Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Check Your Emails: You May Be Forwarding Lies.

Not intentionally, of course, but if you have any doubt about the truth of something you're forwarding to friends, it only takes about two to five minutes to check up on it. I'm not suggesting you check everything, only what seems suspicious, especially if it could have other unforeseen consequences. Pleas for financial assistance sometimes come in the form of forwarded emails (not necessarily only from our ubiquituous Nigerian friends), and you never know when someone is going to take it seriously and possibly compromise their computer and/or bank account. Don't assume everyone will act like you, or think like you. You can find a list of such hoaxes at sites like Hoax-Slayer or Snopes

It's quite amazing how long hoax emails can go on, and how few people actually check to see if they're genuine or not. No wonder the banks and the governments control us (or is that another myth?). I know I kind of sound like a kill-joy, and many will ask where the harm is and why I seem to be trying to spoil the party. Well, truth be told, I seldom correct hoax emails these days; I just delete them without forwarding. Or if I do forward one I make sure to note at the top of the email that it's a hoax (some can be benignly funny, even when the facts get in the way).

One I didn't find very funny, yet it has done more rounds than Muhammad Ali, is the "THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE THIS" email, circulating since at least 2004, and showing graphic pictures of a young boy's arm being crushed by a truck or car wheel.

The 8 year old little boy is supposed to be a victim of "Islamic justice", a juvenile thief caught stealing bread. The email ends with:

Pass this to all, for public awareness.
It must be sent WORLD WIDE!
Even if this message is sent to you more than once, just keep on passing it on!

I shudder to think that this is "public awareness", and my faith in the jury system occasionally needs a panadol or a tetanus shot to keep going because of things like this. No one ever thinks, "better check this first"? And since it's about Islam, it must be true. No need to check; they are the people who fly planes into buildings, aren't they? Then this must be true too. However, as both Snopes and Hoax-Slayer observe, it was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

From Hoax-Slayer:

Moreover, most versions of the protest message omit the seventh photograph in the series, which shows the boy sitting up after the stunt, apparently with no serious injuries. Thus, the claim in the message that the boy permanently lost the use of his arm is clearly untrue.

But this is the part I agree with the most:

The obvious excesses and human rights violations perpetrated by such groups as the Taliban under the umbrella of Sharia Law quite rightly generate intense debate and condemnation from many commentators. But, muddying the waters with misinformation such as that contained in this email forward is decidedly counter-productive and will serve only to widen divisions and foster even more hatred and misunderstanding in our already strife-torn world.

The enthusiasts have really gone into high gear on this one, with this "moving" You Tube clip, minus any serious fact checking, or probably wilfully ignoring the facts, and that's kind of scary:

Remember, you are supposed to be weeping, tears rolling down your cheeks, as you view this "horrible atrocity", "in the name of Islam", which was nothing more than a publicity stunt. It almost brings a whole new meaning to the word "exploitation".

Yet for some five years now subscribers have all too willingly put a few more prejudicial nails in the coffin of Islam using this hoax, and it keeps going on and on. I am, though, to make it clear, not a defender of Islam (or any religion, for that matter). Inexcusable atrocities and depravation of personal freedom has occurred in some Islamic countries, including Iran, but Christianity has been no "saint" in this regard either. Do we see emails circulating warning us about how evil Christianity has been historically, and how many wars it has sponsored in the name of God, how many "heretics" and "witches" it has burned at the stake? And therefore should be avoided at all costs? (Though I guess you can tell by my bias that I have quite a few Muslim friends.)

By the way, in case you didn't realise, I'm a bit late in bringing this to your attention. With two clicks of a mouse you can easily find this (and other) corrective information on the Net, yet less than a week ago this hoax email once again showed up in my inbox. It seems like Chicken Littles live on.

"If you tell a lie, don't tell a little one - tell a big one" - Chicken Little

The Sky Is Falling.

Related Link: The Top 10 Hoaxes of 2004

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