If You Saw It on Facebook, It’s Probably a Lie

by Bill Brenner on February 14, 2013

People on Facebook love to get all self-righteous. That’s fine by me, as long as the emotion is based on truth. The problem these days is that people are increasingly gullible, accepting memes as gospel when they are in fact bullshit.

Mood music:

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One example is a picture of a letter reported to be written by a U.S. service man claiming, essentially, that Starbucks hates soldiers and won’t let them have their coffee. The letter reads:

Dear everyone: Please pass this along to anyone you know, this needs to get out in the open. Recently Marines over in Iraq supporting this country in OIF wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffee and try to score some free coffee grounds. Starbucks wrote back telling the Marines thanks for their support in their business, but that they don’t support the War and anyone in it and that they won’t send them the Coffee.

So as not to offend them we should not support in buying any Starbucks products. As a War vet and writing to you patriots I feel we should get this out in the open. I know this War might not be very popular with some folks, but that doesn’t mean we don’t support the boys on the ground fighting street to street and house to house for what they and I believe is right. If you feel the same as I do then pass this along, or you can discard it and I’ll never know. Thanks very much for your support to me, and I know you’ll all be there again here soon when I deploy once more.

Semper Fidelis, Sgt Howard C. Wright
1st Force Recon Co
1st Plt PLT RTO

The letter is actually not new; Sgt. Wright wrote it in 2004. But I’ve seen it on Facebook a few times in the past week alone, and people are posting it to their profiles with comments about how evil Starbucks is and how they won’t ever buy coffee there. I knew it was bullshit straightaway. I’ve bought a lot of coffee from Starbucks, and I clearly remember its campaign to send coffee to the troops. Customers were given the option of buying coffee by the pound that would then be sent to the front lines.

Back when Sgt. Wright wrote the letter, Starbucks contacted him to clarify its position. He then sent out another email, retracting his above statement:

Dear Readers,
Almost 5 months ago I sent an email to you my faithful friends. I did a wrong thing that needs to be cleared up. I heard by word of mouth about how Starbucks said they didn’t support the war and all. I was having enough of that kind of talk and didn’t do my research properly like I should have. This is not true. Starbucks supports men and women in uniform. They have personally contacted me and I have been sent many copies of their company’s policy on this issue. So I apologize for this quick and wrong letter that I sent out to you. Now I ask that you all pass this email around to everyone you passed the last one to. Thank you very much for understanding about this.

Howard C. Wright, Sgt USMC

The Facebook meme is someone’s rewrite of the letter, with facts changed and no mention of Sgt. Wright’s later retraction:

Facebook meme

This whole thing illustrates a larger problem with Facebook: In our rush to show how morally upright we are, we users fall for just about anything we see. We essentially do what Sgt. Wright did back in 2004, acting on rumors without doing our homework first.

I include myself in this group; I’ve fallen for fraudulent memes in the past as well. It’s a human trait to take shortcuts, and memes are a shortcut. The lesson is that if you see statements of outrage on Facebook, you should research the matter before opining, because what you see is probably a lie.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Susanna J. Sturgis February 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Facebook memes are like banners and posters at a demonstration. They’re a way of saying “Hurray for our side.” They’re not a source of information — although they do provide a clue to what the religious right, the gun lobby, the environmentalists, etc., are currently all fired up about. Probably 3/4 of the memes in my news feed come from the same 10 or 15 people. I wish they would post more about their own thoughts and experiences instead of this canned stuff.

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