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Online Community Lesson



Poker is a game of bluff.  There are people who bluff us about things important to us—and they get away with it. 

            Here is a small example, from an e-mail, which a friend sent me last week: 

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back. It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow coloring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavorings. … 

            Each of us probably has received a story in which there was some extraordinary claim or eye-opening revelation, but it is not the purpose of this lesson to judge a story on its face.  Rather, the story above ended with a hyperlink, 

Snopes is a reputable “hoax buster”.  If you read something on the Internet which sounded like an exposé or were too good to be true, Snopes probably would have an explanation as to whether you read the truth, half-truth or an out-and-out fabrication.  Here is where the bluff comes in:  because the story ended with the hyperlink to Snopes, the story appeared to be true.  For my friend who received it from somebody else and sent it to me, for me, and for many others, it would have been enough to see the Snopes hyperlink to believe that the story about margarine were true. 

When, in fact, the story was false.  Therein lies the bluff.  We do not normally take the step to click the hyperlink and check.  If we did, we would find out that the story were false.  Somebody is cleverly gambling that we would not click and check. 

How serious is this?  Do you recall, from the campaigns for propositions last fall, that some television advertisements would say, “Check the text of the proposition yourself [so that you see that our side is telling the truth]”?  Such a statement could well have been a bluff.  Those who made the statement might have done so with the expectation that we would not check, that we would take their word for it.  Does such high-stakes bluffing work?  Nobody has researched this, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, but what do you think?  How many times have we believed somebody when he or she has said, “Check it out for yourself”, without our taking the step to check out the story?    

If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization. 

  1. When a friend sends us, via the Internet, a story originating with a third party, we should

(a) use the “eleventh commandment” [see the essay series in the January 11, 18, and 25 issues of E-News for a definition of “eleventh commandment”].

(b) assume that the story would be accurate unless we heard otherwise. 

  1. When a reputable source is cited to back a story, what should we do?

(a)    Do nothing until we have checked out the story.

(b)   Accept the story and move on.

(c)    If the story might affect us or others significantly, we confer with a family member or close friend who knows how to investigate the claim.

January 25, 2007































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