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An Interesting Story May Not Be a True Story

posted 2/5/2009 7:04:41 AM |
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If I hear or see a story on the news I tend to assume that it is true. The same goes for a newspaper. Now, there are spins and perspectives involved that some would call a slant or media bias. Never the less, there are journalistic standards that tend to adhered to in a free society. There is responsible journalism and accountability.

Of course, part of a free society involves freedom of speech and freedom of the press that can lead to publications like the National Inquirer. The truth becomes a bit fuzzy in a publication of that type.

But in the last 20 years or so, a new communicative medium has become pervasive, email. There is lack of accountability and truth in our inboxes. There are the obvious frauds, particularly in the past, like an email saying that if you forward this to ten people, Microsoft will send $100.00 or wealth from Nigeria.

But there are other things that come into our inbox that are totally fake or significantly distorted that some people are foolish enough to take at face value. Usually these messages are forwarded hundreds of times to countless people. Some of these are simply pranks that the originator did for giggles and grins.

I am specifically recalling the one about American troops in Iraq having to endure trying sleep at night when the low temperature was over 120 degrees. This one made the rounds at work and was forwarded to me by a very nice coworker. She is not a dummy, but in this case she was, as she believed it. She was mortified when I sent her a link to the US weather service showing that highest low temperature ever recorded had never been anywhere close to 120 degrees in the history of the earth.

There are occasions where something is posted on this site that somebody got in their email that is being passed off as appearing to be true when it isn’t or it is not totally true. I am specifically thinking of a couple of things that hit here several months ago. Both of the posts were well written conservative thought pieces. There was nothing wrong with the perspectives in and of themselves. Where the problem was and where the lie was, is that one was attributed to Jay Leno and the other attributed to Paul Harvey. The fact of the matter is that neither man ever said or wrote these things. I tend to think that originator dropped the names in to lend false credence to their point of view to give the essay more validation so it would be forwarded to more people.

There is a Web site that looks into the validity of such stories Anytime I get something in my inbox that I may want to pass on to others involving a person’s or company’s name, I go to that site, or in some other way verify it, to ensure that I am not a party to lies or deception that misrepresents or is derogatory to another person, company, or organization.

I must confess that I was guilty of this a couple of years ago and I was horrified when I discovered it belatedly. It involved a list from an institute that ranked the presidents of the United States by the order of their IQ. George W. Bush was at the bottom. It was a complete fabrication.

I don’t doubt that we will continue to see these things on this site and others at times. Often it involves something that the poster relates to. I doubt that anybody wants to knowingly spread falsehoods, but they may not be inclined to verify and/or they are gullible enough to believe it.

What may be viable is if it is an interesting story or thought provoking opinion (like the pieces involving Leno and Harvey above) is to post the piece, but delete the name of a referenced person, company, or organization unless it is verified as being true.

Copy & paste to friend: (Click inside box; Ctrl + C to copy; Ctrl + V to paste)

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Feb 5 @ 7:12AM  
It involved a list from an institute that ranked the president of the United States by the order of their IQ. George W. Bush was at the bottom. It was a complete fabrication.

ohhhh so yer saying he was 2nd from da' bottom right??

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Feb 5 @ 7:56AM  
Good blog. I hope people take the time to read it.

Someone once wrote something about suckers and when they were born. It's a good thing we didn't have the internet then.

Feb 5 @ 8:38AM  
I remember quite clearly in college in a broadcasting law class a case being filed in 1948 involving a rural politician I believe (it could have been a newspaper editor). Regardless, they were blasting Harry Truman by speaking the truth but doing so in a way that was deceptive and conveyed a totally false unsavory impression of him to ignorant voters. Among other things, it was pointed out that the President was a known homo sapien that also engaged in haberdashery (Truman had once had a shop that sold hats). The uneducated among them took all of this to be horrible things. The whole class laughed their asses off.

Feb 5 @ 9:12AM  
I couldn't agree with you more! Not too long ago a girl on MySpace had a bunch of misinformation on her page about Obama and I gave her the link to showing her that what she had written was not true and to check her facts before posting that sort of thing. It was about him being Muslim, which he IS NOT....and then had some Bible speal about the world coming to an end. It was ridiculous and pissed me off, so I wanted to set her straight. Of course, she was pissed and told me to mind my own business. You know what...if you are going to publicly post misinformation then I'm going to tell you about it or not!


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Feb 5 @ 12:14PM  
And if any of you think this is a new phenomenon, read the book called "Scandalmonger", by William Safire.

A review by David M Kennedy on BookBrowse:
"Scandalmonger is a rattling good read, and excellent history, too. It paints an unforgettable portrait of the reptilian, turncoat Scandalmonger James Callender, one of American journalism's all-time rebarbative personalities. With scrupulous fidelity to the historical record, Safire also re-creates the astonishingly venomous political atmosphere of the early American republic--and deftly probes some still-urgent questions about freedom of the press."


Feb 5 @ 12:59PM  
Here is a link to information about James Callender. Very interesting indeed!
James Callender

Feb 5 @ 2:20PM  
Very well written and informative. I too get alot of these forwards. Most times, anything that says FWD, I immediately delete.

I can't stand the emails about sick children and that if you forward the message on, 10 cents will be donated to help cure the child.

I have no idea how anyone can gain anything from something like that. And to use a child, is just sick.

One email I fondly remember that was blown out of proportion was a troop overseas that had a puppy and there was pictures/tape of them hurting the puppy.
Turns out, snopes found it false, thank god.

Other emails I get that aren't words, but are false pictures. Quite believable, but they are fakes as well.

I love snopes!

Feb 5 @ 6:58PM  
Did you know that 98% of statistics are made up on the spot by people with an IQ of 2?

This is most interesting, and yes.. I wish the heck that 80 percent of the people who forward crap to me would read this and understand that this same lame story has been going around for as long as there has been an interweb.. and it wasn't true then.. it's no truer today.

Well done Bruce!

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An Interesting Story May Not Be a True Story