Did Pepsi really put the pledge of allegiance on their soda cans and remove the words “under God”? Did the United States Mint actually remove the words “In God We Trust” from the new one dollar coin? Can you believe it?
Does Barack Obama’s wedding ring actually bear an Arabic inscription reading “There is no god but Allah”? Did Paul Ryan compare the poor to stray cats who, once fed, would not go away? And did Michelle Obama really wave Communist flags in China? For the record, the answers are no, no, no, no, no, and no. But the stories still drive me crazy.
Some of those internet stories become so widely known and accepted that they take on a truth of their own. For instance, Al Gore did not at any point in his career claim he invented the internet. If you’ve been previously convinced, please don’t flame me; just do the research. The whole thing exploded out of an accusation in a close political race. It grew to the point where people today just presume the man, at best, had a brain fart and said something stupid that he would later regret. Not true. But it’s too late. The internet has made the story so commonly accepted that we “know” it’s true. Al Gore’s obituary will surely mention the ” I invented the internet” episode.
Something in human nature makes a lot of people get outraged over slights some of us wouldn’t even notice. Others love to get infuriated at the possibility their religion, political philosophy, or whatever, might have been insulted. And most often, it seems, the information is pure fiction. You’d suspect these folk’s lives are so empty they feel obligated to share the indignation and even spread the ridiculous stories. I can’t buy that explanation. Nobody’s life sucks that bad.
Experts explain people’s motives with several theories. Some think the source of an internet hoax gets a thrill out of fooling so many people. It’s a kind of joke, but the intent is malicious and cruel. Investigators claim it’s almost like the thrill vandals get from exerting power, anonymously, over people they don’t even know. It’s a slightly grown up form of what children have done since the invention of the telephone. Prank calls were common entertainment for children until caller identification became the norm. Now they just put their pranks on the internet.
Some hoaxes begin as an effort to discredit a group, or even an individual. Stories aimed at political or public figures might often be explained this way. Somebody feels that the Disney empire is too big or too rich, so he spreads a rumor about Walt Disney collecting pornography. Unbelievable, yes. Too unbelievable to become a popular internet hoax? Apparently not. I threw it in the cyber-trash along with the one about Ohio officials replacing lethal injection for death row inmates. According to the story, Ohio has developed a head ripping machine. Nice.
I’ve given up attempting to refute the internet insanities. It certainly wasn’t effective at stopping the spread of either humorous or vicious hoaxes. And to make matters worse, refutation just makes the writer look like a spoilsport. Nobody’s mind gets changed.
You can’t fix stupid, and it doesn’t pay to educate evil. From this point on, just take the advice of the hoaxer who ended his string of lies with, “If you agree, pass it on. If you don’t agree, just delete it.” Ignore the fact that so many of them are malicious and cruel, and deserve to be shouted down. Just delete all of them.