Everyone has had their fair share of junk email in their inbox. The topics are an entirely eclectic mix--from recommendations to buy stocks to sex performance enhancing medicines to outright scams. The people behind such spam are usually unscrupulous marketers and entrepreneurs out to make quick buck. But nowadays, even the warmongers have resorted to spamming as a venue to address their deceitful propaganda.
One of my most obedient friends recently forwarded an email to me with the subject line reading "Justice", all in uppercase. I consider her very obedient because the moment she sees the phrase "pass this on to all your friends" in the body of the email, she does so without question, brushing aside all dangers that may come to infect her personal computer for the sake of obedience.
Normally the emails that I receive from my obedient friend end up in the trash bin. But for some reason I decided to open this one. The email opens by describing an eight-year-old Iranian boy caught stealing bread and Islamic laws decree that he should loose (sic) the use of his arm. Then it asks "Is this a religion of peace and love?" The email even contained Arabic translations of the content. Having noticed how the author of the email misspelled a word as simple as "lose" and seeing Arabic translation, alarm bells immediately went off inside my head. I thought to myself this seems to be a well planned out email aimed at stirring up the reader's emotions.
I decided to scroll down the message and there were a series of five pictures graphically displaying how an adult probably in his mid-30's holding down the little boy's left arm while a truck slowly drives over it. I thought I had seen everything on the internet but I spent the next five minutes or so in front of my computer monitor being extremely shaken, confused at whether I was being overcome by pity or unbridled rage.
After those long five minutes, which seemed like an eternity, I gathered myself and decided to head over to the Snopes website. For the uninitiated, Snopes is the preeminent website in debunking rumors, hoaxes, urban legends and the like. Using their search facility, I quickly found the page relating to the grisly images of the Iranian boy. It turns out that this email has been circulating since 2005. The email being circulated conveniently left out the last picture in the series, where the boy is resting and unhurt. The pictures were actually taken from one of those stunts that street hustlers perform to generate some easy money. The illusion that unfolds is that the young boy's arm is driven over by a truck but he escapes unhurt. It is not unlike the popular game that street hustlers play involving three inverted bowls with one hiding a ball and the onlookers are challenged to find where the ball is after the illusionist masterfully shifts the bowls around. The hustlers always win of course.
I calmed down after learning the truth but this time, I was overcome by extreme sadness. In this case, just like the hustlers that they are, the war mongering propagandists/liars have won. "How?" you ask. To answer that question, I will pose another question--how many people who receive this junk mail do you think would actually take the time to search for the truth the same way I did? At the end of the email, it says to pass it on to all for public awareness. I would go out on a limb and say that 99.9% of the recipients did just as they were told. In effect, the lie has been spread, the truth buried. The whole process of deception was indeed well planned out, well organized and well executed.
And so, here is another sad tale in a very long list of how the power of email was used and abused in order to spread harmful lies. A small positive did happen to me personally--I have not received any junk email from my friend in over a month. I am now wondering if her blind obedience in forwarding junk email has something to do with it.
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