Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chain Mail Lunacy

Earlier today I received a forwarded piece of chain mail with a simple request, "Is this real?" That didn't surprise me, I've made myself known for my intolerance of chain mail misinformation. What surprised me is that the very link that I used to verify the legitimacy of the email was included in the email itself.

The email, if you must know, was one about crystal meth being distributed at grade schools as Halloween candy. I barely read any of it; all I needed was enough to search for a key phrase. I was using much the same procedure I always do. After I found a good phrase and searched, the first hit was a Snopes article.

It wasn't until I went to reply that I noticed the word Snopes in the original email. Then I realized that it was the same link I was going to send. I did my duty and replied with the most accurate synopsis that I could, but I was still bothered by something: Why should I have even taken the time to answer someone who would even think of believing that the serious subject matter of the email is true without even reading it?

It's really sad. Not only does false information get passed around so easily, but it's so openly accepted that people don't feel the need to bother reading it. At least my coworker was skeptical enough to ask me, I suppose. Unfortunately, there were probably a hundred other email addresses included in the forward. At least 5 people had forwarded this email, who knows where they got it and how many others have passed it on. All without bothering to read all of the information included in the email.

I do think that it's mildly clever to use the most widely known chain mail debunking site as a resource to make your claims seem more valid. I wonder if the person who started that incarnation of the email going actually thought that so many people wouldn't bother to check. It's a sort of audacity that you'd only expect from someone who's telling the truth. Think again.