Thursday, August 03, 2006

Good Intentions Pave the Way

The internet is like the real world in so many ways. Like the good there is too the bad. Only with the net there is the added bonus of anonymity. There are all kinds of “forwarded” emails. The majority of which are nonsense. Like the one about the sick little girl that with every forwarded email will benefit because AOL is tracking it and will pay so much per email. Each AOL payment is supposed to be donated to the family of the sick little girl. The whole thing is a lie.

Why do people forward such things? To fill in the time. To get entertainment. And so on. It is electronic gossip. Just like in the real world there are fairy tales and urban legends so too there is on the net.

One of them, like the focus of this blog, is about gangs.

It goes like this:

Subject: Driving Tip
One of our employees whose husband works for the City of Cincinnati received the following message and we, Administrative Services, feels that it is worth passing on to you, your friends and families:
"If you're ever driving after dark and see an on-coming car with no headlights turned on, DO NOT flash your lights at them! This is a common gang member "initiation game" that goes like this: the new gang member under initiation drives along with no headlights and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his "target." He is now required to turn around and chase that car and shoot at or into the car in order to complete his initiation requirements. Please share this information with people you know."
Stay safe!
Administrative Services

Of course there are several variations of this initiation rumor. Most of which can be found debunked at a great website called
One of the websites exposing urban legends on the internet goes on to say that copycat incidents may have actually came out of the spreading of this email and the variants of it. So what does that tell us?

That spreading rumors without so much as checking the veracity of them can in fact lead to dangerous consequences. Intended or not.

Recently I was chastised for commenting on one similar internet rumor because I responded to the “chain’ of recipients. I pointed out that it was not true. The response I got from one person basically said that it was still a nice gesture that the email was sent out to everyone. (Because it warned of a tactic of a serial killer and how to avoid it…problem was it was completely the opposite of how serial killers stalk their prey).

I corrected this person and told her that spreading “facts” that lead people astray is in no way nice and in fact could be dangerous. She couldn’t get past the idea that this silly email chain letter was somehow a good thing. She said that the intention was good, to remind people to be more aware of their surroundings, even if the information was wrong.

I don’t get it. She needs misinformation to remind her to be more aware? What a paradox.

Some people would rather feel good about something and ignore the truth than actually take the time and LEARN the facts. Sometimes reality is too much for people.

Like in this case of the “serial killer” email, this woman “felt better” because she would never act the way the victim did in the email. But that wouldn’t matter because it had nothing to do with reality. And consequently, she would change nothing.

She could very well be a killer’s meal waiting to happen. Because the only thing she knows to look for to protect herself is a lie.

Because people want to pick and choose their own reality they endanger themselves. When they spread rumor with “good intentions” as she called it, they endanger others. Like the serial killer email. Like the gang initiation email.

The most ironic thing about this whole incident was that this woman actually told me I was betraying one of my own favorite quotes I use in my email signatures.

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. "
Albert Einstein

She couldn’t get it. To see lies spread as fact, facts which can endanger people, and NOT correct it would be the equivalent of “looking on and doing nothing.”

So when lies are spread that endanger people, I WILL NOT look on and do nothing.

She was willing to perpetuate a myth, feed it, and empower it for the sake of “good intentions.”

She should use this quote as her email signature line…

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”