Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FW: FW: FW: Don't Believe It!

by Pam Ripling

It’s taken me awhile to get a round tuit, but I’ve been wanting to comment on the recent go-round of forwarded emails describing a planned gang initiation that was to take place a local big box store. Three females, the message read, would be murdered at the site, and recipients of the email would be wise to stay away.

While I, personally, did not receive the warning, by afternoon, my 13 year old daughter had read it on her cell phone, my girlfriend had it on her Blackberry and my adult son mentioned he’d seen it on his own phone. That evening, our local high school district had released a statement, phoned to each subscribing household, that the message was indeed a hoax, one that had been forging a nasty path through several other states since 2005.

The whole incident got my back up. My daughter was upset, my friend was justifiably concerned. Both struggled with what to do. Do we call the Sheriff? Do you think they know? I assured them both that the missive was a malicious attempt to stir up fear and possibly even launch a “denial of service”-like scheme as an attack on Wal-Mart, the store mentioned. I don’t know the legal term, but I do know you cannot attempt to prevent patronage of a business based on a fraudulent claim. Whether you like or dislike Wal-Mart, the point is that this could just as easily have been aimed at Mom & Pop’s Bakery on the corner.

My parents used to tell me, when I was a young, impressionable child, “Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Because we did, back then. Yeah, people joke about it now, would never admit to it, but we did think that if we saw it on TV, it must be true.

Just after 9/11, I received an email warning me to stay away from our local Mall, because it was targeted to be blown up by terrorists. In the nightmarish atmosphere that pervaded following the attacks, I was ripe to believe anything. I immediately forwarded the email to everyone in my address book. I was quickly and gently reprimanded for falling prey to an internet hoax, and I have since refrained from sending anything to anyone without first checking with Snopes (which I consider to be the best online source for debunking urban myths and hoaxes.)

The case of the gang-initiation-at-Wal-Mart email is no different. I took the opportunity to use the incident as a learning experience for my daughter. Just because someone you like or know from school sends you (what they kids call)“forwards” doesn’t mean that it’s (a) true or, God forbid, (b), you should perpetuate the “forward” and add to the needless hysteria intended by some sick mind.

Pam Ripling is the author of middle-grade mystery, LOCKER SHOCK! Buy it at Quake, Fictionwise or Amazon today! E-book version now available for your Kindle! Visit Pam at

1 comment:

  1. Altho I was spared this particular gang-initiation warning, I am inundated by warnings from well meaning friends, who are getting sick of my standard reply: "Just checked it out on Snopes. Not true."

    A hundred years ago, or so it seems, since it was before 9/11, an email spun its way through our office, that warned of another gang initiation: a new gang member would be driving around that evening with his headlights off. The first driver to flash their lights at him would be the one he chased down and killed. It took phone calls to several police agencies to calm the anxious women in my office.

    I tell my son, no matter what the info, look at the source and ask yourself, how would they have that knowledge, and what do they have to gain by passing it around?

    Gayle Carline (aka GeeCarl)