Crede, sed comproba

on the Internet, we all have a responsibility to trust but verify.

One of the most interesting and frightening things about this Internet is how it reflects our society - the good the bad and the unregulated.  My husband has a favorite saying:  On the Internet no one knows you're a dog!

I'm an unabashed free thinker so I like unregulated.  I'm a big girl; I can regulate myself, having been raised responsibly with strong values and consequences.  

 The Internet reminds me of an awkward teenager, young, strong, vibrant, full of promise but not quite mature enough to know right from wrong - much like the wild-West-adolescence of this unique and exceptional country we call America.  Back then the Wild West teemed with snake oil salesmen selling quick-claim deeds for non-existent gold mines.  There are similarities on some of today's Internet sites.

 It's frustrating - this Internet, running rampant with erroneous information, slathered with  emotional content in the hopes of evoking sympathy.  Recently two such e-mails prompted me to resurrect my old mantra, which used to blaze across my screen saver:  Crede, sed comproba - Trust but verify.  (Actually it's a Russian Proverb, but I like it in Latin - authors' prerogative.)


The first was a harmless list of quippy sayings attributed, complete with photo, to a "ninety-year-old woman named Regina Brett."   I bet someone you know sent you the very e-mail.  The problem?   Regina is a very young 52; a columnist from The Cleveland Plain Dealer,  and she bears no resemblance to the photograph in the e-mail.  I wonder how she feels about being aged by forty years, never mind having her column co-opted by some anonymous spammer.  Ah, the power of the Internet.  The laziness of the recipient with a forward key (me included.)

The second e-mail was a plea for passage of the 28th Amendment wrapped in the sentimental uniform of a badly scarred war vet, interspersed with the following commentary:

"No one has been able to explain to me why young men and women serve in the U.S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their pay on retirement. While Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full-pay retirement after serving one term.  

If each person who receives this will forward it on to 20 people, in three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one proposal that really should be passed around.

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States ."

Like many, I couldn't hit the forward key fast enough.  BUT, as the story unraveled  I discovered that it wasn't about a wounded soldier.   Oh horrors.  Was our brave military being used to deceive?  Again?   This story was meant to discredit the Congress.

Well heck, there's plenty of disgraceful behavior in Washington. We don't need to invent stuff to make that point.

Read Snopes' full disclosure of the allegations  cited above.  Google SnopesUrbanledgendTruthorfiction, and thatsnonsense, all websites supposedly dedicated to fact checking.  According to them  this amendment doesn't exist.  By that I mean no one has actually filed any such bill in the Congress.  And yet, the 28th Amendment has its own Face Book page with thousands of  'likes'  - although details are noticeably absent.   Sloppiness or an assumption that if it's on the internet it must be true?

I'm cynical enough to be wary of what my 7th grade Civics class called "glittering generalities."   Rule one: if you want to persuade your audience by circulating these e-mail blasts, get the facts straight.  The allegations behind the amendment are apparently baseless.

If the fact checkers are accurate (there's a concept for you)...and the conspiracy theorist in me does have a few gnawing concerns... this elaborate picture of the worst of the worst in our elected representatives is a fabrication.   HOWEVER, and this is a really big HOWEVER, on the other hand,  what if the allegations are true, and all the fact-checker websites are a fabrication designed just to keep everyone  off balance?  There go the lemmings right over the cliff.

Just remember what Buttercup sings to Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore:  "Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream; Highlows pass as patent leathers; Jackdaws strut in peacock's feathers."

Does the end justify the means?  Or do the means justify the end?  Ummmm, you tell me.  This tangled web sets my hair on fire.  I want black to be black and white to be white.  It shouldn't matter which network you watch.  It shouldn't matter which magazine you prefer.  Facts should be facts.  Truth is truth.  Editorials belong on the Editorial page...where we can know them for what they are.  OPINIONS.  As a former journalism student, we were taught, like Sgt. Friday, to "just get the facts ma'am."

Currently we're a curiously, evenly divided nation (evidenced by California's  Prop28 vote and the incredible ads that whipsawed us from one extreme position to the other.)    The looming question is, what should we believe?  Whom should we believe?  Unfortunately we live in such murky times laced with so much convoluted information that we require an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to believe anything.  That my friends is hard work.   Right.  Our own 21st century Sturm und Drang.  Guess we'll have to parse those glittering generalities more carefully.

Crede, sed comproba indeed!



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Karla August 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Excellent piece, Elizabeth. I never believed that the proposed 28th Amendment was actually up for a vote, because Congress would never shoot themselves in the foot. However, it is a good idea. As for Prop. 28, wow, it was really deceptive in its wording, and now we're stuck with it. Cheers.


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