HAYS, Kan. - Some of the chain e-mails that go around the internet annoy me even more than those telemarketing calls that come during the dinner hour. You know the kind I mean--not the e-mails promising rock-bottom prices on male enhancement products, but the chilling threats of imminent Armageddon all because Mom, apple pie, and God-fearing, democracy-loving Americans are once again under attack--usually by liberals or atheists or Democrats or gays or Muslims or, worst of all, by liberal atheistic Democratic gay Muslims.
These e-mails are usually forwarded to you and 938 other idiots who were dumb enough to give your e-mail addresses to Uncle Myron, who never met a conspiracy theory he didn't like. Or, for that matter, one he didn't think everyone in his address book should know about.
The jeremiads Uncle Myron forwards never cite any sources, either, but then why should they? Did Paul Revere cite any sources when he said the British were coming? Did Thomas Jefferson list any sources at the end of the Declaration of Independence? Whenever our beloved democracy is under attack, facts are facts and sources are beside the point.
To be truthful, I don't really know how to deal with Uncle Myron's e-mails when I get them. I once looked up the facts about something he sent me on www.snopes.com, then sent the pertinent article to everyone in Uncle Myron's address book by hitting the "Reply to all" button. It was a long time before I heard from him again.
Then I started getting e-mails to which he added the message, "This is true. I looked it up on www.snopes.com." However, he still had the nasty habit of forwarding e-mails that exposed only the flaws of various liberals, atheists, Democrats, gays, and Muslims--giving a free ride to all the conservatives, God-fearers, Republicans, straight people, and non-Muslims whose values and morals I personally find questionable.
But, still, I felt I had won a marginal victory. At least Uncle Myron was checking his sources before forwarding me any additional pronouncements concerning the dying of democracy, the expiration of the eternal flame of freedom, the falling of the sky, etc.
Then one day I got another e-mail from him, and this time it was accompanied by a note that said, "This isn't discussed at www.snopes.com, but then we all know that Snopes is run by two ultra-liberals whose word can't be trusted."
Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't know that! I only knew that over the years Snopes often had been listed in news magazines and mentioned on news broadcasts as a reliable resource. It was a great place to measure the veracity of the many rumors that get spread around the internet as thickly as manure on a cornfield.
So I decided to write to the nice people at Snopes and ask them if they are indeed two ultra-liberals whose word can't be trusted. Within 24 hours they wrote back, politely referring me to a page at a website developed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Specifically, the page was www.factcheck.org/2009/04/snopescom.
In the end, the nice people who run FactCheck.org answered my question with a firm "no." However, they took 21 paragraphs to say it, and their explanation was actually much longer than my Uncle Myron's original questionable e-mail had been. (Isn't that always how it goes?) Their article also was dated April 8, 2009, and signed by Viveca Novak, who included a list of nine sources used to answer my question.
Despite what my Uncle Myron says, I think I'll keep relying on www.snopes.com.