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Election Season and the Lies are Out

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If it's about a candidates, you should assume it's false until proved otherwise, not the other way around

     Journalist, author and speaker Mark Twain told us there are the three kinds of lies: “lies, damn lies and statistics.” He was repeating a statement made by Benjamin Disraeli, and that quote comes to mind every time an election season rolls around – especially for those of us with access to the Internet.
    Most of what comes through on email lately concerns Presidential candidate and Senator John Kerry, though President George W. Bush comes in for a few of his own. And, like much of the forwarded email that hits your inbox every day, most of it is either a “lie” or a “damn lie.”
    Here’s a round-up of some of the popular election-year emails and their analysis, given by that famous buster of urban legends, David Emery. (www.urbanlegends.about.com)
    Most recent is an email frequently titled “John Kerry’s Shipmates Speak Out,” which criticizes Kerry’s war record and purports to be written by fellow soldiers on his swift boat. The copy I received asked, “Can you read this and tell any of these 18 men they are wrong about Kerry? They don't hide in anonymity, but provide their photos as well as their names.”
    The quotes appear to be authentic, but only one of the men actually served under John Kerry in the Vietnam War. John Garder is quoted as saying, “The John Kerry that I know is not the John Kerry that everybody else is portraying.” According to historian Douglas Brinkley, Gardner’s opinion is not shared with any other surviving member of Kerry’s swift boat crews, nor by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Chief of US Naval Operations while Kerry was serving. (See Emery’s website for a full debunking of this email).
    Although the opinions expressed could be classified as “partisan,” it’s worth noting that one Republican, when they were included as part of a television advertisement against Kerry, denounced the allegations as “dishonest and dishorable,” – Senator John McCain, another Vietnam veteran.
    The capabilities of Photoshop, a computer software program for manipulating images, are also well represented in various anti-Kerry emails. No, Kerry was not shaking hands with Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, nor did he share the stage with Jane Fonda at a peace rally. He also did not use a memorial service for former President Ronald Reagan to say it was time to “reclaim our country from the church-goers, the middle America folks and the uneducated, conservative masses.” That quote was straight from the satirical “John F’n Kerry” website.
    Somewhat true is an email regarding Kerry’s property holdings, estimated to be valued at $33 million. What the email doesn’t mention is that all but one of the properties is owned by Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, whose money came from her former husband, a Republican senator and the heir to the Heinz fortune. It also doesn’t mention that President George W. Bush’s personal wealth is estimated at $15 million.
    President Bush, of course, isn’t totally neglected in the “fabricated email” news. For example, a recent email making the rounds talked about a Bush speech in Tampa, Fla. to a right-to-life group, and states Bush said, “We must always remember that all human beings begin life as a feces,” and that he continues to mistake the word fetus for feces a dozen times in a row. Although Bush has done for language what President Ford did for walking, the email simply isn’t true.
     Nor did the Lovenstein Institute of Pennsylvania rate President Bush as having the lowest IQ of all presidents in the past five decades. In fact, there is no Lovenstein Institute in Pennsylvania, nor do the “experts” quoted appear to exist. Emery states the email is, “obviously satire, though in a few cases it has been posted around the Net as factual and, strange as it seems, hotly debated.”
    Even more curious is the email about President Bush’s favorite Bible quote. Reportedly he stated it is John 16:3, which the email claims was a mistake by the speechwriter (assuming he meant John 3:16), that no one knew the Bible well enough to catch. The email states “The Holy Sprit works in strange ways,” and that, “what goes around comes around.” That’s because John 16:3 reads: “And they will do this because they have not known the Father nor Me.”
    Back in 1999 conservative commentators were circulating the same email – but at that time, they attributed the mistake to Vice President (and presidential candidate) Al Gore. It was so widely believed to be truthful then that it was even quoted on air by radio commentator Paul Harvey.
    Trouble is, Al Gore didn’t say it either. So who did? The first President Bush, in a speech before a religious broadcasters’ conference back in 1990.
    While it’s expected that a presidential race will feature hot debate, with proponents of each candidate seeking to undermine the other, it would behoove the American public to base their debate on facts, not urban legends. If you get something like this in your email, no matter what side of the political divide you stand on, take a few moments to attempt to verify the facts before you hit that forward key. And remember – forwarding email does not take the place of voting. See you in the voting booth.

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Landon Otis

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Politics, urban legends, election, George Bush, John Kerry, Swift Boat

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