Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just The Facts, Please

     When I was younger, I watched the old "Dragnet" TV show with Jack Webb. As Sgt. Joe Friday, Webb would be interviewing a witness to the crime of the week when that witness began to offer opinions about the terrible state of the world.  Joe Friday would then say, "All we want are the facts, Ma'am." That phrase later morphed, thanks to a parody song, into Friday reportedly saying, "Just the facts, Ma'am." But just as Sherlock Holmes never said (in the Arthur Conan Doyle books), "Elementary, my dear Watson," Friday never said, "Just the facts." 
     I mention this because I've received far too many e-mails and seen far too many postings urging me to do something about an outrageous situation. And I have never yet, when doing just a little bit of research, found the information in these cyber chain letters to be true.
     One of the more recent ones is the claim that (random soda company) chose to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance that they printed on their soda cans. The posting then urges that, whatever else I do, don't buy their product. I'll save for a later time what I think of boycotts, but let's address what's really going on here.
     What that soda company actually did was to print some cans, in the days following 9/11, that said "One Nation. Indivisible." In other words, they were expressing the sentiment that terrorist acts would not divide our nation. They never intended to print the pledge. Their intent was to put three words on the side of a can. But the "under God" fallacy forced them to quickly remove those cans from the market.
     So why, more than a decade later, am I still seeing posts about this?  It's because people are lazy. They sit in front of their computer screen, see something that, as the joke goes, "seems legit," and immediately share it with all of their social media friends.  The ones involving God and patriotism seem to have more staying power, but they run the gamut of the political spectrum. 
     My issue is not that people want to tell their friends about something of import. My gripe is that it takes all of three seconds to Google the information and find the truth.  That's just two seconds more than it takes to immediately hit the Share button without checking the facts. Do me and Joe Friday a favor. All we want are the facts.