Saturday, March 14, 2009

Use the Web Wisely & Truthfully

We musn’t believe all the awful stuff that passes over the Internet, and we have a moral obligation not to pass on false, hurtful and damaging information!
by Charlie Leck

What a long subtitle! However, it says clearly what I want to rant about this morning.

I have a few friends who seem to believe any mass email they receive or anything they read on the World Wide Web (the Internet). They just routinely pass such fiction (lies) on to as many people as they have in their email address book. I happen to be in those books. Sometimes I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them into their senses. Do not forward mass emails you receive from other foolish people who gullibly believe things they get by email. Do not! You could be advancing lies and hurtful information. You could be doing great damage to people – which is likely the last thing you really want to do.

I get 5 or 6 of these emails a day. And I get plenty of responses from people who read my blogs and debate my points by presenting totally fictional documents written by whacko-dummies who create these fantasy stories out of nowhere. It causes me to take the time to go to various sources to check out the truth about these inflammatory, erroneous articles and then respond to the writers about their errors and their culpability in passing them on.

When I fact check, I like to begin with SNOPES. You should know about this good web site and use it frequently – and always before you pass on any spectacular materials you receive in emails – even if from your Aunt Tilly.

In addition to Snopes, there are other good fact checks, including FactCheck and another is Truth or Fiction.

It is highly embarrassing to pass along the urban legends, altered documents, false accusations and outright lies that emailers send us. I know, because it’s happened to me; and the process of apologizing to all those people you sent erroneous information to is indeed humbling (as well as time consuming).

What got me onto this rant?
Recently I received an article from a friend who has been known to send out these kinds of emails to dozens and dozens of people before checking the facts. I admired her, this time, for asking me my opinion of the piece at hand before she sent it out.

She had received a long quotation from an article that purported to be written by Doctor Sam Vaknin, an Israeli psychologist. The thesis of the article was that President Barack Obama was indeed a narcissist and, as such, dangerous. Doctor Vaknin is the author of a book called Malignant Self Love.

I checked the facts
I found out from Snopes that Doctor Vaknin is not a psychologist and that he has a degree in philosophy from an unaccredited college. Though, in fact, Doctor Vaknin did write the book cited above, he did not write the article in question and had never stated that Barack Obama was, indeed, a narcissist. In fact, Doctor Vaknin has said clearly that “only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews.”

The article is a phony; yet, it is being read by thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of people around the world who believe the heading in the story that calls Doctor Vaknin a qualified Israeli psychotherapist and diagnostician. [See the SNOPES analysis of this bogus article]

Snopes is currently calling this phony article one of the 25 hottest urban legends on the Web.

The article proves only one thing and that is that there are a lot of liars out there, ready and willing to do harm to anyone, including the nation.

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