This morning I got an email message telling me to keep an eye out for a teen girl who has gone missing. The email was forwarded in all sincerity, but the actual information was fake. The teen girl mentioned was not missing, and never had been. A quick search on snopes.com pulled up the specific urban legend, and I fired an email back to my cousin with the link to Snopes. A few minutes later, she sent out an apologetic letter to let the people on her mailing list know that the story was not true. Hopefully the information was sent out soon enough to keep others from forwarding the message along. I’m not mad at my cousin in any way, since I am sure that most of us have been guilty of accidentally forwarding inaccurate information, but it pays to spend a bit of time to check things out first.
I’ve written before about how it is a good idea to be patient when news comes out. It’s very possible that the initial news reports are inaccurate or misunderstood. This happened when a premature report went out that the West Virginia miners had been found, and everyone assumed that they had been found alive. People were anxious for any news, so the report flashed around the globe. But hopes were dashed when the full, tragic story came out. A bit of patience would have avoided some of the heartache, but I understand that people in the news industry want to publish first.
Recently I heard an Air America Radio host report with bubbly glee that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was under investigation by the FBI. She promptly went into a long rant about all the horrible, evil things that Speaker Hastert has done. Why, he even took campaign contribution money from Jack Abramoff! *gasp* Interestingly enough, within ten minutes I was at my computer and pulling up a Reuters report debunking the Speaker Hastert story, citing the U.S. Justice Department in opposition to the “Federal officials” quoted in the ABC News story. If the latter proves to be the case, then my basic rule of thumb of being a bit patient before flying off the handle has again worked out to be a good rule. In this case, the talk radio host doesn’t have to be embarrassed for reporting the story, but the people responsible for filing the story in the first place should be highly embarrassed.
Finally, we come to the story of Jessie or Jesse MacBeth. Mr. MacBeth came forward, representing himself as a veteran of the Iraq war, a Ranger, and a member of Special Forces. He spoke in a long taped interview for the Iraq Veterans Against the War organization, claiming to have committed horrible acts while under orders.
But in the Internet age, false news just doesn’t last long without being debunked. The Blogosphere quickly looked at MacBeth’s service photograph in the video and spotted errors in his uniform. The Army has stated that it has no record of MacBeth ever having served in any capacity. Since the information debunking MacBeth has come out, sites that hyped the interview have vanished, the interview video is gone, and other MacBeth webpages are quietly disappearing. Even the Iraq Veterans Against the War people are backing off. You can read more about the debunking of MacBeth at Michelle Malkin’s site and as a Hot Air video.