Why You Should do Your Fricken Homework Before You Decide to Write

Have you ever been totally engrossed in some book or article, only to be tripped up by a word or fact that was completely wrong? I know that I have, and it’s irritating as H-E double hockey sticks.

My experience with this has mostly been while reading fiction, especially when there are portrayals of the military. Too often, authors try and include a bunch of jargon in an attempt to make the text more authentic. Then there’s the author who mentions a landmark in a way that makes it obvious to locals that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about–looking at you here, Stephanie Meyers. To these writers, I call shenanigans.

Just as often, I’ve seen people attribute pictures and quotes to the wrong sources. Perfect example is this ridiculous chain email I got the other night complaining about Occupy Wall Street protesters. The abundance of formatting lines coupled with the overuse of exclamation marks gave me the impression that the thing had likely made its way through half the Tea-Party’s mailing list before hitting my mailbox. The subject line, was was straight to the point: “OWS Protester S***s on American Flag.” Plastered right in the middle of the thing was a picture of some guy taking a poop on what looks like an American flag. There are onlookers–what sort of public defecation would it have been without people gawking?–looking surprisingly jovial given the event unfolding before them, but nothing in the pictures really lets you pin down the time or place.

My first thought when I saw the subject line of the email was that the OWS people really just screwed themselves. I mean, if your people literally crap on Old Glory then you’re probably not going to have much of a shot winning over the 99%. Same goes for those military veterans who were starting to think that you had a few good points. You can kiss them good-bye too.

Now maybe I’m alone on this but whenever I come across something so inflamatory on the Internet I put away the jump-to-conclusions mat and do some sleuthing instead. I spent a little time on the googles and found some interesting results. It turns out that the picture was not actually from an Occupy Wall Street protest, but rather from a protest against the Iraq war in 2007. I’m inclined to think that the email’s author got caught up in the excitement of finding such a damning picture and sent it off before checking the facts. Unfortunately for them, their haste might have had exactly the opposite effect for people who’d been on the fence about the whole OWS thing who may see the falsely attributed picture as an attempt to cast the protesters as a bunch of pinkos who hate America.

So check your sources. If not, you may end up rallying more people to the cause you’re trying to discredit, or just irritate some guy living in Tacoma, Washington.


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