Angered by email? Snopes it


By RALPH E. SHAFFER

and NORMA JEANNE STROBEL

Stephens Media

Currently in wide circulation on the Internet is an anti-Obama email, “Snopes, Soros and the Supreme Courts Kagan,” that was discredited nearly two years ago.

From the comments on websites where the email has frequently been posted, a great many recipients are gullible enough to have been taken in by this deceptive political trick. Savvy recipients would immediately go to the Snopes.com urban legend website to check its authenticity.

The scurrilous email originated after the president nominated Elena Kagan for a seat on the Supreme Court. It suggests that Kagan’s appointment was payback for her successful effort as solicitor general in getting the high court to refuse to hear cases challenging Barack Obama’s citizenship. Ah, and we thought the birthplace issue was dead. Well, from the number of sites devoted to this phony email, the president didn’t satisfy many Americans when he produced his long form birth certificate.

The email seemingly clinches its argument by citing numerous Supreme Court cases that, it suggests, would have raised the birth issue before the justices. But Kagan, good soldier that she is, persuaded the court to reject the call for a legal examination of Obama’s birthright citizenship.

The author then argues that Snopes, which the email claims is run by a “lefty couple,” incorrectly declared the email bogus and rejected its claim despite the overwhelming evidence in the form of the nine legal cases that Kagan had opposed. The conclusion of the author is that Snopes cannot be trusted. Scores of reader comments on the internet second that view.

Although Snopes proved at the time the email first circulated that the court cases cited in the email had nothing to do with Obama’s citizenship, this revised version of the original email lambastes Snopes for ignoring the “proof.”

Apparently few, if any, of those who swallow the falsehood of the email have bothered to check out what those nine court cases dealt with. Instead, their comments on websites devoted to this sham indicate they have naively accepted the statement of the author as true. Whatever happened to “trust, but verify?”

When the 2012 presidential race narrows down to a Republican challenger to Obama, such bogus emails will increase in number. Already the birthers have charged in email and on websites that Obama’s long form birth certificate is a forgery. There will be legitimate criticism of either candidate but those ought to be checked for authenticity too.

Despite the widespread view among the gullible on the far right that Snopes.com can’t be trusted, that site remains the best source for verification of the veracity of accusations. The site not only gives an opinion on the truth or falsity of a charge but repeats substantial portions of the email in question and, at great length, dissects the content.

But beware! If the email you receive says Snopes verified the accuracy of the email, don’t trust that until you have Snopesed it yourself. The latest dirty trick is that the sender claims that Snopes confirmed the authenticity of the email, but upon Snopsing you may find out that Snopes most certainly did not authenticate it.

Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history and an occasional columnist for Stephens Media. Norma Jeanne Strobel is a retired professor.