Email is powerful. When have we ever had the ability to reach out to so many friends in so short a time? But like most powerful tools, email can be misused or used carelessly.
I just received an email, forwarded from a dear friend, asking for electronic signatures for a petition. The email said,
An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the [subject of removing pastors from the airwaves] by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America .
Petition RM2493 was brought before the FCC in 1974. The FCC rejected it in August of 1975. Somebody resurrected it as a chain email in 1999 and several times since then.
It is very easy to verify the details of such an email. First off, pay attention to the lack of details, such as in the phrase “An organization.” It doesn’t say what organization, and that information is, of course, very pertinent to the matter at hand.
Next, do a quick Google search for the key elements of the email. I searched for “FCC petition 2493″ (without the quotes) and the first result was from the FCC’s own website. A quick scan of that page revealed to me that RM2493 was not only old news, but it was resolved in favor of non-interference with religious programming.
The second search result on Google was from Snopes.com. Snopes is a good resource for checking up on the veracity of possible rumors and hoaxes.
It is important for us to handle these kind of rumors responsibly. Consider that if you choose to forward such an email without verifying the facts, you may be contributing to another person’s confusion. Over time we can succumb to crisis fatique, gradually unable to muster the time and energy to pay attention or care about issues being forwarded by our friends. It is equivelent to the boy who cried wolf.
We live in interesting times. There are real wolves out there. Make sure, when you email your friends about a wolf, that the wolf is a real wolf.