14 August 2007

Lies and really big fonts

    A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
      Mark Twain

I got one of those e-mails today. You know the ones. The text of the message indented several levels due to incessant forwarding. "FW:" prefaces the subject which, in this instance, is "9/11." You can tell where this is going immediately. It starts out subtly:

It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they were playing an old news video of Lt.Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings during the Reagan Administration.

There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning.

DUN DUUNN!! Prepare to awestruck! I'm surprised it didn't say "There was poor Ollie...," but score points for getting "Got and country" in their early. It's important to set the tone. I am reproducing most of the original format of centered italics, but I'll skip the 18 pt. Arial. I think they showed admirable restraint in avoiding bold and underlined. It continues:

He was being drilled by a senator; "Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?"

Ollie replied, "Yes, I did, Sir."

The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience, "Isn't that just a little excessive?"

"No, sir," continued Ollie.

"No? And why not?" the senator asked.

"Because the lives of my family and I were threatened, sir."

"Threatened? By whom?" the senator questioned.

"By a terrorist, sir" Ollie answered.

"Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?"

Chuckle. What terrorist, indeed? Okay, you know what the answer is going to be. Hung's trained monkey knows what the answer is going to be. The sender, however, wants to make sure you understand that this is big revelation, so they pull out all the stops and reveal in 27 pt.:

"His name is Osama bin Laden, sir" Ollie replied.

Oh. My. God. Are you dumbstruck? Well wait, there's more. After such an earth shattering revelation, you need a little comic relief:

At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn't pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn't. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued. Why are you so afraid of this man?" the senator asked.

"Because, sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of", Ollie answered.

Hehe. That dumb senator couldn't even pronounce the name. Funny stuff. Heck, most people couldn't pronounce it back then. It's such a tongue twister. Say it three times fast. See how hard that is? But now, the tone becomes grave again. In an interesting stylistic departure, the author chooses this moment to switch Comic Sans MS, but those trusty italics are not abandoned.

"And what do you recommend we do about him?" asked the senator.

"Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth."

The senator disagreed with this approach, and that was all that was shown of the clip.

Okay, did you get that? Oliver North wanted to assassinate Osama bin Laden in 1987, and was ridiculed for it by the senator questioning him at the time. Hmmm. I wonder if the senator was a democrat or republican.... Well, have no fear, that question will be answered:

By the way, that senator was Al Gore!

Al Gore, ladies and gentlemen! To drive this point home, the color changes to maroon. (I use maroon Comic Sans MS for e-mail - don't know that says about me.) For good measure, Al Gore's name is in 27 pt. I guess that's because it's also hard to pronounce. So there it is: Gore laughed away the threat of bin Laden back in 1987.

I probably don't have to tell you that this is all a load of crap, and Snopes explains in detail how completely false it is. Still, one fabrication just isn't enough for our sender. Hot on the heals of the Al Gore bombshell, we get more:

Terrorist pilot Mohammad Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him. As part of the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians in 1993, Israel had to agree to release so-called "political prisoners."

However, the Israelis would not release any with blood on their
hands. The American President at the time, Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, "insisted" that all prisoners be released.

Thus Mohammad Atta was freed and eventually thanked the US by flying an airplane into Tower One of the World Trade Center.

Here we go. More centered italics. More 18 and 27 pt. fonts. More democrats turning a blind eye to terrorists. I like the little, "Thus..." part at the end. Almost biblical. One would wonder why such a bombshell would go unnoticed. Don't you worry. All the answers are right here:

This was reported by many of the American TV networks at the time that the terrorists were first identified.

It was censored in the US from all later reports.

If you agree that the American public should be made aware of this fact, pass this on.

There it is. The cover-up. The conspiracy. The information you were not meant to know. It's 27 pt. It's maroon. It's italicised. It's bold. It's underlined.

And it's still bullshit. No matter which font you use.

Why the big post? It's not like this is the first e-mail like this I've seen. It's clearly fake, and Snopes is full of similar fabrications. Yet as laughable as it is to me, it wasn't forwarded as a joke. It was forwarded by someone who thinks it's true and sought to tell others. It's bad enough when someone cooks up this garbage, but it's even worse when people receive it with no critical scrutiny whatsoever.

And there's one more thing. Besides scaling down the fonts, I left off the pictures. We've all seen photos of the planes striking and the towers collapsing. I didn't need them here. But I will include this one, from the end of the message:

There's the final insult. The memory of those lost with symbols of peace and love invoked in service of some little jerk's political slimefest.


Chris A. said...

Thank you for illustrating one of my pet peeves. I'm all for exchanging information, but if it sounds too good/on-the-nose/absurd to be true, please research before sending it on!

chrisready said...

While not nearly as insulting, I find myself having to dispell the "Mars will be as big as the FULL MOON on Aug 24th" myth every year around this time as well.

It goes to show that given the choice of thinking critically and just hitting the "forward" button, people would rather forward the message "just in case" it's true.

Sharon GR said...

One of the things that bothers me here- and really, there are so many- is how friggin' EASY it is to verify some of the bullshit that gets forwarded on a regular basis.

I used to check Snopes or Google for each of these things then respond to the person who sent them, and eventually they'd stop coming to me- but, most likely, the sender just took me off their stupid-shit sendlist, not that the sender stopped sending the stuff or started verifying it before forwarding.