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The Klingerman Virus

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Like everybody else, I get a lot of junk mail in my email inbox, but this last week, three separate emails were an exception. All three were regarding the Klingerman virus, and all three, sent by Cal Ryder, Doris Matz and Sandy Compton, were requests to “check it out” with the Urban Legends website. See, folks are learning… not everything you read is true.

As is the case with the virus in question. In typical urban legend hyperbole, the email reads, “I feel it is vital to inform all of my friends…” about the newest virus around “...that affects your body, not your hard drive.” It goes on to describe a virus, passed on a large, blue envelope from the Klingerman Foundation that reads, “A Gift For You.” Opening the envelope, according to the email, results in infection with the virus. “Those who have come into contact with the Klingerman Virus have been hospitalized with severe dysentery. So far, seven of the 23 victims have died.”

Pretty scary stuff, right? Luckily, however, it’s not true.

“With all due respect to earnest forwarders,” David Emery writes on his urban legends website, “the only threat posed by the ‘Klingerman Virus’ is an outbreak of laughter. It’s a gag– a parody of phony computer virus alerts…”

Emery poses the question, “Why, with seven victims dead (supposedly) and the police and the Centers for Disease Control investigating, we haven’t heard a word about this scourge in the press?” As he points out, the Love Letter virus, a computer worm, “killed no one (and) made international headlines in less than 24 hours.”

Emery went ahead and called the CDC in Atlanta for an official statement, and relates the following conversation with an employee he describes as “terse.”

“Is this the one about the virus in the envelope?” the employee asks.

“Yes.”

“It’s not true. There’s no such thing.”

It seems that email is the medium of choice today for disseminating what, at one time, were called fairy tales. Remember those? From the bogeyman to the big, bad wolf, fairy tales were society’s way of dealing with potential threats and fears, often by sending a subtle message regarding morality to the reader.

Today’s fairy tales, of which the Klingerman Virus is just one of many, reveal a public trying to cope with the threat of random violence… adapting to the reality that bad things can happen to us without any provocation on our part. As fairy tale, there’s not much wrong with emails like the Klingerman virus.

So better safe than sorry, right? When you get these emails, just forward them on to everyone else on your email list. WRONG! If you really think there’s a chance an email warning can be true, take the time to check it out with a website like Emery’s. Forwarded emails not only clog servers with an awful lot of junk (slowing down connection times for all of us, they encourage the human tendency to sloppy thinking, create an unneeded state of fear, and potentially allow people to ignore the very real threats we really do face in life.

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Landon Otis

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urban legends, Klingerman virus

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