"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". 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 Hoaxees 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:
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 favorite 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
Those people who are still symptom free can help inoculate themselves against the Gullibility Virus by reading some good material on evaluating sources, such as
It *is* possible to design responsible alerts for people to circulate on the Internet. Here is a how-to that draws positive conclusions from long experience with the evils of badly designed alerts:
Lastly, as a public service, Internet users can help stamp out the Gullibility Virus by sending copies of this message to anyone who forwards them a hoax.
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