The Gullibility Virus

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The Institute for the Investigation of Irregular Internet Phenomena announced today that many Internet users are becoming infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without question every groundless story, legend, and dire warning that shows up in their inbox or on their browser.

The Gullibility Virus, as it is called, apparently makes people believe forwarded copies of silly hoaxes relating to cookie recipes, email viruses, taxes on modems, spurious quotations, and get-rich-quick schemes.

"These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets based on fortune cookie numbers," a spokesman said. "Most are otherwise normal people, who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by a stranger on a street corner." Some are even journalists and others who make their living trafficking in information. However, once these same people become infected with the Gullibility Virus, they believe anything they read on the Internet.

"My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone," reported one weeping victim. "I believe every warning message and sick child story my friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous."

Another victim, now in remission, added, "When I first heard about Good Times, I just accepted it without question. After all, there were dozens of other recipients on the mail header, so I thought the virus must be true."

It was a long time, the victim said, before she could stand up at a Hoaxes Anonymous meeting and state, "My name is Jane, and I've been hoaxed." Now however, she is spreading the word. "Challenge and check whatever you read," she says.

Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus, which include the following:

T. C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter, "I read on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all shampoos makes your hair fall out, so I've stopped using shampoo." When told about the Gullibility Virus, T. C. said he would stop reading email, so that he would not become infected.

Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately. Experts recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet users rush to their favourite search engine and look up the item tempting them to thoughtless credence. Most hoaxes, legends, and tall tales have been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community.

Courses in critical thinking are also widely available, and there is online help from many sources, including:

Here's an example of the intelligence involved in this phenomenon:

I don't normally forward these emails alerts - however, this is a MUST read!

Please forward this to all the women in your life. Keep them safe. This is very disturbing, please forward to warn others ..... I don't usually forward many of these on, but this warning came to me today from a very reliable source and I feel compelled to warn people.

************ WARNING *************

If a man comes to your front door and says he is conducting a survey and asks you to show him your breasts, DO NOT show him your breasts.

This is a scam and he is only trying to see your breasts.

This message is so important, we're sending it anonymously! Forward it to all your friends right away! Don't think about it! This is not a chain letter! This story is true! Don't check it out! This story is so timely, there is no date on it! This story is so important, we're using lots of exclamation points! Lots!!! For every message you forward to some naif, the Home for the Hopelessly Gullible will donate ten cents to itself. (If you wonder how the Home will know you are forwarding these messages all over creation, you're obviously thinking too much.)

See also E-mail Rules and Truths.

Read about Literature Abuse!, another contemporary scourge.

Go to Home Thoughts, From Abroad, or visit pages of Christian Resources on the Web, John Calvin on Diversity of Opinion in the Church, words of wisdom and humor, or an index of the author's web pages. Thanks for visiting.