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Drowning in a sea of rumour

JAMAICANS, like the rest of the world love a good 'story'. After all, there is something salacious and sexy about rumour and gossip to some people, especially if it is not aimed directly at them. Give them the legitimate, unvarnished truth, news properly packaged and see how quickly they dismiss it for the 'pop-down' or 'tear-down' version. People are more inclined to believe in the bad of what they hear than the good of what they see. And there is nothing more harmful than to have a hurtful rumour cripple your business.

Everyone and his mother walks with a cellphone (some have two or three) and so one of the quickest way that rumours are spread is through word of mouth. It is no wonder telecom companies are beating a path to our doors and setting up shop left, right and centre. Jamaicans just love to chat. If only we could export the 'chat' then all our economic woes would be no more. Can you imagine 'Bag-A-Mout' Company Limited winning the exporter of the year award for selling the most chat abroad? Everyone of us is a potential Prime Minister, Member of Parliament or Leader of Opposition in waiting. We are never more animated than when we are chatting and caught up in the throes of getting some juicy tidbit of gossip that we know consists of less than half-baked truths, imaginings plus some exaggeration thrown in the mix to nice it up and make the conversation and ourselves seem more interesting.

The advent of the Internet has been a boon for people who work the unpaid overtime shifts in the rumour mill. It makes their job easier. I would imagine that the main qualification that these employees would need is the ability to lie 'like racehorse' as my mother would say. They no longer have to exercise their jawbones they just have to press the send button and their job is done. Plus, the written word seem to add a certain legitimacy to the lies.

Another avenue is for rumour mill workers to post fictitious information as legitimate news on their social network sites because they know that people no longer go to the traditional routes for their news preferring said news which are usually half-baked and brimming over with lies.

The e-mail forward is a popular and lazy-man's way of feeding the hungry rumour mill. Bear the following in mind just in case one of these forwards pop up on your computer Screen and you become another hapless victim of those who run the mill. Make sure that you look carefully for statements such as " This is not a hoax" . Naturally it will be worse than a hoax it will be a big, fat, gigantic lie, it will be a ruse and it will be fraudulent and deceptive. Press delete not forward.

Any e-mail that you get that has an over-abundance of exclamation points and upper case letters is bound to be one coming straight from the upper echelons of the rumour mill. Trust me on this one. It is rare that legitimate information is crafted in this way. When you get messages like these, it is easy to imagine the speaker eyes wide open; arms waving for good measure and shouting frantically. I don't know about you but that would make me skeptical too much emotion in that message.

Then there are the medical or wellness chain letters than purport that you cease and desist from using such and such a product that you have been using from the devil was a boy. A skeptic at heart, it is my second nature to press the delete button when I see these e-mail forwards in my in-box. Unfortunately, not everyone does that and will unintentionally terrorise the rest of us with nonsense parading as fact. Be especially careful about these health-related rumours. Don't be like my friend who threw out all her roll-ons because they are believed to be cancer-causing. Check the facts. It is important to remember that the world has become a very desperate place and a competitor can destroy a business by starting a hoax e-mail with false information about a product.

I think we are by now all hip to the modus operandi of the Nigerian or Chinese deceased relative we have who has died leaving us enough money to put the Super Lotto to shame. These messages are like a demented man clothed in tuxedo and spouting the latest economic and financial information. Over the years they have become downright crafty and if you do not have your wits about you, you might be fooled into thinking that the message is legitimate. These e-mail messages have single-handedly tarnished the reputation of all Nigerian businessmen and no doubt destroyed many a business deal.

Without a doubt the Internet has set us all adrift, drowning in that vast sea of rumours and lies. The life-vests that we have available for those who choose to use them are our common sense and sanity. It might be a good idea to think ever so carefully before you send on one more forward that reeks of lies and half-truth the job you save might be your own.



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