Rudy Giuliani

Snopes.con

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Liberal reporter Chris Hayes, a journeyman of the weirder crannies of the political world, has a long and deeply reported piece on an inscrutable topic: Where do political chain e-mails come from? Specifically, where do right-wing or anti-Democrat chain e-mails come from? The answer: Some from smart political hacks, some from crazy people, some are just untrackable.

"A lot of the chain letters that were accusing Al Gore of things in 2000 were recycled in 2004 and changed to Kerry," says John Ratliff, who runs a site called BreakTheChain.org, which, like Snopes, devotes itself to debunking chain e-mails. One e-mail falsely described a Senate committee hearing in the 1980s where Oliver North offered an impassioned Cassandra-like warning about the threat of Osama bin Laden, only to be dismissed by a condescending Democratic senator. Originally it was Al Gore who played the role of the senator, but by 2004 it had changed to John Kerry. "You just plug in your political front-runner du jour," Ratliff says.

Even if many of the tropes were consistent, the tenor of the e-mails grew more aggressive between 2000 and 2004. "It got really nasty," says Ratliff. "You started seeing things reported as real news that, if you looked into it, you realized was opinion or supposition or someone trying to discredit another candidate through character assassination. You saw a lot of chain letters that purported to be from members of the Swift Boat group or firsthand accounts of people who supposedly had experience with Kerry in Vietnam. A lot of them didn't check out."

The big hoax of election 2008, as previously reported by the Politico's Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, is that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Hayes encounters a phone canvasser who hears voters tell him they "heard this" multiple times a day… I hear it basically every time I travel. And the people who think Obama is a Manchurian Islamofascist don't also think Mitt Romney has multiple wives or John McCain has an out-of-wedlock baby. More than that, they don't even know (I usually ask) that Rudy Giuliani is in his third marriage and his first was to his second cousin. In other words, e-mail slanders on the right spread faster than truths from the mainstream or liberal media.

Hayes also has a fun encounter with Andy Martin, a deranged Illinois lawyer (whom I met in 2004) and perpetual ballot gadfly who should force people who say things like "Ron Paul is crazy!" to recalibrate their concepts of "crazy."

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  1. Ron Paul is crazy…delicious.

  2. On a only slightly related note, I have said that if I ran snopes.com about 1% of the items would be intentionally wrong, just to keep people from trusting ANYONE. However, I think snopes error rate is higher than that anyway, whether intentional or accidental.

  3. robc,

    They used to have a couple of intentionally ridiculous false conclusions on there to illustrate that you shouldn’t overly trust any source, even them. One was about how Mr. Ed was really a zebra. I can’t remember the other one. I’m not sure why they aren’t there anymore.

  4. Ah, here we go. They didn’t take them down after all.

  5. One was about how Mr. Ed was really a zebra

    Is it true that they got Mr. Ed to “talk” by using a strategically placed electrode?

  6. Shows what they know. Obama’s not muslim. He’s Irish Catholic.

  7. They put peanut butter on Mr. Ed’s gums.

  8. that’s right. peanut butter on the gums. electrodes on the genitals.

    cuz it’s just not S&M unless it’s happenin’ at both ends!

  9. Rimfax,

    Yeah, Ive seen those. What I mean is just flat out lie about things that arent silly sounding. Putting in some humorous outrageous things is okay, but thats not what I would do.

  10. They put peanut butter on Mr. Ed’s gums.

    That was his reward for allowing Wilbur to stick a probe up his ass.
    By the way, Ed had the hots for Wilbur’s wife, which might better explain the probe.

    I learned all this on the intertubes, where everything is true.

  11. robc,

    Those articles are actually very dryly presented and they all have a source bibliography at the bottom. The only clue for you to realize that you’re reading a bogus article is that the facts don’t seem to add up. They give you every opportunity to rationalize yourself into believing them. They don’t give up their hand with humor.

  12. My mom thought Obama was Muslim when she visited me in September.

    Back in the mid 90’s when she first got an intertrons connection she would forward wacky e-mails to me all the times. I would reply to her with the snopes.com URL and pasted the snopes text in as well. She eventually stopped. Old people are stupid.

  13. I learned all this on the intertubes, where everything is true.

    Especially Wikipedia!

  14. Partisans are liars. News at 11:00

  15. The only clue for you to realize that you’re reading a bogus article is that the facts don’t seem to add up. They give you every opportunity to rationalize yourself into believing them. They don’t give up their hand with humor.

    Kinda like the “Colbert is really running for President because we saw him scrawl what he alleged was his signature on a piece of paper that he alleged was filing papers that he alleged he would mail in” vibe we got yesterday?

  16. I got the Obama = Muslim thing from mom too. I figure Fox News. Maybe they did one of their cute “some say” stories. Or maybe Hannity.

  17. The snopesable emails are bad, but not nearly as bad as the 5MB PowerPoints with kittens and angels and a .midi file of Jesus Loves Me.

  18. In other words, e-mail slanders on the right spread faster than truths from the mainstream or liberal media.

    Does anyone even get (read, see, what have you) spam anymore? I’ve never heard or seen any of these chain emails.

  19. Partisans are liars. News at 11:00

    Shouldn’t that be “Film at 11”?

  20. One was about how Mr. Ed was really a zebra. I can’t remember the other one. I’m not sure why they aren’t there anymore.

    Rimfax, possibly because of the weird, strange logical contortions you’re forced into when you say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone, see?!!” And then commit an untrustworthy act, followed by the implicit suggestion that that’s the reason people should trust you…

  21. Old people are stupid.

    Unfortunately, not all stupid people are old…makes you wonder if they came that way…

  22. My mom thought Obama was Muslim when she visited me in September.

    But Obama bin Laden is a Muslim, isn’t he? I think you’re talking about Barack Osama.

  23. Paul,

    What I probably really meant is Barack Hussein Osama.

  24. Robc and Rimfax: Some of those fake Snopes articles (like the Mr. Ed zebra one) are self-evidently false, but a couple are written as plausible, particularly the “Sing a Song of Sixpence was about pirates” one, which is just the kind of “nursery rhymes are coded history” silliness that lots of educated people are always falling for.

    http://www.snopes.com/lost/sixpence.htm

  25. Does anyone even get (read, see, what have you) spam anymore? I’ve never heard or seen any of these chain emails.

    Paul, you must not have had an older, less technically proficient relative get their first email account.

    Whenever and older relative would get their first email account, they would invariably send me chain emails I first received in 1994.

    The “Forward this Microsoft Email test chain email and win a trip to Disney World” was my favorite.

  26. “silliness that lots of educated people are always falling for.”

    or you’re going for the “wsdave” theory: “duuhhhh. i don’t kare. so i’m not gonna look it up. BATIN!!!! extra big ass fries. I went to skuul at Costco.”

    if that is the case, please strike out the strike out!

  27. I understood that the alarmist emails were about how Obama would be considered an apostate Muslim by Muslims because his father was Muslim, i.e. Obama was born a Muslim. Isn’t that, you know, true? Or do non-Muslims give their kids middle names like Hussein?

  28. “Or do non-Muslims give their kids middle names like Hussein?”

    sure. why not. Non germans give their kids middle names like Adolf…

  29. Of course Obama isn’t Muslim. It’s illegal for Muslims to run for office. I know that’s true because I saw it somewhere on the internet…

    dum, da dum dum!

  30. Sean Healy,

    So it’s true? I’ll be right back. I have to send out some emails right away.

  31. OMG!OMG!OMG!

    Hughnumber! that email you just sent me? Is it true? OMG!OMG!OMG!

    *rushes out to buy up all of the crisco and cling wrap that can be found*

  32. This reminds me of an e-mail I got in 2000 about dumb things supposedly said by Al Gore. The only problem was that most of them were from a book of quotations by Dan Quayle. At least one of those actually dated back to Calvin Coolidge, and I don’t think he said it. James Thurber liked to make up pseudo -Coolidge quotes and some of them get attributed to the real Coolidge.

  33. Or do non-Muslims give their kids middle names like Hussein?

    This is one of the dumbest anti-Obama things I’ve heard. Even if his middle name is Hussein (I don’t know & don’t care), it is a massively common Muslim name. Jordan’s king, Hussein (also unrelated to Saddam), is just one example.

  34. And don’t forget Charlton Hussein Heston. John Hussein Wayne. Mr. Hussein Sulu.

  35. And don’t forget Charlton Hussein Heston. John Hussein Wayne. Mr. Hussein Sulu.

    Sulu? But, but, he’s, somebody said he was, I’ve heard he has TEH GAY ! You can’t get that if you’re a Muslim. I know because I heard THAT from Columbia University.

    Mr Moose, What does it all mean?

  36. J sub D – and here’s the guy that you heard that from.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  37. VM – thx, they slipped my mind.

  38. Judging by what I see in my in box this isn’t the one way street the article would imply.

  39. An excellent point, JSub – hier is but an introduction to URKOBOLD’s work with Wayne and Sulu. The sign that it’s Friday. Wayne and Sulu. (including autobiographical slashfic by our very own Mr. Steven Crane)

    Baked – and the former King Hussein of Jordan was married to a Californian. Which is governed by Arnold Hussein Gro?er Schwanz Schwarzenegger.

  40. Old people are stupid.

    Smart, young people taste good when eaten alive piece by piece – especially their brains – when you can find a smart one, that is. 🙂

  41. In other words, e-mail slanders on the right spread faster than truths from the mainstream or liberal media.

    Not sure that one can make this blanket statement, considering some of the chain emails about, e.g., Bush’s IQ being measured by a fictional institute or some of the ridiculous slanders against Bobby Jindal. (Whose birth name of “Piyush” get unnecessary references like Obama’s “Hussein” middle name does, or Pete Du Pont’s “Pierre” did at one time.)

    However, I think that this particular story does spread faster. (However, surely not *everyone* has heard it, so it’s not quite accurate to ask only the people who have heard this story if they’ve heard others and judge based on that.)

    I think that this particular rumor (interesting to call it a “slander”– are you implying that it would be a slander to say someone is Muslim?) spreads quickly because:

    1) His father was an apostate Muslim (as apparently was his step-father), with his mother non-religious;
    2) He spent much of his childhood in majority-Muslim areas (causing the Indonesian school he was sent to be exaggerated in similar stories to a jihadist one);
    3) His middle name, obviously, has Muslim connotations.

    All these grains of truth make it easier for a mistaken story to spread, even without ulterior motives that do exist. (Some people wish to believe “the worst” about people and dislike Muslims; even people who don’t think ill of Muslims might believe it plausible that someone would hide being a Muslim because others do think ill of Muslims; etc.)

  42. Perhaps people who point out that Giuliani married his second cousin would do well to remember that our Queen (Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, that is) and Prince Phillip are second cousins once removed.

  43. John Thacker: And don’t forget that that Bush IQ hoax was actually repeated verbatim as fact by Doonesbury!

  44. Course we DO know where the conspiracy theory that Blackwater started the fires in San Diego for payback came from. Hint: it wasn’t disgruntled conservative republican swine.

  45. TWC-Who said that?

  46. Even if his middle name is Hussein (I don’t know & don’t care), it is a massively common Muslim name. Jordan’s king, Hussein (also unrelated to Saddam), is just one example.

    This was precisely my point. I don’t give a crap about Muslims in Obama’s family; I was making a statement about how much truth the supposedly “slanderous” email contained (NB: slander, by definition, cannot be true). I don’t see how it’s “anti-Obama” to point out that a Muslim probably gave him his middle name, anyway – and of course it’s reprehensible for Republicans to try to create a false association between Obama and bin Laden and Hussein. However, I understood the meme to be one of concern that a President Obama would have serious problems with Muslim relations because he’d be considered an apostate.

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