Attribution Is Key

(Thanks to The Smirking Chimp—currently in the midst of its summer fundraiser—for greenlighting this post.)

Recently, a friend of mine was upset over an e-mail forward she’d received, allegedly authored by “…a housewife from New Jersey and sounds like it!” I will spare readers from the bulk of this happy horseshit, but here is a flavor of it.

‘Are we fighting a war on terror or aren’t we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001?

Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from our nation’s capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania?

Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn’t they?

And I’m supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was ‘desecrated’ when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet?…Well, I don’t. I don’t care at all.

Often when assaulted with this brand of idiotic indignation, I oftne flash to angry. You don’t need to remind me about September Eleventh. I walked home that day from downtown Washington, D.C. My Dad was a mile from the Pentagon and felt the conference room walls shake. I had people in NYC who indeed were running for their lives that day. Don’t get indignant with me about September Eleventh. Fuckpig. It happened to us all. You don’t own it and in fact your people have managed to convert it into the biggest mistake in the world. So go sit on a fire plug.

I didn’t need all of that, though. I just needed four minutes of googling, which led me to discover that the words were not authored by a pissed-off New Jersey housewife, nor by Pam Foster of Atlanta, as some others of these forwards have claimed. It was, in fact, written by “conservative” “columnist” Doug Patton of the Web site gopusa, published in June 2005.

This raises questions about the e-mail as it was forwarded. If the source believed so strongly in the words contained therein, then why for did he change its attribution? Was it because they believed it packs more punch from an anonymous housewife or a gold star mom than from a right-wang propagandist? If the words are worth more from one source than another, then don’t these words lose substantial credibility when we find out who actually wrote them?

Unsolicited advice from me to you: When your Auntie Pear-Shaped Hickey sends you one of these goddamn things, immediately visit for debunking. If in the rare instance that snopes doesn’t offer much, Google it and see if you can figure out who actually wrote it. The author is * never * the anecdotal New Jersey housewife. Attribution is key. If you can show that the attribution is wrong, you’re halfway to making the sender look like a buffoon.

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