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Urban Legends – Let's Educate the Masses

I got yet another Urban Legend this week, so I’m asking everyone who
“gets it” to help educate those that don’t.

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Listen to the podcast: Forward this to everyone you know!.


Hello everyone, this is Leo Notenboom of Ask Leo, on the internet at, with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

Quick, forward this to everyone you know!

It’s happened again. Earlier this week I got another one of those “ya gotta see this” forward of a forward of a forward of an email that described how politician so-and-so insulted this group or the other by doing or not doing something-or-other. My bull detector went off, and sure enough, 30 seconds of research, maybe less, lead me to the truth. As expected the email was a highly politicized misinterpretation. More bluntly – it was wrong wrong wrong.

Yet people right and left were forwarding it on as if it were the gospel truth. (OK, in this case it was mostly people from the right, but you get the idea.)

How many times have we heard “Don’t believe everything you read”? And why is forwarded email apparently exempt from that skepticism? If anything, email is worse because it’s so easy to forge or loose the attribution that would legitimize the message.

I know that in a podcast such as this, I’m preaching to the choir. You already know all this. So here’s my challenge to you: educate the people around you. The next time you get an urban legend in your email, reply to the sender with the pointer to the truth ( is my favorite resource), and a perhaps a pointer to one of the many essays on forwarded urban legends. Naturally I have such an essay on Ask Leo! that, of course, you’re welcome to point people at.

Over time you’ll start getting fewer urban legends, for either of two reasons: you’ll have educated your upstream sources, or they’ll drop you from their list because you keep forcing them to face the truth.

Either works for me.

This is article 4728 – for related links, or to leave a comment, go to, enter 4728 in the go to article number box in the upper right. Add your comments to the discussion, I’d love to hear from you.

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