Monday, August 4, 2008

Truth, Rumors, and Lies

I have some friends who feel obliged to circulate “revealed truths” that dropped into their email boxes forwarded to them from someone else, usually with an urging at the end that they are not really a person of faith, a friend, a patriot, or a caring human being if they do not forward these messages on to everyone in their address books.

I have some other friends who, like me, are irritated by these forwards that are usually untrue in part or whole. They often send me the forward to ask if I will check out the claims in the email, something I am quite happy to do.

How do I check them out? First I go to Snopes is sites that does nothing else but check out rumors and “urban legends” that circulate on the Internet. In the upper right hand corner of the page you will see a “search” slot. Type in a couple of key words from the email that was forwarded to you and then hit the “go” button. That should take you to information about the email you received. If you don’t turn it up on the first search select a couple of other key words and try again. Only once have I searched and not found information for which I was looking.

Over the past weeks I have received a lot of bogus messages. The most recent one I received was one
claiming that on Obama's recent trip to Afghanistan he “blew off” U.S. soldiers. I went to Snopes and used the key words “Obama” and “Afghanistan.” That brought up the page you will find if you hit the hyper-link (underlined) above. You will not only find an explanation of the false charges but documentation and links to other sources. You will be equipped to judge for yourself if the email was truth or lies.

I received another about Obama (actually, I’ve received a number about him, all of which were untrue), but this one
purports to quote lines from his two books that show him to be racist. I found the Snopes explanation of this one by searching for “Obama quotes from his books.” The quotes listed are taken completely out of context and reworded to make them say what the writer wants to prove. What Snopes does is show each of the quotes in the paragraphs they came from. They have given you the means to decide for yourself if the email you received is a distortion.

In case you are wondering, Snopes checks out rumors not only about politicians but about almost anything you can think of, including
one on whether the flush toilet was invented by a man named Thomas Crapper. (I’ll leave you to check that one out.) But it is no secret that malicious rumor mills have made Obama a target so that the greatest numbers of “urban legends” are about him.

A number of emails have been forwarded to me about how
religious symbols in the Capitol and words of our founding fathers demonstrate that we are a “Christian nation.” I found Snopes’ explanation of this one by doing a search for “religion founding fathers.” Each assertion is put in its proper context so you can judge for yourself about the claims of the email.

Let me make this clear. I like to receive emails in which friends express their opinions, even when they are opposed to mine. But I do not like to receive somebody else’s opinion (nearly always anonymous) forwarded to me. If you think my political, religious, scientific or other views are in need of correction, please write me and tell me in your own words; and tell me the sources that support your views. I will be glad to talk with you about it.

The people who originate these forwarded emails are usually persons who know that what they are writing is not true but have convinced themselves that lying for a cause they believe in is justified. When you pass on a message whose truth you have not checked, you are a gossip; and worse you may be aiding and abetting a malicious liar.

If you receive a forwarded email that urges you to forward to others, check it out first. I’ll be glad to assist you.
- Milo
PS: Some of the worst of these forwards start with something like "I've checked this on Snopes and it is true," put there by the author to keep you from going to Snopes yourself. Advice? Don't believe it until you've verified it yourself.


A n J said...
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Anonymous said...
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