Urban Legends, Falsehoods, Satire and Lies

Now that we’re all happily speeding along the cyber highway, word spreads more quickly than it ever has before. For the most part, that’s a plus. Unfortunately, just because it comes at you at a furious pace, that doesn’t guarantee that the quality of the information is high. It takes even more effort to wade through the B.S. than it used to. Sadly, not everyone makes that effort.

Here are some basic ways to weed out the stupidity before you post it on your Facebook page and look like a dope.

Consider the source. Ask yourself where this information originally came from. There are several humorous satire pages out there that report things with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks for the laugh factor. The Onion, which calls itself “America’s Finest News Source” is one of these. I actually love reading the Onion, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously. This article called Faux News will direct you to many other satire sites. Know them. Enjoy them. But don’t take them as fact.

Then there are other news sources that claim to be true and want desperately to be believed, but cannot be trusted because they’re pushing a warped agenda. If Fox News is the only one who is reporting on an issue, it’s most definitely suspect. CNN is getting to be just as bad. And I have absolutely nothing against religion, but I tend to seek outside verification for any news item from any religious news network source. There is a difference between fact and faith, and when a reporter does not know or refuses to acknowledge that difference, I find it rather scary.

Also, at the risk of incriminating myself, don’t quote blogs as fact without verification. Any fool can have a blog. I could tell you the moon is covered in a thick layer of cocaine, but I don’t recommend that you send your favorite drug mule there. He’d be pretty pissed off at you by the time he got back. (But then, he’d also have plenty of time to detox, which is a good thing.)

Another thing that should have you bobbing in a sea of red flags is any news that implies a major conspiracy. It’s human nature that a secret can’t be kept by more than two people. If a story is going around that an entire agency or organization or country has been sitting on a secret for decades, the odds are that this story is extremely exaggerated at best. For example, I used to know someone who genuinely believed that there are secret concentration camps all over America and that US Citizens are disappearing at an alarming rate. My response to that is, if so, why are no one’s friends, relatives and Facebook followers screaming bloody murder? Do you think in this day and age, when we are linked together in so many complex ways, a large number of adults could simply go poof and no one would be the wiser? Poppycock.

Also, it’s very irresponsible to pass on a product warning without being sure that it’s true. Before you go boycotting Brand XYZ, make sure it really deserves such treatment. While I’m not wild about corporate America, you have to remember that many people just like you and me depend on these companies for their livelihood, and if too many people mistakenly think there’s nuclear waste in their pie filling, it’s those everyday pie fillers who will be laid off. The corporation itself will grind happily on.

One excellent source for verification is Snopes.com. They often track down the sources of misinformation like no one else can. When all else fails, check Snopes.

Also, if you receive an e-mail full of capitalizations and spelling errors and exclamation points, warning you to do, or not do, something, such as “IF YOU GET A E-MAIL FROM XYZ, DONT OEPN IT!!!!” Don’t panic. Use your common sense. It’s stupid to open an e-mail from an unknown source under any circumstances.

If a story begins, “This is a true story,” it most likely isn’t a true story. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your inner voice. Be skeptical. Don’t pass things on without verifying them.

I just love The Onion!
I just love The Onion!

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