I just received an email from a friend. It was a forwarded message relating a "true" story, albeit an old one that had been floating around the internet for years. Unfortunately, the story wasn't really true. Sure, it had elements of truth wound into its fabric, but, for the most part, it was a total concoction. My friend, or any of the thousands of others who have forwarded this message over the years, could have easily checked its veracity.

Snopes, for one, makes that extremely easy to do much of the time. Instead, because the message appealed to my friend's sense of how the world is (or should be), he simply accepted it and sent it off to about 40 or 50 folks in his address book.

No doubt, some of those people re-sent it to everyone in their address books as well. And so on and so on.

The point is that, as long as there are so many people who are willing to blindly swallow and promote stuff like this, the phony rhetoric of those who unscrupulously place party or personal agenda over country will have an audience of uninformed followers whom they can manipulate at will. Facts do matter. Truth does matter. Why is it that so many people don't seem to be able to recognize this?

The internet makes this kind of demagoguery possible. It also affords us the ability to fact-check and to be better informed -- but only if we're willing to make the effort.

Bob Dohn