Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Don't Pass It On

The Internet is truly a boon to all mankind.

If you want recipes for brussel sprouts, for example, there are literally hundreds. This is not a particular help to me since I like mine with an entire brick of Velveta cheese melted on top to disguise the taste. But there they are.

If you want a Rush Limbaugh bobblehead doll, it's there for the taking.

You can check your stock portfolio and then, with a click of the mouse, find the number for a suicide prevention hotline.

But there's a dark side to the Internet, one that I've been increasingly exposed to lately.

My inbox has been filling up lately with messages from well-meaning family members and friends who are anxious to share the Outrage of the Day.

Mostly, these consist of warnings of impending doom in the form of riots and revolution or tales of outrageous abuses of power by our elected officials that threaten our very way of life.

As if there isn't enough bad news out there.

We live in fearful times. Who would have believed our economy could be in the shape it's in now? And the finest minds in the country, so far, haven't been able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Against this backdrop, I guess we're ripe to believe anything.

Which gives birth to these kinds of Internet posts:

Example one: "Sources at the United States Embassy in Beijing China have just confirmed that the United States of America has tendered to China a written agreement which grants to the People's Republic of China, an option to exercise Eminent Domain within the U.S.A., as collateral for China's continued purchase of U.S. Treasury Notes and existing U.S. currency reserves!

"The written agreement was brought to Beijing by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was formalized and agreed-to during her recent trip to China.

"This means that in the event the US Government defaults on its financial obligations to China, the Communist Government of China would be permitted to physically, buildings, factories, perhaps even entire cities - to satisfy the financial obligations of the U.S. government."

This immedialtely raises in some people's minds two horrific images: Chinese Communists and Hillary Clinton.

Outrageous? You bet.

Trouble is, it isn't true.

My first hint came when I searched the data bases of the New York Times, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times to see how they covered this story.

They hadn't. Think what you will about the media, they're not about to blow off a story that would alter the economic, political and moral landscape of our country forevermore.

Not only has the State Department denied it ("there is no factual basis or substance to this report") the source seems to be a former radio host named Hal Turner who once claimed to have "Amero" coins which proved a secret consiracy to to merge the U.S., Canada and Mexico into a single entity.

Nonetheless, the eminent domain story spread like wildfire over the Internet spread by bloggers who didn't lift a finger to check its authenticity.

The real scary thing is that people were willing to believe it.

Example Two: Petition for President Obama:

"Dear Mr. President: We, the undersigned, protest the bill that the Senate voted on recently which would allow illegal aliens to access our Social Security. We demand that you and all Congressional representatives require citizenship as a pre-requisite for social services in the United States."

Really, Social Security for illegals? I can feel my blood pressure starting to rise. But again, not a word in the nation's leading media.

According to the Snopes website, which attempts to get to the bottom of urban legends, this legislation wasn't about giving illegal aliens Social Security benefits.

It was a proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform act in 2006 which would have granted former illegal aliens who had since become legal credit for monies they themselves had paid into the Social Security fund while they were in the U.S. illegally.

The Senate, knowing a political hot potato when it sees one, voted to withdraw the amendment from consideration. Which means they killed it.

Indeed, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act never became law.

Example three: President Obama snubbed the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball honoring recipients of the Medal of Honor.

True enough. He didn't attend. Vice President Biden attended instead.

Obama didn't show up at any of the dozens of unofficial balls and galas sponsored by entities other than the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

He did, however, attend the official Commander-in-Chief's Ball honoring all U.S. service members, including Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients, hundreds of wounded soldiers (and their families) from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and spouses of troops currently deployed overseas.

In fact, the American Legion issued a statement saing, "From The American Legion's point of view, the new President's absence was understandable considering the unprecedented logistical challenges presented by the vastly increased number of visitors to this inauguration and the necessary attendant security measures."

My advice: if you get an e-mail telling you to pass it on to everyone you know, don't.

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