March 24th, 2012

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#541 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #3. A blizzard of insanity: the internet Lie machine.

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

The ‘ink’ had not even dried on Election 2012 #1 when in came a “forward”, containing a piece of video purportedly proving that President Obama was born in Kenya. There he was, on videotape, President Obama himself, saying he was Kenyan at a public meeting with real people who looked like normal white people. They were his words. His voice.

The forward-er was someone I only very recently had heard from via e-mail. Except for Christmas cards, we really weren’t in touch. The correspondent said in that earlier e-mail that the President lies, without evidence. Well, apparently here in this forwarded video, was the evidence….

It was easy to dispatch this one, as it is most all of the internet lies circulating constantly. As we all know from watching those cute TV ads of babies talking like businessmen, the insurance companies talking duck and gecko, etc, experts can cut and paste both video and sound, and mix them masterfully, and this they had done with the so-called President Obama video. But many people don’t seem to grasp the obvious with the political stuff: that their hates and fears are being manipulated and massaged by liars who are, in turn, accusing the hated other of lying. So it goes. Lies work. All one can do is respond.

Computers and the internet are marvelous – and dangerous – things. They’re dangerous in the hands of the small Army, largely older people like me, who share the garbage I’ve come to call “forwards”.

This seems a good time to dust off and send the following, which was gathering dust in the ‘draft’ bin of my computer, and which I’d dealt with on-line a few weeks ago. The inquiring e-mail came from a good friend in London, England, who’d gotten a “forward” from his wife’s grandfather in the U.S. Here is what I said about this topic, then:

“My usual source for checking stuff like this is www.snopes.com.

[Yours] is the first international version of passing on the big lie(s) that I’ve seen.

Snopes had nothing I could find on either of these – perhaps I keyed in the wrong search words, or perhaps this is so completely outrageous as to not be worth the time.

My guess: the data is made up, a very, very common strategy. It is extremely time-consuming to validate/refute “data” like what [was forwarded]. The beginning premise is that the reader hates Obama (or liberals, or socialists) and will buy anything that verifies his/her point of view.

I actually don’t mind getting this kind of stuff (I call it “forwards”), and when I do I make it a point of responding.

Things I look for:

1. Is there some kind of reasonably plausible source of origin (who originated the e-mail in the very beginning of its travels)? The answer is always “no”.

2. These things live on by being passed from (usually) one senior citizen (like me) to another…. They’re usually from men, but they sometimes come from women too.

3. Is there some kind of reasonably safe link to check the data? For instance the websites for [the purported source of information, in this case], IBD [International Business Daily] or WHO [World Health Organization]. The answer is always “no”.

4. Does snopes have anything to say about it? Often they do. I would guess that well over 90% of the stuff that is out there is either false or so massacre’d (misleading) that it may as well be false.

5. The right wing has taken to trying to discredit snopes as being a left-wing tool, and if you want an interesting take, go to a competing fact checker, www.truthorfiction.com, and type snopes in the search box. I happen to know that the person who founded truthorfiction is a minister in southern California. I know that because a number of years ago I heard him interviewed on a Christian radio station I happened across when on the road. He and I actually shared a couple of e-mails back then. His debunking does not change the senders mind. They’ll believe whatever they want to believe. Sometimes the “data” will include a supposed link to Snopes, proving it is correct. They really don’t expect people to go to Snopes, after all, they’ve already made up their mind, and the link itself may not be valid (or if you go there, Snopes says it is false.) But you have to go there, and few do.

6. I do think that it is worthwhile (even if it seems a waste of time) to challenge the one who forwards the item, and if I’m lucky enough to have an open cc list, I’ll respond to them, too. Every now and then somebody will write that they were glad I spoke up. Other silent ones get this garbage as well. But the human tendency is to start believing the unbelievable if it is repeated often enough, and that is a conscious and deliberate strategy.

I’m actually glad you sent this on, and I’ll pass it on the group for their information. And if anyone in the group wants to add to my list above, please do. Feel free to send my item to your relative if you wish.”

“Election 2012″ posts will appear periodically between now and November. Simply enter Election 2012 in the search box, and you’ll see where the others are located.

The Video and response links referred to in first two paragraphs: video; here’s the truth: here and here. (Truth or Fiction’s opinion of the video is here.)