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Section A: General News


Editorial: Obama warns 14 governors, and it’s not front-page news?




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About politics and other things
May 15, 2013 | 1,169 views | Post a comment

Here are some things to consider in this dangerous digital age.

A warning from Obama to governors was the subject of multiple messages received from various sources in the last few days.

One particular message was headlined: “Obama Serves 14-State Governors with Warnings of Arrest: And why is this not front page news?”

Not that there is anything wrong with asking the question about news, but one such email received from someone who usually does not forward information added the caveat when forwarding the message: “I don’t have time to check this out. But, if true ... .” To his credit he was careful to point out that he had not checked its validity; however, the problem is that within seconds of receiving it, another person forwarded it to her email list and I happened to be on that one as well. ... And so it goes. It will end up on even more blogs as people post it indiscriminately, and send it to vast lists of email recipients.

As another messenger who forwarded that same email wrote in justifying his action: “This is all over the Internet ... 17,300 results in .33 seconds!” (As if to say, it must be true.) The fact that it is “all over the Internet” is problematic in and of itself. Lots of things are “all over the Internet,” because anyone can publish anything any time on the Internet.

The fact that this email message has appeared nearly 20,000 times without becoming “front-page news” should give pause to consider that it may not be true.

Indeed, it takes a discerning eye to search the Internet efficiently. Even with an otherwise harmless message, you can waste valuable time and effort on non-issues, which may be the case with this one.

Actually, this message does contain some factual information, but there also is a lot that is undocumented, speculative, and even possibly conspiratorial.

Indeed, a quick search for “Obama threatens 14 governors with arrest” reveals numerous such stories, most of them dating back to 2010, 2011, and 2012, but they have resurfaced en masse this month. Some of the sites on which this message appears are beforeitsnews, politicalxtreme, planetinfowars, therightplanet, knowthelies, and on and on. Some of the sites are obvious spoofs; others are blogs which, unless they are from a recognized journalist, are just wild opinions. Snopes classifies this email message as false, with much of the information simply “unsubstantiated.”

This might be a good time to stress using recognized sources when referencing or researching information. Even then, it’s easy to confuse the website with its blog, as often happens on our own wilsoncountynews.com. Readers fail to distinguish our newspaper from the blogs and comments that show up on our website. I did find the story about 14 governors on some seemingly legitimate sites as well, but they were posted to people’s blogs, as opposed to being posted as news on those sites.

Unfortunately in this digital age, there are myriad versions of the old “chain letter.” They can be sinister, and because of instant communication, they grow exponentially.

Beware of web hoaxes, misinformation, and urban legends. Some are mere nuisances; others, quite malicious. There are actual counterfeit websites designed to deceive and deliberately spread lies, pretending to be the real thing. There are hoaxes that merely perpetuate deceptions or try to trick you into thinking they are real in order to get you to act -- always prompting you to “send this to everyone on your list.” Those are the ones to automatically ignore.

(Note that I specifically did not include links to these questionable websites, as I didn’t want to encourage their use.)
 

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