it is not the glueman that’s for sure. He saw the error of his ways and his scheme was roundly condemned because we have this tradition in England of woman having freedom of movement.

In the 16th century Emanuel Van Meteran the Dutch ambassador observed that Englishwomen "were not shut up or kept so strictly as in Spain and some other countries. On the contrary, they had free management of their households and could go and could go out to market to buy what they liked best to eat. They are well dressed and fond of taking it easy; they sit decked out in fine clothes, in order to see and be seen by the passers-by.

Thomas Platter of Basle who visited London in 1599 said "Now the women-folk of England, who have mostly blue-grey eyes and are fair and pretty, have far more liberty than in other lands, and know just how to make good use of it, for they often stroll out or drive by coach in very gorgeous clothes, and the men must put up with such ways”.

Shakespeare described Mistress Page, a respectable, merry and good wife of Windsor thus,
“never a wife in Windsor leads a better life than she does, do what she will, say what she will, take all, pay all, . . . all is as she list”.  

There was one attempt in the 19th century to curtail our freedom of movement.
In order to do something about the number of soldiers and sailors being infected with venereal disease in 1864 Parliament passed the Contagious Diseases Act.

This meant that in certain named garrison and dockyard towns women out alone or otherwise suspected of being a prostitute were required to attend a medical examination. Feminists and campaigners for women’s suffrage lead by Josephine Butler formed a campaign for its repeal. Aside from an Englishwoman’s right to go where ever she wishes it impinged on the work of District Nurses, midwives, missionaries and the like and it was repealed in 1886.

However even today women in the rest of the world suffer restrictions on their
movement. Readers will be familiar with the laws of places like Saudi Arabia where women cannot leave the house without their male mahram. Other countries will allow a woman to leave the house, but only with the written permission of her husband or father.

Reuters reported
recently that :-
“the government of Tangerang near Jakarta has introduced laws forbidding women from going out alone at night. In 2006, a woman working in a restaurant was convicted for prostitution because she was at a bus stop alone at night after work.

As I said above who benefits
from women being scared to travel alone, or without a man and who has a vested interest in keeping women fearful in their homes?

If you are sent an e-mail of this kind assess the narrative for yourself. Then check with one of the hoaxbuster sites. Do not obediently hit “forward” to inadvertently spread gloom, doom and terror.

Jihad takes many forms. These urban myths are old but the impetus to spread fear is older still.
 
 

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