By Jug Varner
As one who strives for accuracy in reporting, I appreciate receiving E-mails correcting my occasional goofs in forwarding erroneous information on this Web site - particularly when I inadvertently miss checking articles that could be hoaxes, dupes, scams, spam and viruses. Fortunately, many of you with eagle eyes let me know immediately when this happens and I am able to kill the article before many people accept it as gospel and send it along to their friends. But, it is a tricky problem.
Untold millions around the world use this form of communication and information. Perhaps only a miniscule percentage of them ever bother to include the original source of an article, if they know it, or actually check to see if it is true before they send it. Of course, not everyone has hoax-type software that tells whether the information they are viewing is fraudulent… and even such software is not all-inclusive. So much stuff is floating around out there in the ether that it would be impossible to verify it all in one's lifetime. We are stuck with this “curse” of seldom knowing the originator, and trusting your sources.
Recently, a viewer questioned me about the article, THAT SPECIAL DAY AT THE BALTIMORE AIRPORT (archived under CULTURE). “How do you know if this article is true?” he asked, saying, “Usually when I see a disclaimer that something is not an 'Urban Legend' or 'This is true,' after a careful search I have found the opposite to be true.”
I had to admit that I didn't know for certain, but I trusted my source because I have known him for almost a half-century, we worked together as information officers in the Navy trying to discern the truth, etc., and that neither of us would knowingly forward false information. He is the type who checks the source, as we were taught to do in journalism school. He rose to the top in Navy public information because of his professionalism and astuteness. So in this particular case, it was a matter of trusting my source.
That doesn't hold true 100% of the time, however. Human nature is such that sometimes one is so beguiled by a story that “seems so true” that he or she accepts it at face value, without checking it out, and then sends it along to friends they know will appreciate it.
As to the “truth” of the article in question, I can't honestly state that it is true. In all probability it is, because it is so typical of the deep-down patriotism and actions Americans are so noted for despite our busy lives and our own self-concerns. I suppose with my background in life (I just turned 80 this year) I am still far more an optimist than a pessimist, and I honestly believe in the good all humans possess - at least to some degree. This particular article smacks loudly of that “good.” We may not always know the truth, but we know that truth can be stranger than fiction.
Speaking of “sources,” you will note that in articles forwarded to me I credit the original source (if I can find it) along with the identity of the one who sent it to me. I receive a lot more articles than I use, and I discard anything questionable. Obviously, I can't always find the origin, but if not, I usually ask the forwarder to find it if he or she can before I publish it. I firmly believe all authors should receive their due credit - for better or for worse - and certainly in accordance with copyright laws. Internet users are far too lax in this respect.
Too many people merely include a long series of names of those in the chain who received it before them, and forward it with no original source given.
Having said all that, I will close with this:
Yes, I may occasionally be guilty of sending something that may not be true… but never if I know it to be false.