Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rumor Has It...

Even the conspiracy is a conspiracy!

Often times, which means like every day, I get emails and facebook posts and whatnot that attempt to warn me of an impending doom to humanity, or civilization, or the planet. These come in the form of chain-emails or shared links and images proclaiming the evil of one thing, person, or company or another. Rarely do any of these things have any factual basis, but many people believe, or at least half believe them anyway, and send them on to their friends. And in the words of a friend when I asked him why he sent me that stuff, "just in case its true". 

From GM corn to Robin Williams for some reason making an inspired speech after 9/11, these chain-thingys capture people's imaginations, and few it seems take a few minutes to google about it and see if they are, indeed true. One would think that well over a decade of getting such emails, the majority of the population would be quite jaded and a bit skeptical about these things. But alas, that is not the case, and the chain-crap keeps making the rounds like a 19th century snake oil salesman, just looking for more suckers that will buy into the virtues of oiling snakes.

I read once that people are quick to believe a lie because either they are afraid it is true, or they want it to be. I think this applies pretty well to chain-emails and the like. Some people have a natural distrust of genetically modified foods, for instance, and when they see anything that tells them that it is bad and can kill people, they latch onto it without questioning it at all...because they want it to be true, to reinforce what they already believed.

Other people see something like that and are just afraid it might be true, and "just in case" send it on to their friends. If we had no way of knowing otherwise, then that is an understandable action to take. You might as well share a warning, even if it proves false. But we do have ways of testing the veracity of such claims like GM corn making your organs explode, or whatever it is supposed to do.

It is called the internet. Or, if you really want to get old school, the library. Yes, they still have those, and some of them are even online! But here are a few quick tips when it comes to combating this silliness:

1. If a claim sounds sketchy, and doesn't give any resources to back its claims up...look it up.
2. If a claim does give a resource, such as "Dr. Umptysquat says", but little else...look it up.
3. If it even sounds like a chain-something...look it up.
4. If it is from someone or something that has an agenda of some kind...look it up.
5. When in doubt...look it up.

And there are lots of places to look things up too, with plenty of sourced, peer-reviewed information. The easy way is to just google whatever it is. Or look on a website like Snopes.com, which deals with things like that and finds out if they are true or not. When you do look up this stuff, be sure to look at what the website is. If you are reading about it at uncoveringgmcornconpiracies.com, then it probably isn't the most reliable source. If it is at umptysquatuniversity.edu, it is most likely good information. Even then, treat it with some skepticism.

In the time it takes to read one of these chain-emails or facebook postings, and get all worked up about it, and make a decision to change your habits...you could simply google it, and get some information about it. We aren't all geneticists, agriculturalists, doctors, rocket surgeons, or journalists, so its ok not to know anything about something like GM corn. But we have a lot of information at our fingertips...so use it.
Feel free to comment below. Please keep it civil and respect my no-cussin' policy.


  1. Any chance that reference in the third paragraph is to Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind - Sword of Truth)? I love that series. Despite it's somewhat liberal portrayal of homosexuality and other immoralities, it has amazingly conservative (for a published author) views on abortion and capitalism vs. socialism.

    1. That might be where I read it. I have read the books. The author is an Objectivist, and considers Ayn Rand his hero, if that tells you anything about the man. I don't remember the stories portraying immorality as a good thing, but more of none of the main character's concern, which I tend to agree with. Objectivism is a philosophy most identifiable with Libertarianism. They are, in a sense, classical liberals. And since many conservatives today identify with classical liberalism (the political philosophies of our founding fathers), then there are a lot of similarities. The divergence between the two is that a modern conservative still generally adheres to the values of faith, tradition, and a sense of duty. Objectivism denies all three as a basis for one's actions.