Not everything you read is true.

While I was in Malaysia recently their were radio warnings broadcast on the local commercial stations telling us to exercise caution when reading things on the internet. This community announcement was repeated often enough to make me curious. It was suggested to me that recent riots in Malaysia had been widely filmed and published on You Tube and that the government was trying to discredit them. Whatever. I’m not an expert on Malaysian politics. The warning though still rings true.

Now, apparently my last blog on this issue didn’t ring the appropriate satirical bells. Some people described it as a “rant”. The information there was correct and factual and my presentation was meant to be engaging and satirical. Turns out it was a polarizing polemic that left many wondering what my angle was. So let me restate the argument in a plain speaking manner.

Not everything you read on the internet is true. Good friends will forward you emails that are deliberate hoaxes. Your friend does not know it’s a hoax (I assume) but since it is coming from your friend it assumes a certain authority, in that you trust the email as you would your friend. My argument is, treat all emails skeptically.

Here’s another example.

Subject: Fw: Cancelled Flight! – Don’t delete this one. – Read and
Forward
>
>>
>> Â SCARY STUFF GUYS!!!!!!
>>
>>       You wonder what the world is coming to!        A MUST
>> READ!          Our news media would not report this, why?
>>   I, Gene Hackemack, received this email from my good friend
TeddPetruna,  a
>> diver at the NBL facility [Neutral Buoyancy Lab], at NASAHouston,
whom I
>> used to work with.
>> Tedd happened to be on this sameFlt.297, Atlanta to Houston
>> ..       In my opinion, the Muslims are all getting very
>> brave now… readTedd’s story below.       PS: Can you
>> imagine, our own news media now are so politicallycorrect that they
are
>> afraid to report that these were all
>> Muslims…unbelievable.       Thank God for people like Tedd
>> Petruna.       “One week ago, I went to Ohio on business and
>> to see my father.. OnTuesday, November the 17th, I returned home. If
you
>> read the papers the18th you may have seen a blurb where a AirTran
flight
>> was
>> cancelled fromAtlanta to Houston due to a man who refused to get off
of
>> his
>> cell
>> phonebefore takeoff. It was on Fox.

Etc. I’ll stop it there.

A quick Google finds me this result:

Analysis: The “eyewitness” who wrote this viral email wasn’t even on the plane, according to AirTran officials quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Dec. 5, 2009.

Tedd J. Petruna was booked on Flight 297, airline records show, but his connecting flight from Akron arrived too late for him to actually board the Houston-bound plane.

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/religion/a/flight_297_atlanta_to_houston.htm

There is more commentary here.

There is loads of this stuff floating round the internet. Be a little skeptical and remember that Google is your friend.

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