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An Interesting Story May Not Be a True Story

posted 5/11/2011 10:11:23 PM |
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  Wordsofwit

Why do people post writings attributed to a celebrity or public figure, or stories presented as fact, that are total fabrications without checking to see if it is true?

The response is always the same, "Well, I don't care who said it or if it's true, it's a good story." Well, if it is such a good perspective, can't it stand on its own without putting words in peoples' mouth that they never said?

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.

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 http://www.snopes.com/. 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 several 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.

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Comments:

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40DWM

May 11 @ 10:35PM  
DAMMIT...... I knew it could not be the REAL Batman that got arrested....
Wordsofwit

May 11 @ 10:41PM  
A bit off topic, but a funny comment. When I was a kid, TV star George Reeves who portrayed Superman committed suicide. At school the next day quite a few younger kids were distraught as they believed the guy was really Superman. My brother, Tommy, was one of them.
RJ53

May 11 @ 11:35PM  
People believe things are true that validates their opinions, never mind the facts. That is how these e-mails get started many times in the first place and that is why those who forward them do without checking them out. Probelm with doing that is that somewhere down the line someone is going to check it out and everyone's name on the forwarding list is going to look kind of foolish.
Wordsofwit

May 11 @ 11:49PM  
I agree overall, but I do think that some of them are started by pranksters knowing that there will be people gullible enough to believe them.
sugarnspice005

May 12 @ 8:35AM  
I know at first when I would get things like from family or friends, I would believe it...then after a while, some of it would just sound so "out there", that I would look it up on my own. I used to use Alta Vista a lot back then. When I would find there is no fact, I'd write back to whoever sent me the email and tell them it wasn't.

Now that there is snopes, I look there. I've got one friend who will still send emails relating to current issues, whether it be the war, economy, or government..and I just look it up. 9 times out 10, it's rumor. I've written this friend about it, hasn't changed much. Oh well. People are going to believe what they want. All I've got to say is it's best to be informed.

Like right now..there's something going around about a link on facebook that is supposed to show video of Bin Laden's assassination. Warns not to click on the link because it has a nasty virus on it. Well, seeing as how Obama isn't going to release any pictures and such, it's a no brainer to NOT click on that link. But, unfortunately, some will.

Well...I'm off to get ready for classes...see you all later. Have a nice day!

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An Interesting Story May Not Be a True Story