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I’m sure you’ve seen the same thing I have on Facebook and through mass emails … outrageous news stories that give you pause because something about them doesn’t sound quite right. I recently read one of these stories and what made me question it was a statement that only one news outlet had the courage to report what appeared to be a major story. Really? Hmm.

I looked the story up on Snopes and found that it was tremendously flawed. If you’ve never heard of Snopes, I suggest you check it out. The site is dedicated to throwing the bullshit flag on hyped up stories that make the rounds. It will also point out whether a story is true or partially true (like the story about a form of meth called “Strawberry Quick.”)

While it’s great to have a site like Snopes to help us weed out fact from fiction, one thing that puzzles me is how quickly false stories spread. Why don’t people question things more?

A lesson from my high school World War I & II class sticks with me when it comes to such stories. We were taught about propaganda and how a country could use it to control its people or how an opposing country could use it to change the minds of the people in a country it was fighting. Propaganda was high on emotion and short on facts. It was often about instilling fear to control people.

I have never forgotten this lesson in propaganda, which would probably please the teacher of the class. This lesson makes me question any story that tries to play on my emotions without giving much in the way of facts.

Wikipedia has a great explanation of propaganda, along with a list of techniques used in propaganda.

I think everyone ought to have a lesson in propaganda for the greater good of a free society.

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