Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to use your nose

  1. grab something stinky
  2. inhale

You would think, as humans, we could memorize those 2 steps. We cannot.

I hate internet rumor. Sure, it can be entertaining -- mostly laughing at the folks that believe it. But there are serious consequences as well. But if the folks involved could just use their damn nose, they could smell the stink.

Let me tell you a story

Once upon a time, I worked at a very big company. I was managing email servers. At the time this company had about 100,000 employees. (Those were the days.) I forget exact numbers and dates, but at the time it is safe to assume the servers I managed handled mail for 20,000+ people (and it is more likely to be 40,000+. I just don't have notes of dates/numbers). So about this time there was an internet rumor that directly affected me. This rumor caused millions of emails to bombard my servers -- enough that the servers had to be upgraded. Before the rumor the servers worked fine. After the rumor they were not enough. The internet rumor cost about $40,000 in hardware.

The Rumor

FYI. In case you didn’t already know. This was sent to me from an attorney friend of KC’s.

FOR ALL OF US THAT HAVE USED 'SNOPES.COM', THIS IS VERY INTERESTING . . . . . . . . . .


Original Message-------

It has recently been discovered that Snopes.com is owned by a flaming liberal and this man is in the tank for Obama. There are many things they have listed on their site as a hoax and yet you can go to Youtube yourself and find the video of Obama actually saying these things. So you see, you cannot and should not trust Snopes.com....ever for anything that remotely resembles truth! I don't even trust them to tell me if email chains are hoaxes anymore.

A few conservative speakers on Myspace told me about snopes.com a few months ago and I took it upon myself to do a little research to find out if it was true. Well, I found out for myself that it is true. This website is backing Obama and is covering up for him. They will say anything that makes him look bad is a hoax and they also tell lies on the other side about McCain and Palin.

Anyway just FYI . If you continue to use Snopes.com at least be aware of their political leanings as well. Many people still think Snopes.com is neutral and they can be trusted as factual. We need to make sure everyone is aware that that is a hoax in itself. You might try TRUTHORFICTION.COM ---- wonder who owns that . . . . . . . . . .

Analysis

Let's forget Snopes here for a minute and just look at the mail. Geez, you would think people had never seen the internet before. Okay, though I have mentioned it before lets just go through what makes a good rumor:

  • an authority figure. Usually it is "Sheriff Bradley of Winslow County" (just made that one up myself) or something that just bubbles authority. In this case it is "an attorney friend of KC's". Now this guy is an attorney, so that means he is smart and went through lots of school. And you can trust him because he is KC's friend. Of course, it makes no difference that no one in the chain of this has a clue who KC is.
  • State an absolute fact. "There are many things they have listed on their site as a hoax and yet you can go to Youtube yourself and find the video of Obama actually saying these things. So you see, you cannot and should not trust Snopes.com....ever for anything that remotely resembles truth!"
  • Give a pseudoreference. "you can go to Youtube yourself and find the video of Obama actually saying these things".

Okay, in the real world, if this was factual, you could easily have said this in a way that was provable:

The problem here is they stated no real fact. And they stated no real proof of the fact (though you can find that proof on youtube.) And we know everything on youtube is factual because it is video. I mean just to prove it to you: as I sit here I am eating the popcorn I made with my cell phone.

Full Disclosure

  • I am neither "left" or "right". In fact, I have pretty negative opinions of both.
  • I really like Snopes. In fact, if you go back to my internet rumor story above, I should add to that. Snopes was a huge part of quelling this rumor. I do not know them. They do not know me. But I sent the aforementioned rumor to them and acted as the unauthorized (by management) voice of authority for my company. Within a few hours, my comments were on their web site. I won't say this stopped the bombardment of my server, but I am pretty sure it helped.

In defense of Snopes

I have no earthly idea what the political leanings of David & Barbara are. (Note how I call them by their first names, like we are buddies. I must be a lefty pinko commie too.) In fact, I don't care. I have been reading their site and using it as a reference for many years. Truth doesn't lean left or right. It just is. And falsehood just isn't. I have seen enough "true" and "false" references to both "the left" and "the right" to get the gut feeling that their goal is just to publish fact. I seriously don't think they are slanting the facts. All I can assume is that there are other internet rumors that are false that snopes has marked as such and that this is a smear to make you disbelieve them.

I might also add a bit of irony: Let's just believe the thesis for a minute: "If a liberal owns a media outlet, everything they say is a lie." Okay. Now do the words "Fox News" and "Rupert Murdoch" mean anything to you?

And irony bit number 2: Again, let's believe what the rumor says. Screw snopes. Trust TruthOrFiction.com. Here's their story on this story.

A Ranty Conclusion

As I mentioned in Polly Ticks there is one facet of this I do not understand. And it bothers me. A whole lot.

Religious folk are typically given "a pass" by our society. They are immediately believable. They are "good". Think how many times you hear "he was a good religious man" in a obituary or as a comment about a poor victim on the news. Its as if "religious" automatically enforces "good."

But I cannot begin to tell you how many times "religious folk" are the ones sending out this type of rumor. And it just is not accidental. It is so formulaic that it is impossible for it not to be intentional. Tell a lie for political gain... so we can get someone in power that is "trusted and religious." Hmmm... Isn't that self disproving?

Or is it just that since the whole concept of religion is an unverifiable source telling you something that is difficult to believe. Maybe these folks are just overly gullible. Gullible is important in religion.

I am not saying the person that sent this to me is lying. Or the person that sent it to them. Or the person that sent it to them... but there is a liar in the chain. And a whole lot of gullibility.

2 comments:

El Gee said...

I will verify that many religious folks are gullible. I deal with that almost daily with e-mails from someone at our church who read that Sen. Obama is a closet Muslim or Gov. Palin bans books. I spend a great deal of my "free" time (maybe I should start charging for it...) debunking errors on both sides.

Spork In the Eye said...

I just don't understand it. There is a machine on the "right" that absolutely propagates outright lies. On purpose. And it sort of shines a bad light on the whole religious right. You are certainly better off (I think) to continue correcting them.

...it's not like I am saying I care for the "left". I just don't understand the "morality" of the lie machine.