I received another chain email from the right-wing propaganda machine again today. Funny, but I thought those chain emails disappeared when Obama was elected. Of course, I get a number of emails from the left-wing propaganda machine as well, though they seemed to die down after the last election. No matter what machine produces the emails, I’m always astounded that these things continually get passed around. It is so easy to fact-check things on the Internet these days, so you’d think such nonsense wouldn’t survive very long.
Today’s email came from a former colleague with whom I’ve remained in contact for several years. My ex-colleague had forwarded this email, and I could tell by all the extraneous formatting within the content that the email had been circulating about as much as an old dollar bill. The email cited how, during the Iran-Contra Senate Hearings – long before 9/11 – Oliver North talked about being threatened by Osama bin Laden. The email went on to explain that the senate, led by Al Gore, was skeptical and chastised Mr. North for being overly paranoid.
The problem is that this never happened.
How did I know this? I remembered listening to the senate hearings, and though my memory is not perfect, I specifically remembered the conversation regarding Mr. North’s personal security. Furthermore, the timeline was not right; the U.S. was not an enemy of bin Laden at that time. Mr. bin Laden’s angst against the U.S. started as a result of the U.S. sending its armed forces into Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War, which took place sometime after the senate hearings.
Hmmm … something seemed out of place.
Time to call in the Internet for a bit of fact-checking, I concluded. A good place to check out those apocryphal feelings is the Snopes website. Snopes lists a lot of rumors and urban myths and provides research to either confirm or deny them. It’s a great place to check out just about anything you might have heard.
My own introduction to Snopes occurred when I happened to mention to another colleague the story of the actress that died while filming the movie Goldfinger. To film a certain scene in the movie, she’d been painted gold, and the paint somehow prevented her skin from breathing, which resulted in her suffocation. My colleague immediately debunked my story and introduced me to the Snopes website. I’m happy to say that the actress, Shirley Eaton, is still alive and well to this day. And I learned about a really cool website in the process.
Bottom line: Before unwittingly forwarding a doubtful email of your own, do your recipients a favor and perform a simple fact check. You can start with Snopes, but you can also verify it at other places. Just Google for them. And if it is indeed propaganda, then send it where it belongs – into the bit bucket.