Lies, damn lies and Internet hoaxes

A reader recently reprinted, as a comment to an article about the race between Rep. Rick Boucher and Congressional wannabe Morgan Griffith, a widely-circulated email that claims to contain damning facts about illegal immigrants, food stamps and welfare in this country.

Nothing in the email is true. It has been proven false by numerous “fact checking” sites. Yet people continue to received it and then compound the spread of misinformation by sending out to their friends.

Call it another example of the misinformation superhighway. Lies, damn lies and outright falsehoods speeds through the ‘Net at cyberspeed, feeding the paranoia of the gullible.

Such email frauds have been around for years. One of the worst was a widely circulated email that claimed the federal government was going to start taxing email. Anyone who took the time to check out the so-called “facts” in the email would have quickly learned that the Senator who supposedly introduced the bill did not exist and that the bill number was not the numbering system used by either house of Congress.

Illegal immigrants are a hot button issue for many, fueled by the hate rhetoric of the right-wing. At least once a week, someone approaches me in a restaurant and asks why I’m not writing about “all the illegal Mexicans who get in trouble and clog up our courts.” When I try to explain that most of the cases in Floyd County Circuit Court involves the same old-time surnames that have always been in trouble in the county they refuse to believe it.

Another illusion is the claim that illegal immigrants are draining our social service system. That, too, is a lie. All it takes is a conversation with Carol Ayers, Floyd County’s Social Services Director, to learn that a person cannot collect food stamps or other social service payments without proof of citizenship and a valid Social Security number. Carl’s people are very good at their jobs and they check out all applicants.

Very few Latin families in Floyd County or elsewhere in Virginia collect food stamps or other assistance. When Hispanics get into trouble, their community helps them out. They don’t turn to the government for help.

But those interested in spreading fear have little interest in facts. It’s so much easier to accept misinformation as gospel and pass it on.

It’s too easy for too many to hate. Sadly, seeking the truth is attempted by too few.

7 thoughts on “Lies, damn lies and Internet hoaxes”

  1. Thanks for this reality check, Doug. Hatred is usually built on false premises, and is fed by ignorance.

  2. Well said, Doug…and Carol! A great read on 21 myths that are being perpetuated about immigration is “They Take Our Jobs!” by Aviva Chomsky.

  3. Thanks, Mr. Thompson. A ‘reality check’ is appropriate now, more than ever.

    Folks need to be informed with authenticity; it’s ‘ok’ to question important reports.

    Hate-mongers should resist temptation. They should take responsibility to check the facts, at least as well as many check their grocery list..

  4. “Hate”? Perhaps a better term is “Fear” Fear causes people to react extremely forcibly and without thinking. Fear is much more accurate in my opinion than hate. People fear the unknown. I too read the email rounds and frequently have my wife check them out on snopes and other of the “fact-finding” sites. True, most are bogus. But due to their incindiary topics, immediately fear jumps to the fore, causing otherwise rational beings to suddenly become raging lunatics. Granted, those bogus messages may have been started by those with hate, but fear is what causes the messages to be accepted and spread like wildfire.

    In this day and age, it is so easy to label everyone who is scared or fearful a “hater” a “bigot” a “racist”. In my opinion, that, in and of itself is something I think is spread by the left and is, in its own way “hate”.

  5. Folks don’t pass-on unverified information that degrades certain others, unless they are ignorant and/or full of hate; they may want to spread fear.

    Folks that hold fear and/or hate often research and lessen or worsen their woes, according to their beliefs as associated with facts that are well-founded.

    It’s not a ‘leftist’ or ‘rightist’ viewpoint, it’s just the way its, I think.

    I guess the ‘ole ‘chain letter feardom’ may have permiated society in electronic form.

  6. I don’t know about your ancestors, Bob, but my ancestors were de facto “illegal” immigrants — uninvited and unwanted by the flourishing indigenous population. They arrived in 1609 in Virginia and 1620 in Massachusetts. I guess they believed the propaganda that this was a sparsely settled continent.

  7. Something that is very often not considered when the topic of illegal immigrants comes up is this: who is providing these illegal immigrants with jobs? Neo-liberals and conservatives who think that it is their right to get rich at the expense of the larger society, that’s who. By hiring illegal immigrants who live in fear of being deported by the INS, they can pay sub-standard wages and provide no benefits, thus fattening their wallets. Those underpaid illegal immigrants cannot afford decent housing, so they pool their resources and ten or more of them rent a house in a decent neighborhood owned by a landlord who charges an exorbitant rent that is affordable when it is split ten ways. Neighbors, fearing a decline in property values, sell their property to other “investors” and the neighborhood, once healthy, goes into decline. That declining neighborhood is then a source of crime that the local police (paid for by the larger society) have to deal with. The landlords laugh all the way to the bank. It is called privatizing the gain and socializing the loss – just ask Blankfein and the Lords of Wall Street about that. The other thing that is never considered is why the immigrants make the hazardous journey to this country. Most often, it is because there are no opportunities to make a living in the country they came from and that is often because of NAFTA or similar trade agreements that stack the deck in favor of the financial elite that runs this country and punishes the citizens of the countries victimized by those agreements. Those who rail against illegal immigrants should instead be railing against the financial elite that runs this country but since they listen to Limbaugh, Palin, Beck and other talking heads bought and paid for by that same financial elite their brains are so poisoned by hatred that they can’t think clearly any longer. That is, if they ever could think. Anyone care to guess what Limbaugh’s salary is? In 2008, Limbaugh signed an eight year contract for $400 million dollars. Hatred sure pays well in this country, doesn’t it??

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