At least once every two weeks, I get a frantic email, copied to dozens of people, urging me to rally everyone I know to take a stand against some sort of impending doom. You know the ones:
Apart from being complete lies and fabrications, all these emails have one more thing in common: the sender passed them along without checking their accuracy. And that’s bad, because repeating a lie is as bad as making one up.
Folks, it’s the twenty-first century. It’s never been easier to be responsible, to think for yourself, to look things up. There’s this thing called Google, see, and you can type in search terms like “In God We Trust dollar coins removed” and get the facts. Or you can go straight to Snopes.com, an entire website dedicated to doing nothing but fact-checking wild Internet rumors.
And when you’re guilty of sending out one of these, don’t follow it up with some weak apology like “I sent it by mistake” or “The email might have been old, but the spirit of it was true.” Man up. Own the fail. Say: “What I sent out was a lie, and I was too lazy to fact-check it before copying to everyone I know. That was wrong, and I apologize.”
Meantime, you can save yourself from future embarrassment by following this simple rule of thumb: when you get a frantic, politically-charged email urging you to send copies to everyone you know, do us all a favor and delete it.